Aaron Stein writes: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been an outspoken advocate for the use of military force to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Since severing ties with the Syrian regime in September 2011, Ankara has been a critical provider of military and humanitarian aid for a host of rebel groups operating throughout northern Syria.
Until now, AKP has managed to resist any changes to its policy owing to its outsize and repeated victories at the polls—even as the Syria conflict has spilled over the border in the form of terrorist attacks, lethal artillery fire, and downed Turkish aircraft. A driving force behind AKP decision-making has been the fear of seeing a semiautonomous Kurdish region spring up in Syria’s ungoverned north; specifically one ruled by the dominant, far-leftist Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Ironically, by trying to keep the PYD at bay, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan undercut his personal appeal in Turkey’s Kurdish majority southeast and undermined his former party’s efforts to continue to attract support from religiously-minded Kurds. This key constituency defected from the AKP in this past election, choosing instead to vote for Turkey’s fourth largest political party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). [Continue reading…]