WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to seize land from Iraq and Syria to cut off support and supplies from the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in his own country, former CIA counter-terrorism expert and whistleblower John Kiriakou told Sputnik.
"I believe Erdogan seeks to carve out a ‘Kurdish-free zone’ in northern Iraq and northern Syria to keep Iraqi and Syrian Kurds from supplying PKK supporters on the Turkish side of the border," Kiriakou said.
The PKK waged two long, violent and unsuccessful struggles for independence against Turkey in which 5,000 Turkish troops and more than 40,000 Kurds were killed from 1984 to 1999 and from 2004 to 2012. A third insurgency started earlier this year.
"As proof, we have Turkish actions in Syria in the past few weeks. As soon as Erdogan agreed to support allied military efforts in Syria, he began bombing Kurdish positions along the border. He didn't bomb the Islamic State, but bombed the Kurds," Kiriakou observed.
Erdogan had conflicting aims from the United States and its Coalition partners who want to contain and roll back the Islamic State (ISIL also known as Daesh), Kiriakou pointed out.
"Erdogan's goals are thus different from the allies. But he was politically savvy enough to use the allies to further his own agenda," he explained.
Kiriakou also said he did not believe Erdogan and his country had the resources to hold on to Iraqi or Syrian territory for any length of time in any effort to reclaim land that Turkey had to abandon when the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War I.
"I don't think Erdogan has the wherewithal to create a new Ottoman Empire-like presence in the Middle East, nor to occupy Iraqi or Syrian territory over the long-term. I think his goals are more parochial," he noted.
Kiriakou, an expert on Middle East terrorism, was jailed for two years for passing information to a reporter while a CIA officer. He now serves as an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.