On Tuesday, Turkey finally launched its first airstrikes since the United States formally announced its campaign against Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. The only catch was that Turkish planes targeted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (best known as the P.K.K.) in southeastern Turkey rather than Islamic State forces in Syria.
Turkey and the P.K.K. have done decades-long battle over the latter's aspiration to create a Kurdish state, violence that has only tapered off recently after the two sides signed a ceasefire last spring. The timing of the Turkish airstrikes were meaningful: Syrian Kurds (with the help of American-led airstrikes) are trying to fend off an ISIS advance in nearby Kobani while Washington is trying to wrangle Turkey into finally committing to the fight against Islamic State forces.
Turkey claimed the airstrikes, the first in two years, were prompted by a P.K.K. attack on a military outpost, but as The Times reports, analysts say "Turkey’s leaders see the battle for Kobani mostly as a chance to let two of its enemies duke it out, rather than as a cause for alarm."
In a diplomatic dance, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki (uncomfortably) urged everyone to disassociate the two airstrike campaigns: