Turkey’s Misadventures in Syria Create Political Turmoil, Tragedy

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The Middle East is aflame and the political world is in an uproar over the third Turkish incursion into Syria under the code name “Peace Spring.” With this current invasion in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s avowed intention is to carve out a “peace corridor” 500 kilometers long and 30 kilometers deep, expelling 40,000 Kurds from that territory and resettling 3.6 million Syrian Arab refugees currently living in Turkey.

Erdogan’s audacious plan to occupy a segment of a sovereign country’s territory, to slaughter the local Kurdish population and conduct population engineering was made possible when the erratic US president, Donald Trump, arbitrarily ordered the withdrawal of the US forces from the area, contrary to the recommendations of his advisors and against the objections of  Pentagon analysts.

Turkey would not have dared to take that kind of initiative had the political conditions not been right for the action.

Turkey invaded and occupied 38 percent of the territory of Cyprus in 1974 and no force has been able to dislodge Turkey’s occupation army, nor its creation of a made-up country on that soil.

Similarly, Ankara has stationed its forces on Iraqi territory for a variety of reasons and the international community has been quiet on the issue.

Turkey has established military bases in five countries, which allows Ankara to act as a superpower.

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All these military and political strategies were developed by Turkey by taking advantage of rivalries between the political blocs controlling the region.

The West created an artificial divide between the Sunni and Shia sects to divert the attention of the Islamic world from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; previously, the main concern of the Arab world had been the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia fell into this trap, which galvanized the region.

Ankara claimed the leadership of the Sunni bloc under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) banner and license but in fact, it has acted on its narrow self-interest. It challenged the US sanctions against Iran, subverted the interests of the only regional US ally, Israel, by championing the Palestinian cause, lent its support to the Islamic government of Mohamad Morsi in Egypt while the US was fighting the Islamic State (variously known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) in the region and to top it all, cozied up to Moscow when the US was trying to curb Russia’s resurgence as a world power. All these digressions were made possible under the untouchable banner of NATO.

Erdogan thumbed his nose at Washington after realizing that President Trump’s bombastic threats to North Korea and Iran were nothing more than empty bluster. He further played his hand by concluding the purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia.

Thus, Ankara bought impunity through calculating political steps and today no force in the world has the intention nor the will to stand in its way as it sets to gobble a piece of territory from Syria, while creating a humanitarian disaster.

President Erdogan reprimanded the European Union when the latter condemned Turkish aggression and called it an “invasion.” He threatened to open the immigration floodgates and to inundate Europe with a new wave of Syrian immigrants.

One of the major instigators of the original Syrian crisis was Turkey, which resulted in the creation of millions of refugees. Rather than punishing Turkey for its crimes, Europe rewarded Ankara with generous grants to keep the Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The US was involved in the Syrian crisis to destroy the Islamic State whose resurgence was mainly due to Turkey. After trying several combinations of allies, Washington found the YPG Kurdish forces to be the most reliable, as their interests coincided. The Kurdish forces were eventually successful in defeating the Islamic State while sacrificing 5,000 of their own people. At the present time, they have imprisoned 12,000 ISIS terrorists and the US is counting on the opposing Turkish and Kurdish forces to keep them in jails when all hell has broken loose and the Kurds have been hanging on for dear life.

For a long time, President Trump was teasing Ankara, praising the Syrian Kurds as trusted US allies, when Turkey was threatening to destroy them. The Kurds had also won credibility throughout the US political establishment on the strength of their power against the Islamic State. And today, that entire establishment is in turmoil, trying to figure out an exit strategy out of the chaos, after Mr. Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw the US forces out of the Syrian battleground without a strategy or a rational exit plan.

The world is condemning Mr. Trump’s action. European leaders are furious and further, Mr. Trump’s home base is shaken. Not only is a new realignment taking shape in the Middle East, but also another one is being created at home in the US. The rapprochement between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Lindsay Graham, an arch hawk and Trump supporter, says a lot. Indeed, both camps are coming together to draw a bicameral and bipartisan resolution to overturn Mr. Trump’s decision to throw the Kurds under the bus.

We have yet to figure out how this coalition may impact Mr. Trump’s reelection prospects, which have already been under a cloud with the Ukrainian scandal.

President Erdogan would not have taken the initiative had he not consulted with the Kremlin and Washington. Indeed, Mr. Erdogan has confessed that Turkey has not engaged in any military action without informing Russian President Vladimir Putin. So far, five European countries have called for United Nations action and Germany, France and Finland have set up an arms embargo against Turkey, but Moscow’s criticism has been the mildest. Mr. Putin has called on all foreign forces to leave Syrian territory and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has proposed that the crisis must be resolved through the principles of the Adana Treaty which Damascus and Ankara had concluded before the crisis.

Moscow is also contented to see the US forces evacuating Syrian territory and Kurdish forces, in desperation, returning to the Syrian-Russian fold to face Turkish aggression.

The Arab League has unanimously condemned the aggression and is ready to invite back Damascus, which was expelled from the league. Saudi Arabia, which was pushed by the US into a losing war in Yemen, fearful of Trump’s unpredictability, is looking for an accommodation with Iran, the presumed supporters of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The political world is confused with President Trump’s actions while the President seems even more confused. His incongruent policies were reflected in some Tweets, as he threatened to obliterate Turkeys’ economy if the latter goes “off limit.”

But he has yet to figure out where that limit stands.

He even blamed the Kurds for not sending troops during the Normandy invasion in World War II, only to be reminded by historians that the Kurds did not have a state to be counted on for such support. Then, finally he settled for the following options. He Tweeted that he had “one of three choices: send in thousands of troops and win militarily, hit Turkey very hard financially or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds.”

Mr. Trump has not settled on any of his options, while the Kurds have changed sides and joined Syrian government forces to defend Qamishli, against advancing Turkish forces with Moscow’s blessing.

Turkey’s unbridled appetite for invading any neighboring country with impunity has spread fear in all nations in the region. It is not surprising that of all the nations the US, at this time, has been engaged in reinforcing security on Armenia’s borders.

The Armenian government and the public have been concerned with Turkeys’ actions and they have condemned them vehemently. Many Armenians in Syria are in harm’s way. Compounding those fears are some mysterious political moves, which have accentuated that fear. Mr. Erdogan has flown to Baku and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has reached President Putin in Sochi, no one knows to what end.

After all, the current situation is a reenactment of history for the Armenian people who were asked during World War I to join the allies in volunteer battalions, which they did. They fought valiantly to defeat the Ottoman-German forces on Mount Arara on September 19, 1918 and marched victoriously into Cilicia, where home rule was promised them under a French protectorate. The French military command abandoned the Armenians who were unprotected in front of invading Turkish Kemalist forces. History repeats itself.

Fortunately, the international community has not forgotten the fate that the Armenians experienced. The CBN Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell reports that the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria is not really a well-intentioned attempt to fight terrorists. There is actually a strong element of Islamic Jihad at the heart of Turkey’s agenda. “Many of the people that fled the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago fled to this area of Turkey and now Erdogan’s attempt to revive the glory of the Ottoman Empire is targeting their descendants.”

At the present time, war is raging in southeast Syria. For Turkey, the Kurdish YPG is nothing but an extension of the PKK (the Kurdish Workers’ Party) in Syria. The PKK has been waging a war of liberation within Turkey, on behalf of 25 million Kurds. Since 1985, Turkey has razed 3,000 Kurdish villages and murdered 20,000 Kurds. Mr. Erdogan’s intention is to carve out a “peace corridor” but that plan is only illusory. Instead of building a security zone, Turkey will be expanding its insecurity zone within Syrian territory.

 

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