Behind the Headlines: Turkish F-16s attack the Kurdish held city of Afrin in Syria ~photo from Ruptley
by Judith Bello
All the news today is about Turkey attacking Afrin, a Kurdish governed city in northern Syria and threatening another Kurdish run city named Manbj. This is a very dangerous situation and another devastating assault on the Syrian people who have already suffered so much from a war that that was started by foreign manipulation and fed by foreign fighters, foreign weapons and foreign cash. The war should have ended by now and be winding down, but Syria’s enemies are persistent and cunning. We should not forget, however, that the foremost enemy of Syria, the strongest, most powerful country, the managing force in this war to destroy Syria is the United States.
Turkey’s actions are a predictable outcome of recent statements by US officials that they will be holding a large region of Syria, much of which borders Turkey, through Kurdish proxies loyal to Abdullah Ocalan who is currently in a Turkish prison, a political prisoner in some eyes, but a man who has led a military rebellion against the Turkish government. The PKK and the affiliated YPG militias are, right or wrong, considered by the Turkish government to be a mortal threat to the Turkish state. But how bizarre that these two warring factions within Turkey are now fighting over who should occupy parts of Syria?
President Erdogan has been severely destabilized by his participation in the Syrian war which has cost far more than he expected and has not yielded the prize he anticipated. On the other side, Erdogan has not made it a secret that he considers the YPG a threat and and its forces enemies of the Turkish state. He has already initiated a heavy handed program of abuse against the Kurds within Turkey. Nor has the Turkish President shown any sincere respect for Syrian sovereignty. He is in over his head but he considers himself to be playing with the big boys. In this light, his reaction to the US announcement should not be a big surprise.
Meanwhile the US trained Kurdish forces holding these cities have choices as well. According to Southfront, an online website that reports daily on the Syrian war, Russian authorities told the Kurds that the Turkish military would not invade if they turned over the territory to the Syrian government. This might mean a back room deal or it might just mean that Erdogan wouldn’t dare invade an area protected by the Syrian and Russian forces. If the former is the case, the Syrian government isn’t party to it as they have stated unequivocally that they consider the Turkish presence in Syria, like the US presence in Syria, a violation of their sovereignty and of international law.
This is a breaking story. Syrian American blogger, Ehsani. just tweeted the following:
Just concluded conversation w Senior Syrian Official:”The only way for the Kurds is to immediately hand over their area to Syrian Army, be part of the Syrian Sate & practice politics as Syrian citizens. Failing to do so risks putting their area under long-term Turkish occupation”
— EHSANI2 (@EHSANI22) January 22, 2018
According to most reports, FSA (Free Syrian Army) militias are assisting the Turkish assault on Afrin. It would appear they might function as Turkish proxies to hold areas that they can conquer. This is interesting as the US just finished a meeting with FSA leaders in Washington DC, whom they claim to include in their SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). They might well be different FSA organizations as the FSA was always fragmented. Or, there could be some coordination where FSA militias are working with both sides. Either way they get to occupy part of Syria, and they have traditionally had little empathy for the Kurdish issue. If this were the case, would the US strategists be aware of it?
This is a very dangerous situation for everyone because Turkey has the strongest, best armed military in the region, and Turkey is a member of NATO. Iran and Turkey don’t want a fight with Turkey and they can’t afford a war with NATO. At the same time, Turkey is vulnerable and if Russia can convince him to ally with the the Syrian supporters, then the US might have created a problem they really don’t want, a problem they will not acknowledge, but one that will come back to haunt them as the Middle East falls away from their influence at an increasing rate.
Meanwhile, the long suffering people of Syria continue to live in fear and deprivation. Their resources continue to be stolen by powerful states that have more than enough of their own. The Syrian people hunger and go without medical care under US sanctions while the humanitarian NGOs of the West continue to heap praise and resources on a handful of terrorists dressed up in white hats and professional publicity advertising.
The Ottoman empire died a long time ago, and with it the Kurdish state. The colonial powers placed a western educated leader (Yes – Attaturk) over their territories to westernize that society, and then they divided up the Middle East among themselves. But the people, the people of the region have reasserted their identity and developed their own forms of modern states. Despite endless manipulation and harassment, and deep growing pains, they have moved forward as peoples and cultures and developed their own political structures. Today, the same nations that invaded and destroyed these societies in the beginning of the 20th Century are once again using their descendants to destroy all manner of civility and social order in their homelands and throughout the Middle East.
Syria deserves better. The Arab, Kurdish, Turkoman and other people of the region deserve better. The Turkish people and the Kurds in every country deserve better. Yes, the people deserve a chance to live and grow, secure in their own states and the resources those lands provide. They need the respect and freedom to develop their own political institutions. They need to stop fighting and start talking. But the assault on Syria (and Iraq) by the United States and their allies in the region and beyond is an egregious violation of international law and makes a mockery of the discourse on human rights. This needs to change and there is no one to change it but us. As citizens of the United States, we need to demand that our government cease its deadly manipulation and destruction of developing nations and begin to treat the rest of the global community with respect and dignity.