A British and US-armed foreign power is bombing civilians and anti-terrorist units in Syria that are currently receiving strategic support from, wait for it, the US and the UK.
The Kurdish-led YPG (People’s Protection Units) is currently helping to liberate the Daesh (Isis/Isil) stronghold of Raqqa. But it is now under sustained attack from the Turkish military, which just happens to be armed by both the UK and the US.
The YPG is the main front-line force attacking Daesh in Syria. And it has also been defending a secular, multi-ethnic, and feminist experiment in direct democracy since 2012.
Invasion of Efrin
On the evening of 3 July, Turkish forces – with the backing of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ – reportedly attacked the village of Kafar Anton in northern Syria. A mother and her two children allegedly died, and seven other civilians were seriously injured.
Turkey now intends to target the town of Tall Rifat as well as Minaq airbase. As part of the assault, the Western ally has recruited around 20,000 pro-Turkish jihadis, who only recently went under the Free Syrian Army label. Consequently, the YPG may be forced to abandon the final stages of its assault on Raqqa, so as to divert forces to Efrin and see off the Turkish-backed forces.
Turkey condemns anti-Daesh fighters
In the meantime, Turkey is keen to brand anti-Daesh fighters ‘terrorists’. A report by the Turkish Police Academy on support for the YPG and their regional allies in the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) – titled PKK’s Regional Franchise of Terror – states that:
Scores of Marxists and anarchists of all stripes have found a refuge by association with the PKK and its regional franchises in the name of fighting [Daesh]…
The report adds that the ideas of the PKK and the YPG are:
meant to inspire leftist movements in the region and beyond.
And they have indeed inspired left-wingers of all stripes in recent years. They are currently among the most effective forces fighting against Daesh, and have insisted that “from whoever it may come, we must stand against actions targeting civilians”. For these reasons and more, many commentators have slammed Turkey’s attempts to smear these fighters as terrorists.
The last time Turkey bombed Kurdish-majority communities in Syria on this scale, US authorities condemned its allies’ actions. The Washington Post, meanwhile, referred to the YPG as “a major component of US-backed forces [fighting Daesh]”. And indeed, both the YPG and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) currently enjoy the support of US special forces.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis even left open the possibility of longer-term military assistance to the YPG in June. He stated that the US may need to keep supplying them with weapons and equipment after the capture of Raqqa.
The US has apparently not been able to rein in its Turkish allies, however.
And the UK?
Meanwhile, Theresa May flew to Ankara earlier this year to sign a £100m jet fighter deal with the Turkish regime. And between July and September 2016, the Conservative government sold Turkey £26m-worth of armoured plate, body armour and helmets; as well as £8.5m-worth of aircraft, helicopters and drones; and almost £4m-worth of licences for missiles, bombs and “counter-measures”.
In short, Turkey is using its considerable arsenal – bolstered with arms and military equipment from both the UK and the US – to attack not only civilians but the very forces in Syria which are currently leading the fight against Daesh. And these are the very same forces which the West is supposed to be supporting.
There is clearly either confusion or hypocrisy (or both) within the governments of Theresa May and Donald Trump. And that situation’s helping no one.
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Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr