Daesh (Isis/Isil) has been fatally weakened if not defeated, thanks largely to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In recent years, those same forces have received limited UK and US military support in the fight against Daesh. But now, there is evidence that major NATO ally Turkey intends to launch an all-out invasion of the mostly Kurdish-populated territories in northern Syria.
The US is seeking a ‘compromise’ to this that would see many Kurdish-majority cities come under Turkish occupation. But the Brexit-obsessed UK government seems altogether unconcerned. This is despite the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal ruling in 2018 that the Turkish state and its president are guilty of war crimes against the Kurdish people.
According to a report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), “large military mobilisations of the Turkish forces and factions loyal to them have arrived in the north-western outskirts of Manbij city” in northern Syria.
Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, explained:
What makes these [Turkish] threats credible is the fact that it’s not just rhetoric, but there has been a military build up along the border, so the Turkish government seems to have backed up its threats with boots on the ground.
In January 2018, the Turkish army staged a dress rehearsal and invaded the mainly Kurdish-populated region of Afrin. This reportedly led to extensive looting, “widespread human rights violations”, and alleged war crimes. The response from Britain’s then foreign secretary Boris Johnson was to back Turkey:
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Watching developments in Afrin closely. Turkey is right to want to keep its borders secure. We share goal of reducing violence and keeping focus on most important task: a political process in Syria that leads to the end of the Asad regime.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 22, 2018
Turkish collaboration with jihadists
The factions referred to in the SOHR report may include jihadist gangs such as Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra and the fascist ‘Grey Wolves’. Indeed, recently revealed documentation suggests that, as far back as 2013, Turkey had been providing Daesh with medical supplies.
In 2016, the autonomous Kurdish-majority communities in northern Syria published “compelling evidence” of collusion between Daesh militants and Turkey. Also, in January 2015, more documents appeared to show that Turkey’s intelligence service (MIT) had been caught by military officers transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition “to the al-Qaeda terror organisation”.
Meanwhile, US special envoy James Jeffrey has reportedly spoken to Turkey’s ‘defence’ minister Hulusi Akar in an attempt to find a compromise to the crisis. US-Turkey relations have been strained since Ankara decided to ignore US sanctions against Russia and purchase a $2.5bn missile system from Moscow. Consequently, the US has now threatened sanctions against Turkey.
In response, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Ankara would review the status of the İncirlik airbase (used by US military) and added:
If the US exhibits a hostile stance against us, we will retaliate. This is not a threat or a bluff.
Kurdish cities under threat
Turkey aims to annex Kurdish territory, 30-40km (20-25 miles) wide. The US is reportedly seeking a compromise by insisting that what Turkey calls a ‘safe zone’ is limited to 10km (six miles) wide. However, even if Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accepts the US proposal, this will still mean that the major Kurdish cities of Kobane, Quamislo, Serekaniye and Derik could come under Turkish control. This would be unacceptable for the Kurdish-majority communities of northern Syria, as one author and academic pointed out:
Even if a Turkish occupation East of Euphrates was limited to 6 miles and not 20-25 miles like Erdogan wants, that would still include border cities of Qamislo, Kobane, Serekaniye, Derik.
— Amy Austin Holmes (@AmyAustinHolmes) July 23, 2019
Destruction of Rojava the real aim
The destruction of Rojava, the largely Kurdish region of northern Syria, would appear to be the real aim of Turkey’s government. For it is in Rojava where a socialist/anarchist/feminist revolution has been taking place.
Erdoğan has long shown his desire to crush not just Kurdish calls for democracy at home, but also the inspiring revolution which has developed on Turkey’s doorstep. And in that battle, he has received support from jihadists and the implicit backing of his NATO allies.
As long as the UK government remains obsessed with Brexit, it will likely ignore Turkey’s threats and attacks against anti-terror fighters in the Middle East. It is appeasement 21st-century style. And it is utterly unacceptable.
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