Kurds See Betrayal Once Again

The Turkish military offensive is reminding Kurds how little global powers need them now that the fight against Islamic State is coming to an end

 

Kurdish protest

A woman holds a picture of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) during a protest against Turkish attacks on Afrin, in Hasaka province, Syria, January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Rodi Said.

In Kurdish history, there’s a betrayal that looms large. In the 1970s, the U.S. armed Kurdish fighters to rise up against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, as part of an effort to help the pro-American Shah of Iran. Then, once the Shah suddenly struck his own deal with Saddam and no longer needed the Kurds, Washington simply walked away, ignoring Kurdish pleas to help avert an imminent bloodbath.

“Covert action,” then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously told a congressional committee, “should not be confused with missionary work.”

Today, as four decades ago, the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq are realizing just how disposable they are to the regional—and global—powers. That’s especially so now that Kurdish help is no longer needed in the campaign to topple Islamic State, and as geopolitical alliances shift in the contest over the future of Syria and the entire region.

In northern Syria, the American- (and until recently Russian-) backed Kurdish forces this week came under a military onslaught by NATO ally Turkey, which is seeking to capture the Kurdish area of Afrin on its border, and threatens to invade other Kurdish-held regions of Syria further east.

In Iraq, a different military operation by the U.S.-backed federal government of Iraq seized key territories, including the oil-rich area of Kirkuk, from Kurdish forces in October. Baghdad continues economic sanctions against northern Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdistan region, holding out the prospect of further military action.

In both cases, the U.S. didn’t condemn these military operations, limiting itself to calls for restraint and for avoiding civilian casualties. Russia, meanwhile, appears to have allowed the Turkish air force to operate in Syrian airspace, and facilitated the Turkish incursion by withdrawing Russian forces that had been deployed in Afrin for two years.

Because of the Kurds’ long history of disappointments, the Syrian Kurdish leadership wasn’t surprised, said Etugrul Kurkcu, a veteran lawmaker from Turkey’s mostly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, a close ally of the main Syrian Kurdish movement known as YPG.

“Their cooperation with the Russian Federation and the U.S.A. was on a tactical basis, and their awareness of the U.S. and Russian Federation’s impending tendency to desert them under Turkish pressure had already grown,” Mr. Kurkcu said. “As they say, their strategic ally is the mountains.”

In part, deserting the Kurds has been made easier by a series of mistakes made by Kurdish politicians themselves.

In Iraq, the Kurdistan regional government disregarded Western appeals not to hold an independence referendum in September, and failed to maintain a democratic system of governance—allowing Baghdad to split Kurdish unity. In northern Syria, YPG—an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish movement from Turkey that espouses a far-left ideology and is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and Turkey—has established an even more authoritarian one-party statelet, marginalizing other political forces.

Yet, despite all these flaws, the main reason the Kurds are once again abandoned by their Western allies is cold realpolitik.

For Washington, not siding with the federal government of Prime Minister Haider al Abadi would have pushed Iraq, with its massive oil reserves, even closer into an alignment with U.S. arch-enemy Iran. Actively opposing the Turkish operation in Afrin would have accelerated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s movement away from NATO and into an ever-tighter relationship with President Vladimir Putin.

In fact, Russia acquiesced to the Turkish operation in Afrin precisely because prying Turkey away from the West—including through the recent sale of Russia’s S-400 air defense system—is a far more important geopolitical objective to the Kremlin than friendship with the stateless Kurds.

“The necessity of maintaining at least a tactical alliance with Turkey is self-evident for Russia, even if it creates problems,” said Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, a think-tank affiliated with the Russian foreign ministry. “The entire region is changing course, and Russia and Turkey today have avenues for cooperation that they didn’t have before.”

Sipan Hemo, the YPG commander-general, vented his frustration over this shift in an interview with the Kurdish ANHA news agency this week: “We had certain agreements with Russia. But Russia suddenly disregarded these agreements and betrayed us. They have clearly sold us out.”

The U.S., which unlike Russia didn’t have troops in Afrin, was in no position to prevent the Turkish operation there. The big question now is whether Mr. Erdogan will deliver on his threats to also attack the bigger Kurdish-held enclave in eastern Syria—and whether the U.S. forces that are deployed there will try to prevent such an onslaught, as they did during a smaller Turkish-backed offensive against the town of Manbij last year.

James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Iraq and a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he expected the U.S. would “react strongly” to any Turkish move against Manbij or other parts of Kurdish-held eastern Syria. But, he added, there are limits to U.S. willingness to oppose Mr. Erdogan: “As U.S. and Russian reactions to Afrin show, Turkey is a serious player and the U.S. has no hopes to impact events in Syria long-term without Turkey.”

Despite the temporary acquiescence of Washington and Moscow, the Turkish incursion into Afrin remains fraught with risks, both for Turkey’s international reputation and for its domestic stability.

“If the operation lasts too long and there is collateral damage and many civilian casualties on the Kurdish side, this will rally the international community around the Syrian Kurds,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a Turkey expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “And if there are many Turkish casualties, this will further whip up the nationalist frenzy in what is already a very polarized Turkey.”

Source: By Yaroslav Trofimov, The Wall Street Journal Online, January 23, 2018.
© Copyright 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Why US and Company Are at Each Other’s Throats in Syria?

Kurdish protesters

A Kurdish protester holds a poster depicting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Adolph Hitler during a demonstration against his visit in Athens, Greece December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Dimitris Michalakis.

Now they are fighting each other because the War Party, its regional allies and terror proxy forces failed in the mercenary regime change campaign. As a consequence, two major US allies are in open conflict and the War Party can’t do a damn thing about it:

US warnings and calls for restraint have failed, and Turkey has invaded Syria’s Afrin District, beginning what could be a protracted battle with the US-backed Kurdish YPG.

This is shaping up to be a long military campaign by Turkey, which has been looking to push against the Kurds for quite some time. The US is so far just calling for restraint,” but their involvement in the fight could come quite quickly, as Turkish officials have repeatedly said after Afrin, they will go after the YPG-held city of Manbij, a city that has US occupying troops embedded within – without any invitation from the Syrian government or UN mandate.

The US wants to see none of this. That the fight is already ongoing now may change that calculation – just as the way they all miscalculated their wishful regime-change campaign:

1) Syria was one of the most well run, stable, Arab countries in the world, with decent living standards. It had no record of human rights violations or mass beheadings every year like America’s good allies Saudi Arabia and ISIL proxies.

2) President Bashar Assad is the recognized legitimate leader of Syria by the whole world. He was re-elected for his success during America’s failed regime-change campaign and ISIL’s reign of terror in much of the country.

3) There was no unrest in Syria until the US and company decided they didn’t like Iran’s regional ally. Damascus and allies weren’t going to let the US steal Syrian resources for pennies on the dollar or create an American caliphate in the Levant.

4) No non-nuclear armed country can refuse these type of colonial demands – there will be consequences. The consequence for Syria was the funding of a rebel insurgency and a destroyed nation. The consequence for Iran was even more Illegal US sanctions imposed despite signing of the 2015 nuclear deal.

5) US actions like this violate international law. But that meant nothing to the US, especially when their demands for maintaining the regional status quo and access to cheap Syrian resources were turned down.

6) The funded mercenary regime change failed, and the US aircraft are everywhere to assist the mercenary forces and allies who are now in conflict with each other. US aircraft are flying in Syrian airspace without permission, and with no declaration of war, nor attack on US assets by Syria. The same is true about Turkey. They also have no invitation to be where they are now – Afrin.

7) Together, the regime changers continue to bomb the Syrian military and infrastructure, like bridges, highways, oil facilities – wrecking the Syrian economy and hope for future reconstruction in between. This is also a gross violation of international law.

8) As for bombing cities and towns, let’s put it this way. If something of real importance is in downtown Damascus or Afrin it will be hit. The regime changers never follow international law unless it’s favorable to them. The only rule they like is “might makes right”.

9) The fact is, the US and company are responsible for all the Syrians killed by their bombing and the mercenary forces they weaponise and fund. Every move they make in Syria is illegal, because everyone of them breaks international law – this includes the military operations by Turkey in Afrin.

10) One the contrary, Iran and Russia are operating legally in Syria under international law. The legitimate recognized Syrian government asked for their much-needed help to get rid of the scum the US and company had illegally funded and armed on Syrian territory for years. And they did.

It’s no secret that war-Party Washington and company are now extremely frustrated and desperate. That says why they are at each other’s throats in places like Afrin and elsewhere. It comes with the situation.

Source: FARS News Agency, January 23, 2018
© 2018, FARS News Agency, All rights Reserved.

Erdogan Speaks With Putin On Turkish Offensive In Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed Turkey’s incursion into northwest Syria in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the state news agency Anadolu.

Erdogan called Putin on January 23 after speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the day, the agency added.

The Kremlin said Putin had discussed Turkey’s military operation in Syria’s Afrin with Erdogan by phone and said that Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty had to be respected.

The Kremlin also said in a statement that Putin and Erdogan also discussed final preparations for Syria peace talks Russia is set to host in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next week.

Reuters quoted an official from the United States on January 23, the fourth day of the Turkish cross-border offensive, as saying that President Donald Trump expects to speak with Erdogan “soon” to express his unease with the operation.

The United States has been urging Ankara to show restraint after the Turkish military hit Kurdish militias that had aided the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

The Turkish military, meanwhile, said in a statement on January 23 that at least 260 Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters and Islamic State militants had been killed in its operation in Syria’s Afrin.

The statement said the Turkish military intervention in the Syrian enclave of Afrin was continuing as planned on its fourth day.

Kurdish fighters

Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fire rifles at a drone operated by Islamic State militants in Raqqa, Syria, June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic.

The YPG, known as the People’s Protection Units, is a key U.S. ally against IS and played a major role in driving the extremists from much of northern and eastern Syria. The U.S. military operates bases in Kurdish-controlled territory in northern Syria but not in or near Afrin.

Ankara views the YPG as a threat because of its links to the decades-old Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. Turkey says it aims to create a 30-kilometer-deep “secure zone” in Afrin, which is in northwestern Syria near the border.

Based on reporting by Anadolu, AP, and Reuters

Source: Radio Free Europe Documents and Publications, January 23, 2018.
© 2018 Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.

 

 

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