Being half an Irishman myself I feel entitled to refer to the probably apocryphal answer given by an Irishman asked by a lost, weary, traveler for directions to Dublin. “Oh, well now, I wouldn’t have started from here.”
Turkey went from a foreign policy of “no quarrels with the neighbours” to near war with Iraq and actual war with Syria even shooting down a Russian fighter-jet doing its duty fighting terrorism at the invitation of the Syrian government. At the same time she went from a peace process with her substantial Kurdish minority back to a policy of military force, criminalising of Kurdish political parties and press, and the language of civil war.
That was my first thought when asked for my reaction to the late-night (are there any other?) statement from Donald Trump that US forces were finally withdrawing from Syria leaving their Kurdish auxiliaries in the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the tender mercies of the Turkish Army.
The US should never have been there in the first place (though reading Hillary Clinton’s late-night response to Trump it is clearer than ever that the world dodged more than a bullet when she failed to win the presidency).
The Kurdish people should have never placed their fate in the hands of a far off and thoroughly unreliable US “ally” which has picked them up only to put them back on the shelf so many times before. Syrian Kurds belong to Syria and it is with their Syrian neighbours and government that the SDF should have been in alliance.
But if the US has no business in Syria neither does Turkey. Least of all killing Kurds.
The US – and its allies – made a disastrous unforgivable decision to ally with the alphabet-soup of Islamist fanatics seeking the destruction of the secular Syrian Arab Republic. On no geo-political level did it make sense for anyone – including Israel – to risk the black flags of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Qaeda fluttering over Damascus. Yet but for the bravery of the Syrian Arab Army and the steadfastness of its more than half-century alliance with Russia that is precisely what would have happened. An Islamic State base? On the Med? Next door to Israel? What could possibly go wrong?!
Turkey’s decision to turn on Syria and join the international coalition against her was an equally disastrous and unforgivable decision.
In a foreign policy shift, driven by the unreliable Foreign Minister Davogtulu, Ankara regularly predicted – to the week – when Bashar Assad would fall. Next week, next month, next year…
As George W. Bush would have put it, Turkey “mis-underestimated” both Assad and the reliability of Russia. “Bashar must Go” is now one of the most embarrassing foreign policy maxims in history. It is not he who is going but the US troops in his country and with their tails between their legs.
Turkey – a NATO member – and candidate member of the European Union will cause terminal damage to its cause throughout the world if it now advances guns-blazing on the Kurdish population in northern Syria.
As for the Syrian Kurds, they should learn their lesson, seek forgiveness in Damascus, merge their fighters with the Syrian Arab Army and prepare to defend the motherland against all threats to Syria’s territorial integrity. The SDF – not least their women fighters – fought bravely against IS before becoming yet again a pawn in US power politics. Islamist fanaticism has not yet been completely defeated in Syria. All Syrians, Arabs, Kurds and Druze, Christians and Muslims, Allawites, Sunnis and Shia should stand shoulder to shoulder against all foreign aggression toward the Republic.
By George Galloway