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Turkey’s Foray Into Syria Is a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
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The record of Turkish involvement in the war in Syria over the last five years has been one of repeated disaster. It wanted to get rid of President Bashar al-Assad and his government and it is still there and in control of at least two thirds of the Syrian population. Instead, the Syrian wing of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting a guerilla war against the Turkish state since 1984, was able to establish its rule, with the military backing of the US, across a great swathe of northern Syria south of the border with Turkey. Isis, which Ankara once tolerated, has launched a vicious bombing campaign in Turkey which killed 54 people at a wedding in Gaziantep last weekend.

Will Turkey’s military incursion, which began at 4am this morning, fare any better than its past initiatives in Syria? Its tanks, special forces amd artillery are backing at least 500 Syrian rebels in an attack on the Isis-held town of Jarabulus just west of the Euphrates River. The Turkish media speaks of the operation, known as “Euphrates Shield”, as aiming to create a 55-by-25 mile “safe zone” for refugees just south of the Syrian-Turkish border. But Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numun Kurtulmus says that what we are seeing is “a short and results based operation”. Opposition forces said this evening that they were in control of the town, as US military officials said that American planes were conducting air strikes against Isis targets.

One aim is to respond to the massacre carried out by an Isis suicide bomber in Gaziantep last weekend. Another is to prevent the Syrian Kurds, the shape of its proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), taking Jarabulus and the 30-mile strip to its west, which is Isis’s last exit and entry point to Turkey and the outside world. This would extend the Syrian Kurdish quasi-state, which the Kurds call Rojava, connecting up to the Kurdish enclave of Afrin north-west of Aleppo. Going by the limited number of tanks and other forces so far committed by Turkey, its ambitions in Syria are at present fairly limited.

It would be wise for Turkey to keep it that way. It can act against Isis, but if this is a mask for an assault on Syrian Kurds then it will be opposed by both the US and Russia. The YPG (People’s Protection Units), the 50,000 strong Syrian Kurdish army, is America’s most effective military ally against Isis. It has been cooperating with the Russian air campaign. The Syrian army and air force has been fighting the YPG in the far east of Syria in and around the city of al-Hasakah. Could the struggle for Jarabulus open the door to a diplomatic volte face where by Damascus and Ankara reconcile and turn on the Kurds? It looks very unlikely, but the Syrian crisis is now so complex that participants have great difficulty in telling friends from enemies and where their own best interests lie.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Kurds, Syria, Turkey 
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  1. Diogenes says:

    There are so many players gambling on the destiny of Syria as it is becoming even more serious or dangerous in that it could spark an interstate war beyond Syria’s borders. None of the players seem to know what they are doing and nobody is going to “win” this futile war. All the players seem to act irrationally and the game is so multisided and confused that no diplomatic solution seems possible. My fear is that a Clinton Whitehouse will throw down the gauntlet and bomb all the players except the Kurds and “moderate” Rebels. Everybody will loose in that case and the whole conflict [game] is an act of insane uncontrolled self destruction!

  2. 5371 says:

    Uncle Sam has already come to heel and forced his Syrian Kurds to do the same in the most humiliating way possible, assuming what Russians call the crab position for the benefit of Turkey. All those months of the Kurds dreaming, working and fighting to control the whole north of the country, swept away in minutes. A lesson not to believe Americans, no doubt, but it should have been unnecessary. They would have been better advised to be more loyal to their own government and not fall prey to delusions of grandeur.

  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Taking Jarabulus and preventing the Kurds from getting there is vital for one key reason: to maintain ISIS supply lines to Turkey. If the Kurds took Jarabulus, ISIS would be completely cut off from Turkish-based supplies, recruits, and money. Obviously Turkey won’t let that happen.
    The shooting in Jarabulus is all for show; what’s really happening is that ISIS is allowing Turkey to take over the place so that they can resume business as usual.

    It’s really too bad, because cutting off ISIS would have gone a long way to ending the war. This way, though, it can go on for decades.

  4. BDoyle says:

    Turkey has had this idea of “demilitarizing:” a 10-15 mile wide strip of Syrian territory by putting the Turkish army in there for several years, now. At the time, nobody else thought it was a good idea, so it has been on the back burner. Now, there is a power vacuum they can just walk in and take. I’ve always thought that their backup plan was to take that strip and simply squat on it.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    If the kurds are serious about fighting ISIS and not just about ethnic cleansing and population engineering on Turkish border, this is the time. ISIS is being swept their way, cut off supply routes and internet access. But.the pampered freedom fighters are not going to fight ISIS, they will regroıp and try to fight Turkish Forces. The success of the latter remains to be seen, especially IF the US keeps its promise not to be the PKK air force west of Euphrates.

    • Replies: @Parbes
  6. Kurds are traitor, US/Israel trained terrorists that are trying to steal lands as much as possible with the help of the American criminals and CIA to erect a Second Israel in the region.
    The Kurds and their enablers, the war criminals Obama and Killinton must understand that people of the region will not allow another second Israel in the region and at the end they will destoy the traitor kurds and American invadors onece and for all. Israel should be destroyed since they don’t belong to our region. These terrorists are colonists. Long live Palestine. Long live Iraq, Long live Assad and Syria, and death to their enemies.
    Erdugan and regional state must destroy the kurds, Israel spies, NOW.

    The American war criminals must allow Catonia, Kashmir, Palestine be independent countries otherwise they should be destroyed by force now. They should transfer the zionists into New York.
    We hate the embedded journalists who are giving lies and deception aboutthe terrorist Kurds to deceive American dummies all the time. Kurds like the zionist jews have been in bed with the criminals west against the people of the region.

    • Replies: @Avery
  7. This garbage has appeared in a jewish zionist facist web site who is trying to force Obama and zionist servant, Killary to attack Syria militarly for Israel. His position is identical to ‘smith’ so much that many think ‘smith’ is ziofascist ‘louis’.

    This propaganda garbage appears at Cockburn’s web site which expose his postion and his role as agent of the intelligence services of the west, trying to erect kurdistan by destroying so many countries and killing millions of Muslims and millions more as refugees, including thousands of children and women.
    Turkey has every right to destroy the terrorist Kurds supported and funded by imperailaim and zionism againt the regional governments. The kurds are spying for Israel and the west for the past 50 years.
    Shame on you cockburn.

    {Since then, they have turned a blind eye to Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians, and his regime’s use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons and barbaric sieges of cities like Aleppo. Today, 11 million people–half the country’s population–have been displaced, with the Assad regime responsible for the lion’s share of the death and destruction.
    Certainly, the candidates of the two capitalist parties have no alternative on Syria, let alone any other question.
    Donald Trump is a racist bigot who wants to bar Muslims from the U.S. and supports Assad’s regime as a lesser evil to ISIS.
    But Hillary Clinton is no ally of the Syrian people. She calls for the U.S. to enforce a no-fly zone in Syria, and some of her advisers support air strikes against the Assad regime for the stated aiming of stopping attacks on civilians. But Clinton certainly does not support the original aspirations of the Syrian Revolution.
    At most, Clinton supports another strategy to achieve the same aim her former boss, Barack Obama, advocates: a negotiated solution that preserves the core of the Syrian state, preferably with Assad out of power, but possibly with him remaining.
    No one committed to solidarity with the Syrian struggle can align themselves with either wing of the U.S. imperial establishment. Instead, the left must reject imperialism in any form, including Russia’s.
    Rather than look to imperialist powers or dictatorial regimes in either camp, the left should stand for workers’ struggle across borders and in defense of oppressed nations and their fight for self-determination.
    In Syria, the revolution has suffered a defeat for the time being. While civil society activistscontinue to seize every opportunity to assert their goals, their forces have been ravaged by counterrevolution–in the form of the Syria regime and its international allies on the one hand, and the Nusra Front and ISIS, which was particularly eager from the start to target the rebels than regime forces, on the other.
    But as Gilbert Achcar argues in his book Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising, this setback, however devastating, comes amid a long period of revolutionary crisis in Syria and the whole region.}

  8. Parbes says:

    The anti-Assad-propagandizing Western imperialist-lefty Cockburn is trying to protect the Erdogan regime and its (tacitly U.S.-backed) incursion into Syria here, by pulling wool over his readers’ eyes. This Turkish invasion of Syria is NOT motivated by a desire to avenge anything – least of all, bomb attacks on Kurdish civilians in Southeast Turkey, of which the Erdogan government approves. This latest bomb-massacre of Kurdish civilians at a wedding is most probably a false-flag operation carried out with the active collusion of the Turkish authorities, like several other similar bombings of Kurdish and leftist weddings/gatherings in the last couple of years. ISIS were not “ONCE tolerated” by the Erdogan regime; they are Turkish/Saudi patsies working hand-in-glove with the Erdogan regime against the Syrian government since the beginning. Why did ISIS, which usually fights tooth-and-nail against Syrian government forces and Kurds, not even put up a fight in Jarabulus against the Turkish forces and their FSA “moderate jihadists”? Where are all the suicide bombers, the VBIEDs, the vicious street fighting? The whole thing is nothing but a dog-and-pony show.

    Patrick Cockburn is undoubtedly cognizant of all this; yet he chooses to twist and invert the truth. The question is – WHY?

    • Replies: @Jeff Davis
  9. america played the great game and lost. time to retreat from constant meddling in the affairs of others.
    the united states has been at war for 93% of her existence. estimates put the number at 30 million killed since ww11.
    and the beat goes on.
    how about spending the national treasure on enterprises that actually benefit americans?
    we’re about to elect another megalomaniac as president. he or she will try to herd cats from here to eternity. it’s a fool’s errand. he or she will continue the neoliberal policies that have created the greatest wealth disparity in the developed world. our neighbor to the north has 3x the social mobility as the united states.
    empire is the enemy of freedom. while we commit national suicide other nations rise.
    we have to admit we have a problem before we can fix it.
    but we’re exceptional. we’ll be the only empire that doesn’t go extinct.

  10. @No Second Israel

    You are obviously a believer in the Zeroth Amendment allowing for unlimited immigration from the Third World to the United States. Please define what benefit the United States gets from unrestricted Muslim immigration, given its current economic situation. If any immigrant doesn’t have a STEM degree, a million dollars to invest, or superstar status, why admit any immigrant, pray tell.

  11. Parbes says:
    @No Second Israel

    Get out of here, Louis Proyect. You’re a blight on sentient discourse.

  12. dearieme says:

    The Syrian imbroglio begins to remind me of the Thirty Years War, except that instead of wandering all over a largish area in Northern Europe, it’s concentrated in one not-very-large South West Asian state.

  13. Avery says:
    @No Second Israel

    {Erdugan and regional state ….}

    Erdogan and the rest of his IslamFascist UygurTürkoğlar gang are nomad squatters from East and Central Asia. Whatever Kurds are, they are indigenous to the region at large (…nearer to Iran originally).

    Turks are genocidal, alien organism in Asia Minor that have been causing death and destruction to the native peoples for centuries.

  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “bombing campaign in Turkey which killed 54 people at a wedding in Gaziantep last weekend” should be read properly as a bombing campaign in Turkey which killed 54 people at a Kurdish wedding in Gaziantep last weekend”.. Should also be a foot note that Turkish troops are attacking Kurdish militia in syria and Turkish jets are bombing kurdish positions and cities as well..

    Gives a whole different hidden meaning to the entire article then…

  15. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @No Second Israel

    This garbage has appeared in a jewish zionist facist web site who is trying to force Obama and zionist servant, Killary to attack Syria militarly for Israel. His position is identical to ‘smith’ so much that many think ‘smith’ is ziofascist ‘louis’

    Came across this in my WordPress links. The guy who wrote this really needs Thorazine. He has been writing rants like this for at least 5 years, filled with reference to the fact that I am circumcised and had relatives whose Yiddish was better than their English. Nothing he writes gets past my spam filter so I am the only person who reads his anti-Semitic faux anti-imperialist diarrhea. What a sad, psychopathic, lonely, miserable troll.

  16. How does the author avoid mentioning the obvious fact that by militarily invading and occupying Syrian territory against the published opposition of the Syrian government, Turkey is in blatant violation of the UN Charter’s ban on aggressive war (prohibiting the use of force against another member nation, excepting only in response to an attack by the other nation)? Does the UN Charter no longer apply to aggressive nations which consider themselves “Good Guys”? Does the author not know or care about the UN Charter and/or the Nuremburg Principles?

  17. Blu says:

    Hillary wants Syria has a back door to Iran so much she can taste it… She and the neocons are ramping up now for a running start

    Collapsing Israeli apartheid, and with it the Israeli lobby itself, is the answer

  18. @Parbes

    I must confess I had not heard that the attack had been on a ***Kurdish*** wedding party, …which, combined with the absence of this important fact from the MSM “coverage”, makes the false flag “narrative” decidedly credible. Plus, it’s my impression that Erdogan has wanted, as part of his front-line participation in the destruction of Syria, to grab the Turkomen areas of northern Syria.

    That said, this is the most astonishingly complex armed conflict I’ve witnessed in my lifetime (67 years). In honor of that complexity, let me add an element that I’ve not seen mentioned: Does it not serve the degenerate Saudi regime, to summon all the unemployable young males across the Islamic world to come to the Syrian killing fields, there to be culled from the herd,… before hey might get the idea to come after the Saudis and their massive oil wealth?

    Just a thought.

  19. Bianca says:

    I am afraid that the article reflects the lack of understanding among various actors in the greater Middle East area and beyond. There is a clear understanding among Turkey, Russia, Iran and China, that they support Syrian territorial integrity. This is cutting off the talk from various US think-tanks on the division of Syria. Turkish intelligence official visited Damascus before the operation began, and Kurdish Peshmerga leader in Iraq, Barzani, visited Ankara. Intensified were contacts among Russia, Iran, and Ankara. While simultaneously, China’s rear admiral visited Damascus, as Chinese military personnel is already on the ground in training capacity on weapons supplied by China. Chinese humanitarian contingent starting arriving already. China and Turkey just a few weeks ago inked a large trading platform contract worth nearly a billion dollars. Russia and Turkey revisited a host of issues, from energy hub in Turkey to nuclear electric plant. Triangle of SCO members Kazakhstan, Iran and Turkey is taking shape, to what end, we will find out.
    Turkey has pre-emptied Biden’s visit by entry into Syria, and clearly that was without US knowledge. Also, Turkey issued ultimatum to US, by calling YPG “terrorist organization” that it intends to fight, as well as ISIS. Any further advance by the budding alliance between US and Kurds is now stopped. Not only that — Kurds are to withdraw back to the other side of Euphrates — to their own region. They are to abandon their prize, the town of Manbij. US cannot defend their allies, which comes as a heavy blow to YPG — as it tries to find a way to collaborate with Turkey in Syria. Yet, the collaboration — if any — will be on Turkish terms. That is, if Turkey decides to advance on ISIS territory, and US wants to participate, such face saving device can be arranged. But for as long as one keeps in mind that Turkey and US are not on friendly terms — and such cooperation will be limited exclusively to what Turkey wants to accomplish. To that end, both Russian and Damascus “concerns” were stated very mutely. The key to Turkish actions will be in assisting to bring about the resolution to the motley crew of “rebels” now in the Aleppo region and along Turkish border. It must be clear to them that their allies will be abandoning them, and that the only sheriff in town — and booths on the ground, will be Turkey. The process of sorting out the competing and chaotic claims of various actors will begin, and I feel that they will have to listen to Turkey — their way, or highway. Any partitioning is out of question, so the only option left will be the political process and transition in Syria. After all the factions accept their role and lay down weapons.
    Turkey will not need US in this delicate role, in fact, this is where US cannot help. It is one thing to arm rebels, and quite another to prepare them for transition to peace. It is very likely that Turkey will examine the groups, their potential leadership and the narrative in the process. None of that can be accomplished by US, as it does not have the support of anyone. Kurds and some Turkmen were the last option, and it is crumbling.

    Regional coordination is taking shape. Syrian foreign minister visited Baghdad — as the settlement of the crisis will inevitably include Iraq. At the same time, YPG is not a unified entity. There is one, working with US, and now designated the terrorist organization, to be returned to its region. Then there is YPG representation in Moscow for nearly a year. So, Turkey will have options in negotiating with Syrian Kurds.

    The process in Syria is not that complicated as it appears. It is just a question of finding a face-saving device for US to stop objecting to brining all the parties to the table. First step, define everybody’s objective — and any form of secessionism is off the table.

    With the entry of Turkey into Syrian conflict, there is a realistic chance that it will be resolved. Turkey is not acting under US or NATO auspices, but in consultation within the region, and respecting Syrian territorial integrity and sovereignty. The question is, will Hillary be satisfied with the prospect of peace process, or she intends to re-flame it. In which case, it will require a larger regional pressure on US to carefully weigh its interests. One such threat is that Iran will come to the defense of Yemeni population that Saudi Arabia is slaughtering — as it cannot find a way to win. It may be cheaper for US to allow for political settlement in Syria and Iraq — while the regional forces mop up ISIS in both Syria and Iraq. Anything rather then risk an escalation of war in Yemen, with the arrogant and inexperienced princelings at the helm in Saudi Arabia, risking that the contagion may engulf Saudi Arabia itself. Now, that is a course of events that would really damage US interests in the region. The rest of it — merely neocon pride will be hurt.

  20. Solemnity says:

    Turkey has been supporting ISIS all along. And I think the US has too.
    Perhaps ISIS has gotten out of control but the fact is that the US and its allies were aware of ISIS and even supportive.

    It is amazing that this is not generally known among the US public.

    I am even more amazed that Trump has not been using this information against Obama.
    Trump needs to get into the details and not just say “Obama is the founder of Isis”.

  21. @No Second Israel

    You are correct about the zionist Jew, Proyect. Other people have attack the phony ‘left’ like proyect and ‘smith’ for ISO. One is the following:

    {Disinformation and propaganda on Syria takes three distinct forms. The first is the demonization of the Syrian leadership. The second is the romanticization of the opposition. The third form involves attacking anyone questioning the preceding characterizations.

    There is a recent article which exemplifies all three of these forms. It is titled “Anti-Imperialism and the Syrian Revolution” by Ashley Smith of the International Socialist Organization (ISO). It’s a remarkable piece of misinformation and faulty analysis. Because it is clear and well written, it is likely to mislead people who are not well informed on the facts regarding Syria. Hence the importance of critically reviewing it.

    Technique 1: Demonize the enemy … “the Syrian regime and its brutal dictator”

    Smith starts off posing the question: Are you with the Syrian revolution or the brutal Assad dictatorship? The way he frames it, it’s not a difficult choice: yay for the revolution!

    Like these false options, Ashley Smith’s article is a fairy tale devoid of reality. His bias is shown as he criticizes the Left for ignoring “Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians”. Included in this death count are 100-150 thousand Syrian soldiers and allies. Ashley blames Assad instead of the armed opposition for killing Syrian soldiers!

    Another example of false propaganda is the discussion of the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21, 2013 in outer Damascus. Neoconservatives speak of this event as “proving” Assad’s brutality – “killing his own people” – as well as the “failure” of President Obama to enforce his “red line”. Ashley aligns with the neocons as he says “Barack Obama came under pressure to intervene militarily in Syria after the regime carried out a chemical weapons attack in a suburb of Damascus in 2013, but he backed a Russian-brokered resolution that protected Assad.”

    In reality, the Damascus sarin gas attack was carried out by an opposition group with the goal of forcing the U.S. to directly attack the Syrian government. Soon after the event, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity issued a statement reporting “the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident”. Later on, Seymour Hersh wrote two lengthy investigations pointing to Jabhat al Nusra with Turkish support being culpable. Investigative journalist Robert Parry exposed the Human Rights Watch analysis blaming the Syrian government as a “junk heap of bad evidence”. In the Turkish parliament, Turkish deputies presented documents showing that Turkey provided sarin to Syrian “rebels”. A detailed examination and analysis of all fact based stories in online at Their conclusion is that “The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.”

    Ashley Smith accuses the Syrian government of widespread torture. His main example is the case of Syrian Canadian Maher Arar who was arrested by US authorities in collusion with Canadian authorities, then rendered to Syria for interrogation in 2002. Arar was beaten during the initial weeks of his interrogation in Syria. After ten months imprisonment, Syrian authorities determined he was not a terrorist and sent him back to Canada. Arar received an official apology and $10 Million from the Canadian government.}

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