While the details are still being hammered out, as predicted, the Russians have brokered a deal for Kurdish forces to return to Damascus and fight the Turkish incursion. The latest aggression inside Syria pits two US-armed factions at odds with one another, each accusing the other of terrorism.
The latest entanglement presents a shift in US foreign policy as Turkey is a NATO ally, and Syria is trying to protect its integrity as a country.
What’s the good news? The deal effectively ensures US troops will NOT be a part of the fighting, and President Trump’s drawdown could open the door for more withdrawals before the 2020 election.
President Trump used his Twitter account to declare, “Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land. I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy? Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!” he finished.
The master chess move by Trump all but cement Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal to ally with Syria and Iran, therefore, shifting the responsibility for the Kurds to Moscow. Moving forward, it’s likely that Russia will illustrate its role as the power broker in the Middle East.
The Russian agreement between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Kurds paves the way for President Trump’s campaign promise to end the #foreverwars/#endlesswars.
Ironically, lawmakers are crying wolf to any television station that will air their grievances about Trump abandoning the Kurds. However, under the Obama administration, to his credit, the former president went to Congress to get a war powers agreement to remove Assad, they refused and did not give the Obama the authority to declare war. Statements like “we can’t leave, war crimes will be committed,” and “we gave our word to the Kurds” ring hollow for many Americans struggling to put food on the dinner table.
Most lawmakers don’t even understand Syria and its complexities. In 1920 the Kurdish people were promised an autonomous region to call home at the conclusion to WWI under the Treaty of Sèvres. In an effort to demolish the Ottoman Empire (aka Turkey), the Brits, French, and US failed to include a Kurdish homeland in the Middle East.
According to the Center for International Policy, “Since 2011, the U.S. has allocated more than $2.5 billion on security assistance to Syrian armed groups, with a substantial portion going to the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS coalition dominated by Kurdish fighters. For 2019 alone, the Department of Defense Requested $300 million in armaments and military services for “Vetted Syrian Opposition Forces” including tens of thousands of small arms and hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades that will almost certainly have made their way into the arsenal of Kurdish fighters now facing off against Turkish forces.”
The think tank points out that the US has also been selling weapons to Turkey through the Foreign Military Sales program,” the Center for International Policy said. “Turkish armed forces also depend on American equipment. The U.S. has proposed a more than $14.5 billion in arms sales to Ankara since FY2009, which have included attack helicopters and munitions that could be used in Turkey’s current operations in Northeast Syria. Turkey’s airforce is almost entirely comprised of U.S. aircraft, and its armored units are also principally U.S. supplied.”
The rising tensions between President Trump and Turkish dictator for life Erdogan, pose an opportunity for the Russians.
“Russia wants to benefit from that operation, and one of the gains could be the strengthening of ties with Turkey,” said Kirill Semenov of the Russian International Affairs Council. “The harsh response from Washington, the EU reaction, the threat of sanctions against Turkey all play into Moscow’s hands by making Moscow and Ankara even closer.”
After 19 years of war, this development should be welcome news, but with an election around the corner, MSM pundits are committing verbal gymnastics in order to turn this into a bad idea.
A statement from the president made it clear if Turkey thinks the US exit from Syria is an opportunity to seize control of the northern region; “Turkey’s military offensive is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region. I have been perfectly clear with President Erdogan: Turkey’s action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes. Turkey must commit to keeping ISIS at bay and prioritize the protection of civilians and religious minorities in northern Syria,” Trump said. “I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.”
It’s also been reported that Erdogan called both President Trump and Putin before he ordered his military to invade northern Syria. Turkey’s beef (pun intended) with the Kurds has been decades in the making and well documented. Some of the Kurds in Syria have fought with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), this outfit has attacked Turkey for the last 35 years claiming 40,000 deaths. Another claim Ankara is peddling is the YPG Kurds are allying with the PKK. For the most part, both groups are either atheists or followers of communism.
As a result, the Kurds had no choice but to return to Damascus. “We heard that both Syrian officials and representatives of Kurdish organizations expressed interest in Russia using its good relations with all parties to the process in arranging such talks,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained.
Putin’s government is working overtime to diplomatically broker a ceasefire between Turkey and Syria.
“An agreement has been reached with the Syrian government – whose duty it is to protect the country’s borders and preserve Syrian sovereignty – for the Syrian Army to enter and deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to help the [Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF] stop this aggression,” the SDF said in a statement. “SDF is an alliance composed primarily of Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian militias, as well as some smaller Armenian, Turkmen and Chechen forces. It is militarily led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a mostly Kurdish militia.
“It would be good for Russia to bring Ankara and Damascus to the table and have Ankara acknowledge the legitimacy of the regime in Damascus, if not Assad himself,” Semenov said.
So far, Erdogan says his military has captured more than 20 villages inside Syria and has ordered troops to continue until they secure the so-called 320-mile by 20 miles deep territory.
As for the Kurds in northern Syria, the so-called “safe zone” is a nonstarter. “War and oppression have devastating consequences on the freedom and well-being of innocent children caught in the crossfire. We’re at work in communities touched by conflict to ensure these children are protected and have all they need to reach their full potential,” according to Steve Gumaer of the Partners Relief & Development organization. “Partners is on the ground responding to the immediate needs of civilians displaced as a result of the war in the region. We can reach these people, delivering life-saving supplies when they need it most, helping rebuild damaged infrastructure, and providing trauma care to children are deeply affected by the conflict, where nearly 6.3 million people are internally displaced in Syria.”
Keeping in mind real people are being killed in the Turkish offensive, the White House released a statement committing $50 million to aid those affected in the conflict zone.
The US is promising to “provide emergency financial assistance to Syrian human rights defenders, civil society organizations, and reconciliation efforts directly supporting ethnic and religious minority victims of the conflict.”
Nevertheless, NGOs say that money takes months, if not years, to distribute, as it must go through corrupt governments like Syria. “The Kurdish people need assistance now before more die from the Turkish aggression,” Gumaer said.
Meanwhile, the media airs ardent critics that have no interest in peace or diplomacy. The lone voice is retired Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor, “Donald Trump has skillfully maneuvered Moscow, Damascus, and Tehran into the path of the Turkish Army. We should let this situation develop. It’s in the interest of the West and Israel that these powers constrain each other without our participation.”