The idea that one individual can unilaterally decide the fate of a population 10,000km away on a whim and, worse, surrender even an inch of a state’s sovereign territory to a third entity is illegal, immoral and downright dangerous.
America’s puppeteer play in Syria has echoes of Sykes and Picot who in 1916 carved-up the Middle East in a back room of Britain’s House of Commons into spheres of British and French interests, mapping new borders that split apart ethnic communities while betraying the Arab armies promised independence in return for driving out the Ottomans.
Bad enough that President Trump has run roughshod over international law with his generous donation of Occupied East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights to the occupying power, he has now awarded Turkey domination over a substantial area of northern Syria sending hundreds of thousands fleeing to the safety of Iraq while ordering out his country’s hitherto loyal allies the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The White House has abandoned the Kurds twice in rapid succession, firstly by withdrawing American troops which stood as a barrier to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s long held ambitions and secondly, giving-in to the demands of the Turkish leader hours after threatening to destroy his nation’s economy with crippling sanctions. Confused? So are we all.
Trump agreed to a five-day ceasefire with his Turkish counterpart to give SDF fighters the opportunity to pull out, following which Turkey would police an indeterminate length of Syrian border territory some 35 kilometres in. Former US military heads have accused him of capitulating to the would-be sultan who is trumpeting victory saying he was given all that he ever wanted.
The US president says SDF leaders are happy about the arrangement which begs belief. “We will not accept the occupation of northern Syria,” protested Kurdish political leader Saleh Muslim. Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has pledged to repel Turkey’s invasion “using all legitimate means at our disposal”.
President Vladimir Putin has called for all foreign armies to leave Syria in the past but he now finds himself caught between Turkey and Syria, two of his closest allies. Hopefully, his stance will be clarified when he meets with Erdogan in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Trump said he allowed the two sides to ‘duke it out’ as though they were kids in a playground. He gave no consideration to the fact that hundreds of lives have been lost. “It’s not our problem,” he said while touting his priority of bringing America’s boys home, except they are not going home; they are being relocated to Iraq.
He has refrained from condemning Turkey’s use of ‘former’ Daesh, Nusra and Al Qaida terrorists turned paid mercenaries to do its dirty work and made no mention of the Syrian children whose bodies are burnt from chemical weapons, believed to be white phosphorus—an allegation that is currently being investigated by UN chemical weapons inspectors.
To their great credit, members of US Special Forces who view SDF fighters as comrades in arms have expressed their sorrow and a photograph released by the White House showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointing her finger at the president saying, “All roads lead to Putin,” also revealed three members of the administration seated next to him with heads seemingly bowed in shame.
The ceasefire is not holding. The SDF blames Turkey. One is left to wonder whether the battle-hardened extremists that Erdogan has unleashed take their orders from Ankara. Moreover, no ‘pause’ can be maintained without the agreement of all concerned parties, in this case Kurdish leaders, the Al Assad government and, most crucially, its backer Moscow. The Trump administration forfeited its leverage by pulling out its troops.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.