On Wednesday air strikes were launched into Syria amid a formal announcement from Erdogan of Turkey’s intentions on Twitter. This came as a shock to nobody, seeing Turkey’s intentions have been explicitly known for some time. The air strikes targeted villages with locations of Syrian Defense Force positions, and has been reported by the SDF to already have taken civilian lives. The U.S. knew this was going to happen when they began pulling troops from the region despite historically supporting the Kurds in the offensive against ISIS. Trump’s announcement of pulling from the region came after pressure from Turkey to create a “Safe Zone” for which to relocate refugees.
Trump was asked why he was supporting an authoritarian leader through his actions for which he claimed “I’m not supporting anybody” but that is hardly a real response. He is complicit in Erdogan’s open intentions to wipe out SDF forces, Trump can’t claim neutrality when the outcomes have been known from the start. It’s no wonder that accusations have already flooded in of Trump betraying Kurdish fighters, and in many ways this is true. Although, it really should not come as a shock to anybody that one regime would be complicit in another.
Al-Jazeera already reported on the expected outcome of the confrontation from military analysts. Turkey has the second largest military in NATO and, compared to the SDF, and overwhelming air and artillery force. Groups like the People’s Defense Units (YPG) do have extensive experience with armed combat as a result of their offensive against ISIS, but this will only go so far. My obvious worry is that we are about to witness another atrocity at the hands of the Turkish state. There seems to be little that can be done about this from an international perspective, the UN Security Council is set for an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue but it will be a developing issue that needs firm response.
Furthermore the SDF has already announced that they’ve halted their offensive against remaining ISIS militants to focus on the overwhelming Turkish forces. This leads to fears that further militants could take advantage of the vacuum and begin to form during the tension. It would be a true stab in the foot for Turkey to reinflame the ISIS remnants into reforming, although that is speculation.
The real question is how we respond going forward into this crisis. The U.S. has no intentions to get involved with the conflict any further, and although several world leaders have denounced Turkey for their actions one was to wonder who it will be to take a stand in this matter. To again quote the SDF directly, they tweeted that “Protests against Erdogan’s dangerous threats of invasion happened all over the world today. There’s been enough war for the last 8 years. The people of NE Syria want peace and stability.”
There are true grievances that the international community has on this issue. Turkey’s project is one of resettlement and occupation and anyone with the sense of liberty sees this as a struggle against tyranny. Not just for the YPG fighters that will be murdered but the civilian deaths that are happening right now and the deaths that will be associated with the land grab refugee relocation. Those American citizens complicit in Trump’s policies are complicit in our silence on this issue as well as the world leaders that merely watch.