No one should stop until we achieve a safer Syria

MUNIR A. SAEED
Published 23.10.2019 01:48
No one should stop until we achieve a safer Syria

Wisdom calls for greater cooperation with Turkey, as it's the most significant actor fighting for a safer Syria

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demonstrated to us in practical terms Carl von Clausewitz's adage, "War is a continuation of politics by other means." A few days after its military operations made that point, Turkey agreed to grant a 120-hour pause to allow the United States to bring its allies beyond the 30-kilometer zone that Turkey has set as its military objective. Should the 120 hours elapse without progress, Turkey has assured its adversaries that the alternative will be more painful. Successful negotiations that lead to a deal require you to keep a stick ready under the table and to make sure the other side knows it's there as an alternative.

Turkey has been at the forefront of countries that have suffered the consequences of both the displacement of millions by the Syrian civil war and the U.S. policy of empowering the PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorists on the pretext of fighting another terror group, namely Daesh, which Turkey has been warning against.

While the U.S.' European and Arab allies have been creating, arming and financing various terrorist groups in Syria, turning what was initially a Syrian revolution into a global civil war fought in Syria, Turkey has been left to carry the brunt of the resulting refugee problem and the threats to its own security caused by the PKK/YPG operating in northern Syria.

The Arab regimes

The Arab regimes have been uncharacteristically quick to react trying to exploit the current situation to make political gains. A meeting in Cairo of the Arab League was hastily convened to attack and threaten economic and political retaliation against Turkey for "invading an Arab sovereign state!"

Interestingly, Syria's seat remained vacant during the meeting. Syria has been banished from the Arab League by the same Arab regimes which were meeting to "protect" Syria's sovereignty without its presence!

The Arab League, regionally viewed as a tool for some rich Arab regimes in the same way the U.N. Security Council is viewed globally, has for many years been considered obsolete by Arabs.

Turkey currently hosts almost 4 million Syrian refugees. How many do our Arab regimes who met in Cairo to decry Turkey's incursion into "Arab" Syria, host? Including those Arab regimes who, for almost five years, have been waging a genocidal war against "Arab" Yemen, and blockaded and planned to invade "Arab" Qatar (had it not been for Turkish and Iranian ultimatums, including rapid deployment of Turkish forces to protect Qatar), and are spending billions creating and funding militias in Arab Libya, Arab Syria, Arab Iraq, Arab Somalia and elsewhere in the "Arab" world.

In addition to Syrians, Turkey hosts almost 1 million other Arabs, most of them refugees pushed out of their countries by the "Arab" regimes who are again playing the politics of hypocrisy as they shed crocodile tears for Syria's "Arab" identity and its Arab sovereignty.

These are the same Arab regimes who funded the attempted coup in Turkey only to be shocked by the Turkish people who came out to defend the elected government, including those who voted against the government but committed themselves to defend a political process that transfers power through the ballot and not the bullet, something Arab regimes need to learn from Turkey.

Contrast that with the Arab masses who went out in the streets, not to defend but to bring down the ruling regimes.

It is difficult to take seriously the protests of Arab regimes that, despite ruling over only 5% of the world's population have nevertheless created almost 50% of the world's refugees out of their own brutally oppressed subjects, and even have gone as far as murdering and dismembering one of their own citizens inside their own diplomatic mission, then colluded with other Arab regimes to try hide the flight path of their hitmen.

It is therefore understandable that Turkey, as it proceeds with its operations and contributes costly solutions for "Arab" refugees, should totally ignore the nonsense coming from the ruthless dictators of Arabia.

Syrian refugees abandoned

Since Arab regimes and their Western allies have abandoned Syrian refugees, leaving Turkey to bear the brunt of a crisis Arab regimes have been instrumental in creating, they should not now attempt to lecture Turkey over how to address the crises. Alternatively, they can take up Turkey's offer to send Syrian refugees to Europe.

Turkey's aim is to create a safe zone in northern Syria where Syrian refugees wanting to return home can choose to do so. Northern Syria, the area Turkey is targeting, is controlled by the PKK, which has carried out terrorist attacks inside Turkey that killed 40,000 people in the almost past four decades.

Turkey's military operations are aimed at defeating the PKK, now operating in Syria as the YPG, and occupying a large portion of northern Syria. The PKK, and therefore the YPG, is at once an organization allied with the U.S. and classified a terrorist organization by the U.S.

To overcome this embarrassing situation and allow continued U.S. and Western military support (the terrorism classification notwithstanding), at the insistence of the U.S., the YPG/PKK created the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The dandy word being "democratic," of course. Problem solved, the SDF, effectively the YPG, effectively the PKK, continued an alliance with the U.S. under President Barack Obama; until now when President Donald Trump, looking at overseas American military activity strictly within the parameters of financial cost-benefit analysis, decided to withdraw the cover for its most important ally in Syria.

Disinformation and spin

Those characterizing Turkey's military operations against the YPG/PKK in Syria as an invasion must tell us which of their own nations they are willing to start breaking in a slippery slope process that starts by submitting to the demands of an armed terrorist group?

Especially with all these petrodollars available to finance regional instability and insurrection. The current billions being spent to support secession in the south of Yemen and north of Iraq, Libya and Somalia are proof of the sinister money politics that aims at breaking up large regional nations to create regional statelets.

A safer Syria

Nothing anyone can say or do will dissuade Turkey from continuing its operations until it has accomplished its dual purpose, defeating the PKK/YPG and subsequently using the Syrian land they now occupy to create a safe zone for Syrian refugees. Turkey has been clear that those are its two objectives and nothing else.

What concerns us is how Turkey and Iran, the region's two powerhouses standing up to foreign interference in our region, will address a situation that at once deals with a common "Kurdish" problem even as they stand on the opposite sides of Syria's civil war.

Turkey is clearly not moving without coordination. No one wants to stand in Turkey's way and create a wider conflict, consequently increasing the human cost. Turkey has the second-largest army in NATO.

Wisdom dictates greater coordination with Turkey in a way that makes it less costly, in human terms, to accomplish Turkey's objectives. Iran and Russia, Turkey's partners, while expressing apprehension have nevertheless decided to stand down, understanding Turkey's need to undertake this operation.

President Trump's decision to withdraw American forces from the line of fire also recognized this reality. The recent agreement to pause military operations requested by the U.S. presents an opportunity to achieve Turkish demands without further bloodshed.

If successful on the ground it will be a remarkable combination of diplomacy and painful alternatives that might open avenues for future regional common sense.

* Yemeni political activist, former President of TAWQ, a nonpartisan democratic movement that includes members of various Yemeni political groups

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