First, there was the killing of eight of our soldiers in Idlib, then an earthquake in Elazığ, an avalanche in Van and – to top it all off – an airplane accident. Turkey has been rocked by several very unfortunate shocks, all in quick succession. The U.S. has led other countries in sending messages of condolences to Turkey.
Over the last five days, officials from across multiple U.S. government agencies have supported and congratulated Turkey for its campaign in Idlib. Certainly, it is more important that this backing is focused on action, rather than statements alone, but these sincere expressions of support by the West to Turkey are nonetheless essential. In the recently held Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) panel, which concerned the recent occurrences in Idlib, Dr. Valid Tamer, president of the Northern Free Doctors Union, who participated in the program live from Idlib, spoke about the humanitarian crisis facing the region. He said: "I cannot find a single word to describe the suffering of our people, whether from bombings or a slow death." In light of Tamer's comments, how is it possible for innocent people to overcome situations that we cannot even bear to hear about?
While Turkey's stance of giving time to the Bashar Assad regime until the end of February and this weekend's negotiations between the Turkish and Russian authorities may be regarded as a glimmer of hope, there is definitely some stalling in Syria. James Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria, whom we know well and have hosted on many THO programs, stated that the Syrian army and Russian fighter aircraft had carried out 200 airstrikes on Idlib and that 700,000 displaced people had already fled to the Turkish border, saying: "This situation could cause an international crisis."
So, what about the solution?
While Turkey's pressure on both international public opinion and Russia continues, unfortunately, its hands are still tied by the United Nations. Only two months ago, Russia and China issued a veto in the U.N. Security Council that resulted in a halt of U.N. humanitarian aid going to Syria. The West doesn't have the courage to engage in a military operation over fears of a clash with Russia. Clearly, as long as Russia and Iran keep supporting the Assad regime, it will continue to rule as Russia's puppet.
So what are the solutions proposed for Idlib? First, it has been proposed that the U.S. and Turkey work more closely; second, international public support for Turkey's cease-fire efforts must be matched with action; action should be taken to protect civilians and halt bombing by Russia and regime forces, removing them from the region; and a U.N. led political process, considering Syria's political unity and territorial integrity (Resolution 2254), should be implemented.
The young hopeful taking a stand
A young man who served as mayor of a small town of approximately 100,000 people in Indiana, U.S., has just emerged as winner of the Iowa primary. The Democratic Party presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, marks quite a departure from your average American politician; an openly gay, Oxford and Harvard graduate, who served eight years in the U.S. Army and speaks eight languages! While other candidates rejected him as "inexperienced," with no chance of winning, he stands a relatively good chance of winning the second primary in New Hampshire against opponent Bernie Sanders. Jennifer Holdsworth, Pete's campaign manager, who I have had the pleasure of working with in the past, had this to say after the results in Iowa: "They laughed at us. They fought with us. We never gave up and we won. But we still have a lot to do."
When President Trump announced his candidacy for the first time on June 16, 2005, everyone made fun of him, too; even members of his own party thought he never stood a chance. And we all know what happened afterward. Nobody even takes opinion polls seriously, anymore. This 38-year-old youngster has created a great story of success, whether he wins or not. No matter what, this is a good example for our own youngsters.
"Never give up!"
* President of the Turkish Heritage Organization and a 2019 Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient