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The Syrian Maelstrom: In NE Syria, Washington Turns to Turkey, Dumps Its Kurdish Allies; Kurds turn to Damascus, Their Only Option, Really

October 14, 2019

Syria – one country. Damascus fighting all US-Israeli-Turkish attempts at balkanization.

In NE Syria, Washington Turns to Turkey, Dumps Its Kurdish Allies


“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (Lord Palmerston)


We have no lasting friends, no lasting enemies, only lasting interests.

Winston Churchill


America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests

Henry Kissinger


Washington is caught between its long range goal of reorienting U.S. military forces to face the growing influence of China with is long-term involvement in the Middle East. The one demands Washington reduce its Middle East military footprint, including in Syria, the other insists that U.S. troops not only remain in the region, but play a more active role. 

Something’s got to give. 

The media in the United States has latched onto the latest move of the Trump Administration on Syria. Essentially, despite its Syria plans for partition having been scotched, Washington still clings its plans to dismember Syria into enclaves, one of them being in that country’s northeastern region. Coming to the conclusion that its erstwhile ally, the Kurdish YPG, does not have the where-with-all to maintain the region separate from Damascus as Washington would like, the Trump Administration has essentially “changed horses” and passed the baton on to its stronger regional partner and NATO ally, Turkey.

In response, a few days later, units of the Kurdish YPG turn to Damascus, agree to merge their military units under with that of the Syrian army. At least one source suggests that this development was facilitated by Russia. Given the choices open to the Kurds at the moment, such a move is the only viable option, its only way to face Washington’s betrayal and the Turkish incursion. Besides, there is no such entity as “Northern Syria,”  it being nothing more than a part of Washington’s plan to balkanize Syria either de jure or de facto.

Besides, there is no such entity as “Northern Syria,”  it being nothing more than a part of Washington’s plan to balkanize Syria either de jure or de facto.

Rather than mourn the development – as many here (in the USA) are doing – it should be welcomed. The idea of an independent Kurdish state, ripped out of the body of Syrian territory by a Washington-sponsored plan to slice up that country – has never been viable. Nor is a Kurdish national entity – for the moment and some time in the future – viable in Iraq, Iran or Turkey. None of the regional powers would accept such a development – not just Turkey. The objective conditions for such a development simply do not exist for the moment. The Kurds have to find other ways to maintain the existence of their rich and vibrant culture, other than to link its fate to a U.S. Imperialism that will again and again, disappoint and betray – as Washington has once again.

The Kurdish longing for a country of their own – along with the Palestinians they were the main ones iced out of the Sykes-Picot Treaty – is real enough, but the objective conditions simply do not exist. That does not mean that the struggle to maintain their cultural dignity is not a worthy cause – of course it is – it just means that they should develop a vision that separates them from Washington and Tel Aviv’s machinations and understand better, how Washington’s “support” is linked to U.S. strategic goals. Taking advantage of their longing for a country of their own, the United States has repeatedly used different Kurdish groups for their own ends -and then unceremoniously thrown the Kurds to the lions, repeatedly. Trumps betrayal of the Kurds in Syria is simply the latest example. 

After a telephone discussion between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Reccip Tayyip Erdogan, Trump announced the redeployment of a small, symbolic detachment of U.S. military from near the Turkish border in northeastern Syria to other U.S. bases in that country. Almost immediately thereafter, with the U.S. tactical withdrawal from the area, Turkey announced it would launch a major military offensive into the area east of the Euphrates River, which began the next day. Claiming a need to protest its national security interests from incursions from Syrian based YPG fighters, and a need to establish a “30 kilometer-deep (18.6 mile) safe zone” on Syria’s northern border, Turkey initiated military action.

But as political analyst Sarah Abed notes:

It’s worth noting that the Syrian government has been vocal in their opposition to the creation of a Turkish safe zone or peace corridors on its land as well as joint patrol operations. Damascus knows that Turkey’s true intentions are expansion and changing the demographics and forcing the return of millions of Syrian refugees to areas in northern Syria where they do not originate from.

No doubt caught between Turkey, a NATO member and the US and Israeli financed, armed and trained Syrian Kurdish YPG, civilians in the area  find themselves especially vulnerable and what follows is going to be ugly no doubt. It is the probable ethnic cleansing that has forced the Kurds – at least a portion of them – to re-orient their political allegiance from Washington to Damascus. This re-orientation added to the fact that it is supported by Russia and Iran will put pressure on Turkey to limit its current military incursion.

The media in the United States (and elsewhere) is focusing on the fact that Washington is abandoning its Kurdish allies who have fought against ISIS and like mercenary elements. Taking on heavy casualties, the Kurds defeated them handily while keeping its distance from Damascus. But Washington is worried that the Kurds do not have the influence and weight to maintain control of this northeastern Syrian enclave. But Turkey, a NATO member, does. Thus Washington “switched horses’ in mid-stream. Trump’s nod to the Turkish military attack on Syria is little more than that.

Nor is it the first time that Washington has betrayed its Kurdish allies. It has done so repeatedly both politically and militarily, again and again. Given the green light to Turkey to invade Syria is simply the latest betrayal, not the first. In giving a so-called “green light” for the Turkish military incursion, isn’t Washington throwing its Kurdish allies “under the bus” as the expression goes. Leaving aside for a moment the role that the Kurds have long played in furthering U.S. strategic goals for decades in the Middle East, the answer is “yes”. Washington has repeatedly  used the Kurds and then abandoned them at critical moments; it encouraged the Kurds (among others) to revolt against Saddam after the 1991 war which pushed Iraqi forces out of Kuwait and then did nothing when Saddam gassed them mercilessly

Actually US policy can be explained otherwise – it’s strategic and tactical approaches clash in its Syria policy. Strategically, the United States is trying to limit is military presence in Syria and redirect its security efforts towards the challenge of the strengthening alliance between China and Russia. It is within this context – that is to say – stated US policy – that Trump is trying, unsuccessfully to extract US troops from the Middle East, including Syria. But tactically, many elements of the U.S. (and Israeli) ruling circles have not given up on balkanizing Syria as it did Iraq and Libya de facto. 

Such a policy needs greater, not lesser, U.S. military involvement. So Washington finds itself caught between its what it sees as its global contest with China on the one hand and its need to dictate Middle East policy (in which control of energy sources is central) on the other. Needless to say, already up to its neck in the Syrian fiasco, withdrawing from Syria, accepting the fact that in Syria the U.S. has essentially lost militarily is a difficult, if not impossible pill to swallow. Trump hoped that throwing the Syrian bone to Turkey he could both move in the direction of de-escalating the U.S. presence there while maintaining, through Washington’s NATO ally the goal of partition.

All this is backfiring in Trump’s face, and it seems, every day more so.

So now, as the saying goes, “the plot thickens!” Turkey’s goals in Syria have become more complicated. It will continue with its offensive, but now faces the combined resistance of the Kurds and their new alliance with Damascus. As Washington abandoned the Kurds, now that Damascus and with it, Russia and Iran have weighed in, will Washington now abandon Ankara too? Or will it send more troops and get bogged down militarily to an even greater degree…

As the Pete Seeger song puts it…”We’re neck deep in the big muddy but the big fool said to push on.”



One Comment leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    October 14, 2019 8:52 am

    Excellent article and a much neeeded analysis. This should be published in other places like Counterpunch or ICH. We seem to be watching a puppet show. The puppet masters in Washington seem to have their cords tangled on the dancing orange clown. What will be next?

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