Donald Trump drew sharp criticism from high level Republican Party figures after he gave the green light for Turkey to make a long planned military attack against Kurdish areas in northern Syria.
Last Sunday, the White House announced that US forces will be removed from near the Syrian border with Turkey. This allows a Turkish attack against until recently US-backed Kurdish militias that often led the fight against Isis and which control parts of northern Syria.
Leading Republican, Mitch McConnell, rebuked Tump for making his deal with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Senate majority leader reflects sections of the US ruling class alarmed that Trump’s actions will open the door to greater conflict, threatening US interests.
Under the misnamed code name, “Operation fountain of peace”, Erdogan plans to seize control of territory, a supposed “safe zone”, in northern Syria and to forcibly “resettle” some of the 3.6 million refugees who fled to Turkey during the civil war in Syria.
As well as those calculations, the Erdogan regime fears that the consolidation of a Kurdish state in northern Syria would encourage similar movements amongst the oppressed Kurds in Turkey. For decades, the Turkish army fought a bloody war against the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) inside the country.
Under fire from “progressive Democrats” and “hawkish” Republicans, alike, for his decision, Trump tried to play on the deep anti-war mood in America and reverted to his earlier pledges to “bring our troops back home” now that “we defeated Isis”.
Tacking and weaving under pressure, Trump tweeted that he would “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if its military went “off limits”. Given this, it is speculated that Turkish military will start their invasion around the “lightly populated” Arab majority town of Tal Abyad. Turkish soldiers will collaborate with their allies, the newly-formed ‘Syrian National Army’.
Second largest Nato army
Facing an overwhelming Turkish military foe, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) called on all Kurds to “defend our homeland”. The Turkish army is the second largest in Nato and is battle-hardened in previous operations in Syria and fighting the PKK in Turkey. However the SDF is believed to have anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons that could be considerable threat to Turkish forces. Neither is it clear if the US or Russia will allow the Turkey military airpower to enter Syria air space.
The Turkish government may get a temporary boost at home for dealing with the “Kurdish terrorist threat”. Erdogan has lost much support in recent elections and is trying to shore up his position, including exploiting Turkish nationalism.
But Erdogan faces the danger of ‘mission creep’; becoming bogged down in a long, costly conflict in northern Syria. Armed Kurdish groups may carry out bombings and other attacks in Turkey in retaliation. A drawn out conflict can also put pressure on the Turkish economy, which is still recovering from a currency crisis and recession in 2018.
“Stab in the back”
The Syrian Democratic Forces declared Trump’s actions “a stab in the back”. But this is just the latest in a series of betrayals by imperialist and regional powers of the Kurds.
For decades, Kurdish nationalist movement leaders have sought alliances with imperialist powers and local capitalist regimes in attaining national and cultural rights across Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
The CWI has always argued that reliance on imperialism, such as Kurdish forces in northern Iraq backing the US-led invasion of 2003, and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) allowing itself to become an ally of the US in Syria during the fight against Isis, would not lead to genuine self-determination for Kurds.
The US and other powers have, for many years, cynically used the Kurds’ plight for their own selfish geo-strategic aims in the Middle East. They have shown they are more than willing to sacrifice this oppressed nationality to further imperialist interests.
Despite all the cruel betrayals, the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces are reportedly trying to make a deal with the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, to bring the Syrian army on its side against Turkey. They fear they will have to fight on various fronts, against Turkey, what is left of Isis, and possibly Iranian or Russian-backed units collaborating with Damascus.
All this underscores the implicitly explosive situation as a consequences of Turkey’s military incursion into Syria; a new conflict, threatening to widen into a another war in the Middle East, involving numerous local and world players.
US ruling class split on foreign policy
Last December, Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria but was checked after strong opposition from the Pentagon and a torrent of criticism from Republicans and Democrats. The US ruling class is split over foreign policy. The Democrats are no more “progressive” on these issues than the various factions of the Republican Party. The two parties of big corporations only differ on how to further the interests of American imperialism.
Facing impeachment threats at home and dangerously deteriorating relations with Turkey, Trump made a new deal with Erdogan in which Kurdish people will mainly pay the price. A Turkish army invasion and the imposition of mainly Syrian Arab refugees into Kurdish areas of northern Syrian is a recipe for new bloody national and sectarian conflict.
The latest unfolding tragedy facing the Kurds underlines the need for an internationalist, socialist approach to realise their national and cultural rights. This means rejecting the pro-capitalist Kurdish nationalist leaders, the regional capitalist regimes and the imperialist powers. It requires building an independent workers’ alternative, capable of unity the oppressed Kurds and the entire working class and poor of Syria, Turkey and the whole region. Such a socialist force could struggle against capitalism and for genuine self-determination of all oppressed nationalities.