The Coming Genocide in Northern Syria

Northern Syria, via Twitter

Turkey initiated operations. This is how the invasion of northern Syria was announced. It was, like all operations of this type, antiseptic. Nor are American troops doing much, except maybe observing and pulling back. This came after a call between the president and Turkey’s leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish view is that this is transferring the fight on the Islamic State to Turkey. They will also create a buffer between themselves and Syrian Kurds. Their argument is that these people are terrorists and a threat to the Turkish state. This is a long term argument that started with the emergence of the modern Turkish state after World War One and the end of the Ottoman empire.

We abandoned our allies, who did most of the bleeding and fighting in the fight with ISIS. This is a strategic gift to not just Turkey, but also Syria, Iran, and Russia. And the Kurds, rightly so, feel betrayed. But why?

Turkey has never recognized the Kurds as anything else but a terrorist group. Their ancestral nation-state was not recognized during the Versailles conference, after World War One. Kurdistan was dissolved between Turkey, Iraq, Syria and some of Iran. Not only that, but Turkey has engaged in genocide in the past. During World War One they drove hundreds of thousands of Armenians from their homes. The low estimates place the death toll at 700,000 and the high number at 1.5 million. It was the first genocide of the twentieth century.

To this day the Turkish government refuses to admit their role in this. They get beyond angry if this is mentioned, as this history is not to be repeated in polite company. The Turkish government considers this an attack on the nation. Incidentally, denial is the last step in genocides. Why after World War Two we had a trial and Germany’s actions after the Holocaust are rare.

Genocide is what could happen in Northern Syria, and why people are fleeing from the border region. They are running away from the Turkish advance, that for the moment is mostly artillery and air attacks. And they are running towards Syrian and Russian forces.

Al-Monitor reports this:

“We haven’t been informed on the American pullout,” Peskov said. “But you know, there were different statements about withdrawals from other parts of the world that have never materialized. We are observing the situation carefully.” He also denied that Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan had discussed Ankara’s plans to carry out a military operation in northeastern Syria. Yet he did say that the “Russian and Turkish militaries and intelligence agencies maintain close contact.”

I am on purpose citing an Arab English paper since the Arab street will also matter here. However, the denial must be taken with a grain of salt. There are many reasons for that, including accidental contact between military forces.

So what will the Kurds do when they come in contact with these same forces? It’s not like they have been friendly to the Syrian state, though mostly they have fought ISIS for the rest of us. The United States government betrayed them. It does not matter that this was a very transactional president (who has two towers in Istambul), or not. The fact is that the United States abandoned them.

What will Turkey do? At the very least they will conduct a campaign of ethnic cleansing, getting a corridor free of Kurds by their border. However, this is what the Guardian is quoting Erdogan as saying:

Turkey’s government says militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) have placed explosive devices, dug trenches and set up barricades in these areas. Turkey has vowed to press ahead with the operations until the region is clear of rebels.

On Monday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the operations would continue and vowed that the “terrorist organisation” along with its supporters “will be buried in the trenches they have dug”.

This is code for genocide. Their supporters include women and children, incidentally. Oh, and yes, some of the women are extremely capable soldiers as well, and quite hardened. This is what Trump has enabled, but he does not care. He says he is pulling out of wars, and claiming we should have never been in the Middle East.

Perhaps that argument would have had some validity in 1919. However, it does not now. A hundred years ago we made a decision to get involved in the world. Versailles is one of the reasons for this mess. If the West had respected local people's desire for national lands, Kurdistan would have come to be, at the expense of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. As is, those borders were drawn along lines Western powers believed benefited them, without taking into account local ethnic divisions.

We know Trump does not know the history. So you would think the attacks of September 11 would be a nice reminder as to what can happen. However, there are those towers in Istanbul. Turkey wants to finish the Kurdish problem both within and outside its borders. A Kurdish state would take land away. Also, they have a desire to rebuild the Ottoman Empire, just as Vladimir Putin intends to rebuild the Russian empire.

Turkey is not our friend, and Erdogan is an enemy of any democracy that still remains in Turkey. He is a totalitarian leader, another reason Trump admires him. But our sudden retreat, which Trump signaled he wanted to do months ago, will lead to genocide. This makes us participants in the coming disaster.

It is also a long term gift to Putin (and the day it was announced, it was Putin’s birthday). It goes a long way in destroying long term alliances, and the cache of the United States as an ally. Further, it will divide NATO, a long term goal of the Russian state. It also overturns the American policy of the last seventy years.

One has to wonder what interests the president is serving? As ISIS fighters rebuild, the organization will be back. And yes, they will strike back at the West in general and the United States in particular. The problem is that like everything else, Americans will quickly forget why.

Trump has put at great risk the national security of the United States. However, this may finally be the line of departure for his Republicans allies. One has to wonder if this will be added to the Articles of Impeachment. in my view it should.

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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