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Washington Widens the War in Syria by Provoking Turkey

By       Message Mike Whitney       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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The Trump administration has drawn Turkey deeper into the Syrian conflict by announcing a policy that threatens Turkey's national security. Washington's gaffe has pitted one NATO ally against the other while undermining hopes for a speedy end to the seven year-long war.

Here's what's going on: On January 18, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the creation of a 30,000-man Border Security Force (BSF) to occupy East Syria. Two days later, January 20, the Turkish Army launched a ground and air offensive against Kurdish troops in the Afrin canton in Northwest Syria.

The media has tried to downplay the connection between the two events, but the cause-and-effect relationship is pretty clear. Tillerson's provocation triggered the Turkish invasion and another bloody phase to the needlessly-protracted conflict. Washington's screwup has made a bad situation even worse.

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A five-year-old child could have figured out that Turkey wasn't going to sit-back and let the US establish a Kurdish state on its border without putting up a fight. Keep in mind, the US plans to defend this new protectorate with a 30,000-man proxy-army comprised of mostly Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units or YPG. The Turks, however, believe the YPG is connected to the terror-listed PKK which has prosecuted a scorched earth campaign against the Turkish state for decades. That's why Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not allow these groups to dig in along Turkey's southern border, they constitute a serious threat to Turkey's security. Just imagine if Hezbollah decided to set up military encampments along the Mexican border. How long do you think it would take before Trump blew those camps to kingdom come? Not long, I'd wager.

So why did Tillerson think Erdogan would respond differently?

There's only one explanation: Tillerson must be so blinded by hubris that he couldn't figure out what Erdogan's reaction would be. He must have thought that, "Whatever Uncle Sam says, goes." Only it doesn't work like that anymore. The US has lost its ability to shape events in the Middle East, particularly in Syria where its jihadist proxies have been rolled back on nearly every front. The US simply doesn't have sufficient forces on the ground to determine the outcome, nor is it respected as an honest broker, a dependable ally or a reliable steward of regional security. The US is just one of many armed-factions struggling to gain the upper hand in an increasingly fractious and combustible battlespace.

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Simply put, Washington is losing the war quite dramatically due in large part to the emergence of a new coalition (Russia-Syria-Iran-Hezbollah) that has made great strides in Syria and that is committed to preserve the Old World Order, a system that is built on the principles of national sovereignty, self determination and non intervention. Washington opposes this system and is doing everything in its power dismantle it by redrawing borders, toppling elected leaders, and installing its own stooges to execute its diktats. Tillerson's blunder will only make Washington's task all the more difficult by drawing Turkey into the fray in an effort to quash Uncle Sam's Kurdish proxies.

In an effort to add insult to injury, Tillerson didn't even have the decency to discuss the matter with Erdogan -- his NATO ally -- before making the announcement! Can you imagine how furious Erdogan must have been? Shouldn't the president of Turkey expect better treatment from his so-called friends in Washington who use Turkish air fields to supply their ground troops and to carry out their bombing raids in Syria? But instead of gratitude, he gets a big kick in the teeth with the announcement that the US is hopping into bed with his mortal enemies, the Kurds. Check out this excerpt from Wednesday's Turkish daily, The Hurriyet, which provides a bit of background on the story:

"It is beyond any doubt that the U.S. military and administration knew that the People's Protection Units (YPG)...had organic ties with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Washington officially recognizes as a terrorist group...The YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the political wing of the PKK in Syria. They share the same leadership...the same budget, the same arsenal, the same chain of command from the Kandil Mountains in Iraq, and the same pool of militants. So the PYD/YPG is actually not a 'PKK-affiliated' group, it is a sub-geographical unit of the same organization.

"Knowing that the YPG and the PKK are effectively equal, and legally not wanting to appear to be giving arms to a terrorist organization, the U.S. military already asked the YPG to 'change the brand' back in 2015. U.S.

"Special Forces Commander General Raymond Thomas said during an Aspen Security Forum presentation on July 22, 2017 that he had personally proposed the name change to the YPG.

"'With about a day's notice [the YPG] declared that it was now the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF],' Thomas said to laughter from the audience. 'I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put 'democracy' in there somewhere. It gave them a little bit of credibility.'" (Hurriyet)

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Ha, ha, ha. Isn't that funny? One day you're a terrorist, and the next day you're not depending on whether Washington can use you or not. Is it any wonder why Erdogan is so pissed off?

So now a messy situation gets even messier. Now the US has to choose between its own proxy army (The Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces) and a NATO ally that occupies the critical crossroads between Asia and Europe. Washington's plan to pivot to Asia by controlling vital resources and capital flowing between the continents depends largely on its ability to keep regional leaders within its orbit. That means Washington needs Erdogan in their camp which, for the time being, he is not.

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Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.

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