As predicted, Trump’s pullout of the last remaining 1,000 American troops from Syria has set off a powder keg and unleashed the law of unintended consequences. First off comes the genocide of the Kurds. Second comes the total discrediting of American dependability which has sent shock waves throughout all of our allies from Israel to Saudi Arabia, from Egypt to Bahrain, and from Europe to Japan. And, third, it has caused a re-aligning of alliances throughout the Middle East.
As for the genocide of the Kurds, the Trump administration is acting surprised by it. What is surprising is that anyone could be surprised by that at all, because that’s what the Turks have always done–including most recently (last winter and spring) when they took Syria’s N.W. ‘Afrin province, while the Trump administration looked the other way.
Turkey’s mode of operation includes not just the regular Turkish armed forces, but an outfit they call the “Free Syrian army.” This is a unit made up of left-over ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda members. They are the “shock troops” that Turkey uses to “ethnic cleanse” an area prior to the regular army moving in.
Among the people being executed, are not just the former U.S. allies of the YPG/Syrian Democratic Army, but Kurdish civilians who belong to and/or lead peaceful, pro-democracy groups. Of course, any Kurds, Christians, or Yazidis caught in the way of the Turkish advance will also be exterminated, regardless of their political or religious leanings.
I began warning about the Turks as early as 2009 when Erdogan began purging his military. I warned again about the Turks in my 2016 book Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its allies are losing the War on Terror. While it was to be expected that the Obama administration would do nothing about the Turks because empowering them was one of the Obama administration’s chief foreign policy planks, we expected better out of the Trump administration, but on this issue, while we voted for Trump we got Obama all over again.
The people of Kobani were also under threat by the Turks. To refresh everyone’s memory, the people of Kobani were the heroes who single handedly fought off a prolonged siege and series of attacks by ISIS during the “Islamic State’s” heyday time of peak strength. Their town sits on the border between Syria and Turkey, and while the battles were raging, the Turk soldiers watching from just across the border not only did not lend a hand to help the folks of Kobani, but were cheering on the terrorist ISIS thugs and giving them medical help when needed.
After liberating their city, the people of Kobani, recognizing in ISIS the true Islam, all converted to Christianity. Let me repeat: The entire city converted to Christianity. This is just one example of the people that Trump laid on the altar for Turkish slaughter (though it does appear that Putin and Assad have come to the rescue). Turning one’s back on genocide is never a good idea and violates American principles.
YPG KURDS ALLY WITH THE ASSAD REGIME
The YPG Kurds/Syrian Democratic Army has reached an agreement with the Damascus government for cooperation against the Turkish invasion with the apparent coordination and approval of the Russians.
Since the Trump announcement, the Syrian army in conjunction with the YPG has moved into Kobani, and other areas of N. Syria, mostly west and south of the Euphrates. It remains to be seen if this will provide an effective deterrent to Turkish rapaciousness.
Bottom line, is that this new Turkish invasion is resulting in hundreds of thousands of new Syrian refugees. And, Turkey’s Erdogan is using these new refugees along with the three million other refugees already in Turkey and the six million others in other parts of the world that Turkish companies have contracted to convey to Europe . . . as blackmail tools to keep Europe in line. In this regard, Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to “open the floodgates” of refugees to bring every European government to its knees if they dare to cross him.
Like it or not, Americans, but particularly the die-hard, Trump right or wrong, Trump supporters need to be made aware of what sort of impression Trump’s antics are making in the outside world.
An article appearing on www.aljazeera.net (Arabic) dated 10 October 2019 quotes comments political analysts and author ‘Amer ‘Ayyaasrah made on al-jazeera TV’s program min weraa’ al-khabr (behind the news) on the 7th of October:
“Trump’s announcement that he was pulling his troops out of Syria was a selling of his Kurdish allies and washing his hands of them for the interests of Turkey as a service for Trump’s interests and benefit.” In this regard he added that the timing of the withdrawal was planned within the framework of election propaganda.
‘Ayyaasrah added that there is a great deal of deep concern in the Middle East region because of Trump’s behavior, because he has turned out to be “nothing but a loud mouth who never comes through with deeds, and washes his hands of allies at critical times.”
In this regard, it behooves all of us to remember the words of a President Teddy Roosevelt from more than a century ago: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” What we Americans have today in the White House is just the opposite. Trump speaks loudly but carries a very small stick indeed!
Then, Mr. ‘Ayyaasrah added that “all of Trump’s policies indicate that he deals with each issue strictly from the logic of goods to be sold and profit.”
Al-Jazeera then quoted another journalist Hussein Jamaal who said much the same thing that Trump deals with every issue from the logic of profit and loss and has no concern for allies who now must learn from the lesson of the Kurds whom Trump abandoned when they were in the most dire need of his protection after having supported them for years. Jamaal then advised America’s allies to began to look elsewhere.
Admittedly, al-jazeera is not the friendliest of news entities with regards to America, but hints of the same attitudes/fears have been appearing in Saudi and Egyptian news entities usually more friendly to the U.S. and to Trump. These attitudes and fears are also appearing in the Israeli press.
ENTER VLADIMIR PUTIN
As I write this, Russia’s Putin is visiting Riyadh, and the U.A.E., and talking deals for Russian military hardware, grain, technology transfer, and a new Russian alliance with the Saudi-led OPEC. Putin will also visit Israel this week. To be sure, all of these visits were planned and booked before Trump’s latest Turkey Tragi-comedy, but Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds gives these visits at this time more significance.
Also, as a result of the Trump withdrawal and the Turkish invasion of Syria and accompanying genocides, the Arab league has condemned the Turkish invasion and has aligned itself politically and diplomatically with the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus–and consequently has moved closer to Russia. Saudi Arabia, one of the chief opponents of the al-Assad regime and a former supporter of one of the rebel militias trying to bring down the Damascus regime is now one of the strongest supporters of that once pariah regime–due to their awareness of Erdogan’s real intentions for the entire Middle East and their fear of it.
One wag on al-Jazeera TV opined that Trump’s betrayal has touched off an Arab hijrah to Tehran, as well as to Damascus and Moscow. In fact, the U.A.E. has now reached out to Iran. Saudi Arabia not so much so, at least not yet. They don’t want to cut ties with the planet’s sole real super power in favor of the purely regional power that Iran is, and even Russia is, but neither do they want to put all their eggs in one basket especially given Trump’s repeated wild 180 degree flip flops on Middle East issues.
The U.A.E. move might be seen as a sort of “trial ballon” to test the waters with Iran before Saudi Arabia jumps in.
Israel, of course, is also terrified over the Trump withdrawal–not just because of the shifts in Arab alliances but because of what an unreliable America could mean for them should they find themselves in the same situation tomorrow that the Kurds are in today.
In an undated article posted recently on www.aljazeera.net (Arabic) reference is made to comments made by U.S.-based guests on al-Jazeera’s TV show “From Washington” from 19 May 2017 regarding the U.S. position vis-à-vis Turkey and the Kurds. This program coincided with Erdogan’s previous visit to Washington which was preceded by Washington’s sending of military aid to the Kurds fighting ISIS.
The consensus by the al-Jazeera guests was that the U.S. has no permanent or strategic interests in the Kurds of Syria, like they do with the Kurds of Iraq.
OTHER ALLIANCE SHIFTS
The YPG Kurds/Syrian Democratic Army’s new alliance with the Assad government in Damascus, and the now pan-Arab support for it is going to cause a rethinking in both Moscow and Tehran.
For the past 800 years Turkey has been Russia’s number one enemy. Not Germany. Not the Yellow hordes out of Asia. But Turkey. In fact, when Turkey shot down a Russian jet following the latter’s bombing of an ISIS oil asset, Russia considered war with Turkey. A high-ranking Russian general even wrote a white paper detailing exactly how Russia would take down Erdogan’s regime. But then, Putin backed off. Russia could not think of going to war against a NATO member because that would trigger counter attacks by the U.S. and its allies and a full-scale World War Three. Instead, Putin decided to pursue a policy of wooing Erdogan to edge Turkey out of NATO. This policy was punctuated by the recent selling of the advanced Russian S-400 anti-air missile defense system.
But now, with Assad’s forces moving into Kobani, Minjib, and other areas of Northern Syria in conjunction with the YPG, Putin has to rethink his “bromance” with Erdogan if he wants to keep his alliance with Syria and the military bases he has there.
The YPG Kurds have claimed that their new alliance with the Damscus government was achieved with Russian cooperation and approval. This may indicate that events on the ground might force Putin to began pivoting away from his erstwhile “alliance” with his country’s most bitter enemy in favor of an at least indirect alliance with America’s former YPG allies. He just might be forced to return to Russia’s ancient principles of enmity towards the Turks.
THE IRANIAN EQUATION
Consequently, a Russian-YPG alliance, however indirect, could also result in both Damascus and Moscow breaking with Tehran. Here is why:
On 12 October 2019 www.aljajeera.net (Arabic) quoted Erdogan as saying that there is a possibility that at any moment the alliance between Iran and Turkey to eliminate all “terrorist” entities in northern Syria and northern Iraq could be set into motion.
In this regard, al-Jazeera referred back to notes from an al-Jazeera TV show “ma weraa’ al-khabr” (What’s behind the news) first aired on 21 August 2017, which talked about a Turkish/Iranian agreement to wipeout all “terrorist” entities in northern Syria and northern Iraq (meaning, of course, the Kurds).
This Iranian/Turkish agreement/alliance is a recipe for total genocide of all Kurds not just in Iraq and Syria, but in Iran and Turkey as well. The new YPG/Damascus/Moscow axis, if valid, might force Tehran to distance itself from Turkey or to distance itself from Moscow. The budding Arab-Russian-Damascus alliances could also put pressure on Moscow to break with Tehran. There are two or three hundred million Arabs and only 85 million Iranians–most of whom would love to break with the Mullah’s.
If these developments result in Russia breaking with both Turkey and Iran, Trump supporters will have something to cheer about, claiming it shows Trump was the superior strategic tactician, and that he had planned things to turn out that way all along. So, sacrificing our Kurd allies was worth it to achieve the larger strategic goal.
There are several things wrong with that interpretation. One, is that there is no guarantee at this point that Russia will, in fact break with either Turkey or Iran (even as it builds alliances with the Kurds and Arabs). At this point as it seems that Putin is trying to keep all sides happy so they’ll continue to purchase Russian military hardware.
Two, even if Russia does break with Turkey and Iran, the damage to American credibility as an ally by its abandoning the non-PKK Kurds might take years, or even decades, to repair. This in turn, explodes Americans for Intelligence Reform’s hopes of restoring the CIA’s foreign spy program as no one is going to want to trust America again for a long, long time.
Three, had Trump been planning ahead for a withdrawal from Syria he could have helped facilitate, and work out, a deal between the Syrian Democratic Army (YPG), Damascus, and Moscow, allowing for a Syrian/Russian/YPG takeover of security in northern Syria prior to pulling U.S. troops out. This would have kept Turkey out of Syria, prevented the international alliance shifts away from the United States, and would have preserved American credibility by eliminating the possibility of the mass murder and genocides we see the Turks and their terrorist allies now committing in Syria against our abandoned allies.
Trump would have then been seen internationally as a geostrategic genius instead of the laughing stock that he has become.
Finally, there is the moral angle. It is never a good idea to turn one’s back on genocide–especially when the people being exterminated are those who fought side-by-side with your for years.
It is in this context that the headlines of an article posted on www.aljazeera.net (Arabic) on 14 October 2019 screamed the question: “Does Donald Trump even know what his Syria policy is?”
BACK TO PUTIN
There is one more nasty little possibility that must be mentioned. The Syrian army, even with YPG help, would be no match for the Turkish military should Erdogan decide to take the areas Assad’s army has recently moved into so as to continue his genocide of the Kurds, Christians, and other minorities.
The decimation of the Syrian army and the loss of even more Syrian national territory could be prevented only by massive Russian interference, meaning a full-scale nation state against nation state war between Turkey on one side and Russia and Syria on the other. Putin might yet be forced to make that move in order to preserve his current assets in Syria and his nascent diplomatic gains and hoped-for future assets in several other Arab countries.
Problem: Turkey is still a card-carrying member of NATO. A Russian war against Turkey would automatically trigger a combined NATO response against Russia. Say hello to World War Three involving (before it’s over) every major power on the planet. The law of unintended consequences.
Either that, or the non-Turkey members of NATO will have to choose to ignore the stipulations of NATO membership, that an attack against one is an attack against all.
I, personally would hope for the latter as I have been screaming for three decades for a dissolving of NATO and its replacement by a planet-wide alliance of like-minded countries, a civilizational alliance, if you will, including such countries as Japan, India, and Australia, in addition to Europe and America.
But at this point, trying to predict what Putin will do is a stretch much less trying to predict what Trump and NATO will do should Russia go to war with Turkey over Syria. Remember, that Erdogan still holds the card of threatening to flood Europe with nine-million new third-world “refugees.” In addition the U.S. foolishly still has 50 nuclear bombs in Turkey which Erdogan could also hold hostage.
Presidential elections took place this past weekend in the nation that started the Arab Spring over eight years ago. A “moderate” college professor Qays Sa’eed was pitted against a businessman, Nabeel al-Qarawi, who was in jail for fraud and money laundering. The “good” professor won over 70% of the vote (www.aljajeera.net).
Sounds like a victory for Democracy, right?
Mr. Sa’eed has been billed as a “moderate” Islamist, and though not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot an-nahdhah party, he received their endorsement. This might be significant. It becomes even more troubling when we remember that last month the an-nahdhah party won a plurality in the parliamentary elections and are poised to form the next government. Having a president that leans at least somewhat towards “moderate” Islamism (supported by an Islamist dominated parliament) could be a boon to their cause.
Al-arabiyya TV has reported that in one of his first speeches after the victory announcement, Sa’eed indicated he wanted to draw close to “Libya” (meaning the terrorist-hosting, pro-Turkey, Sirraaj government in Tripoli).
Elections have yet to be held in Algeria, but indications are that a Muslim Brotherhood allied party is poised to take the lion’s share of the votes there as well. This potentially gives Erdogan three north African countries (Algeria, Tunisia, and Sirraaj’s Tripoli government) as allies for his neo-Ottoman revived Caliphate–just as he is making military gains on the ground in Syria.
ARAB GOVERNMENTS/ARAB PEOPLE
I have reported before on this website that Turkey has been winning the hearts and souls of the Arab populace via a string of soap operas, produced in Arabic with Arabic actors, that glorify the Heyday of the Ottoman empire. So while the governments of some Arabic countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia turn against Erdogan . . . the future might belong to those who produce the best soap operas (Donna Abu-Nasr, Saudis Can’t Resist Turkey’s Cultural Invasion, Bloomberg).
Barry Webb has logged a 25-year career as an Arabist for the NSA, has two MA degrees in related subject matter, and is currently a Senior Fellow with Americans for Intelligence Reform www.intelreform.org. He is the author of Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror. His website is www.barrywebbauthor.com