The US and the Kurds: no debt owed 7

To serve another’s needs at the cost of disservice to one’s own, may be a virtue when a person does it (though we don’t think it is, any more than Ayn Rand did); but when a state serves the interests of another state at the cost of its own, it is incontrovertibly wrong. It is a betrayal of the people by their government.

President Trump, whose responsibility it is to serve American interests before all else and does so unfalteringly, recently announced that he was withdrawing US soldiers from a region of Syria where there are many Kurds, and letting Turkish troops enter the zone – as the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, intends they shall. The reaction of many conservatives, including Trump supporters, as well as liberals and Leftists, has been an outbreak of passionate concern for the Syrian Kurds.

“Turkey is the enemy of the Kurds and will surely slaughter them,” the cry goes up. “The Kurds have been our faithful allies. They helped us, and now we are abandoning them. Betraying them. Letting them down. Who will ever trust us again?”

Sober conservative voices have argued differently. Among them is Andrew C. McCarthy, from whose article in the National Review, disagreeing with that periodical’s editorial position, we quote:

The Kurds have been our allies against ISIS, but it is not for us that they have fought. They fight ISIS for themselves, with our help.

The US has helped the Kurds more than the Kurds have helped the US. 

They are seeking an autonomous zone and, ultimately, statehood. The editorial fails to note that the Kurds we have backed, led by the YPG (People’s Protection Units), are the Syrian branch of the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party) in Turkey. The PKK is a militant separatist organization with Marxist-Leninist roots.

During the Cold War, the PKK was one of a multitude of murderous terrorist organizations attacking Western interests all over the world, supported in one way or another by the Soviet Union. Russia has continued to support the PKK, and in retaliation Turkey has given material and diplomatic help to Chechnya in its terrorist war against Russia.

Like it or not (and we do not) –

Turkey remains our NATO ally, even though the Erdogan government is one of the more duplicitous and anti-Western actors in a region that teems with them.

McCarthy says he “would be open to considering the removal of both the PKK from the terrorist list and Turkey from NATO”. But he adds:

For now, though, the blunt facts are that the PKK is a terrorist organization and Turkey is our ally.”

(We aren’t entirely in agreement with him there. We too want to see Turkey removed from NATO, but we do not think the PKK should be removed from the terrorist list.)

Why did the US send its military into Syria?

Our intervention in Syria has never been authorized by Congress. Those of us who opposed intervention maintained that congressional authorization was necessary because there was no imminent threat to our nation. Contrary to the [NR’s] editorial’s suggestion, having US forces “deter further genocidal bloodshed in northern Syria” is not a mission for which Americans support committing our men and women in uniform. Such bloodlettings are the Muslim Middle East’s default condition, so the missions would never end.

ISIS is an atrocious organization, its savage cruelty so extreme as to render all words of horror and outrage inadequate for description of it. It cannot but be a good thing that it has been deprived of the territory it ruled with terror. But was anything it did forbidden by the religion in whose name it acted? It is Islam that threatens us all, the whole non-Muslim world.

Barbaric jihadist groups such as ISIS (an offshoot of al-Qaeda) come into existence because of Islamic fundamentalism. But saying so remains de trop in Washington. Instead, we tell ourselves that terrorism emerges due to “vacuums” created in the absence of US forces. On this logic, there should always and forever be US forces and involvement in places where hostility to America vastly outweighs American interests.

In ISIS’s “Caliphate” that appalling ideology could be, and has been, punished by defeat. And by defeating it, the US was serving its own interests. For the duration of the battle, US interests coincided with the interests of groups oppressed by ISIS, including the Kurds. But that battle is over. No debt is owed to those who fought with us. 

The easily foreseeable conflict between Turkey and the Kurds is at hand. We are supposed to see the problem as Trump’s abandoning of US commitments. But why did we make commitments to the Kurds that undermined preexisting commitments to Turkey? The debate is strictly framed as “How can we leave the Kurds to the tender mercies of the Turks?” No one is supposed to ask “What did we expect would happen when we backed a militant organization that is tightly linked to US-designated terrorists and that is the bitter enemy of a NATO ally we knew would not abide its presence on the ally’s border?” No one is supposed to ask “What is the end game here? Are we endorsing the partition of Syria? Did we see a Kurdish autonomous zone as the next Kosovo?” (We might remember that recognition of Kosovo’s split from Serbia, over Russian objections, was exploited by the Kremlin as a rationale for promoting separatism and annexations in Georgia and Ukraine.)

It is true, as the editors observe, that “there are no easy answers in Syria”. That is no excuse for offering an answer that makes no sense: “The United States should have an exit strategy, but one that neither squanders our tactical gains against ISIS nor exposes our allies to unacceptable retribution.” Put aside that our arming of the Kurds has already exposed our allies in Turkey to unacceptable risk. What the editorial poses is not an “exit strategy” but its opposite. In effect, it would keep US forces in Syria interminably, permanently interposed between the Kurds and the Turks. The untidy questions of how that would be justifiable legally or politically go unaddressed.

President Trump, by contrast, has an exit strategy, which is to exit. He promises to cripple Turkey economically if the Kurds are harmed. If early reports of Turkey’s military assault are accurate, the president will soon be put to the test. … For a change, he should have strong support from Congress, which is threatening heavy sanctions if Turkey routs the Kurds.

Americans, however, are not of a mind to do more than that. We are grateful for what the Kurds did in our mutual interest against ISIS.

As they are to us?

We should try to help them, but no one wants to risk war with Turkey over them. The American people’s representatives never endorsed combat operations in Syria, and the president is right that the public wants out. Of course we must prioritize the denial of safe havens from which jihadists can attack American interests. We have to stop pretending, though, that if our intentions toward this neighborhood are pure, its brutal history, enduring hostilities, and significant downside risks can be ignored.

Posted under Kurds, Syria, Turkey, United States by Jillian Becker on Sunday, October 13, 2019

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“Disproportionate” retaliation? 2

A car bomb exploded in the Turkish capital Ankara today. Three people have been reported killed and fifteen injured.

The Kurdish terrorist organization PKK – the Kurdish Workers’ Party – has denied responsibility for it.

Turkey is retaliating by bombing Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. We don’t yet know the number of dead and injured among the Kurds.

We held our breath waiting for foreign ministers of Europe, the Secretary-General of the UN, and Palestinian spokesmen to declare the Turkish retaliation “disproportionate” (as they always say of Israel’s retaliations), but have had to give up in bewildered disappointment.

And not one of them has spoken the words “cycle of violence” either, even though the PKK has been pursuing its “armed struggle” and Turkey has been opposing it with force since 1984.

Funny, that.

Let’s pretend it’s not happening 0

News – yet same old same old – about Islamic slaughter and deception and Western indulgence of it.

You wouldn’t hear it from the mainstream media, but this is what is happening.

Syria is killing hundreds of Kurds using Israeli-made spy drones.

The drones were sold by Israel to Turkey, now ruled by a fiercely anti-Israel government under the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan, and it has equipped Syria with the drones to use against the Kurds.

Turkey, we must recall, is still a member of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

According to DebkaFile:

Syrian troops and Kurdish tribesman are locked in fierce battle since the Syrian army blasted four northeastern Kurdish towns and neighborhoods at the end of June … Hundreds of Kurds are reported dead.

The Syrian campaign is backed by Heron (Eitan) spy drones Israel sold Turkey, made accessible on the personal say-so of Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan. Turkey therefore becomes the first NATO member to make advanced Western military technology available for the use of a strong ally of radical Iran and an active sponsor of terrorists. Following intense exchanges between Jerusalem and Washington, the NATO command was urged to put Ankara on the carpet – with no response as yet.

Intense exchanges between Jerusalem and Washington? Israel actually demanding something of Obama, and Obama giving in to it? Amazing if true.

Less amazing is NATO’s non-response. It was odd of it to let Turkey in, since it is nowhere near the North Atlantic; but at least at the time of its admittance it was a pro-Western secular state. Now Turkey is in the enemy camp, and NATO, the defense alliance that the West could safely depend on in the Cold War, has lost the plot. For years, ever since it went to war to assist Muslim terrorists in Kosovo, NATO’s willingness to serve the purposes it was created for has been perceptibly weakening.

The drones are being used to track Kurds in flight across Syria’s borders, mainly into Lebanon, where Hizballah is helping Syria hunt the refugees down. The accessibility to Damascus of the unmanned aerial vehicles is in direct breach of the Israel-Turkish sales contracts which barred their use – and the use of other Israeli high-tech items sold to Turkey during years of close military collaboration – in the service of hostile states or entities.

Extending their sphere to Syrian and Lebanese skies gives the Syrian army and Hizballah (Iran’s external arm) a unique opportunity to study the Heron (Eitan)’s sophisticated attributes in real combat conditions at close hand and adjust their own tactics accordingly to outwit them.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources have no doubt that Iranian intelligence officers stationed in Damascus and Beirut jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the Israeli wonder-drones.

Regarding the crackdown on the Kurds, our military sources report that three large-scale Syrian military operations against the Kurdish people are in progress under the guidance of Turkish generals based at Syrian staff headquarters in Damascus …

Syrian elite forces are battling suspected Kurdish members of the Turkish PKK in at least four northeastern Syrian towns near the Syrian-Turkish-Iraqi border triangle: the big Kurdish town of Qamishli, the mixed Kurdish-Assyrian town of Al Asakah and two others, Qaratshuk and Diwar. All four and their outlying villages are under massive Syrian army siege after complete residential blocks were blasted – acting as the trigger for the current fighting.

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) is a terrorist organization, and Muslims and Arabs do not like terrorism when it is used against themselves.

[But] not all the victims are PKK fighters by any means. Most were civilians. Turkish intelligence sources tried to justify the Syrian massacre and their government’s complicity by claiming that 2,000 of the 6,000 PKK fighters conducting terrorist attacks in Turkey from North Iraqi havens are Syrian Kurds or providers of alternative bases for their Turkish comrades to strike Turkish military positions from a second direction.

While until Saturday, July 17, Damascus was tight-lipped about its grim campaign against its Kurdish community, Turkish military sources were more vocal. They placed the number of Kurdish dead in battle at 185 and another 400 taken captive, many of whom will be turned over to Ankara. Our sources estimate the number of dead as much higher – more than 300, with at least 1,000 injured. …

When Turkish reporters finally tackled Syrian president Bashar Assad on his anti-Kurd campaign Saturday morning, July 17, their questions were smoothly turned aside. “I’m not following the details concerning this operation,” said the Syrian ruler. “The issue is not about capturing 10 or 100 terrorists. What matters is the principle.”

He added: “Our cooperation with Turkey in the security field is not new We have coordinated for many years. Intervening when there are preparations for a terrorist attack or for infiltration is a dimension of this cooperation.”

Not so. Assad, true to form, was lying. Although Erdogan’s party came to power in Turkey in 2002, its co-operation with Syria only dates from October 2009, when the two states signed a military pact.

Despite the pact, Israel is still selling its spy-drones to Turkey. (And Turkey is planning to produce its own drones on the Israeli model.)

A Turkish news source reports:

Turkey has purchased 10 massive Heron drones from Israel and their delivery was expected to be completed in August [2010].

Turkey had also bought or leased other drones from Israel, he said. The United States separately provides intelligence from Predator drones on the Kurdish rebels.

Israel has also upgraded some of Turkey’s combat jets and tanks with modern radar equipment …

Turkey sent terrorists of its own with a flotilla of ships last May to break Israel’s legal and necessary blockade of Gaza.

How long will it take Israel and the West in general to recognize that Turkey is no longer an ally but an actively aggressive enemy, and treat it accordingly?

Talking Turkey 0

The Ottoman Empire sided with Germany in World War I, and was broken up by the victorious allies. Parts of it became Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel.

Mustafa Kemal, later known as Kemal Atatürk, was the president of the first Turkish republic brought into existence by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

The Turkish sultan had borne the title of Caliph. Under Atatürk the caliphate was abolished in 1924. Turkey became a constitutionally democratic state with an elected parliament. Even women were enfranchised in 1934.

From 1928, Islam ceased to be the state religion. Men were forbidden to grow beards. If they did, Atatürk had them forcibly shaved. He forbade polygamy. Women threw off the veil. In fact, despite the institutions and procedures of democracy, Atatürk wielded dictatorial powers, but he used them to modernize his country.

By the time he died in 1938, the republic was firmly established as a secular state.

In 1952 Turkey became a member of the (then three year old) North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The second Turkish republic, established with a new constitution in 1961, proved itself a firm friend and ally of the United States.

After an outbreak of civil violence in 1980, in which more than 2,000 people died, the army intervened, martial law was declared, General Kenan Evren seized control of the government and restored order. A new constitution of 1982 established the autonomy of the army and gave it extraordinary powers over civilian affairs. The army remained the guarantor of Turkey’s secularism, even after martial law was lifted in 1987.

In 1991, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the US went to war to force his withdrawal, Turkey permitted the American air force to launch strikes against Iraq from its territory.

A woman, Tansu Çiller, became prime minister in 1993 – to the consternation, no doubt, of the Islamic world. A year later a downturn in the economy led to loss of faith in the secular government among some sections of the population, and Islamic fundamentalism began to spread. In elections of 1995 the largest share of the vote went to an Islamist party, which acquired modified power in a coalition government under Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan of the Islamist party. This development threatened an end to the secular state.

The army intervened. It forced the resignation of Erbakan and his replacement by a secularist.

In 1991, Turkey took military action to put down an armed rebellion of Kurdish nationalists. The Kurdistan Workers Part (PKK) used terrorist methods, including suicide bombing. In 1999, with the capture of the rebel leader, the conflict died down. In that year Turkey was invited to apply for membership of the European Union (EU).

The invitation did not provide an easy path for Turkey’s accession. First the Brussels bureaucracy objected to Turkey’s ‘human rights’ record. When Turkey made reforms in order to become more acceptable, it was told that the power of the army was an impediment to its joining. Woodenly, the EU decision-makers either didn’t understand or deliberately ignored the fact that the Turkish army was what kept Turkey the sort of country that could co-operate successfully with Western powers, by keeping it from becoming an Islamic state.

Popular support for Islamism grew. Relations between Turkey and the West deteriorated. In 2003 the parliament refused permission to the United States to invade Iraq from US bases in Turkey. At that point Turkey should have been expelled from NATO. It wasn’t, but a rift came between Turkey and the United States. A long-established friendship between Turkey and Israel also began to cool.

Islamism continues to gain popularity in Turkey. An Islamist party is in power. Beards and the veil have made a comeback. The army is losing power. It has not succeeded in opposing a developing alliance between Turkey and Iran. It was almost certainly against the wishes of the army that Turkey recently cancelled joint military exercises with Israel.

On October 28, 2009, the prime minister of Turkey, Tayyep Recep Erdogan, and the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, met for talks. According to Israeli sources (in a report of November 10, 2009), they agreed that Turkey, still a member of NATO, will pass on intelligence to Tehran concerning any preparations Israel makes for a strike on Iran’s nuclear development facilities. Presumably this would mean that intelligence concerning Israel-US military co-operation can fall into Iranian hands.

What seems certain enough is that Turkey is now aligned with the Islamic enemies of the United States, and NATO is harboring a traitor. The US should be taking damage-limiting action. But we don’t expect Obama to be troubled enough by this development to do anything about it. He’s probably in favor of it.

Jillian Becker  November 14, 2009