Why America’s Bad Choices Can Lead to a Shooting War with Turkey in Syria

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Written by Federico Pieraccini; Originally appeared at strategic-culture.org

The consequences of the contradictory choices of the United States in Syria are beginning to become apparent. The obsessive efforts to advance geopolitical goals with war, chaos, betrayals and shaky alliances has brought us to the recent events in Northern Syria on the border with Turkey in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

Why America’s Bad Choices Can Lead to a Shooting War with Turkey in Syria

The overall picture of alliances and alignments, especially in Northern Syria, is not the simplest and needs some elaboration. The Kurds (PKK/YPG) in Syria are basically allies of the United States, using the territory under their control to train additional jihadists to spread chaos in the country. In particular, there are more than ten US military bases in Syria, violating all manner of international norms. According to the media, the Kurds are excellent fighters by virtue of their ability to fight Daesh. But looking at the situation more honestly, the collusion with Daesh by the US and allied countries in the region is evident, particular Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s involvement. The provision to Daesh of healthcare, weapons, logistics, intelligence, financial, and diplomatic support has never been lacking over the years. It seems evident that the Kurds (under the name of the SDF) often found easy accommodation with the Daesh terrorists, granting voluntary relocations to combatants in areas adjacent to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). American and Israeli politicians and Generals have openly stated that it is not convenient to fight Daesh if this ends up benefitting Assad.

The Kurdish area in Syria is divided between the areas east and west of the Euphrates. The canton of Afrin is under Russian protection, both on the ground (Russian military police were present in Afrin until a few days ago) as well as in the air. The Kurdish area to the east of the Euphrates, which connects to Iraq, openly seeks independence, is under American control, and obviously threatens Syria’s territorial integrity. This is the result of an American strategic Plan B devised by Brookings in 2009 that continues to give hope to the neocons in Washington. But as we shall see, it is a forlorn hope.

The Kurdish entity located in the Afrin enclave fought with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in Aleppo in the liberation of the city. It also resisted the Turkish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) attack on Syria when Erdogan decided to create a buffer zone between the Afrin canton and the Kurds to the east of the Euphrates when advancing towards Azaz. Following the liberation of Aleppo, the relations between Damascus and the Kurds of Afrin saw some initial progress, thanks to Russian diplomacy. The temporary compromise between Damascus and the Kurds saw Moscow deploy a symbolic number of Russian military police to Afrin, with the much more important air defense being guaranteed by the operational range of the Russian S-400 air-defence systems deployed in Syria.

Meanwhile, the progress of the diplomatic and negotiating agreement between Ankara, Moscow and Tehran is bearing fruit, diminishing the importance of the Geneva peace talks on Syria as well as the areas controlled by the Americans, Europeans, Saudis and Qataris.

The events over the last few days are the combined results of the nefarious actions of the United States, the incompetence of the Kurds, and the superb diplomatic and strategic actions of Damascus and Moscow.

The starting point for Iran, Russia, Syria and Turkey concerns the territorial unity of Syria. The opposing countries are clearly the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Kurds of Rojava claim their independence, and therefore easily see themselves as allies of the United States, openly supported by Israel (in the case of the independence referendum) and even by the Saudis. Afrin’s Kurds are in a different position, which is why Moscow found itself faced with a perfect situation, the result of months of diplomatic work, allowing it to pull off a strategic trifecta. Moscow first called the Kurdish bluff, who refused to allow the Syrian Arab Army entry into Afrin and accept the canton’s return to the borders that preceded the chaos that started in 2011 (when the Kurds had in fact their important autonomy even if under the banner of Damascus). Moscow had probably guaranteed Erdogan that if the Kurds in Afrin refused entry of Damascus’s troops into the town, then Ankara’s military operation would be justified. Perhaps Putin could have persuaded Erdogan to postpone Operation Olive Branch, but he did not, and the reason has to do with the strategic considerations at play.

The objective of Damascus, Moscow and Tehran is to remove the United States from Syria. Of course they currently fight America’s proxies in the region, but the seedlings of chaos that have been sown in the country will have to be uprooted in the long term. Erdogan’s military action in the Afrin Region puts the interests of Washington and Ankara on a direct collision course. Erdogan is aware of what Putin is doing, but he is more interested in what Trump is doing with the Kurds along his border than with the territorial unity of Syria and Iraq.

Washington has its back against the wall, forced to defend a Kurdish ally against a key member of NATO, in the forlorn hope of retaining some significance in the Syrian picture. The weakness of the American position will lead to them abandoning their Kurdish ally to its fate at the hands of Moscow and Damascus, who will have all the necessary leverage with the Kurds to get what they want for the good of Syria. There are already rumors of Syrian army troops entering the town of Afrin at the invitation of the Kurds. The Kurds are denying it, but we will see how long they can resist Erdogan, who finds the road before him clear to force Washington to break with its Kurdish ally if a shooting war among NATO allies is to be avoided.

We can only imagine the thoughts and impressions in the chancelleries in much of the world as they observe Moscow’s diplomatic adroitness, able to secure the territorial integrity of Syria at the expense of two NATO members opposed to Assad.

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  • Ronald

    “To secure the territorial integrity of Syria at the expense of two NATO members opposed to Assad ” would be adroitness indeed .
    But just like the newly created “Kurdistan” cannot stand for long surrounded by four antagonists , therefore neither can the US .
    Unless Turkey has an under the table deal with the US .
    Or the US has decided to fracture Turkey via an expanded war with them .
    We will hope that Russia adroitness wins the day .

    • Joe

      Note Putin is silent …. that’s when he is dangerous.

      Iran has already sail it… Move out.

      If the Kurds do not come to their senses, it will be their end really and in the end they get nothing. Not even autonomy

      • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

        One should also note his facial expressions they can tell a lot about what he is thinking.

  • Fernando Silva

    Quanta besteira escrita numa matéria. Pra começar, quem apoia grupos terroristas é a Turquia. Vocês devem bem lembar de kobane, sim, aquela cidadezinha no norte sírio, fronteira com a Turquia. A coalizão bombardiando o daesh para a cidade não ser invadida e os turcos do outro lado da cerca com seus canhões só olhando. Muitas cidades e aldeias fronteiriças com a Turquia ficaram um bom tempo nas mãos do daesh. Daesh assassinava em massa, torturava, decapitava até crianças, prendia, oprimia os moradores e a Turquia nunca fez nada. Tudo leva crer que o governo turco se simpatizava e se beneficiava de alguma maneira com o daesh.

    • You can call me Al

      Write in English or fuck off.

      • Perhaps he can’t write in English the same way you don’t understand Portuguese.

        • Barba_Papa

          If he can’t write in English, how can he respond to an English written article? It might be about international figure skating for all he knows. But if he can read it using Google translate, he can use Google translate to translate his reply into English. It’s just common courtesy to reply in English on an English language site.

          • Seán Murphy

            Ever hear of Google translate?

          • Barba_Papa

            Does the OP?

        • You can call me Al

          Well he should go to a Portuguese language site then.

      • alejoeisabel

        Ignorance is bliss. Enjoy your delusions.

      • Seán Murphy

        No need for rudeness nor foul language.
        I understand him.

        • I agree. On the other hand, it is disappointing to see how some here oppose the savages in the Middle East -takfiris- but then turn around and become very aggressive just because someone does not use English.

    • alejoeisabel

      Turquia, Arabia Saudita e Israel apoyan y financiaban y adiestraron y armaron a Al Qaeda. Para que? Para derrotar al secular presidente Bashar Assad. Ya que los Yanquis sean vencidos en el Medio Oriente, los neo liberales Sionistas de EEUU pondrán su atención militar en INVADIR a Venezuela. Sera una intervencion de Brasil, Colombia y EEUU, y quizas con Mexico, Peru y España.

      • Espero que no Perú. Aunque con el gobierno imbécil de derecha que tenemos no me sorprendería. Cuando uno lee los periódicos en Lima ocurre lo mismo que en los EEUU -la estrategia es la misma: “preparar” a la gente para una posible intervención demonizando al gobierno venezolano. Por otro lado me sorprende la grosería de un idiota que solo porque alguien no habla inglés, se le discrimina. Así quieren mostrar que son mejores que los “salvajes” takfiris que critican.

      • Fernando Silva

        Não fala besteira cara. Não defenda ditadores aqui, por favor.

    • Millavi MV

      It’s about Oded Yinon Plan (aka PNAC) for Eretz Israel, Fernando. Now, Turkey see the problem if a Kurdistan is created near its borders. Donmeh jews has controlled Turkey for a long time and Erdogan knows this. I hope he is not a crypto Jew trying to advance the Zionist agenda. At least his actions are against the US and Israeli proxies in the ME.
      But the way, many Brazilians are too brainwashed by the Zionist media.
      A Globo é a pior de todas. Todos aqueles que deixaram a preguiça de lado e pesquisaram sobre as guerras no Oriente Médio, sabem que a CIA/Mossad/MI6 criaram o Estado Islâmico.

    • nshah

      Hello.. tolong cakap bahasa yang kami semua faham lah wei.. 😂😂😂

  • Joe

    What not a word about Iran’s power ? Iran in fact is the one ultimately able to force US out and get the Kurds to fall in line . Russia can greatly help but Iranian ground forces will be the decider.

    US position in Northern Syria are not defensible by any standards and with the war that can happen anytime in Ukraine/Crimea plus shipment of 4 S400 to Syria seems Russia is taking precaution of a potential conflict with stubborn and silly Americans.

    Iran plus Russia and Assad. US cannot defend .

    There is no such thing as grabbing a big piece of Syria by a defeated force just because they say so. Very Silly

    • You can call me Al

      I think this was more about the direct politics at a higher level more than your good and accurate view to what happens more on a day to day basis on the ground.

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    • Jonathan Cohen

      Because Afrin and Manbij are nowhere near any ISIS front, the US is under no obligation to help defend them from Turkey, and we have every right and reason to try to prevent the YPG from moving our ammo away from the ISIS front in the Southeast of Rojava. The US might help YPG defend south Manbij against and abortion banning SAA attack, but a Turkish attack is just not our problem.

  • as

    Turkey should keep pounding Kurds columns, arms and ammo dumps whenever it’s free from US embedded forces. Then again a confrontation between NATO allies more interesting.

    • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

      Russians will be pounding Turkish proxies for the next few days and we will see more Kaliber cruise missiles being used. Everybody has been wondering about those manpads and where they went, as we find they actually went right into the hands of the terrorists all along.

  • Igor Dano

    In my opinion, one important point was omited:
    Should US fail in Syria, the US domestic policy (not only ME policy), will be in shambles.
    Neocons will make a hell in Washington. They will desperately look for any other engagement, to steer away from potential fiasco in Syria.
    They will go for a potential biological attack against Russia via their proxies in Ukraine.

    On the other note, the situation in Syria is, what NATO/Jews/USA/SA want to have: balkanized Syria, not functioning as a one single state. They do not care so much, that they betraied kurds, they are happy, that rdogan “helps” to achive the goal of balkanizing of Syria.

    • Tom Tom

      Also likely internal false flag attacks against the American people.

  • Eskandar Black

    Turkey may find hardened Syrian troops more than a match.

  • Pál Póli

    YPG trains Jihadist? LOL this guy is so stupid why is he even writting an article?

    • Bob

      The author meant that in the US-YPG-SDF controlled territories of north east and central east Syria the US-SOF have free reign to create training camps for ever more militant opposition fighters. Actively recruited and wage paid militants that can simply continue the conflict. The US-SOF have established exactly same approach and training camps at the smaller US-FSA occupied Syrian enclave of Al-Tanf right on border with Jordan. As long as these US occupied enclaves exist the war in Syria will not end – and terrorist bombings in the state controlled cities, that were a prominent militant activity in earliest stages of conflict, likely to spike again as fresh militants have diminished battlefield fronts to operate in.

  • Wegan

    A very tricky balance for turkey to keep. They need to keep 3 sides happy:

    1-HTS and FSA
    2-RISH (Russia-Iran-Syria-Hezbollah)
    3-USA

    Not possible unfortunately.
    See, right now, they compete with the US for number one spot “Dumbest party in the Middle east” with honorable mention to Saudi Arabia.

  • RichardD

    An extremely well written article.

  • alejoeisabel

    The question for Turkey: What is the best strategy to suppress Kurdish secessionists in Syria. The best way is to support Syrian sovereignty and restore Syrian integrity. To accomplish this, Syria need a strong and popular leader and strong regional allies. Turkey must support the Syrian President Bashar Assad. Turkey must provide post war reconstruction. Turkey must also support Syria’s recovery of the stolen Syrian Golan Heights even if it means fighting Israel to get it back.