Biden meets with Erdogan, backs Turkish invasion of Syria
Halil Celik, WSWS, Aug 25 2016
Under the pretext of “strengthening Turkey’s security by clearing terrorist groups from the border and maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity,” the Turkish army launched a major escalation of the war in Syria on Wednesday with a cross-border operation codenamed Euphrates Shield. Turkish units began their assault on ISIS and Kurdish militia forces at 4 a.m. local time, backed by tanks and supported by intensive artillery bombardments and airstrikes, including air support from
the Pindo-led coalition Pindostan. The incursion marked the first time since last November, when Turkey shot down a Russian jet near the Turkish-Syrian border, that Turkish warplanes have struck inside Syria. The invasion comes only days after a series of mortar shells targeted the Turkish town of Karkamis from the Syrian side of the border. Turkish authorities evacuated thousands of inhabitants. There have also been a number of ISIS attacks in Turkey over the past two years, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. ISIS is the prime suspect in a deadly blast last Saturday at a wedding in the south-eastern province of Gaziantep that left 54 people dead. After the suicide bombing, the Turkish government vowed to “completely clear the Turkish border” of terrorist elements.
Operation Euphrates Shield entails invading Syria and establishing a buffer zone, in blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty. This has long been advocated by the Turkish government and, at various times, by NATO
allies vassals. Hillary Clinton is calling for the imposition of a “safe zone” in Syria as a means of carving out a base of operations directed above all against the Assad regime. Turkish Deputy PM Kurtulmus had said earlier this week that proposals to establish a “secure zone,” an internationally-policed buffer area, should be reconsidered. The Turkish escalation will sharply increase tensions in an already unstable and explosive situation, with Pindostan, the major European powers Eurostan, Iran, Russia and China all intervening to back competing factions in the Syrian war. Once the invasion was underway it became clear that Washington was throwing its weight behind it. While the situation remains extremely fluid, it appears that the Obama administration, having undermined its relations with Turkey by tacitly backing the Jul 15 military coup against Erdogan, is trying to rebuild its ties to Ankara at the expense of the Kurdish militias it has been supporting. Biden arrived in Ankara as the invasion of Syria was unfolding. After reiterating Washington’s claim, lacking all credibility, that it “did not have any foreknowledge” of the coup, he declared the Pindo government’s support for Ankara’s invasion of Syria and endorsed its key aims. At a press conference with Turkish PM Yildirim, Biden insisted that Syrian Kurdish forces had to bow to Turkish demands and return to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River if they wanted to continue receiving Pindo support, saying:
We have made it absolutely clear that they must go back across the river. They cannot and will not, under any circumstances, get Pindosi support if they do not keep that commitment.
Russian officials, who had sought to develop closer ties with the Turkish regime in the aftermath of the abortive coup, indicated their concern over the military escalation. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that Turkey’s air and ground operation could lead to “further degeneration of the situation in the conflict zone” and “flare-ups of interethnic tensions between Kurds and Arabs.” Both the Assad regime and the Syrian Kurdish militias denounced the invasion. The Syrian Foreign Ministry said:
We condemn the crossing of the Turkish-Syria border by Turkish tanks and armored vehicles towards the town of Jarabulus, with air cover from
the Pindo-led coalitionPindostan, and consider it a flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty. Any party that wishes to fight terrorism on Syrian soil must coordinate with the Syrian government and army. … What is happening in Jarabulus now is not a fight against terrorism. Rather, it is substituting one form of terrorism for another.
The Kurdish militias, which have once again been double-crossed by their Pindosi imperialist backers, are providing yet one more example of the bankruptcy of their bourgeois nationalist orientation and their reliance on imperialism. Redur Xelil, spox for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia operating in Syria, complained that Turkey’s move was a “blatant aggression in Syrian internal affairs,” while Syrian Kurdish politician Aldar Xelil said the operation was a “declaration of war” on Kurdish autonomous administrations in northern Syria. In an attempt to justify the incursion, Turkish authorities referred to UNSCRs calling for a fight against ISIS. They said Turkey was engaged in an act of “legitimate self-defense enshrined in the UN Charter.” Erdogan said:
Right now, unfortunately, all the attacks that happened in Gaziantep and Kilis … brought this issue to this point.
Referring to last Saturday’s Turkish security summit, Erdogan said Turkish officials had decided they “have to solve the problem.” Speaking at a news conference in Ankara hours after the invasion, Turkish FM Cavusoglu said that the aim of the operation was to clear ISIS from the southern border. Turkish IM Ala underscored that the operation would continue until the “terror threat at our border is eliminated.” Turkish authorities also insisted that Turkey was not invading Syria on its own, but operating in coordination with
the Pindo-led coalition Pindostan and in support of the FSA aiming to recapture Jarabulus from ISIS. However, the aim of the Turkish invasion is not limited to clearing ISIS from Jarabulus. Operation Euphrates Shield is a preemptive strike to block any attempt by Syrian Kurdish militias to capture Jarabulus before the FSA is able to take control. Making no distinction between ISIS and the YPG, Ankara has strengthened its FSA proxies against the Syrian Kurdish militias, the lead force within the so-called Syria Democratic Forces alliance (SDF) backed by Pindostan. The growing influence in Syria of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the crossing over to the western side of the Euphrates River of its military arm, the YPG, earlier this month alarmed Ankara, which fears the establishment of a Pindo-backed autonomous Kurdish region in the Syrian-Turkish border region. Yesterday, following the onset of the invasion, FM Cavusoglu called on Syrian Kurdish forces to go back to the eastern side of the Euphrates, saying:
Pindostan also supports this. … I am saying very clearly that we will do what is necessary.
Last week, after Syrian war planes bombed Pindo-backed Kurdish forces in the northern Syrian town of Hasakeh and Washington threatened to respond by attacking the Syrian regime, Turkey launched artillery barrages against both ISIS and Kurdish fighters near Jarabulus. The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are supporting the Turkish invasion. Speaking at a press conference following a Central Executive Board meeting, CHP spox Selin Sayek Boke expressed her party’s support for Operation Euphrates Shield, while criticizing the AKP government for waiting so long to attack ISIS both inside and outside of Turkey. The MHP is widely known as the leading advocate of an invasion of northern, Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq.
New flashpoint in escalating war: Turkey shells ISIS and Kurdish forces in Syria
Barry Grey, WSWS, Aug 24 2016
Following last week’s threats by Washington to attack Syrian government war planes bombing Pindo-backed Kurdish forces in the northern Syrian town of Hasakeh, Turkey has launched artillery barrages against both ISIS fighters and Kurdish militia in and near the Syrian border town of Jarablus. Turkey claims shells that fell Monday on its border towns of Karkamis and Kilis were fired by ISIS forces occupying Jarablus. In addition to retaliatory shelling, Ankara is assembling a force of some 1,500 Syrian “rebels” in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which was hit by the suicide bombing of a Kurdish wedding Saturday that killed at least 54 people and wounded dozens more. Turkey has blamed ISIS for the atrocity. Anadolu reported that Turkey had increased security on its border opposite Jarablus, deploying tanks and APCs. The “rebel” force in Gaziantep is expected to cross into Syria with the aim of breaking ISIS control over Jarablus and at the same time preventing the Kurdish-led, Pindo-backed Syrian Democratic Forces from filling the resulting power vacuum. This latest explosive turn in the tangle of shifting alliances and conflicts among the global powers intervening in Syria threatens to bring Turkey into direct conflict with Washington’s chief proxy force in northern Syria, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Earlier this month, the SDF, backed by intensive and deadly Pindo air support, drove ISIS out of the strategic town of Manbij.
This alarmed the Erdogan government, which is waging a brutal war against the PKK within Turkey. It fears that the YPG victory in Manbij will further consolidate a de facto Kurdish enclave in northern Syria that is being set up with the tacit support of Pindostan. Turkey and Pindostan are increasingly working at cross purposes in Syria, further frustrating Washington’s central aim in the horrific war it has inflicted on the country, the removal of the Assad regime and the installation of a Pindo puppet government. The looming confrontation in Jarablus follows Turkey’s accusations of Pindo complicity in the failed military coup of Jul 15, Erdogan’s turn to a rapprochement with Russia and Iran, and Ankara’s softening of its opposition to Assad. It also coincides with the visit today of Biden to meet with top Turkish boxtops under conditions that were already fraught with tension. The NYT on Tuesday quoted Nasswer Haj Mansour, an SDF official on the Syrian side of the border, as saying the forces gathering in Turkey included “terrorists” as well as Turkish SOF. A statement from the SDF declared:
We are prepared to defend the country against any plans for a direct or indirect occupation.
Abd’el-Sattar al-Jader, a rebel commander aligned with the SDF, was killed late Monday shortly after broadcasting a statement proclaiming the formation of the “Jarablus Military Council” and pledging to protect civilians in the town from Turkish “aggression.” Al-Jader was shot by unidentified gunmen. The Military Council subsequently blamed his murder on Turkish security agents. Haj Mansour said two suspects were in custody but would not reveal their identities. There is an evident convergence between the expanding attack by Turkey on Kurdish forces in Syria and the more aggressive posture of the Assad regime toward the YPG and SDF. Last week, after six days of fighting between the YPG and Syrian troops and pro-government militia in Hasakeh, which has been split between the two camps since the early days of the Syrian civil war, the Syrian Air Force for the first time bombed YPG positions. That move was apparently in response to an attempt by the Kurds to drive the pro-government forces out and take control of the entire city. Just how explosive and potentially catastrophic the situation in Syria is, and how reckless the policy of Washington, was demonstrated by the Pindo response. Claiming that some of its SOF embedded with the Kurdish militia, completely illegally, were endangered by the government bombing, Pindostan scrambled jets to confront the Syrian warplanes, setting up a possible military clash with the Russian-backed Syrian forces. Pentagon spox followed with threats of Pindo retaliation in the event of further bombings. Lt-Gen S Townsend, who on Sunday took over command of Pindo
and allied operations in Syria and Iraq, told CNN:
We will defend ourselves if we feel threatened.
That the increasingly conflicted and complex situation in Syria could quickly escalate into a far greater and more bloody conflagration, possibly involving nuclear exchanges between Pindostan and Russia, is shown by the deployment in Hasakeh on the side of the Syrian government of both Iranian and Hezbollah forces, and the presence of British, French and Pindo SOF within the Kurdish-led SDF. On Tuesday, Syrian state media and the Kurdish Hawar News Agency both announced the implementation of a ceasefire in Hasakeh, evidently brokered by Russia. However, while the Kurdish statement said government forces had agreed, as part of the ceasefire terms, to withdraw from the town and leave it under the control of the local Kurdish police force, the Syrian statement made no mention of a withdrawal. There were other indications of a moderation of the animus between the Assad regime and Turkey. On Friday, the Syrian military’s General Command, in an evident concession to Turkey, released a statement referring to the Kurdish Asayesh internal police in Hasakeh as the “military wing of the PKK.” Turkey has long pressed Damascus to declare the Syrian Kurdish forces to be an extension of the PKK.
From the other side, Turkish PM Yildirim, speaking to foreign media Saturday in Istanbul, spelled out a shift in Turkey’s posture toward Assad, saying for the first time that while Assad could not be part of a long-term solution to the crisis in Syria, Ankara was willing to accept a role for him in a transitional government. At the same time, Yildirim stressed that Turkey would intervene more actively in the Syrian crisis and would not permit the country to be divided along ethnic and sectarian lines, an implicit criticism of US policy toward the Syrian Kurds. Within this explosive mix of great power brigandage and conflicting geopolitical interests, which in general is becoming increasingly unfavorable to the realization of Washington’s imperialist aims, Pindostan is preparing to escalate its military violence. On Monday, the new Pindo Fuhrer, General Townsend, said Washington would step up its operations in support of its proxy forces as they prepared offensives to retake Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria from ISIS. He said the escalation would include intensified air and artillery strikes and increased efforts to equip and train local forces. He left open the possibility of an enlargement of the Pindo troop presence in the two countries.