ww3 is on our doorstep

Faschingstein backs Turkey as border clashes mount with Syria and Russia
Ulaş Ateşci, WSWS, Feb 19 2020

TAF fires at SAA, Idlib, Feb 14 2020
(Photo: Ghaith Alsayed/AP)

The White House said in a statement last weekend:

In a phone call, Pres Trump expressed concern over the violence in Idlib, Syria, and thanked Pres Erdoğan for Turkey’s efforts to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. Pres Trump conveyed Pindostan’s desire to see an end to Russia’s support for the regime’s atrocities and for a political resolution to the Syrian conflict.

This comes amid growing clashes with Syrian government troops in recent weeks by both Pindo and Turkish forces inside Syria, after nine years of a NATO proxy war for regime change in the country. Clashes between Turkish troops and Syrian army units in north-western Syria’s Idlib province have killed 14 Turkish troops and dozens of SAA troops since the beginning of this month as Russian and Iranian forces back SAA units advancing on AQ-linked Pindo proxy forces in Idlib. A direct clash between Pindo and Syrian forces, involving Russian troops, occurred last week. On Wednesday, a 22-year-old Syrian was killed while another man was injured during a protest by local people against Pindo military occupation near the village of Khirbet Amo, east of Qamishli. A Russian military statement declared:

Only thanks to the efforts of the Russian servicemen who arrived at the scene of the incident was it possible to prevent a further escalation of the conflict with local residents.

After a first clash on Feb 3 killed eight Turkish soldiers, on Feb 10 five more died and five were wounded, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry. On Feb 4, Pompeo declared Faschingstein’s support for Ankara, saying:

We stand by our NATO vassal Turkey in the aftermath of the attack.

It is increasingly clear that Faschingstein considers growing tensions between Ankara and Moscow as a critical opportunity to mobilize Turkey against Russian as well as Iranian influence in the region. Last week, James Jeffrey visited Ankara, calling for closer collaboration with Turkey not only in Syria but also in Libya, especially against Russia. He said:

We are both very concerned about the role of Russia in Libya and in Syria, in general and in the Idlib offensive. We have very close geostrategic objectives with Turkey in the two areas where you have forces committed right now, in Libya and in Syria.

For some time, Ankara has prepared a direct military confrontation with Syrian forces, deploying nearly 1,250 trucks and military vehicles as well as 5,000 soldiers in Aleppo and Idlib. At least eight Turkish military posts have been besieged by SAA in February, according to the SOHR, which is closely tied to the Pindo-backed “rebels.” Turkey had 12 military observation posts in Idlib and has reportedly built several more. The Erdoğan government has accused Syria and Russia of violating the Sochi agreement, a Sep 2018 deal to establish a jointly patrolled DMZ between the Syrian regime and NATO-backed “rebels” in Idlib. Ankara blames Syria and Russia for “killing civilians” in Idlib. According to the Turkish state-owned TRT World:

More than 1,800 civilians there have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 ceasefire and a new one that started on Jan 12.

Ankara also claims there is a threat that more than 1 million people from Idlib will be pushed across the Turkish-Syrian border. Erdoğan said Saturday:

We are already hosting three and a half to four million people. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to accept another million.

Ankara is coordinating its policy with Berlin and calling for support from within NATO. After Maas warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe,” Çavuşoğlu said:

There are already people coming to our border and with Germany’s support we are going to build temporary shelters, but these are temporary solutions.

Moscow blamed the crisis on the aggressive policies of Turkey and NATO. On Wednesday, Maria Zakharova said:

We see the reason for the current deterioration is due to Turkey’s chronic noncommitment under the Sochi memorandum of Sep 17 2018, and the transfer of Turkey-controlled groups to north-eastern Syria.

On the same day, the Russian Defense Ministry said Turkey’s inability to separate “opposition” from terrorist groups in Idlib is a key cause of the ongoing escalation there. The Defense Ministry added that terrorist groups are using the civilian population of Idlib as human shields to hide from “retaliatory fire of government troops.” Last week, AQ-linked Islamist militias also shot down two Syria Army helicopters in Idlib and Aleppo. An unnamed Russian state source told Sputnik on Saturday:

The Pindo MANPADs which were in service with the Turkish armed forces, which the militants did not have access to before, fell into the hands of the terrorists thanks to Turkish deliveries.

On Wednesday, Erdoğan openly threatened Syrian forces, declaring:

In the event of the tiniest harm to our soldiers at observation posts or anywhere else, starting today, I declare that we will hit regime forces in Idlib and anywhere else. In Idlib, the regime and Russian forces and Iranian militants are constantly committing massacres. Turkey will not just watch this happen.

Erdoğan’s accusations against “Iranian militants” echo the war preparations of Faschingstein against Iran, after the Pindo drone murder of Gen Qassem Suleimani on Jan 3. Before this, Zarif had tweeted:

Iran reiterates its readiness to facilitate dialogue among brother neighbors Turkey and Syria.

Despite ongoing diplomatic talks and multiple phone calls between Erdoğan and Putin this month, these statements from Turkish boxtops show that the shaky alliance between Ankara and Moscow is on the verge of collapse. Last Tuesday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told AP:

NATO, Europe and the international community must deal with the attacks of the Assad regime in Idlib, and provide serious, concrete support to those fighting against it.

In İstanbul on Saturday, Erdoğan declared:

The solution in Idlib is the regime stopping hostilities and withdrawing to the borders in the agreements. Otherwise, we will handle this before the end of February. We would like to do this with the support of our friends.

Ankara’s appeals to Washington for military support underscore the growing and very serious danger that the bloodshed in Syria could escalate into a direct military confrontation between NATO and Syria-Iran-Russia. Ankara’s reckless intervention in Idlib is also driven by its long-standing policy of preventing the formation of a Kurdish state in the region, a strategic priority of the Turkish bourgeoisie. The Turkish army invaded north-eastern Syria last October to drive the YPG from the Turkish-Syrian border after Faschingstein abandoned them. Before this latest offensive, Turkish forces and their Islamist proxies had occupied parts of north-western Syria since 2016, including Jarabulus, Al-Bab and Afrin. Although Ankara claims its presence in Syria is legal according to the Turkish-Syrian Adana accord of 1998, Damascus denies this, arguing that it never invited Turkish troops inside Syria. This explosive situation and the growing danger of conflict between nuclear-armed powers highlights the necessity of building an international anti-war movement based on the working class in the Middle East and around the world.

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