Turkey in Syria… and More

Garen Yegparian
Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

With the battles to eradicate the irremediable vermin known as Daesh/ISIS winding down in Iraq and Syria, other conflicts, subsumed and overshadowed by that effort are now coming to the fore. Here, I’ll try to summarize what’s going on with the Kurds in Syria, largely by way of the huge role of outside powers in this situation.

The sources of this information are non-U.S., hence they might be biased in a direction that is not every-day, customary, for most readers of this piece.

Let’s cover this country by country, although some overlap is unavoidable. Please see the accompanying map for additional clarity.

Starting with the USA is most helpful because there is quite a hue and cry over its latest actions and pronouncements. A “new” plan touting a “security corridor” in northern Syria is being touted. These Kurdish parts of Syria are currently run by the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). The U.S. is now training what is intended to become a 30,000 strong military force, 15,000 of which will be new recruits and the remainder will come from current SDF forces. Of course there is Washington’s longstanding desire to overthrow President Assad in another manifestation of its idiotic “regime change” shenanigans. Otherwise, the U.S. presence in Syria is somewhat opaque and its actions and intents similarly opaque.

Syria naturally and understandably doesn’t want any foreign presence, American, Turkish, or anyone else, on its territory unless it has demanded as much. Lebanon’s Hezballah, Russian military, and Iranian troops have Damascus’ seal of approval. Turkey and the U.S. are unwelcome but present. And, of course there are various rebel groupings, including the SDF, which control parts of Syria’s territory (see map). With Daesh largely defeated (as a territorial threat), attention will naturally focus on other parts of the country. It is my assumption that the Kurdish controlled areas will be last to face Damascene wrath.

Map showing Turkey's inroads in Syria

Map showing Turkey’s inroads in Syria

Turkey meanwhile invaded Syria and is establishing bases there, specifically in Idlib province (which puts them in close proximity to our important Armenian community in Haleb/Aleppo). Ankara announced last fall it would build eight of them. As usual, what’s driving Turkish policy is absolute dread of Kurds. The SDF has been labeled as “terrorist” by Turkey, and is seen as nothing more than an extension of the PKK, whom the Turks loathe and fear. As a result, Erdoğan has gone on another one of his brutish, chest thumping, binges, swearing to wipe out the SDF. Damascus has responded, telling Turkey it has no business on Syrian territory and threatened to shoot down any Turkish planes that violate its air space. Meanwhile, news reports already have Turkey shooting across the border.

Russia is displeased with U.S. actions and wants the latter out of Syria. But, I get the impression Moscow doesn’t quite have a handle on exactly what the U.S. is doing now, or plans to do, in and against, Syria. While Russian presence has been reduced, there is still the big naval base in Latakia, along with some forces remaining elsewhere.

Iran is still present with in Syria and has assisted greatly in the progress the Syrian army has made in recovering and reestablishing control over areas that had fallen under rebel control.

Lebanon, besides hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refuges is also home to Hezballah, a political party and paramilitary group that is credited with driving Israel out of Southern Lebanon and is now a key component in Damascus’ fight against various rebel groups.

Israel is reported to have conducted some forays into Syrian territory and is said to be treating injured fighters from anti-government groups, even Daesh. Some of this seems hard to believe, but remember, politics (and war) makes for strange bedfellows.

By way of conclusions, clearly, Syria wants to reassert control over all its territory, including areas currently controlled by the Kurds/SDF. Iran fully supports Syria. Russia largely supports Syria, though it’s not clear to me where they stand regarding the Kurdish north. Turkey wants to play games and become a regional hegemon, deposing Assad as Syria’s president if at all (though lately that intention seems to have been toned down), and eradicating any trace of military might among the Kurds located anywhere (a few days ago, for the first time in nine years Turkey once again invaded Iraq to attack Kurdish [PKK] forces). Israel is opportunistically doing what it can to keep its enemies weak and supposedly cooperating with Saudi Arabia. Lebanon is taking a slight beating in all this. And, finally the U.S. is acting, but given the incompetence of President Trump, it’s not at all clear to me that there is cohesive policy driving those actions.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what, if anything, Armenians should be doing in this mess? After all, we do live in the areas impacted and the countries involved there.

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16 Comments

  1. State of Emergency said:

    It looks like it’s all according to plan. As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

  2. State of Emergency said:

    As for your question, Armenians and Armenia should steer clear from the mess. No taking sides because ultimately everyone is our ally and everyone is our enemy. Being a weak and depended nation the best Armenia can do is remain silently under the radar. As for the Armenian communities, they must start planning on repatriating back to their homeland. It looks like personal economic interests have taken precedence over national patriotism.

  3. State of Emergency said:

    As for your question, Armenians and Armenia should steer clear from the mess. No taking sides because ultimately everyone is our ally and everyone is our enemy. Being a weak and dependent nation the best Armenia can do is remain silently under the radar. As for the Armenian communities, they must start planning on repatriating back to their homeland. It looks like personal economic interests have taken precedence over national patriotism.

  4. Huseyin Baykara said:

    Thank You Mr Yegparian for explaining the big mess that is Syria today. I am a Cypriot Turk and naturraly support Turkey’s policy in Syria. May God help all the people of Syria including our Armenian brothers and sisters.

  5. Gabriel Karpouzian said:

    The Armenian people in Syria are citizens of that country. Many Armenians are serving in the Syrian army and some have died fighting the rebels in defense of the Armenian community in Aleppo and, by extension, the country. The Armenian people have two representatives in the Syrian National Assembly: Dr. Nora Arissian, first Armenian woman elected, and Mr. Jirair Resian. Many Armenians who fled Syria during the war and moved to Armenia are waiting to return to Syria once the war is over. They consider Syria as their country while Armenia is their ancestral homeland. Consequently, the answer to the question: what the Armenians should be doing in this mess? is what the rest of the Syrian people are doing in this mess, which is to survive in solidarity with their government trying to restore peace in the country.

    • State of Emergency said:

      Then they might as well move back and assimilate into the Arabized Syrian society. No living in a la-la-land fantasy of country and ancestral homeland. Accept one or the other and move on. The ancestral homeland doesn’t need lip services from fake Armenians who are willing to fight and dye for the Syrian cause. Pathetic!

  6. Janapar said:

    Revival of Kurdistani unification across the nations is necessary now before Turkey slaps it down as it was in Iraq. Unfortunately, civil unrest in eastern Turkey by Kurds and Armenians may well bring a massive military response from Erdogan but he will look bad in the eyes of the world. Perhaps by dragging his country to war, another coup is possible. Armenia should encourage the Kurds in every way and keep the issue of freedom for Western Armenia in the news.

  7. Vicken Khachadourian said:

    Amazing!

    If this were an article about one of my heroes, Vartkes Yeghiayan’s troubles with the California Bar Association, with hints that he’s not a good Armenian but the rest of us are, there would be many comments in this section. That kind of article will make it cheap for us to posture as good human beings at Vartkes’ expense. This article instead challenges us to think about real consequence, so I welcome it as an American with American interests in my mind. It is a very important article about Turkey finally proving to the world that it is one of the main architects of Radical Islam, Turkey is about to break with USA policy, use military action in doing so in at least 6 decades, Turkey is about to enter its Vietnam, and not a single comment.

    Armenians are good chess players, only if it’s a game and we have no accountability in it. Put the spotlight on us to play the same game when there is geopolitical consequence, and we freeze, or worse, we make one wrong decision after another even at the highest level.

    After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey’s relevance has been dropping, and it will drop even more. Who needs them? Russia, Iran and the Arabic countries together offer the West and East a lot more benefit than Turkey, which has a problem with its 20 million Kurds, 16 million Alevis and they partially succeeded to eliminate the Armenians. It took our President Obama many years to realize that visiting Turkey as his first foreign visit was a mistake. President Trump is figuring that out much faster. I’m a liberal, but I disagree with the labeling of President Trump as incompetent.

    I welcome this article and all that it will initiate as far as thought and dialogue. I think some of our energy has to be reallocated from the recognition of the Armenian Genocide to showing all the world powers that one of the real architects of radical Islam in the world is Turkey. I think we should see if helping the Kurds is of benefit to the USA and the world at large. That kind of action will go much further in getting resonance from the interests of the world at large today, because the threat of Radical Islam is real and its architect needs to be restricted.

      • Vicken Khachadourian said:

        Israel won’t need them after peace gets established between itself and the Arabs. The Arabic countries all together, present a much larger economic, cultural and intellectual market for the world to deal with. The same goes for Russia in Turkey’s north. Egypt has already figured out that Erdogan is up to no good, and the Prime Minister of Israel has already expressed a preference for a Kurdish presence in the Middle East. The fall of the Ottoman Empire will continue. The USA was helpful in winning WWI, but they wanted no colonies. After WWII, the UK and France finally figured out holding colonies won’t work in modern day. The Soviets figured that out at the end of 80’s, and Turkey is still trying to rule over minorities. History is against Turkey.

        • State of Emergency said:

          No matter what peace treaty Israel signs it will never be foolish enough to ignore the giant Muslim country to its north with its enormous economic, military and political might. Don’t fool yourself, as long as the geography stays the same nothing will entice Israel to end its relationship with Turkey. In fact, it’s probably more important for them to have friendly relations with their regional neighbors than to have good ties with Europe. For good or bad, they’ll have to live side by side with their neighbors. Distance friends come and go.

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