The Syrian Kurd dream of creating an autonomous state stretching across the country’s north suffered a crushing blow on Sunday when Turkey-backed rebel forces routed a militia from the city of Afrin after a nearly two-month offensive. The enclave along the Syria-Turkey border had been controlled by the People’s Protection Units, a US-backed Kurdish militia also known as YPG whose forces Turkey considers terrorists. The US has provided air and arms support, funds and training to the YPG in a bid to make it the core of an Arab-Kurdish force against Daesh extremists.
Those moves have infuriated Turkey, which views the YPG as little more than an extension of its nemesis the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a separatist faction in southeastern Turkey that has fought a decades-long guerrilla war against the government.
Whatever the perceived threat Ankara sees in the YPG, it is no excuse to invade Syrian territory and militarily occupy Syrian land.
Turkey has been on the offensive for a while in Syria, where it has, in agreement with other international and regional players active there, exercised its influence in the north.
Apart from rhetoric from the Syrian government, Russia, and the US against Turkey’s incursion, little has been done to stop it.
A decision by the Syrian government to rush troops over to defend it last minute hardly qualifies as a serious response.
The problem in Syria is that the war has become so messy and costly that major players cannot be bothered to concern themselves over areas not in their immediate interest.
But, it is important to call out such transgressions as they come. Not only by Turkey but others active in Syria such as Iran and Russia. At the end of the day, Syria is an Arab country — not a Turkish, Persian or Russian country and Arab states must unite against any attacks or threats to its Arab character.
During a meeting with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi on Sunday, UAE foreign minister, Abdullah Bin Zayed cited Turkey, alongside Iran and Israel as countries posing challenges to Arab states. The two countries agreed on the importance of ongoing coordination between Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Riyadh in dealing with Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and extremism.
“The challenges we face are not only from our Arab countries but also from non-Arabs in our region,” Abdullah said, during the talks. “Whether from Iran, Turkey or Israel — attacking Arab lands, Arab interests and interfering in Arab affairs is what we are working to face resolutely.”