OPN TURKEY KURDS-1571140265552
Syrian families fleeing the battle zone between Turkey-led forces and Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces arrive in Tal Tamr on the outskirts of Hasakeh on October 15, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria has rightly been condemned around the world, including its Nato allies.

Targeting Turkey’s economy, US President Donald Trump on Monday announced sanctions aimed at restraining the assault on Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria. But the incursion came close on the heels of Trump’s announcement to withdraw US troops, effectively paving the way for Turkish forces to move against the Kurds. And the sanctions imposed by Washington are softer than that demanded by US lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans. The US decision to withdraw troops came as a shock since there was no pressing need. There were no real global demands for a US troop pullout, and the Kurds were doing a service to Western powers by holding thousands of Daesh detainees who were not welcome in their home countries. One abrupt decision made by the US has enabled Turkey to create renewed chaos in a region that has had more than its share of wars for the past few years.

Washington has let down the Kurds on more than one occasion in the past, most notoriously when Saddam Hussain attacked them with poison gas in 1988.

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As for the EU, its limited leverage on Turkey has been evident ever since the ground invasion began. Ankara has threatened to unleash a new mass migration on Europe’s borders, and EU politicians are panicking at the prospect of another wave of refugees. Turkey continues its threat to abandon the 2016 deal with the EU to restrict the flow of refugees. And the threat is working. From the beginning, Turkey had harboured ill intentions in northeast Syria. It cleverly used the earlier, US-sponsored “security mechanism” in the region for gathering intelligence on positions of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

This information was used in the pursuit of its real mission — invasion. Erdogan’s invasion has three primary aims: Force the SDF away from its southern border; resettle most, if not all, the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey in the ‘safe zone’ in northwest Syria; and, most cynical of all, use the current incursion to improve his own standing inside Turkey, after a series of electoral defeats.

The US, the UN, EU states, the Arab League and China — all have urged Ankara to end its offensive, but to no avail. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that the operation will not stop until Ankara’s objectives have been achieved. This recalcitrance is having a devastating effect.