October 12, 2019

More war in wretched Syria. Half the population is now refugees; entire cities lie shattered by bombing; bands of crazed gunmen run rampant; US, French, Israeli and Russian warplanes bomb widely.

Now, adding to the chaos, President Donald Trump has finally given Turkey, NATO’s second military power, the green light to invade parts of northeastern Syria after he apparently ordered a token force of US troops there to withdraw.

This, of course, puts the Turks in a growing confrontation with the region’s Kurds, who have occupied large swaths of the area during Syria’s civil war. The Kurdish militia, known as YPG (confusingly part of the so-called Free Syrian Army), is armed, lavishly financed and directed by the CIA and Pentagon.

Most Kurdish forces are deployed along the line of the former Berlin-Baghdad railway, a major source of warlike tensions before World War I. Interestingly, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was making a state visit to blood enemy Serbia when the Turkish offensive kicked off.

Turkey calls the Kurdish militias ‘terrorists’ and links them to the original Kurdish resistance movement PKK which is on the US and Turkish black list. I covered the brutal conflict in eastern Anatolia (southern Turkey) between the Turkish Army and Kurdish militias known as ‘peshmerga.’ If the US can brand Syrian and Iraqi groups ‘terrorists,’ why can’t the Turks do their own terrorist branding? After all, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are in their backyard.

The US media is fiercely anti-Turkish because Ankara is seen as somewhat pro-Palestinian. Israel is a bitter foe of Turkey’s Erdogan. One rarely reads anything positive about Turkey or its leader. Not very many western readers even know that since the early 1500’s, Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey. So were Iraq, Palestine, today’s Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

Most important, Iraq’s vast oil fields used to belong to the Ottoman Empire until the British Empire grabbed them at the end of World War I. France seized Syria and Lebanon. Both former imperial powers are still mucking around today in the region and have the gall to criticize Turkey’s involvement in neighboring Syria.

The United States has zero historic interest in the region. US troops in Syria appear to have come from the US garrison in Iraq, which, as VP Dick Cheney hoped, would become a central US military base for the entire Mideast. The Washington war party is moaning that Trump has ‘betrayed’ the Kurds.

The Kurds have been used and betrayed since 1918. They always seem to get the short end of the stick. The old Kurdish saying, ‘no friends but the mountains,’ is painfully true. Washington does not want to get involved in a new Kurdish state carved out of Syria or Iraq even though Israel is pushing it hard to further splinter the Mideast. Iraq’s and Syria’s oil deposits are still a powerful lure for imperial-minded powers.

Trump rightly calls the fracas in Syria ‘a stupid war.’ But many pro-war forces play on this tired, confused president who has gotten himself deep into the Syrian morass, a problem of largely American but also Turkish making. Ironically, former president Barack Obama foolishly authorized America’s effort to overthrow Syria’s Assad government under the guise of a phony civil war. This was one of the few Obama policies that Trump chose to follow. The neophyte president was unwilling or unable to prevent the deep state in Washington from encouraging the war.

The region in question is hardly the beating heart of Syria. It looks large on the map but is mostly desert and scrub, dotted by miserable little villages with Arab or Kurdish populations. Turkey, which has over 2 million Syrian refugees, is eager to begin repatriation of this massive burden created by its policy errors and the western powers.

In the middle is the scattered debris of the short-lived ISIS caliphate. Russia, which is selling Turkey its very capable S-400 anti-aircraft system, is watching with delight as old allies Turkey and the US split.

Even Trump knows how important Turkey is to the NATO alliance. A rupture between Washington and Ankara could see the vital US bases at Incirlik and Adana thrown out of Turkey. That’s why Trump needs to tread carefully.

CORRECTION: The original version of this column stated that Sen. Lindsey Graham dodged military service in the Vietnam War by joining the National Guard as a lawyer. This statement was incorrect and we regret the error.

Copyright Eric S Margolis 2019

This post is in: Syria, Turkey


  1. …and even more interesting:
    Russia has said it will not allow clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces, as Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria continues.

    “This would simply be unacceptable… and therefore we will not allow it, of course,” said Moscow’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev.
    If the situation weren’t so dangerous, it would be really interesting to watch.

  2. Thanks for the Ancient History, Eric. A lot of us remember more recent History, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, but may not be aware of Turkey’s role in it?
    Turkey did not have any real Democratic Traditions, with only a footprint in Europe, when it was welcomed into NATO in 1952, but it was the last gap in the US/NATO encirclement of Russia.

    Before the Soviets started setting up it’s missiles in Cuba, the US set up Missiles in Turkey aimed at Russia. Naturally the Russians didn’t like seeing that provocative US move, but in their own part of this World, they didn’t threaten the US with War as the Americans did when Russia deployed it’s missiles in America’s backyard like the Americans did in Russia’s backyard.
    The actions of the US, Turkey, Israel and others in Syria, violate every United Nations Principle and Purpose. Where is the United Nations Secretary-General? He is the Main person to uphold UNITED NATIONS ideals The Member Nations pledge to voluntarily follow and obey. It’s his Job to scold them when they don’t

    That has to be his job, and if he can’t do it, who can? The Rule of International Law is being supplanted by the Law of the Jungle. Might is Right!

    The last UN Secretary-General killed on the Job was Dag Hammarskjold in a suspicious plane crash in 1961. He dared speak ‘Truth to Power.’His quote from 60 years ago is so relevant to what is going on Today. It has spread like never before, to affect the judgments of the Politicians, the News media, and the Public.-The Assembly has witnessed over the last weeks how historical truth is established; once an allegation has been repeated a few times, it is no longer an allegation, it is an established fact, even if no evidence has been brought out in order to support it.

    I can only imagine the fierce discussions that go on behind closed doors between the 5 Permanent Nuclear Members of the Security Council, to reach consensus on a new United Nations Secretary-General.A perk of the job along with so many others, is a grand Penthouse Apartment in Uber expensive New York City.

    The US went to the United Nations Security Council with FAKE Intelligence supplied by US Intelligence Agencies, asking for UNSC Authority to invade Iraq. The US was denied that Legal Authority.With the delusional belief in it’s exclusive exceptionalism, the US invaded anyway, in violation of International Law, undermining the Global Order as Represented by the United Nations since WWII, ushering in the Law of the Jungle to the Middle East and this World.

    When the US illegally invaded Iraq in 2003, 2 years after the US came out with WAR PLANS to change the regimes of Iraq, Libya, Syria and at THE END, Iran, it sent the signal to the World, US Law now Trumps International Law before Trump appeared on the scene. He is the latest, grossest, most blatantly obvious, incarnation of America 1st Policies, trump all the other Nations Sovereignty, as it has been since WWII.

    The US unilateral Economic War waged against Iran violates UN Principles, Rules and Regulations. Only the United Nations Security Council has the Global Authority to legally impose Economic Sanctions on any Nation.
    To make that point, US Law forces other Nations to go along with it’s illegal Economic War on Iran or they become the the “illegal combatants” resisting US Law becoming International Law..

    You write, “Now, adding to the chaos, President Donald Trump has finally given Turkey, NATO’s second military power, the green light to invade parts of northeastern Syria after he apparently ordered a token force of US troops there to withdraw.”The News Media do not question the illegality of all these moves in Syria. By what Authority does the US have to “give the green light to invade parts of northeastern Syria in violation of International Law and all Principles of the United Nations?

    Neither Religious nor Secular Leaders of THIS Material World. took notice of the Spiritual SIGN/RED FLAG given to THIS Material World, when ISIS destroyed the Islamic Mosque in Nineveh, Iraq, containing the Tomb of the Jewish/Christian Jonah in the whale fame in 2014.

    For those not knowing the Bible story of some 3000 years ago, God told Jonah warn the ‘World City Nineveh’ if they did not change the Direction in which they were heading, they would be destroyed. Not wanting to be a buzzkill, he tried to get away from doing what had to be done. Eventually he was swallowed by the whale, and there was no other place to run and hide. He came to his senses, and finally did what had to be done. Even though the People listened to the warning and changed, Jonah was angry. He wanted to see the World City destroyed.

    With all the Environmental warnings about where this world is heading, the wars and rumors of wars, the floods, earthquakes, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Mass shootings, and Trump already planting the seeds in the minds of his Blind Faith devotees of an uncivil War within America if he looses the election. What we can see with our physical eyes unfolding in THIS Material World, is the spirit of this ancient Biblical prophecy of a Future Time that is now at hand, And the nations were angry, and your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should give reward to your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear your name, small and great; and should destroy them which destroy the earth. Revelation 11:18 & Revelation 12:12

    The positive end of the Jonah record is clear. And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he didn’t do it. […] And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than 120,000 persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle? Jonah 3&4

  3. This just got a whole pile more interesting. From the BBC:
    “The Kurds in Syria say the Syrian government has agreed to send its army to the northern border to try to halt Turkey’s offensive against them.”
    We’ll have to wait and see how Erdogan responds to this.

  4. Excellent commentary! Eric, you are bang on in saying that the terrible situation in Syria is largely the making of the US, but also of Turkey, because it was the US and Turkey who are largely responsible for the creation of ISIS. At the beginning of the war in Syria, the US didn’t really care about which rebel group received its weapons and financial support, and the forces behind ISIS saw a golden opportunity. (That sort of reminds me as to how al-Qaeda was created in Afghanistan.) However, Turkey played a major role in allowing (and probably encouraging) many young Muslims from the US, Britain, Canada, and elsewhere to pass through Istanbul airport en route to joining ISIS in Syria and Iraq. There’s no way that Turkey didn’t know what was going on. What did they think that those young people from the west were going to be doing in Turkey – taking a sightseeing tour? I have also long suspected that Israel played some kind of role in the support of ISIS, at least for a while. Note that the Israeli government remained silent on the conquests by ISIS of large swaths of Syria and Iraq, at least until ISIS started to make open threats against the Jewish state. It wasn’t long after making those threats that ISIS was mostly crushed. Coincidence? I think not. I believe that Netanyahu’s government told Washington quite pointedly to do something quickly about ISIS or Israel would intervene directly to do the dirty work. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Israelis could have crushed ISIS single-handedly without any problem and would have done so early on in the Syrian war, if that had been their real wish.

  5. Turkey, as well as Canada needs to get out of NATO… it serves no purpose than American interests. Trump whines about the cost of NATO to the Americans and wants everyone else to pay for it. The old ‘Cold War’ is over and time for NATO to close its doors.
    The Kurds need their own space… simple as that… they have factions/splinter groups in the main Middle East countries in the area, and their big problem is not having a ‘home’.
    You briefly touch on how badly the Kurds have been treated by the Americans and others. I mention the Americans because they are one of the worst; the Kurds have been abused by nearly all involved for the last hundred years or so. They seem to be a ‘tribe’ to be used and disposed of at will. They have suffered grievously.
    Catch the link:
    It’s a sad state… and going to get worse.

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