Turkey’s no. Moscow is still ready to act as

Turkey’s Offensive in Syria: US Falls
into Trap of Its Own Making

                                     Peter
KORZUN  

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In
the heat of the battle for Afrin, Turkey warns
it will go farther to establish control over vast
swathes of land in northern Syria. The offensive  is supposed to take
Turkish forces as far as the Syria’s border with Iraq. On Jan.28, Ankara called
on Washington to withdraw its military from Manbij (100
km from Afrin) before it launches an operation to clear the area from Kurdish
militias. It’s important to note that the US had provoked the Turkey’s action
by announcing
the decision to set up a new  border force in the areas
under Kurdish control.  So,
nobody else but Washington itself   has created this situation – a trap of its own
making. Having sown the wind, it reaps
the whirlwind.

A
push to the east will potentially make Turkish troops confront the US-led Syrian
Democratic Forces (SDF).  The Kurdish armed formations in Afrin missed
an opportunity to avoid the worst.

Some
Pro-Kurdish sources say  Russia had betrayed the Afrin Kurds by pulling
its peacekeepers out before the Turkish attack was launched. This is a very
misleading affirmation. Let’s look at the facts. Moscow believes all regions west
of the Euphrates should be under Syrian regular army’s control because this
territory is Syria – a territorially integral
country with a legitimate government. Russia had asked the Kurds in Afrin
to engage with Damascus and allow its regular army in.  The answer had been no. Moscow is still ready
to act as a mediator to arrange talks on autonomy within Syria. Until now, the
initiative has been rejected. The Kurds have preferred the US as their
protector. Now they are on their own. Taking decisions implies
responsibility. 

The
US military has not defended the Kurds in Afrin, saying it does not regard them
as allies on par with the Kurds, which are part of SDF located farther east. It
says the Kurds in Afrin did not fight the Islamic State (IS). Even so, they did
protect Afrin and prevented their land from being invaded by jihadi
militants.  Perhaps, the US has no
commitment to defend the Afrin Kurds but it has an obligation to protect the
SDF in Manbij.  What will happen next? It
is next to impossible to make predictions with any degree of precision but one
can have a look at possible
scenarios.

Turkish
Hürriyet Daily News   reported that the US and Turkey are in
talks on de-confliction. NATO Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller confirmed
the fact but it’s not clear how it jibes with the Ankara’s
announced offensive to capture the land held by the SDF.  Anyway, bowing to the Turkey’s demand will be
humiliating for Washington. If the US fails to protect the   Kurdish
allies, it will have no reason to maintain its military presence in Syria.  It’ll have to leave the country as Russia and
Syria have asked it to do. 

One
of the scenarios includes the creation of a broader uprising of Kurds to
encompass Turkey, Iran and Iraq. It can reshape the map of the region. Such a development
is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Another
consequence – the cohesion of NATO has already been undermined with Turkey and
the US supporting the opposite sides. If the situation continues to worsen, the
US will either blink or ask NATO to suspend, or even expel, Turkey from NATO,
at least until President Erdogan is in power. 
It will inevitably push Ankara to Moscow and Beijing, shifting from NATO
to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. President Erdogan has
just said he is tired of EU membership process.

A
US political defeat is the most probable outcome. Washington has to pay for the
lack of clear plan of action in Syria and the inability to understand the
situation.  Obviously, Washington is in
predicament. It is   facing a very hard choice. If the US intends
to stay in northern Syria, it certainly needs the Kurds.  If America sides with the Kurds, it would
lose Turkey. It may be excluded form nation building process being hostile
towards all the leading actors: the Syria’s government, Russia, Iran and
Turkey.   If it leaves the Kurds, its
credibility in the Middle East will be shaken against the background of the
recent break up with the Palestine Autonomy over the recognition of
Jerusalem.    

If
the US manages to achieve an agreement with Turkey, it will mean farewell to
Syrian Kurdistan with a special status making it an independent state in
practice or even an officially declared one. The Turkey’s offensive is likely
to make the Kurds more willing to negotiate with Damascus. An alliance with the
Syrian government will become an alternative to make the Kurds join the peace
process. It will boost the chances for Syria to remain an undivided state.  Moscow can act as a mediator between
Damascus, the Kurds and Ankara. After all, Moscow is one of few capitals the
Syrian Kurds have a representative office in.

The
efforts should be applied within the framework of Astana process led by Moscow,
Ankara and Tehran. Washington has always stressed that its goal in Syria
was   fighting the IS. Today, the
jihadist group is reduced to insignificance in Syria. The mission is
accomplished. Why should Washington spend time and effort, balancing on the
brink of armed conflict with Ankara or any other actor in Syria? After all, if
the Astana peace process succeeds, US European allies will heave a sign of
relief as refugee flows from Syria are reduced. The best thing the US could do under
the circumstances is pull out from Syria and concentrate on diplomacy to give peace
a chance.