The Turkish Invasion of Syria

It was obvious from the beginning of the war against Bashar el Assad (2011) that Turkey intended to invade north-east Syria alongside its border (an area of some 30 kilometres deep and 420 long). Turkey only participated in the war against Isis/Daesh after a long delay, and never with much conviction. For Erdoğan it was just an excuse to pursue his eternal single aim, that of combatting all the Kurdish militias in Syria, but especially those fighting alongside the Coalition in territory bordering Turkey. The only possible explanation for this attitude is his intention to prevent the formation of an autonomous Kurdish state after the Syrian war ends. Strategically, Erdoğan aims to prevent not only the birth of a second Kurdish state in the area, which could in the near future be linked to the one in Iraq, but also to halt a political and military recovery of the Turkish Kurdish Party (PKK), considered the number one enemy of Ankara, the "terrorist" force that has to be fought at all costs, the cause of all the evils that are affecting the fragile Turkish economy.

In this regard, it does not matter that Erdoğan's military move is clearly against international law which, even if it is a bourgeois deceit and merely a useful tool for the great imperialist powers, should have at least a minimum of validity in resolving issues like this between the various imperialisms. It counts for nothing that the Kurds in question (YPG) were the ones who fought alongside the Americans and shouldered the greater weight of the war against Isis. While the Americans and the rest of the Coalition bombed the "caliphate" positions in a sort of video wargame, the Kurdish militias fought on the ground, losing thousands of militants, either dead or wounded. Nor does it matter that the Kurds of the YPG have never had such close relations with the "terrorists" of the PKK as Erdoğan maintains, other than sporadic military ties in the fight against Isis, and a common Stalinist ideology, which we have always denounced.(1)

The important thing for Erdoğan is that the Kurdish "nationalist curse" should not give him sleepless nights or disrupt his drive for Sunni leadership throughout the region, or to make Turkey an oil hub in the Mediterranean as well as control a strategic area like that of north-east Syria.

If all this has been obvious since 2011, the position of the United States is less clear. Trump has accustomed us to the "bipolar" attitude of his entire administration, both in terms of behaviour and in terms of domestic and foreign policy, and it is apparent even here. Nevertheless, there is a logic in the attitude of Trump and his faithful collaborator Pompeo. The USA did not enter Syria to destroy Daesh, but, on the contrary, originally contributed to its birth, arming and financing it on a par with Turkey and its allies, in order to prevent Russia from continuing to have the use of Syrian ports and naval bases. Its other aims were: to contain the Iranian presence in the Gulf, to undermine the Shiite coalition (Assad’s Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqis, Iranians and the Houthi rebels in Yemen) which in Syria (but not only there) contended for supremacy over the entire Persian Gulf under the aegis of Russia, as well as the Mediterranean, the major oil and gas pipelines that flow from the north-east of Russia down to Iran towards Europe, and the Arabian Sea. All of this seriously damaged US imperialist aims and its allies in the region.

But Russian military intervention in the Syrian war (2014) shifted the balance of power on the ground to the point where Assad’s government, from being on the point of falling, has remained in power, whilst the war of all against all has formally ended in favour of the Moscow-Damascus axis. Previous peace attempts, better defined as attempts at partitioning Syria (the Sochi Accords)(2) have failed, so Trump, while realising this was a defeat, thought it better to cut his losses, but under certain conditions. The first, hidden behind a hypocritical statement in which Trump, asked "What are we doing in Syria spending money on small tribal wars?" was to abandon Syria by withdrawing the troops. This was nothing but the implementation of a previously decided plan, even if his collaborators have forced him to keep a military contingent of a couple of thousand men and two hundred military advisers there.

While deploring Turkey's initiative to invade the north-east of Syria and shamelessly denying that he has turned a blind eye to Erdoğan's aggression against the Kurds, the US’ other faithful ally, the withdrawal of most US troops has in fact given the green light to the Turkish army. Ankara's stated aim is to create a broad security zone along the Turkish border to be transformed into a place of refuge for the almost three million Syrian refugees. In reality the aim is to achieve all the objectives previously underlined. For the US it was like saying: the war is not over, but the destabilisation of the area is useful in weakening the Assad regime and its great ally, Russian imperialism. Erdoğan has thus been allowed a free hand by the US, even at the tragic cost of more of the bloodletting that has already engulfed Syria(3) for eight years, all due to the insatiable thirst of the imperialist actors who are operating in this tragic land of death and refugees. The latter are the victims of a world crisis that first triggers, then exacerbates, the conflicts that remain the means of survival for capitalism and its incurable contradictions.

Fighting capitalism for the only possible alternative – communism – means fighting war in all its manifestations, combatting imperialism in all its guises as the main instigator of war. This also means not falling into the nationalist game of the Kurdish minorities who, in order to pursue their objective – a bourgeois and capitalist nation state – hitch their wagon to imperialism and become a tool that, once its usefulness is over, is cast aside. This is the case of the YPG, exploited by the USA against ISIS and then handed over to Turkish imperialism.

In addition, the imperialist drama staged a "ceasefire", which the Turkish army did not respect, in order to provide a negotiated solution to this umpteenth conflict and to grant, in their goodness, the possibility for the civilian population to escape. All this while Putin, treading carefully, promised protection to the Kurds, whilst letting Assad's troops reach the border area with Turkey. At the same time, however, through the mouth of his foreign minister Lavrov, he made an ambiguous statement that the war crisis triggered by Erdoğan was a matter between Turkey and the Kurds of north-eastern Syria. Behind this hypocritical and tragic scenario, the United States, despite their formal protests to Ankara, have removed their troops, moving them further south to Iraq, thus giving a green light to the Turkish army, in an attempt to regain, within NATO, an ally that can be trusted (at least in part). Russia is playing the same card, but in reverse, with a view to completing the Turkish Stream pipeline, which alone is worth a war in the Mediterranean. But the fundamental fact is that, in the midst of this devastating crisis that produces wars upon wars, it is not the birth of new, unlikely nationalisms, whether Kurdish or of other ethnic groups, that is on the agenda, but the proletarian revolution, the only one that can put a stop to crises, oppose wars and the inhuman arrogance of imperialism that uses these nationalisms as meat for slaughter in tune with its strategic aims.


10 October 2019


(1) For previous articles in English on Rojava and the YPG see:

In Rojava: People’s War is not Class War

The Bloodbath in Syria: Class War or Ethnic War?

(2) See also:

Syria: The Long War that Never Ends

(3) For more see:

The War in Syria and Shifting Imperialist Positions

Syria: The Real Significance of the US Bombardment

Syria – The Final Chapter?

and many more on our site.

Saturday, October 12, 2019