Enter Russia, Turkey as US Exits Syrian Imbroglio

It is not the US, but Russia and Turkey have now emerged as the main foreign players in the Syrian imbroglio. Most foreign policy experts across the world are blaming the US for the current situation in Syria.

Amid Turkey’s launching of intense military operations in Syria lately, US President Donald Trump has suddenly announced troop withdrawal and demanded a ceasefire. This untimely action has subjected him to facing mounting criticism among those who have been yearning for an end to Kurdish-Syrian problem. Critics have been sore at Trump’s action in letting down the Kurdish cause and Syria’s fight against Isis forces.

To silence the critics, US defense secretary Mark Esper has said that under the current plan, the troops do not return to the US but will be relocated in western Iraq from where they would continue operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its insurgence in the region.

But Iraq’s military has clarified that the US troops, leaving Syria, do not have permission to stay in Iraq. In a statement, the Iraqi military said that such US troops have permission to enter northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, from where they will be relocated out of Iraq and they do not have permission to remain in Iraq.

Encouraged by the US withdrawal of troops from Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Erdogan in Russian city of Sochi on October 22, and they began reviewing the situation in northern Syria, where Turkey has decided to intensify fight against Kurdish fighters. Erdogan has threatened to intensify Turkey’s military offensive in Syria unless the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters is completed under a US agreement, before he goes ahead with the talks with Putin.

Earlier, when Turkey launched the incursion into northeastern Syria, Trump, wrote a terse letter to the Turkish President, warning him, “Don’t be a fool,” as history would brand, “You a devil.” Suggesting “let us work out a good deal,” Trump even chided Erdogan, saying “you don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy.” Trump has also said that he has not given any “green light” to Erdogan to launch the offensive. Erdogan has said that Turkey’s operation, which has been facilitated by the withdrawal of the US troops from Northern Syria, would continue.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Mike Penance arrived in Ankara on October 17, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived separately for talks. And they both held talks with their Turkish counterparts as Erdogan refused to meet the two US officials and said that he would meet only with Trump if he comes.

Of course such announcement of withdrawal of troops from the Turkey-Syria border by the US has not been new. The US has done it eight times in the past and it is the ninth time now. But in the US, Trump called the deal “an incredible outcome” with Turkey and defended his decision of troop withdrawal as an effort to clear the way to stop Turkish attack on Kurdish fighters.

Ordering his troop withdrawal, Trump told the Turks that they could come in as Kurds stopped fighting Isis. Fearing of a likely “genocide,” the Kurds have turned towards the Syrian regime for protection.

Following negotiations between US Vice-president Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, five days of break has been agreed upon to evacuate Kurdish fighters from Ras al-Ain which is the battleground. Surprisingly Turkey, though agreed for the truce on October 17, has not stopped pounding Syria and allegedly killed 14 civilians on the same day. A report from Tal Tamr, a small town in western al-Hasakah Governorate, Northeastern Syria, on October 17 said that the deadly Turkish airstrikes had shattered the US brokered deal to stop Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces in Northeastern Syria. The ceasefire was meant to provide a pause for the evacuation of Kurdish fighters from the battleground border town of Ras al-Ain and other areas that Turkey wants to control along its border with Syria.

Meanwhile a UN report in Geneva said that 2,300 people, mostly women and children, had fled fighting in northeastern Syria and crossed into Iraq in recent days. A UN refugee agency spokesman said: “For the fourth consecutive day, UNHCR has been receiving hundreds of refugees crossing the border into Iraq from northeast Syria.”

For the Kurdish people, who do not have a state of their own, but have spread over five countries, safe existence has been a long struggle. A majority of them have settled down on the border town of Turkey and Syria. Now by pulling out the troops from the Kurdish settled areas the US has lost its credibility as a trustworthy ally.

As the US lets down Syria’s Kurds, Russia and Turkey gain strength in the region.  As of this writing, Turkish and Russian governments reached a deal that promised Kurdish fighters would retreat from the Turkish-Syrian border.

– Contributed by Mr. J.V. Laskshmana Rao, a former National News Coordinator of Express News Service, New Delhi, and former Chief Editor of US-based India Tribune. He frequently travels between India and the US.

Picture Credits: Reuters

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