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Middle East :: Syria
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The decision by US president Donald Trump to pull out 1,000 American troops from northern Syria gave the green light to the Turkish army to launch a brutal invasion against Kurdish-held areas. Now this is spiralling into a wider conflict, involving the Syrian regime, Russia and Iran.
The Turkish army's indiscriminate shelling of towns along the Turkish-Syria border has already led to the slaughter of many civilians, including children. Over 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, and water supplies to nearly half a million people are cut off.
Turkey's Syrian militia allies, involving reactionary Islamic fighters, are accused of carrying out summary executions. There are widespread fears that the conflict will allow Isis fighters to regroup in the area.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), has said it has brokered a deal with Damascus that will see the Syrian army occupy Kurdish-controlled territory and deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border.
But at what cost to the Kurds? The Syrian army advance will see President Bashar al-Assad near his stated goal of reconquering "every inch" of Syria, after nearly nine years of bloody civil war.
The Syrian regime has always opposed the semi-autonomous statelet, in Rojava, that emerged during the civil war, regarding it as an attempted "partition" of the country.
SDF leader, Mazloum Abdi, claimed that the deal with the Syria regime and its Russian ally could "save the lives of millions of people who live under our protection". However, he conceded that it would entail "painful compromises".
Having occupied the Kurdish areas, Assad is no more going to allow the Kurds to consolidate genuine self-rule and a de-facto separate state than Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Neither will countenance allowing the Kurds their full democratic and national aspirations.
It is now a race between Turkish and Syrian armies to see who can grab as much territory as they can. While it is unlikely that either Turkey or Syria, backed by its "military sponsor" Russia, and regional ally, Iran, want to clash directly, the situation is volatile and a wider war cannot be ruled out.
The Kurds have a long history of betrayal by regional and world powers. Today they have the likely prospect of seeing the region carved up between competing regional powers and their backers.
The allies and defenders of Kurds today will turn out to be their foes and oppressors tomorrow.
The US used the SDF as proxies to spearhead the fight against Isis in northern Syria. Once Isis was largely defeated in Syria, it was only a matter of time before Trump would ditch them.
Calls for the 'international community' to deploy an international force to enforce a "no fly zone to prevent catastrophe" were simply ignored by the big powers.
How can we rely on governments of the rich, which carry out austerity policies against their own working class, to act in the interests of Kurds and other oppressed minorities? The US, France, Britain - which sells arms to its Nato ally, Turkey - and other military powers, have for many years cynically exploited the Kurds' plight, for their own selfish geo-strategic aims in the Middle East.
The Kurds and other oppressed peoples of the Middle East, and the entire working class, can only rely on their own strength, self-organisation and class solidarity.
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Article dated 16 October 2019
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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