14 October 2019

A small step in the right direction

Trump today ordered some economic sanctions on Turkey, with more to come soon, to pressure that country to relent from its invasion of Syria.  This is the first concrete action anyone in the West has taken to help the embattled Syrian Kurds -- Congress has been considering imposing sanctions too, but it's now five days since the beginning of the invasion and they have not acted; and most other countries are just issuing verbal condemnations, as useless as "thoughts and prayers".  So, I give Trump credit where it is due.  Such credit must be limited, however, since it was Trump's own precipitous and ill-advised troop withdrawal that allowed Turkish president Erdoğan to launch the invasion in the first place.

The Syrian Kurdish leadership had already taken action on its own to fend off devastation in the wake of the American betrayal -- by forging a quick alliance with the Asad regime.  This means the Kurds will get the support of Syria's regular national army, while the regime will get the chance to re-establish its rule over the northeast, a major region which has been out of its control for years.  Even the Syrian army is not a match for Turkey's forces, but it is supported by Russia, and will at least be able to resist the Turks more effectively than the Kurds could alone.

This alliance is a setback for US policy, since the US opposes the Asad regime.  However, I've long believed that an Asad victory is the least-bad plausible way for the Syrian civil war to end.  It isn't a good option -- the regime is hideously brutal -- but this is Syria we're talking about, and there aren't any really good options (I discussed Syria's complex demographics and internal tensions here).  The Asad regime does, at least, have a track record of protecting religious minorities from persecution by the Sunni majority.  Aside from the Kurds -- who are interested only in liberating their own region, not in ruling all of Syria -- most of the forces opposing the regime are Sunni extremists of various stripes, whose victory would portend vicious persecution and perhaps genocide of other religions and sects.

So there is some chance that the Kurds will be able to save themselves, and that the seven-year-old Syrian civil war will move a little closer to its end.  But at least several dozen (and probably far more) people have already been killed by the Turkish attack, and there have been reports of escapes of Dâ'ish (ISIL) prisoners held by the Kurds.  And the Kurdish region will certainly lose its quasi-independence, since the Asad regime will have its army in place to assert control if the Turks withdraw.

This could have been avoided if Trump had paid attention to his advisers and military leaders and not abandoned the Kurds in the first place.  Our job as Americans, next year, will be to elect a president who can manage foreign policy competently.  The rest of the world cannot afford to have an entity as powerful as the US operate by random blundering like this.

Update (Tuesday):  Some European countries have imposed an arms embargo on Turkey.  The US Congress is still dithering around and appears to be getting distracted from sanctions by talk of a meaningless joint resolution verbally reprimanding Trump.

[Image at top:  Homs, Syria's third-largest city, showing the destruction inflicted by years of civil war.  See also the video here.]


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Tinfoil dictator (HairFuror) governs by twitter and this is what you get: ISIS back in the wild, the Kurds picking up the pieces left by the betrayal and years of diplomatic efforts gone down the drain. Americans have the duty to elect a capable president and send G
Cheeto to jail.


14 October, 2019 15:35  
Blogger Dave Miller said...

You get no credit in my book for ordering sanctions that would have been unnecessary if you had nit been an idiot.

Trump blew this up pure and simple. And now Sen Graham is haling the decision to sanction Turkey?

That's like opening the floodgates of a massive dam and then expecting credit for giving the flood victims a life raft.

14 October, 2019 17:14  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

He's only doing it to fend off the justified criticism that he betrayed the Kurds, steadfast US allies.

14 October, 2019 20:57  
Blogger Adam said...

Makes you wonder how far he'll go, with two of his towers in Istanbul.

15 October, 2019 09:40  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Yeah, it's just damage control. And who knows if he'll suddenly change course yet again. One can't blame the Kurds for deciding Asad is more trustworthy.

16 October, 2019 02:10  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I had, again, had to read this twice in order to just halfway understand it. I read up on Syria some a couple years back, and it was such a confusing mess to me (really confusing, on who is what), and the only reason I did, was primarily out of sympathy for the Syrian people. It was so confusing to me, because it of the various groups and interests of each. You can understand why so many try to flee ... some folks don't want to, they love their homeland, but it's a matter of life and death. I heard about pisoners getting loose too, on the news, but in MSM, I don't know how or why, what is reported, and if there is some political, military, monetary agenda to any of that either, put out in MSM, too much between the lines stuff, that you have to weigh and figure ... I stopped following much, difficult to understand what's going on over there ... at least for me. Sure, Trump may make some good moves here and there ... although, anything that Trump does, I figure is simply to boost confidence of his following, you know, elections. Lots of folks sick of our interventions, even on the republican side, especially because of the costs, too ... makes Trump look good, any time he withdraws our military. For me, I look at what we see today, as a type of WW3, without officially calling it such. Many countries, many interests, lots of money at play, and lots of power players, and global competition, religious groups, and agendas.

16 October, 2019 08:20  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Syria is really complex and confusing. Unfortunately, given all the ethnic and religious hostilities, it may be that the place simply can't be peaceful unless some overwhelming power like a dictator or a large empire keeps it that way. The long periods in history when Syria has been at peace were all times when it was ruled by some large empire -- the Romans, the Persians, etc.

17 October, 2019 08:17  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Oddly, kind of reminds me of how Iraq seemed to be somewhat stable under the dictator Saddam, even though he was pretty ruthless himself ... compared to post so called "liberation". And liberated Iraq is having new troubles as I write this. But, what you said makes sense.

18 October, 2019 08:13  

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