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U.S. must act before Turkey commits genocide in Syria - expert


Source: https://ahvalnews.com/turkey-kurds/us-must-act-turkey-commits-genocide-syria-expert

Silence makes the United States an accomplice to Turkey’s war crimes against the Kurds in Syria, a former senior adviser at the State Department wrote in The Boston Globe.

Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s dictatorship has gone rogue, argued David L. Phillips, who served as a foreign affairs expert under presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Erdoğan used the “alleged coup” of July 2016, said Phillips, to justify a sweeping crackdown against suspected opponents.

More than 100,000 people were arrested on charges related to terrorism. A half-million civil servants were dismissed from their jobs. More journalists are jailed in Turkey than in any other country.

As a NATO member, Turkey is often given a pass. NATO is, however, more than a security alliance. It is a coalition of countries with shared values. Turkey systematically suppresses freedom of expression, said Phillips, director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. Turkey is anti-democratic and anti-American, Phillips added, and if NATO were established today, Turkey would not qualify as a member.

After the chemical weapons attacks on Ghouta in 2012, Erdoğan took it upon himself to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, said Phillips. Turkey established the “jihadi highway” from Urfa in Turkey to Raqqa in Syria. It provided weapons, money, and logistics to foreign fighters from around the world who joined jihadi groups to topple Assad.

Turkey occupied parts of northern Aleppo and engaged in military operations in Idlib. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, Turkey launched intense and indiscriminate air strikes against Afrin, an oasis of peace and stability in northern Syria, on Jan. 20, 2018. It bombed Afrin for 58 days. Hundreds of civilians were killed and 300,000 people were displaced. Civilians huddled in bombed-out buildings, cowering at the sonic boom of warplanes overhead.

Phillips, whose latest book is “The Great Betrayal: How America Abandoned an Ally and Lost the Middle East,” visited Syria earlier this month and met survivors from Afrin. A mother told him about running hand-in-hand with her teenage daughter when a missile blew the girl to bits.

Now Erdoğan threatens to expand operations, attacking east of the Euphrates River. Turkey’s aggression represents a major escalation of the war in Syria. Its reckless intervention will cause a bloodbath with grave humanitarian consequences, said Phillips.

Erdoğan says that Turkey is fighting terrorists. In reality, however, his Free Syrian Army, comprising al-Qaeda and al-Nusra, are the real terrorists in Syria, said Phillips. Why does the United States turn a blind eye to Turkey’s support for terror groups?

Phillips has received many messages from people he met last week in Syria. Terrified, they express hope that the United States would dissuade Turkey from its imminent attack. Kurdish fighters are essential to the international coalition against ISIS. They served as the point of the spear, liberating Raqqa. They look to the United States for rescue in the face of Turkey’s aggression.

The U.S. Congress should prevent Turkey from attacking civilians in North and East Syria, said Phillips. Establishing a no-fly-zone would deter Turkey by eliminating the advantage of its air power, thereby giving the Kurds a fighting chance. Congress has already voted to delay the transfer of F-35s to Turkey, in response to Turkey’s acquisition of surface-to-air missiles from Russia. It should further restrict arms sales in response to Turkey’s violation of Syria’s sovereignty, said Phillips.

Yemen is a similar hotspot. The Senate voted 56-41 to recommend that the United States stop supporting the war in Yemen. The resolution is a strong rebuke of Saudi Arabia for its role in Yemen’s four-year civil war.

Rather than wait until Turkey has committed genocide against the Kurds, the United States should proactively take steps to prevent a bloodbath in North and East Syria, said Phillips. Prevention would be more effective than dealing with the aftermath.

Let Yemen be a lesson. It is not too late to confront Turkey and save the Kurds in Syria. The United States should adopt a morally consistent foreign policy that restricts weapons sales to governments that target civilians and commit war crimes, said Phillips.