The civil war in Syria, which started a decade ago, is a symbol of humanity’s moral bankruptcy. That tragedy, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and forced 7 million people into exile, continues in front of the world’s very eyes and Bashar Assad’s regime, which responded to peaceful protests by killing Syria’s citizens, remains intact.
International organizations like the United Nations, along with the United States and the European Union, which talk a great deal about values, are busy drawing “10 grim lessons” from the bloody civil war. At this rate, they will merely keep adding new lessons to their list for the next decade.
By contrast, Turkey has done more than any other country for the Syrian people. In an opinion essay for Bloomberg, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged the West to help his nation in ending the conflict “as talk of democracy, freedom and human rights are in vogue anew.”
He noted that Turkey hosted millions of refugees, became the first country to deploy combat troops to fight terrorists, such as Daesh, and created safe zones in liberated areas.
Turkey’s leader thus warned the international community to share his country’s burden instead of “watching from the sidelines” – since working together for a solution is off the table.
The West’s claim to moral superiority ended when the Barack Obama administration allowed the regime to cross its red line. Washington itself took down the liberal world order by opting to buy into Moscow’s promise to seize Assad’s chemical weapons.
Over the last four years, the Donald Trump administration, which was utterly disinterested in Syria, had no plan except to withdraw U.S. troops.
Today, Syria represents a litmus test for the Biden administration’s commitment to democracy and human rights. Hence Erdoğan’s clear message to his American counterpart: “The Joe Biden administration must stay true to its campaign pledges and work with us to end the tragedy in Syria and to defend democracy.”
If Washington continues to appease the YPG, the PKK terrorist organization’s Syrian branch, the current administration is bound to repeat Obama’s mistakes unless it makes a serious effort to provide humanitarian relief.
The Turkish president’s message to the West comes in the run-up to the upcoming EU leaders’ summit. The Europeans have been unable to escape the negative consequences of the Syrian conflict, such as migration and terrorism, but they opted for absenteeism.
Right-wing extremists would have probably come to power all across the continent, had it not been for Turkey’s humane policy on Syria. For the record, Europe does not sufficiently appreciate Ankara’s contributions to its stability.
Just days ago, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that described Turkey’s military presence in northern Syria as an occupation and called on Ankara to withdraw from the relevant areas. That level of delusion is unbelievable.
Turkey’s presence in those supposedly occupied territories is the only thing stopping millions of Syrians from flooding the European Union.
In the upcoming EU summit, Europe’s leaders must deliver the kind of performance needed to protect the continent’s collective interests. They should focus on visa liberalization, updating the Customs Union agreement and, possibly, opening new chapters in accession talks.
Western leaders must also object to YPG attacks on safe zones in northern Syria as well as the use of Russian missiles.
According to the Terrorism Analysis Platform, a terrorism watchdog, the safe zones were targeted a total of 224 times by the YPG. That number includes 64 vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks, 64 improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, 51 armed attacks, 19 mortar attacks and nine missile attacks.
Up to 5 million Syrians live in Idlib and Turkish-enforced safe zones. Keeping in mind that 4 million refugees are still in Turkey, Ankara protects half of all Syrian nationals.
That fact alone shows that the U.S. and the EU should support the reconstruction of safe zones. Turkey’s growing influence over Syria serves the West’s interests. They cannot protect their vested interests in Syria with the help of the YPG – an armed group bound to be destroyed.
[Daily Sabah, March 18 2021]