Trump Under Fire Over Syria Evacuation: The Complexities of Funding Proxy Fighters Tied to the Terrorist Kurdish Workers Party

On October 9, 2019, Turkey launched a long-planned offensive into northern Syria to combat Kurdish terrorist forces tied to the communist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). President Trump, aware of fears of a potential genocide given Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pledge to crush Kurdish separatism inside Anatolia where Turkey’s border lies, vowed to ‘obliterate’ the Turkish economy if its NATO ally from Ankara attempts to carry out a massacre of Kurdish civilians inside Syria. The president issued the warning after his sudden and controversial decision to withdraw from the war-ravaged country sparked fears of widespread genocide.

History is destined to be repeated a century after World War I: a war some historians suggest solved nothing other than an uneasy armistice for 20 years. In Syria, a land once part of the long-defunct Ottoman Empire, the intervening Russian military accused ‘terrorists’ aligned with neighboring Turkey of firing a second round of rockets at their airbase in its northern region near the Turkish border in May with the first incident involving 17 rockets and the second, four at the ‘Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria’. Russia, who since the height of the Soviet Union maintains its sphere of influence over Damascus, claims Syrian government forces successfully repelled three attacks by the Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda of Syria, which merged with the Islamic State of Iraq/Al-Qaeda of Iraq in April 2013 to form the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Moscow claims that these militants loyal to the regime in Ankara involved some 500 militants.

In September 2018, Russia and Turkey signed a deal to prevent a Syrian regime offensive into Idlib province, where the Nusra Front/ISIS is located. Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States which controls Idlib, was supposed to keep the militants away from the front line behind a buffer zone. However, it appears the Nusra Front/ISIS seeks to provoke Assad and Russia into a larger attack, with hopes that Moscow and Turkey might end up in a conflict shortly after Ankara had recently announced plans to acquire the Russian-made S-400 air defense system from Moscow ― a point of disdain and anger out of fellow NATO allies and in particular, the Trump administration. It is certain that these rebel forces at Idlib seek to spoil the Turkey-Russia deal, though far less is known of the implications between the American-Turkish stand-off over the matter of a new, Free Kurdistan nation and Ankara’s role in the migrant crisis in the European Union. It is also clear that Washington does not want a conflict in Idlib, nor more refugees pouring into Turkey, which seeks membership into the European Union. The U.S. is also concerned about the Syrian regime under Bashar al-Assad’s continued employment of chemical weapons. Russian state media (Russia Today) may also be playing this up to send a message to Turkey that it needs to rein in the rebels and stop the rockets, or face dire consequences, as Russia has done through manufactured invasions since 1992 in Grozny, Dagastan, Chechnya, South Ossetia and now the former republics of Georgia and Ukraine. In that case, Russia is also making it clear that the Idlib tensions need to be reduced. With Russo-Turkish ties increasing over the S-400 deal and energy deals, both Ankara and Moscow have claimed that they do not want a war over Syria.

Syria Territories

Map of regions in Syria under occupation, and by whom.

Once the Arab Spring reached Syria on 26 January 2011, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children fled as refugees, with as many as 470,000 killed by either Assad’s forces, the Nusra Front, or ISIS. Both Russia and Syria aligned with Iraq and Iran to form the Russia–Syria–Iran–Iraq coalition (RSII coalition, or 4+1, in which “plus one” refers to Hezbollah of Lebanon) as a joint intelligence-sharing cooperation based in Damascus and Iraq’s Green Zone in Baghdad at the end of September 2015 to “help and cooperate in collecting information about the terrorist Daesh group” (ISIS) in combating the advances of the group as well as “the increasing concern from Russia about thousands of Russian terrorists committing criminal acts within ISIS.” During the early days of the operation, the Russian Air Force agreed to provide air cover for the Syrian Armed Forces, Iran’s ground forces, and other allied militias. Consequently, the U.S., NATO and Arab allies criticized the coalition, claiming most airstrikes during its first week of the campaign struck rebel groups opposed to both Assad and ISIS.

Judicial Watch published formerly classified documents from the U.S. Department of Defense revealing the agency’s earlier views on ISIS, namely that they were a desirable presence in Eastern Syria in 2012 and that they should be ‘supported’ in order to isolate the Syrian regime. The following seven pages detail the process for how President Obama ordered the creation of ISIS, in a joint effort with NATO and numerous allies. Judicial Watch procured these documents via the Freedom of Information Act (1993). Those documents are found below.

[scribd id=294474044 key=key-XwHZK8XY0oIsl4GWTyNM mode=scroll]

Documentation Released Apri… by Jonathan Henderson on Scribd

The conflict, in the wake of Syria and Russia collaborating to gas a village that included children among the dead and a U.S. airstrike at an airfield where those weapons were stored, have changed things forever.

Kurdistan Workers Party

The official and current flag of the Kurdistans Workers’ Party (PKK), a communist terror organization located in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The Russo-Turkish rivalry is not new, nor is Syria’s ties to both Russia and Turkey and before that, the progenitor of both nations, the Roman Empire (both in Rome itself and later, Constantinople). It emerged in 1676 over Moscow’s thirst to establish a warm-water port on the Black Sea, in Crimea, as well as the region comprising of modern Ukraine west of the Dnieper River, and would follow with conflicts in 1688 and 1689. Though these early conflicts ended in defeat for the Russians, by the war of 1695–96, Tsar Peter the Great’s forces successfully captured the fortress of Azov. It was here the Russian Empire’s design for territorial expansion to provide additional buffer zones and sea lanes into the Mediterranean by way of the Bosporus Strait (dividing Constantinople and Europe from Anatolia) began and, by 1878, ended with the Ottoman Empire on the brink of total collapse. The rivalry, even after the two empires’ collapsed following World War I, remains alive and well, and on the brink of war over the stand-off in Syria, and a potential confrontation with NATO.

One thing is certain regarding President Trump’s decision to remove America’s troops from Syria: whatever offensive Turkey plans against forces tied to the PKK in northern Syria, it will reflect somehow on Trump’s legacy with respect to foreign policy if the operation results in a broader regional conflict. Out of 1,000 military advisers located in the region, only 50 were located at the border. Given Turkey will likely deploy thousands of troops into the area, it is unlikely that 1,000 advisers, let alone 50 of our servicemen located at the border, could stop a sudden attack that extends deeper into Syria. For those not aware, the PKK has been classified a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization’ by the State Department since October 8, 1997. In a larger sense, American foreign policy in Syria has been to illegally fund terrorists tied to Al-Qaeda to fight both the Assad regime in Syria and later, ISIS. It was this policy which ultimately led to the creation of what is today the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. To defeat them, the U.S. government directly funded a communist terror organization to fight for Washington’s goals, but with their blood.

The matter that it is the Kurds who are threatening to release 15,000 ISIS fighters into their own region suggests that Kurdish forces are not fighting for the purposes of their own people’s survival as they are for a homeland which spans portions of four countries, including Turkey. The PKK furthermore have remained backed (at least indirectly) by Russia during its offensive as proxy fighters on behalf of NATO, with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan allegedly trained by Russia’s KGB-FSB. Furthermore, on December 22, 2016, a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed that the HPG, the armed wing of the PKK, and the YBS, a Yazidi militia affiliated with the PKK, had actively been recruiting child soldiers to fight both ISIS and launch targets on civilian populations in Turkey since 2015, with more than 29 cases documented and allegations that some children were under 15 — a war crime under international law. Turkish authorities claimed that four members of the organization, who handed themselves over to authorities after escaping from camps in northern Iraq, claimed they had seen two U.S. armored vehicles deliver weapons, further stoking suspicions about U.S. foreign policy in Iraq. The arms were claimed to be part of Blackwater Worldwide. The U.S., according to Turkish Daily News, along with the PKK, denied these claims.

Why else would the Kurds be holding the U.S. hostage on this issue by threatening to release the very fighters who were killing their people when there is no moral justification by them to place their own people at risk? For two years, Trump actually increased funding and shipments of arms into Kurdish-occupied territories for the purpose of fighting ISIS, but it remains unclear whether they have used what we have provided to attack Turkey’s civilian population. This implies that the Kurds do not need U.S. forces to maintain prison facilities housing ISIS. How can our government justify trusting a Kurdish civil authority largely undergirded by terrorists which are also allies of Russia? Likewise, what may come of the Kurds under an illegitimate Turkish occupation should Erdogan break his promise to Trump not to expand the operation into a wider regional conflict, or engage in a massacre of the civilian population?

Now, 45 years after the last conflict with fellow NATO ally Greece over the fate of Cyprus ended in Turkish victory, Turkey is looking at another war with rival Greece over the same question, with altercations between the two belligerents having taken place within the Aegean Sea over the Dodecanese Islands, which hold a demilitarized status according to the 1947 Treaty of Paris and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Erdogan no longer recognizes the internationally-binding agreement, as he wants Athens to return the islands previously ceded to Greece. Athens, meanwhile, claims that Turkey did not agree to those terms in Paris, and that the demilitarized status lost its relevance with the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

The United States presently have three aircraft carriers in the Aegean Sea tasked to deescalate tensions between Turkey and Greece over disputed islands as well as Cyprus, which number at roughly 9,000 servicemen and women. Aside Trump’s vow to destroy Turkey’s economy should this expand into a broader regional conflict, he should consider air strikes against Turkish military bases inside Anatolia if this offensive expands beyond what President Erdogan told Trump.

Alas, the truth, usually painful, stranger, and more prophetic than fiction, nevertheless finds itself repeated once more.

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