KT Edit: Turkish campaign in Syria could spark larger regional conflict

Published: Sun 13 Oct 2019, 10:31 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Oct 2019, 12:32 AM

The die is cast. The US has shown its reluctance to stay in northeast Syria, on the border with Turkey, and Ankara has been emboldened in its campaign against the Kurds who have been the heavy hitters in the war against Daesh. All it took was a phone call by US President Donald Trump to Turkish President Recep Erdogan last week. The US president has, since then, appeared to change his mind but Ankara is unlikely to pull back from its offensive into Syrian territory. It's received the final nod, the licence to make forays against the Kurds, which has sparked off a humanitarian crisis. The plan is to create a deep 'safe zone' that would shield Turkey from insurgency and provide space for relocation of more than three million Syrians refugees who have been calling Turkey their home for the last few years. The Turkish economy is understandably under strain and suffers from refugee fatigue. However, launching such an offensive would do little to alleviate its economic woes. On the contrary, this campaign only makes an unstable situation go further south to a point of no return.
It's been five days since the attacks and more than 150,000 Syrians have already fled their homes. They are scared for their future, and are not sure of whom to trust. The Kurds in particular feel betrayed. They had fought valiantly with the US to weed out Daesh from Syria, and had thousands of members of the extremist group in their custody. They assumed the Trump administration would have their back, but the US has let them down, and now Kurds are no longer guarding the prisons. More than 700 affiliates of Daesh have already escaped. The group could use this opportunity to gather strength and revive its decaying network. The UAE has called upon Turkey and other foreign forces to withdraw from Syria and to seek a political solution. War is not a solution, dialogue is. The plan to pull out American troops creates vacuum, a space for a Turkey that is using excessive force to wrestle back territory from the Kurds, who it considers a terror group.
What results the diplomatic pressure will yield is anybody's guess. Russia's role will be keenly watched as Europe tries to salvage the situation. But without putting military troops on the ground the EU can only pay lip service. The UN remains toothless as it struggles for funding. The world should choose between the trustworthy Kurds or the second coming of Daesh. The battle is about morality and it strikes at the heart of diplomacy.

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