Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an invasion of northeast Syria last week in order to bring to heel the Syrian Kurdish population there. While claiming that the purpose of Turkey’s operation was to root out Kurdish “terrorists,” Erdogan has unleashed his own brand of terror upon residents of a neighboring sovereign state. At the same time, the operation has brought about the escape of reportedly hundreds of ISIS terrorists held by the Syrian Kurds in prisons and camps, which the Kurds were not longer able to adequately guard.
Erdogan’s military operation has reportedly displaced at least 160,000 people so far and put many more civilians in harm’s way. At least 38 civilians in Syria have been killed to date since the latest wave of Turkish aggression began. Turkish forces bombarded towns on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey and, with their Syrian allies, have seized large portions of a northern Syrian town six miles from the border. Erdogan has threatened that his military operation will extend at least as deep as 18 to 21 miles into Syrian territory.
“We are now fighting on two fronts — one front against the Turkish invasion and a front against” the Islamic State, a Kurdish military official, Redur Xelil, told reporters on Saturday, as quoted by the New York Times. To fill the void left by the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the area, the Kurds have turned to the Syrian government for help. “In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” the Kurdish administration said in a statement. The agreement reportedly includes the Kurds’ commitment to turn over territory they still currently control to the Assad regime in return for the Syrian government’s military assistance, possibly with Russian support. Syrian troops are said to have arrived at Kurdish-held towns that are presently under threat of a Turkish assault.
Erdogan has strongly rejected criticisms of his aggressive actions, which have come not only from Europe, the United States and the Arab League, but also even from Russia and Iran. The Trump administration is moving towards imposing sanctions on Turkey, while France and Germany have announced a halt of arms sales to Turkey. Erdogan remains unbowed.
“After we launched our operation, we have faced threats like economic sanctions and embargoes on weapons sales,” Erdogan declared. “Those who think they can make Turkey turn back with these threats are gravely mistaken.” He added, “We will absolutely finish the job we started. Our battle will continue until ultimate victory is achieved.”
Aside from his reliance on Turkey’s military forces and bombardments, including the bombing of a convoy of foreign journalists and aid workers that led to several civilian deaths, Erdogan has used Syrian Arab fighters to do some of his dirty work. Turkish-allied militia executed nine civilians, including a female politician. “The nine civilians were executed at different moments south of the town of Tel Abyad,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. One Kurdish prisoner in civilian clothes was lying on the ground with his hands tied behind his back when he was shot several times at close range by two assailants on Saturday, while their comrades shouted “Allahu Akbar.” This slaughter itself is a war crime.
When Israel defends itself against real and persistent terrorist attacks, including the launching of thousands of rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza aimed directly at Israeli civilian population centers, the United Nations singles out Israel for harsh condemnation. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has shown no reluctance in the past to criticize Israel and its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for supposedly violating “international law” by building settlements in the contested West Bank. But Turkey’s assault on Kurds living in Syria, causing mass displacements of Kurds from their homes and resulting in the Turkish occupation of several villages on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey, has not led so far to any comparable UN condemnation of the Erdogan regime for its atrocities.
According to Secretary General Guterres’ chief spokesman, the secretary general has not yet picked up the phone to talk with Erdogan personally to convey the UN’s concerns over the humanitarian crisis caused by the Turkish invasion. Instead, the spokesman for the secretary general issued a bland statement on Monday, which read in part: “The Secretary-General is gravely concerned over the military developments in northeast Syria, which have already reportedly resulted in many civilian casualties and the displacement of at least 160,000 civilians. He continues to urge for maximum restraint and stresses that any military operation must fully respect international law, including the UN Charter and international humanitarian law. The Secretary-General calls for immediate de-escalation and urges all parties to resolve their concerns through peaceful means.”
The statement fails to attribute fault to the one party that launched an unprovoked cross-border attack against Kurdish residents living in Syria, including the Kurds who helped defeat ISIS. Only one party failed to respect the UN Charter by invading northeast Syria. That would be the Erdogan regime. Only one party has violated international humanitarian law by bombarding a convoy carrying journalists as well as aid workers, resulting in civilian deaths. That would be the Erdogan regime. Only one party has refused to de-escalate its aggressive attacks and enter into negotiations. That too would be the Erdogan regime. Only one party has committed a war crime. Again, that would be the Erdogan regime through its militant proxies. Yet all that the UN at its highest levels has done so far is to call for restraint from both sides, as if the aggressor and the victims were equally responsible for the violence racking northeast Syria. Such moral equivalence is par for the course at the UN, except when the UN turns morality on its head and attacks Israel for defending its citizens against Palestinian terrorists.