Turkey invaded northeastern Syria on Wednesday, days after President Trump appeared to green light the operation in a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Trump justified his decision in a desire to counter “endless wars.” Some supporters of his decision also argue that Turkey’s grievances against Syrian Kurds were legitimate given Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) insurgency inside Turkey. The problem with this argument is that Turkey can show no terrorist attack in recent years launched from Kurdish-held territory inside Syria.
To the contrary, the local Kurdish administration secured the Turkish border. Turkey’s proponents also twist the truth when they argue that Syrian Kurds were separatist (they sought not independence but federalism within Syria) or that war was necessary to achieve peace and security. Turkey refused for the past several years to renew peace talks with Kurdish parties inside and outside Turkey, arrested Kurdish elected leaders who challenged Erdoğan, razed Kurdish towns inside Turkey such as Cizre, Sur, and Nusaybin to the ground, and ethnically cleansed the Afrin district in Syria.
For U.S. security, Trump’s move is a disaster. It resurrects the Islamic State and al Qaeda threat, empowers the Islamic State’s greatest enabler, and gives Iran an opening to expand its reach by forcing the Kurds into Bashar Assad’s embrace. As the invasion unfolded, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on CNN Türk that Turkey would now “make a deal with ISIS.”
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