Turkey: About that ceasefire... not so fast

Wasn’t this supposed to be all settled by now? With the multiple countries cooperating hand-in-hand to take out Baghdadi, one might have gotten the impression that everything was all kumbaya and coming up roses in the northern region of Syria. Well, leave it to our “ally” Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stink things up like the toad at the garden party. Apparently he’s not satisfied with the rate at which some of the Syrian Kurdish fighters are abandoning the area and his troops will be on the hunt again soon if they don’t make good with their escape. (WaPo)

Turkey’s foreign minister says his country’s military will attack any Syrian Kurdish fighter that remains along the border area in northeast Syria after a deadline for them to leave expires.

Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Monday Russian and Syrian officials provided information that some Kurdish fighters had pulled out of the border area, but others still had not. The Kurdish withdrawal is in line with a Russian-Turkish agreement reached last week.

The Syrian Kurdish fighters have until 3 p.m. GMT Tuesday to pull back to positions about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Turkish border.

My first reaction to this announcement was to wonder why the Russians weren’t stepping in to keep the shooting to a minimum. After all, they were the ones who actually brokered the current ceasefire and sent the various combatants back to their respective corners. But it turns out that the Russians are in on this agreement. The Kurds have until tomorrow afternoon (10:00 am east coast time in America) to make good their departure plans or Erdogan’s forces will begin removing them by other methods. (Most likely involving body bags.) And the Russians are apparently okay with it.

Then again, the Kurds agreed to this, at least in theory. Or perhaps their public statements weren’t shared by all of the fighters who have made their homes there for generations and this is a splinter group of fighters who plan to make some sort of last stand. Either way, it doesn’t sound promising.

Will there actually be peace in this region when all of these shifts and adjustments are complete? Possibly. And I suppose peace is better than continued bloodshed in the long view.

But was this the sort of peace we were hoping for when all of this began? This was a region that was largely dominated by a NATO member and ally only a few years ago. Syria was a mess and Bashar al-Assad is a dictatorial madman, to be sure, but it was looking like he might be on the way out and the Syrian people might have found the chance to eventually rebuild their country on a more freedom-based model. Iraq was still anticipated to be at least relatively friendly with a government that was open to western ideals. Iran was largely contained and Russia was nowhere to be seen.

Fast forward to 2019. Turkey is now essentially a Russian client state run by a dictatorial tyrant and is violating protocols and norms expected of a NATO member. Assad seems to be back firmly in control of at least two-thirds of his country and is still slaughtering his detractors with abandon. The Russians have what appears to be a permanent warm water port at Tartus and jointly control the entire northern border of Syria. Iraq is looking to boot us out entirely and is growing closer and closer to Iran.

So yes, there seems to be peace on the way. But perhaps really not the peace we were envisioning throughout all of this chaos. I still find it difficult to call this a situation where we’re walking away with a win.