US Makes Territorial Deal with Turkey in Syria

Photo: Turkish and US military vehicles in Northern Syria

By Jennifer Kelly

This past Wednesday the US and Turkey began the first phase of a plan to develop a “safe zone” in northern Syria. This puts a halt, at least for now, on Turkish plans for further incursion into the Kurdish-held territory in the north of Syria.

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Map depicting proposed “safety zone” currently being negotiated between the US and Turkey

There has been much consternation over the details of this safe zone, particularly how far into Syrian territory it should go. While Turkey is fighting for 40 kilometers, the US is presently only offering up 10 kilometers, with the Kurds wanting only 5 kilometers for the majority of the zone. According to Mazlum Kobane, chief commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), they have yet to agree to anything and are only willing to go beyond 5 kilometers in certain areas along the border, though it is unclear how much say they will actually have in the matter.

Mazlum Kobane
Mazlum Kobane, chief commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces

Turkey seeks to both annihilate the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and other Kurdish forces, due to their links to the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), but also to expand its territory to the old borders of the Ottoman Empire. The former is the perfect pretext to the latter, as the PKK have long been considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish state, and Erdogan is all too eager to leap on this chance expand the territorial claims of Turkey.

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fascist President of Turkey

The PKK is itself an eclectic, bourgeois organization, basing itself on the theories of its leader Abdullah Öcalan and seeking the creation of a Kurdish state. Though some in the US are sympathetic to the struggles of the YPG, particularly anarchists, the YPG in particular has been used for many years by the US as a proxy force in Syria, allowing it to advance the interests of US imperialism without an invasion of Syria.

Presently the US is trying to play off both its lackeys in Turkey and the Kurdish forces, seeking to use both to expand its influence in the region. Bit by bit, however, the US is giving up on the Kurdish forces, most notably with the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, a move that caused Secretary of Defense Mattis to resign, seeing it as a betrayal of US allies.

It appears the usefulness of Kurdish forces as a proxy is coming to a close, while Turkey’s position of loyalty in the increasingly shaky North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance seems much more valuable to US imperialism.

Ultimately, despite their “alliance” with the Kurdish forces, the US has no interest in the struggle of the Kurdish right to national self-determination. The YPG were a convenient tool for US Imperialism and indeed the PKK, with its eclectic ideology, offered no real solution for the Kurdish nation except subjection to the whims of imperialist powers.

And so the US expands its influence in the region, dividing territories and setting factions against each other for its own gain. The Syrian people and their national interest pay the price in this inter imperialist dispute, and the war rages on with their bodies piling up.

They are crushed between the world’s sole hegemonic superpower of the US and the lesser, secondary Russian Imperialism, unable to develop independently and determine their own course. The Kurdish national interest, likewise, is led astray by bourgeois ideology and US interests, only to be thrown to the wolves of fascist Turkey when they have been used up. US imperialism, the greatest enemy of the world’s people, only stirs up trouble wherever it goes, and ultimately digs its own grave in doing so.