Photo: Tire blockades were ignited in Ras al-Ain, Syria in order to provide smoke cover against Turkish aerial attacks.
By Jennifer Kelly and Mike Talavera
[Editor’s note: the article has been updated to clarify that Trump was not “rolled” by Erdoğan and that the Turkish offensive, which contributes to the Balkanization of the region and further destabilizes it, is in the interests of US imperialism. Furthermore, the seamless coordination of the US withdrawal quickly followed by the Turkish assault shows that the US had been part of the planning behind this attack for some time. It also must be clarified that Turkey is not an imperialist state but a semi-colonial and semi-feudal one dominated primarily by US imperialism. While Turkey occupies most of Kurdistan, Kurdistan is not a colony of Turkey.]
Yesterday, fascist Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan officially declared a military invasion of northeastern Syria with the aim of decimating Kurdish forces there, primarily the revisionist Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syrian extension of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), and its People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria,” Erdoğan said via Twitter this morning. “Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area.”
At time of publication, at least 16 Kurdish fighters have been killed and dozens of civilian casualties have been reported around the cities of Serêkaniyê, Gire Spî, and Qamişlo after the region was hit by F-16 fighter jets and howitzer artillery shells. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) General Commander Komutanı Mazlum Ebdî said that “if the Turkish Army attacks anywhere, there will be total war.”
Thousands have fled northern Syria in wake of the initial assault, many leaving everything they have to escape the destruction.
In Turkey, members of parliament associated with the Kurdish-sympathetic People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were taken into custody, and at least 78 people have been detained for sharing social media posts about the military operation.
The “Syrian National Army” referred to by Erdoğan in his announcement is not affiliated with the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, but a coalition of mostly Islamist mercenary groups backed by Turkey whose primary base of political unity is antagonism towards the Kurdish nation. This coalition emerged during the 2016 Operation Euphrates Shield and has assisted Turkey in coordinating offensives against Kurdish forces ever since.
Ahead of these plans, the US announced Sunday that it would be removing all of its military personnel from the area. The world’s sole hegemonic imperialist superpower’s has acted up until now as a mediator between Turkey and the Kurdish-led SDF, the former a NATO ally and the latter a key on-the-ground ally in Syria.
A US National Security Council official has told bourgeois media that the withdrawal was not an independent decision but one made specifically to accommodate Turkey’s interests, based on a Sunday phone call between US President Donald Trump and Erdoğan.
“President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something,” the National Security Council official said.
During the call, Erdoğan expressed his intent to launch a military invasion of Northern Syria to attack the “terrorist” Kurdish forces, which Turkey has long linked to the armed revisionists of the PKK in Turkey. Despite the “alarm” sounded by this official, Erdoğan certainly does not have any real power over Trump. While Trump’s domestic opponents (primarily the Democrats but also many Republicans when it comes to this issue) have cited this phone call as a sign of weakness, the troop withdrawal should be seen as a premeditated maneuver to use Turkey as a proxy to attack the former US allies, the PYD.
It should be noted that the Kurdish nation within the Turkish state makes up approximately a third of Turkey’s geographic territory and contains tens of millions of people. The Kurdish nation is rich with natural resources and is consequently subject to harsh national oppression. The Turkish state uses the perceived threat of Kurdish national liberation as a pretext to invade Kurdish areas in Syria and Iraq and have even given passes to ISIL militants when they directly attack Kurdish targets.
With this military operation, like the one in Afrin a year ago, Turkey seeks to continue its policy of genocide and displacement against the Kurdish Nation. The Turkish state is open about its desire to remove, with force, all Kurdish forces (and likely many or all Kurdish people) from the region and resettle it with Syrian refugees that currently live in Turkey. By removing Kurds from the regions around its borders and replacing them with Arab and Turkic refugees and settlers, Turkey hopes to expand its territory and to strike a blow against the Kurdish nation and the Kurdish struggle for national liberation.
The SDF called the move a betrayal by the US and said in a statement that they would not hesitate to defend themselves and their country from “Turkish aggression.” For the past few years, the YPG and SDF have acted as proxy forces for US Imperialism in Syria and the wider region, but as their usefulness wanes with the collapse of the so-called Islamic State, they have been discarded for the more valuable geopolitical proxy of Turkey, a relationship contested by US opponents Russia and China. Turkey’s recent deals with these other imperialist powers has compelled the US to push harder for this military operation.
US imperialism never had any investment in the struggle of the Kurdish national liberation. By making a deal with US imperialism, the PYD/PKK, YPG, and SDF have only led the Kurds to the slaughter. If the US had not betrayed them now, it still would have been only a matter of time.
As US imperialism continues to use, dominate, and abandon whoever and whichever forces come in and out of usefulness, its reactionary and unstable nature becomes more apparent to the world’s peoples.
Imperialism and its proxies, US or otherwise, are no friend to the Kurdish nation, nor are revisionists or opportunists. But it does have friends. Those around the world who fight for national liberation, fight against imperialism, and fight for New Democracy all have a stake in the Kurdish resistance to this new Turkish offensive. As imperialism continues to make trouble, this new wave of revolution rises.