The invasion of N. Syria and its aftermath: Militarism and more suffering

30.10.2019 – Redazione Italia

The invasion of N. Syria and its aftermath: Militarism and more suffering

by Serdar M. Değirmencioğlu

As the invasion got underway on October 9, Süleyman Soylu, the Minister of Interior was on television. Seated across several regime-friendly journalists who were very enthusiastic about the invasion, he appeared to enjoy every moment: He was grinning and posturing. His words were even more stunning.

In response to questions about the ISIS threat, he laughed: “Don’t you worry. Nothing will happen.” A journalist asked: “What if we encounter an ISIS camp, or militants? What is going to happen when they are captured? Will we take them to court? Send them back? Or annihilate them?” The minister continued, with a wide smile on his face: “Look, Europe is terrified. They are scared. The world is totally afraid of them. They have no option but to cooperate with us. Take it easy! Relax!”

The minister’s disturbing behavior was not surprising. He used to be an outspoken critic of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, when he was heading the Democratic Party. He called him a sultan, among other things. But then he was recruited by Erdoğan and installed as Minister of the Interior in 2016. Since then, he distinguished himself with his outrageous attacks on the opposition.

The journalists did not try to clarify who the minister was referring to when he said, “They have to cooperate with us.” The minister downplayed the threat of ISIS but argued that his government had been waging a sincere effort against ISIS for years.

His words were consistent with the words of Ahmet Davutoğlu. Davutoğlu was always very gentle to ISIS. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, he referred to ISIS in August 2014 as “angry masses.” He said, on television: “ISIS might be seen as, in its core, as a radical, terrorist structure. But in it, it has Iraqi Turkmen as a considerable majority. It has Sunni Arabs, Kurds. The frustrations, the insults, all the anger created a huge reaction among masses. If Sunni Arabs were not excluded from power in Iraq, there wouldn’t be such a buildup of rage. When we told Assad that he could not rule Syria representing an ethnic minority of just 12%, that Syria belonged to all ethnic groups, he did not listen. Had he listened, none of this would have happened.”

Davutoğlu never blamed the US invasion for ISIS because AKP (Justice and Development Party) supported the invasion of Iraq. Davutoğlu was a proponent of the new-Ottomanism – of turning Turkey into a “regional power”, in effect, an imperialistic state. The invasion of Iraq and the civil war in Syria were part of his vision.

External observers wondered why Davutoğlu was trying to put a nice face on ISIS. First as Minister of Foreign Affairs and then as Prime Minister, Davutoğlu knew ISIS could serve his government’s plans. But he always denied that his regime was offering a helping hand to ISIS recruits, who were trying to reach Syria: “Those who say ISIS is being supported by Turkey are traitors. The greatest treason is to mention Turkey along with this organized structure.”

Davutoğlu was recently sacked from Erdoğan’s AKP. He now says he is willing to talk about some dirty business. But he will not tell the truth about ISIS. He was part of the regime and bears direct responsibility for the regime’s crimes against humanity.

The truth? ISIS was supported and sheltered. It was used externally and internally. Back in March 2014, three ISIS militants, recruited from Germany, Switzerland and Macedonia, were traveling by car from Syria to Istanbul with weapons, ready to stage an attack. When they were stopped in Niğde, they killed a gendarme and a police officer, and also a truck driver. The court case against them was hidden from public attention. Investigation after investigation, the regime concealed the facts from the public. ISIS militants were traveling freely in Turkey. Near the border with Syria, their presence was common knowledge. ISIS found a very welcoming host in the AKP regime.

The domestic role of ISIS became more important after June 2015 elections: HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) took 13% of the votes, obtained 80 seats in the parliament and AKP lost its majority. Two ISIS bomb attacks followed: The first, on 20 July in Suruç, killed 33 people. The target were socialist youth, who were about to leave for Kobane, across the border. The second, on 10 October in Ankara, targeted activists and organizations demanding peace. The attack not only killed 103 people and maimed many, but also traumatized masses. The attack also effectively maimed the political will to demand peace in Turkey and in Syria.

These attacks were part of the “strategy of death” the AKP regime put in place after the 2015 elections. The strategy meant a war in Southeastern Turkey and a silencing of the opposition across Turkey. Foreign analysts and observers have been reluctant to establish the link between ISIS and AKP’s domestic agenda. Very few ever ask why ISIS has never targetted a single AKP building, event or political figure.

Now it is time to put the pieces together. Turkey is suffering under the “strategy of death”, conceived by AKP and fully supported by the fascist MHP (Nationalist Movement Party). The one-man regime in Turkey has nothing but death to rely on. The regime is collapsing and this is it is trying more and more drastic tactics to blind masses. The invasion is not about Syria but about the survival of the regime. This is why the minister of the interior, and not the foreign minister, is promoting it.

The invasion is not due to a mad man’s action or to Trump’s irresponsible foreign policy. It is far more structural and dangerous. Human life in Turkey has no value anymore. Each death is propaganda material: Dead soldiers are cherished “martyrs”; dead Kurds mean “victory”. Just like Syrian refugees in Turkey, who are used as a threat against EU governments. The regime used ISIS to silence the domestic opposition. It will not be afraid of releasing ISIS militants from prisons to eradicate its opponents – again.

But there is more at stake. This invasion and ensuing power play by Trump and Putin are nothing but militarism. These superpowers and their militarisms are as real threat: Not only for the Kurds, but also for all those who live in Turkey, Syria and the entire region, and for the entire world. The invasion is unacceptable, no matter what Trump or Putin might say. Militarism can never usher peace. It can only perpetuate the suffering.

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