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Is Turkey Serving Up Assad For Thanksgiving?


By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security

In a four hour long meeting, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discussed a transition of power in Syria. America has finally caved in to Turkey’s self-interested demands and their hunger to end Assad and Iran’s proxy for good. Turkey has vehemently assured the U.S.-led coalition that this refocus to regime change in Syria will be required in order in order to secure Turkey’s full support and cooperation in the war against the Islamic State (ISIL).

It could easily be argued that Syrian President Bashar al Assad is just as bad as any terrorist and even before the course of the civil war and his war crimes that followed, there were more human rights abuses than one could count in the terror state that he oversaw. Backed by Iran, Syria’s dictatorial leader remains a thorn in Turkey’s geopolitical as well as religious side. Russia is also a key player that longs to hold their remaining ports and economic and arms trade.

Turkey’s bold defiance to Washington and against directly helping the Kurds defend themselves in the city of Kobane while under siege by the ISIL equates them to a bystander to genocide. They did well to receive refugees as international law demands but they did not partake or assist in a mission of mercy in coordination with the allies. The world condemned Turkey’s decision not to act to save lives as a response. Then their tanks could be seen on display, parked on the border in a posture against the Kurds. Amidst Kurdish outrage and riots throughout the country, an airstrike took out some Kurdish militants the state claimed were attacking a base. Their next bizarre move was allow Kurdish Peshmerga militias in from Iraq and access through Turkish roads to the border city of Kobane, Syria, where they would assist in the defense of their ethnic cousins.

From the Turkish perspective, America encouraged a war against Assad initially several years ago that it failed to finish and that it should finish that first war before any other. A chemical weapons ban, agreed to by the Assad regime and brokered by Russia, stalled the conflict, that at its height, witnessed American warships and warplanes at the ready, awaiting the President Obama’s authorization to destroy the chemical weapons and other military targets of the Syrian government. Flash forward a year later and ISIL swells from ‘just another jihadists group’ and hundreds of fighters to the proto-caliphate it is today, with an estimated tens of thousands of fighters, billions of dollars.

At that point, America said, ‘Hey, Turkey, this ISIL is the biggest threat. Let’s take care of them first. This is a class one priority and a humanitarian imperative.’ This is when ISIL was genociding the Yazidi and advancing rapidly through Iraq. Then came Kobane.

Turkey’s response was, ‘Well, no. You backed out fighting Assad’s regime, we can’t trust you will not do the same thing here with ISIL as you did with Assad. Moreover, if we ever do agree to go-all-in, we want to take Assad out too and we need your help. Assad must go.’

Getting rid of Turkey’s support base for jihadists of ISIL will be a critical part. From Turkey’s perspective, Assad was tied to all of the rebels and jihadists that they have been supporting. Much of their conservative political base at home is against Assad and a strong minority of 30 percent do not feel that ISIL is a terrorist groups. Turkey and Arab Sunni states can be seen using the Sunni jihadist rebels against the Iranian sponsored Shiite dominated Alawite regime of Assad’s in Syria. Not only has Turkey been blasted by the international community for not cracking down on the ISIL jihadist highway, but for training and arming a lot of them that ended up in the ranks of ISIL today. There is also the illegal purchase of oil from ISIL by Ankara and many other examples of collusion or truce.

From the American perspective, there is not only the broader humanitarian crisis and larger threats of ISIL than Assad at play but also state interests of Iran, Russia and the regional geopolitics as well as the risk of appearing to choose sides in a broader sectarian war between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims. There is wisdom in prioritizing a defeat of ISIL before even attempting one of Assad. If Assad is removed, ISIL will also take Damascus in one fell swoop. Jordan and Lebanon would also have to move forces in-country and stabilize a post-Assad with Turkey and perhaps a larger international military effort. Does America really want another Iraq or Libya? Can they afford to fit the bill for more nation building?

If any deal is made between Washington and Ankara this month to remove Assad from power, then Ankara’s leaders may be celebrating a warped variant of Thanksgiving.



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