The deal sees the Kurds unilaterally handing over Kurdish-held territories, including two important cities, Ein Al-Arab (Kobani) and Manbij, both in Aleppo province, to the central government to rule. This means Turkey’s invasion of these regions would be a direct attack on the Syrian army. This would make any Turkish attack on such lands more controversial, and also raises the possibility of Russia intervening in support of the Damascus government.
At any rate, any move to destabilize these cities and other areas would lead to yet another humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. Syria has come a long way to be where it is now. There is no need for Turkey to change the rules of the game, at a time when the country needs humanitarian aid and reconstruction efforts, not another quagmire for foreign forces to roam.
As Turkey’s operation in North Syria wages on, Trump proclaims on Twitter that he wants to end “needless wars!” On the other hand, the broader American political system and foreign policy order continues to criticize him as the crisis in the country unfolds, with Ankara having already shelled US positions allegedly by accident, with civilians displaced and reports circulating concerning the attempted escape of the ISIL prisoners.
This builds into a wider point concerning American foreign policy that the Middle East is an endless quagmire and distraction to its broader agenda which drains its focus, resources and manpower. In some ways, it is self-defeating, because the aftermath of many US interventions have in fact merely laid the foundations for a new crisis.
Whilst Trump green lighted Turkey’s invasion as a distraction from his own political struggles, in doing so, he has deliberated a death kneel to his own foreign policy agenda. Washington has fallen into the Middle East hole again. In the past 30 years alone, the US has undertaken the following pursuits in the Middle East:
In 1991, it joined a UN coalition of forces in the Persian Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s annexation. Throughout the 1990s, it then sought to maintain a no-fly zone and maximum sanctions against Iraq which involved continuous air missions. Then in 2001, the war on terror became a new turning point laying the premise for a new war in Iraq whereby Saddam’s regime was forcibly deposed.
This was where the real detrimental consequences began: The removal of Saddam’s statist Arab nationalist regime unleashed an undercurrent of Sunni radicalism which led to the rise of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. This would not only ensure the US military presence in the country, but eventually such would evolve into the group ISIL, thriving from instability in neighboring Syria, where the US sought to support anti-government rebels. The result paved way for the illegal intervention of the US and its allies yet again, thus leading the US to where it is today.
The history is extensive. However, there is one clear message: that is, repeated military interventions have not been the antidote for infections within the Middle East. Instead they have been the virus and infection. Repeatedly and excessively, Washington has rendered itself incapable of understanding regional sensitivities, including complex ethnic and sectarian divisions within state structures, which have only been further empowered by chaos, instability and opting for conflict.
Which is why the Middle East vicious cycle of crisis and chaos induced at the hands of Washington continues to spin. It is not yet clear if Trump has sought to fully recalibrate US foreign policy or ordered the retreat to simply distract attention from his own impeachment at home in light of the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria. But if his claim about “ending needless wars” proves to be true, then he should be given credit for being smart and realistic since unlike the deep state, Trump has in effect come to vividly see and realize the increasing vulnerabilities and shrinking limits of the US power.