Kurds and whey
If there's any Turkish, Turkmen, Kurdish, or Arab Jedi, I'd be keen to hear your opinions on the war and specifically Turkey's foreign policy.
Communities make jokes about Daesh as being the bogeymen who steal your buckets; or put a hole in the roof - they are the butt of every joke; I've never heard anyone speak of them as a legitimate form of government - and yet I hear it being spoken of in a "Western" context so often. I don't like it when I hear this. I personally think that's dangerous. It legitimises - which is what they want.... but the complexities of the debate are beyond me - I fear there is only one model for discussion though; so they've been "made" a state so negotiations can happen - rather than remembering they're behaving criminally, and need police, rather than politicians. Life goes on as normally as you can make it do so; even with gunfire ringing the air 30/20/10km away. Stories from the displaced; who've stayed beyond that proximity to a battle front - They feel no-one in particular is shooting at them; but because every party involved is shooting, effectively randomly, in the space you happen to have the misfortune of physically occupying, the result is that EVERYBODY is shooting at you. There are no good or bad guys on the ground. You've no options left but to run; or stay; but in a complete state of utter and abject fear; until the fighting stops.
Again; I am not speaking as a member of a group. I can't possibly summarise a national or racial label as an individual - but my personal, ill informed opinions are that "Turkey" doesn't like "Kurds"; but they can't do as much about "Iraqi" Kurds as they can about the ones who are closer at hand... And I personally think the term "terrorist" is being misused - not just by Turkey. I feel it's become a convenient excuse for nation states (since 9/11 particularly) to justify horrific acts of violence, while getting international approval and support for doing just that. There was a very interesting interview that reminded me of the odd power given to the term "terrorist" to allow for "collateral damage" on Al Jazeera recently. It might be of interest. I think it keeps balance while challenging some ideas.
I'm sorry I've not addressed all your points - they're really good and interesting questions; but I feel unqualified to answer. I could put them to a couple of Journalist buddies who may know better, if you like.
I'll try to address your questions as best I can, with an American bias and some specific knowledge of the region. Nothing I may say is definitive, authoritative, or in some cases even well-informed So, fair warning. I don't think anyone has the whole answer sitting in front of them, but I'm willing to bet that if we take a look from the perspective of everyone willing to contribute, each of us can walk away with a better relief of the issues.
Rex wrote: Why are they ok with an independent Kurdistan in Iraq but not Rojava?
I don't take as granted that they ARE okay with an independent Kurdistan in Iraq. Besides dropping munitions in Iraq, they are currently conducting joint military operations alongside Iraq to strike Kurdish militias. An independent Kurdistan anywhere is not in their strategic interests, but they may be limited in preventing it because of certain international and regional dynamics. Turkey may not want to risk confrontation by advancing decisively into sovereign Iraq and putting itself at odds with the US. Sure, it has conducted some strikes, but nothing that catastrophically disrupts the Iraqi system. There are probably other reasons, but that's the first one that comes to my mind.
Rex wrote: Why did they support Al Nusra before it became Al-Sham?
So I have to mostly speculate here, but I guess almost everyone does, so here goes nothing. These organizations change names like sports jerseys, and declare leadership valid or invalid about like the weather. I think one of Turkey's strategic aims is to become somewhat of a hegemon in in the region. It'll use all means at its disposal to advance its interests - play nice with NATO where and when it needs the NATO security cloak. It'll leverage its strategic position with access to the Black Sea and several energy pipelines. One thing that Turkey doesn't mind is a divided near abroad. Al Nusra (or whatever jersey it's wearing this month) declared that it had no external affiliations. That works for Turkey. Al Sham, on the other hand, was rolled into part of a larger franchise. Similar to its Kurdish issue, it doesn't appreciate a 'unionized' collection of militant people it cannot control near it. Al Nusra may have been a free radical until a piece of it bought into the larger franchise.
Rex wrote: Why do they consider SDF forces (even non-Kurd ones) terrorists?
Again, I think it may come to Turkey not liking the idea of a defense force moving into its backyard. On a deeper level, in a lot of ways it is far easier to deal with an adversary who you've declared a terrorist - a criminal. Criminals are engaged and prosecuted very differently from lawful combatants. In this case, labeling them 'terrorists' makes them not just mistaken or working for another side...but illegal. They're then counter to law, civilization, and even reality itself. Criminals and terrorists also have no moral or ethical standing to establish their own government or sovereign state. Calling them anything else indirectly offers legitimacy.
Rex wrote: What is Ergodan's end-goal in terms of Syria? He's fought against Russian-supported SAA, against NATO-backed SDF, and against Islamists while also receiving support from each.
Turkey is playing for Turkey. It'll do what works for itself and discard what doesn't. In this case, I think Turkey is attempting to make sure no one really seizes an upper hand. Whomever has strategic interests in the area, Turkey cannot allow its regional concerns to play second fiddle.
Rex wrote: After (T)FSA losses attacking Manbij, why are they repeating the same strategy now in Afrin (especially when the world knows pretty certainly that Daesh/IS no longer exists in that area)?
I think it comes down to them wanting to make sure the Kurds can't strike at the Ceyhan-Kirkuk pipeline from across the Syrian border. That pipeline and several other projects favorable to Turkey would be directly threatened by Kurds if they held Afrin and Manbij.
Looking at it, it sounds pretty energy-centric, and may well be. But in this case, strategic actors see this not as oil/gas...but as a massive hinge of power and influence. If either the US or Russia sets down their intended projects, they can set favorable terms for the European oil market. Money talks AND walks, and over time combined monetary interests usually bring other interests into the fold as well...like defense.
Phew...this went on a bit and not where I entirely intended. Pick at some of this stuff to see if it jives/doesn't jive.
What do you think?
"The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity."
Twigga, I vaguely remember you saying you worked in Jordan, where else did you work in the ME?
That interview is also very interesting, because while many scandals did come out, it seems that the officers overseeing the grander strategy were incredibly held accountable. What do you think is the appropriate role for the US, Russia, and other outside forces?
Reacher, very solid points. Turkey's creation of the Turkic council really formed a bloc of moderate Islamic countries that often have a sort of love/hate relationship with Russia; given that their southern neighbors are prime real estate, it makes sense that they want to regulate and balance other foreign influences in Arab states. I guess I'm curious why Turkic countries are so against playing ball with Chechens, Armenians, or Kurds - none of whom represent an eminent threat to Turkish ambition.
Having the minute earlier FSA operating out of Turkey was fine, because they'd play ball, similar to Islamist groups; but having organization gave them a greater chance of not needing Turkish help (with all the strings attached). It does make sense that if a larger coalition was legitimatized by NATO, Turkey would find it's influence curtailed to the border areas.
I had no idea Turkey had a gas line running through Northern Syria, it makes much more sense that they'd try and protect their assets abroad, and ideally annex those areas.
So IMO using 'political or ideological aims' to define it seems silly as well, as most all legal war-fighting has political or ideological aims. And even using the theme of 'creating terror in the population to create instability in authority' is not really that useful either, as most all legal war-fighting creates the same terror and fears in the population. To my mind the most effective way to define terrorism is, yes the political or ideological aim BUT with the distinction that, the targeting is deliberately against civilians. Not only does this delineate it from legal war-fighting (both conventional and unconventional), but it also better reflects the main methods being used by groups we identify most clearly as terrorist.
So for example, say in Syria, only the groups which had conducted operations against civilians would be classified as terrorist, and therefore it would exclude the groups which are solely attacking the Assad Regime.
The biggest problem with my approach is that often the military likes to call an attack against it by a terrorist group as as terrorist attack - which is technically correct by my definition IF that group also targets civilians. But then you get some governments, media etc which ignore that important distinction, and just call anyone who attacks them as 'terrorists'!! Usually the ones doing that also are not conducting legal war-fighting so.... what can you do.
The benefit of this though, is it really can indicate that some governments are indeed terrorist organizations if they are deliberately targeting civilians...... or even blatantly ignoring proportionality, necessity and distinction, or just perhaps even if they are not demonstrating fair proportionality, necessity and distinction. But that last one would probably require access to information and processes which the public will never get.
Twigga wrote: I currently work in Jordan, Israel and Palestine, but now reside in Belgium; so a different set of issues to the ones you're discussing. The Levant is complicated, and I'm no military mastermind, nor university professor. But from a former resident perspective, the policing of criminals is different from war, and fewer people get displaced or killed. "War on terrorism"? A terrorist in Brussels would be arrested. That seems acceptable. I don't pretend to make sense of war. War is simply not a sensible choice in my book.
I think its the scope. I'd imagine an threat's size and spread gets viewed as an attribute of organization, and in a process of determining the level of commitment required to address that threat it would vary between an individual and a transnational criminal organisation. But also the unique nature of terrorist threats means targets are going to be more vulnerable, and more widespread, which means escalation potentials are probably quite different then legal war. In short, perhaps a war on terrorism could probably be called a war on illegal warfare.
The SAA for example has (as far as I know from SOHR) broken the principle of distinction and no malum in se means, but aren't terrorists because the Syrian government is a currently legitimate regime. Groups like the SDF become terrorists when they break rules because they are non-state actors. Since Syria is in a recognized civil war state, it kinda gives a little more credence to the SDF's legitimacy. Turkey calls everyone a terrorist besides the SAA and their FSA because the SDF and Daesh/IS aren't states and both present problems to Turkish Foreign Policy goals. Solid points on the "terrorist attack" vs "terrorist group" idea
I mean, yes Twigga, terrorism ideally should be dealt with by the government, but the Arab Spring started the Syrian Civil War, so now there isn't one. Belgium is a part of NATO (isn't the HQ located there too?) so while you're right in ideal conditions, your country is required to lend aid to its allies (which includes Turkey) when they're attacked. And ISIS, at its zenith, was large enough to be a country, so saying "not my problem" isn't a viable option.
Terrorism by non-state actors (or illegal state actors) has defined the last 30 years really, so while a lot of people get glum about using military force abroad, it has worked (Libya). Trying to motivate potential enemies to rapprochement is an imperfect art form.
Belgium. I have a residence card, not voting rights, but sure, "my country" - 'cause all countries are "our countries" if we care about them enough, I suppose. But I am painfully aware of how vast a topic "knowing a country" is. As I said from the outset, your questions are good, and interesting, but I am unqualified. I know my own feelings, but not my own opinion, because yes, I have had a go just war theory. My conclusion is that it would take a load more education; LOADS and loads; for me to get my head around war. It is, for me, that level of senseless. I think therefore it is fair, for me personally, to throw my arms up and say "not my skill set, I tried, can someone else in society please take this problem from me?"; and join peaceful protests against the arms trade. I don't think It's fair for me to say what my host country should determine is a just war or not; but there, perhaps I am not fully exercising my rights; and if so, I'm happy to have that pointed out.
I'm just tired, and exercising rights is hard work.
Idk if anyone else is interested in Middle Eastern politics, but a friend and I were discussing the Syrian Civil War and specifically Turkey's role in it.
After (T)FSA losses attacking Manbij, why are they repeating the same strategy now in Afrin (especially when the world knows pretty certainly that Daesh/IS no longer exists in that area)?
First as you can see I wanted to thank you for this post. I jumped on the forums early this morning with an interest for some reason in the political arena of the Middle East. And specifically the Syrian Civil war and Daesh .. not that the two in terms of current geopolitical events --however current they may be at any given moment are but I suppose I am just curious. What is the real status of Daesh as it had existed in the online arena? Are they still releasing frequent news documents . Their uhm .. catalogue as it were? /sigh and I would be remiss to say this without some level of authentic personal empathy towards the reader of my reply here but well --I was paying close attention to the group uhm how can I put this .. aside from it's public stereotype and more in regards to the name the Islamic State. I am a college graduate working on his second degree --probably would be called a moderate progressive liberal type and I do not want to offend any one at all but there was a significant effort as it seemed that this group was attempting to establish itself as a unifying faction in name and presence. These things won't go away, And of course the people and some measure of their cause must be considered in terms of any one considering the global political arena. Obviously their cause took on a quite noticeable facade due to the brutality that the world witnessed concerning many published articles. And by articles I'm identifying specifically their online snuff. What do you think?? Am I off base here. Are we to consider the group so splintered and "disrupted" as to call it a thing of the past.