Just days after reports that the Turks are using chemical weapons against the Kurds – including Kurdish civilian populations, President Trump announced that the U.S. will lift the sanctions on Turkey he imposed over Turkey’s operation against the Kurds in northern Syria due to the promise of a “permanent” ceasefire.
To date, the U.S. has not held the Turks responsible for the reported use of white phosphorous, a devastating burning agent prohibited by Protocol III of the Convention on the Prohibition of Use of Certain Conventional Weapons, much less violations of previous ceasefires.
The substance was reportedly dropped in bombs by Turkish forces on the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ayn.
Instead, Trump announced that because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised a “permanent” ceasefire, the sanctions would be lifted.
The above photo unfortunately shows what a ceasefire means to Turkey, as the man in the picture was injured entering Ras al-Ayn during an agreed upon “ceasefire.”
Although Trump said the sanctions would be reinstated if “something happens that we’re not happy with,” it remains to be seen if Turkey will comply. Moreover, will the Turkish-backed Syrian militias who joined the Turks in their operation against the Kurds will be held to the same standard?
The militias also failed to adhere to previous ceasefires and were responsible for horrific war crimes against the Kurds, including the murder of well-loved Kurdish-Syrian politician Hevrin Khalaf, 35, who they pulled out of her car and shot at point blank.
As with the first ceasefire that the Turks celebrated as a victory – since they were able to accomplish all of their goals (i.e., taking over a 30-kilometer (19-mile) “safe zone” inside Syria and cleanse the area of Kurds, who they view as their nemesis) — the lifting of American sanctions imposed on Turkish ministers will be seen as complete vindication of their actions.
That the Turks were able to strongarm the United States into abandoning its Kurdish allies and withdrawing from the area to facilitate a Turkish takeover of such a large swath of Syria is astonishing – especially considering the pretext of Erdogan’s offensive: to cleanse the area of “terrorists.”
Fact: Kurds have not launched a terror attack from the Syrian area that borders Turkey since 2012.
In addition, that the Trump administration could lift its sanctions on Turkey with the awareness of Turkish war crimes in unconscionable.
The same day the sanctions on Turkey were lifted, U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement Jim Jeffrey told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the U.S. was aware of acts of war crimes in northern Syria.
Using the classic technique of doublespeak, when asked if the U.S. is “aiding and abetting ethnic cleansing,” Jeffry answered, “We haven’t seen any widespread ethnic cleansing in that area since the Turks have come in. Many people fled because they’re very concerned about these Turkish-supported Syrian opposition forces.
“We’ve seen several incidents which we consider war crimes, but we have, as part of the agreement with a Turkey, specific language on the proper care of civilians and our monitoring responsibility that we have to work with the Turks to ensure that exactly that doesn’t happen in that area.”
Too bad that “agreement” cannot apply to those who “chose” to flee or the men, women and children were already bombed, shot at and burned by the use of chemical weapons
Much has been made of the fact that the number of the American troops Trump withdrew from the area (which made way for the Turkish invasion) amounted to only between 50-100 individuals. Yet, those special forces, who were not specifically in harm’s way, were enough to hold back Turkey’s fanatical Islamist ruler Erdogan from sending in his army to decimate the Kurds.
It is tragic to think of the death, permanent injuries and displacement of both adults and children — steadfast American allies that fought by our side defeating ISIS — that could have been prevented had Trump made a different decision.