I was asked to be on TV tonight (and will be on again tomorrow unless the plans change) to talk Turkey/Kurds/Syria/Trump. What is my take on all of this? I will give the answers to the questions that I was told to prepare for (note--the anchor people always go off script).
Q: Turkey says it will create a safe zone that removes the Kurdish-led forces and resettles millions of Syrian refugees. What do you make of that?
A: When I hear safe zone, I think Bosnia and the safe zones that became killing grounds including Srebrenica, where the Bosnian Serbs engaged in genocide. Who is going to safeguard these refugees from whatever threats? Will the Turkish forces, which will be focused on killing members of the Syrian Democratic Front--the Syrian Kurds who have been so effective against ISIS.
Q: Does Turkey's attack on the Kurds jeopardize any gains made against ISIS in the region?
A: Hell yeah. First, the SDF is not going to stick around and guard the places where they are holding ISIS prisoners. Second, the 2.7 million refugees, give or take, who will be forced back to Syria, will be ripe for radicalization since they will be living in awful conditions and will feel betrayed by the international community.
Q: How is this impacting the relationship between the US and the Kurds?
A: The US seems to betray some Kurdish group every twenty years. So, not great. However, the various Kurdish groups have few friends, so if the US wants to make common cause with them, the Kurds will likely go along, knowing, very much like the Frog of the Scorpion and the Frog tale, that eventually they will be betrayed.
Q: What is Russia's involvement?
A: Egging on Turkey and attacking the Kurds from another direction (make whatever parallels to 1939 Poland you want). Plus the Russians get to watch more of a wedge between Turkey and the rest of NATO and between the US and its allies, as well as helping to remove an opponent to its ally, Syria.
Q: Turkey is also a member of NATO, what response have we seen from other countries in the alliance?
A: Canada, UK, Germany, and France have all condemned the attack. Trump has both given it a greenlight and opposed it. There have been many discussions of how to kick Turkey out of NATO--this is not going to stop those discussions nor will those discussions go anywhere.
Q: What am I expecting to see in the coming days in Syria?
A: Bloodshed. Turkey's Erdogan has been seeking this for quite some time--he is not going to back down. Assad will root this on, Putin will celebrate, Trump will twist and lie and get his facts wrong, and America's allies will be frustrated.
This is all awful. And, yes, so much for that whole "pay attention to Trump's deeds, not his tweets" thing. To be clear, at some point, the US had to get out of Syria, but not this way.