What’s old is new again. Bloomberg describes how the Turks are watching the Kurds die:
In blocking the resupply of the Kurdish fighters who are trying desperately to hold off a siege by Islamic State in Kobani, Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making a decision that may haunt Turkey for years to come.As in the days of the Shah, the Kurds who had no faith in regional allies put their trust in America. Why? Maybe that old black magic, some residual sentimentality compounded of Shane and High Noon and Saving Private Ryan and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington persuaded the Kurds against their better judgment to roll the dice one more time. But it’s come up snake eyes. Like CNN says “several senior U.S. administration officials said Kobani will soon fall to ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State. They downplayed the importance of it, saying the city is not a major U.S. concern.”
This is not just about Turkey’s failure to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State. It also threatens Turkey’s fragile truce with its Kurdish minority, many of whom are growing impatient with the sight of Turkish soldiers watching, from their side of the border, as Islamic State attacks Kobani.
Charming. Read the whole thing, as this is just a masterpiece of a post, which is not unusual for Fernandez. Robert Zubrin at National Review reaches the same historical conclusion, and in so doing describes a policy that may be a new low for an Obama administration that seems to relish in reaching new lows daily:
As these lines are being written, some 400,000 Kurds in and around the town of Kobane in northern Syria, on the Turkish border, are being besieged and assaulted by massed legions of Islamic State killers armed with scores of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy artillery. Against these, the Kurdish defenders have only AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. The Kurds have called on the U.S. to send in air strikes to take out the jihadist forces. In response, the administration sent in two fighter jets Saturday, which destroyed two Islamic State tanks and then flew away. The Kurds are begging for arms. The administration has not only refused to send arms, but is exerting pressure both on our NATO allies and on Israel not to send any either. Over 150,000 Kurds have fled their homes to try to escape to Turkey, but they are being blocked at the border by Turkish troops. Meanwhile, Turkey is allowing Islamist reinforcements to enter Syria to join the Islamic State, while Islamist elements of the Free Syrian Army, funded and armed by the United States, have joined forces with the group in the genocidal assault on the Kurdish enclave.Where I called Obama's coalition the Monty Python Cheese Shop Coalition, Red State is even more damning, calling it the Coalition of the Useless, with the coalition cows now coming home to roost:
According to Kurdish sources, the Turks are massing troops on their own side of the border, with the apparent plan being to sit in place and allow the Kurds to be exterminated, and then move in to take over the region once they are gone. This is the same plan as Josef Stalin used when he allowed the Nazis to wipe out the Polish underground during the Warsaw rising of 1944, and only afterward sent in the Red Army to take control of what was left of the city. If anything, it is even more morally reprehensible, since it could be pointed out in Stalin’s defense that his forces were at least pummeling the enemy elsewhere while the Warsaw fight was under way. In contrast, the Turks are doing nothing of the sort. For an American administration to collude in such a mass atrocity is infamous.
If we are to win the war against the Islamic State, we need ground forces, and the Obama administration has rejected the idea of sending in any of our own. The Kurds, who have demonstrated both their bravery and their willingness to be friends with America, are right there, and already engaged in the fight. If supplied with adequate arms and backed by serious U.S. tactical air support, they could roll up ISIS as rapidly as the similarly reinforced Northern Alliance did the Taliban in the fall of 2001. Done right, this war could be won in months, instead of waged inconclusively for years.
The administration, however, has rejected this alternative, and has instead opted for a Saudi-Qatari plan to allow the Syrian Kurds to be exterminated while training a new Sunni Arab army in Saudi Arabia. Given the Saudi role in the new army’s tutelage and officer selection, the Islamist nature of this force is a foregone conclusion. At best it might provide a more disciplined replacement for the Islamic State as an Islamist Syrian opposition at some point in the distant future (current official administration estimates are at least a year) when it is considered ready for combat. Meanwhile the killing will simply go on, with the United States doing its part to further Islamist recruitment by indulging in endless strategy-free bombing of Sunni villages.
When Obama embarked on his current ill-considered adventure in Iraq and Syria he decided he needed a coalition. Because President Bush. It isn’t that the coalition partners are actually able to contribute anything of value in the combat power arena but Obama needed a coalition and the regional coalition members all have interests at stake in Iraq and Syria. Never mind that those members, until lately, either directly or indirectly aided ISIS. As I noted in Obama Assembles Coalition of the Useless to Fight ISIS:So we are essentially being held hostage by the Turks, who have never been friends of the Kurds:
Only one Muslim nation, Turkey, is represented and based on their pro-ISIS actions to date one presumes they signed on more to ensure they are in the loop on decisions and have some degree of veto over US actions.Because we assembled a coalition that is in equal parts useless and needless we are now harnessed to the regional ambitions of those coalition partners.
When pressed to say why Turkey wasn't helping the PKK-affiliated fighters in Kobani, Erdogan said: "For us, the PKK is the same as ISIL. It is wrong to consider them as different from each other."Fernandez concludes his devastating assessment:
To begin with, this statement is simply untrue. While the PKK has carried out terrorist attacks in Turkey, it has never beheaded captives, engaged in genocide against civilians of different creeds or systematically raped women. The PKK doesn't want to create a caliphate across the Middle East and convert or kill all non-Kurds within it. What the PKK wants most is greater political autonomy for Kurds in eastern Turkey -- a negotiable demand.
Even if it worked to Erdogan's political advantage by tapping into Turkish nationalist sentiment, a return to war with the PKK would be destructive -- to the country and the wider region. Refusing to let Kurds resupply their kin through Turkish territory also makes Erdogan appear complicit in the rise of Islamic State.
Nevertheless, he is taking as tough a position with the U.S. as he is with Syria's Kurds, refusing to join the military coalition against Islamic State until the U.S. agrees to broaden its goals to include toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He also wants the coalition to enforce a no-fly zone and a (Turkish-dominated) buffer area in northern Syria from which to organize the attack on Assad.
This strategy would provide capable ground troops to follow up on the U.S. coalition's airstrikes -- so it is worth discussion. But negotiations should take place after Turkey joins the coalition. By essentially holding the coalition ransom to his demands, Erdogan is making its Arab members vulnerable to criticism at home. Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates also want to see Assad gone, after all. But they have accepted the "Islamic State first" approach, and at some domestic political risk.
Ultimately, Erdogan's stance will also strain Turkey's most important security alliances, which are with the U.S. and NATO. Turkey is denying its allies use of the U.S. airbase at Incirlik, just 100 miles from the Syrian border.
The fall of Kobani will not, as many say, prove that airstrikes against Islamic State can't work -- only that they can't work without Turkish cooperation. Kobani's defenders have been remarkably effective against a much larger and better armed opponent, and with access to arms and reinforcements, there is every reason to believe they could succeed.
And that sensitivity (to the Turks), more than the fearsome air defenses of ISIS, is probably what is keeping US airpower at bay. The president is committed to jaw-jaw. And since he must jaw-jaw with the Turks, Iran, the UAE, and the Saudis, that means the Kurds must die-die. It looks an awful lot like the administration is doing the bidding of its allies and not the other way around. Maybe that’s what “leading from behind” really amounts to. Perhaps the administration has been promised that if they go along with Turkey, Anakara will clamp down on ISIS — someday soon. Just you wait and see.
But the cynical question remains: would you buy a used car from this administration, maybe the same one they bought from Turkey? Would you trust your life to them? Because ultimately you are, just as the Kurds did. But a lot of LIVs will reason that they can trust Obama because it’s them and he is their beloved … so this time it will be different. They won’t be shafted. No they won’t.