Europe stumbles in the Middle East

, by Davide Zurlo

Europe stumbles in the Middle East
Image credits: European Parliament (Flickr)

For almost eight years, Syria has seen an increasingly complex situation, with a combination of of local and international alliances, tensions and rivalries which are difficult to identify and which also vary between each of the country’s regions. Trump’s decision to withdraw Syria 1,000 men from Syria renewed the predominant role of Russia, giving Putin elbow-room for an act of mediation between the Syrian regime (which was certainly not a friend of the Kurds) and the Turks.

Operation ‘Peace Spring’ began a few days ago: and even though the situation may be balanced by a joint Syrian and Kurdish military intervention, there might still be effective Western external intervention if the United States adopts sanctions against Turkey and if the European Union lanches an embargo. In this respect, the action of the Italian government, which has called for a European arms embargo against Turkey, is welcome, but nobody obliges Italy to wait for the rest of Europe. In the same way France, Germany, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and The Netherlands opted for imposing an arms embargo, Italy can do it too.

EP President David Sassoli has strongly urged Turkey “to stop all military action in northern Syria immediately” as this intervention “will never be a solution to the problem.” He also appealed to the Italian arms industries; nevertheless, these industries do not export arms without the authorization of the governments. The general idea is that EU governments should condemn the aggression against a people that has defended the international community from terrorism. But in the meantime, Italy is engaged in supplying spare parts to Turkish “Mongoose” helicopters. Turkey is a NATO country and has made a deliberate and unilateral action against the Kurdish people. European governments should make a decision.

Another thing that emerges is President Trump’s inadequacy in handling the international situation. The United States cannot stop being the United States, and in this case we see how souverainisme can have monstrous consequences. As the US guaranteed a sort of stability in northern Syria, the Kurds had withdrawn their batteries (the few they had) from the territory near the Turkish border in order to give a peace signal - now the United States has left and we are seeing a NATO country that, in a matter of days, will find itself facing an allied Syria and Russia. As the saying goes, ‘Kurds have no friends but the mountains.’

Some argue that it all started with a phone call between Trump and Erdoğan, in which he American president announced that he would withdraw his soldiers, and would disengage his country from distant wars. Can the United States afford to no longer be the gendarme of the world? Truth be told, the United States ceased to be the United States we know (a pillar of reliability and protection of democracy in our history) when they elected Donald Trump: he is simply doing what he said he would do in his election campaign.

Even still, it is also true that Trump’s constantly reinforces Erdoğan’s position. 10 km from Ra’s al-Ain, a raid on a civilian car convoy which included a number of journalists caused 9 victims. Among the dead civilians was a young Kurdish journalist. On top of this came an incident in which Turkish forces “accidentally” bombed an American position on the Kobane heights. As the exact location of the American positions located in the Kurdish part of Syria are certainly known to Turkey, can this be interpreted as a warning? Apparently, Turkey does not like the presence of witnesses in the field, so it attacks convoys of journalists and does everything it can to keep the Americans away. To this end, a thousand Turkish soldiers have been transferred southward to clear the field.

In recent days, there has been some friction between Trump and the Pentagon, which has seemingly dispelled some of the former’s remarks. The Pentagon spoke of an intentional action against American forces precisely because the Turks knew where the Americans were. Thus, there is still another America: that of the Pentagon - where the military seems to have more common sense than the President - and of Congress, which is pressing for sanctions against Turkey, and will probably succeed.

The 400,000 refugees that are projected to leave the area will probably not go to Turkey because they are prevented from doing so - they will go to Syria, will then move towards Egypt and Libya and will finally try to enter Europe. Destabilization in Syria destabilizes neighboring territories. This is but another consequence of the inability of international actors to intervene and mediate.

And not only refugees - although we hope otherwise, if ISIS were to attack again, we will have to recall that things would have been different had the Kurds not been neutralized. What traces will this conflict leave? A wound inside the Atlantic Alliance, for starters, and uncertainty as to the role of the United States, which is no longer the anchor that it once was.

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