Syrian Kurds appeal to UN as Turkey prepares to attack

A Turkish military tank arrives at an army base in the border town of Reyhanli near the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey on Jan. 17, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 17 January 2018
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Syrian Kurds appeal to UN as Turkey prepares to attack

BEIRUT: Syria’s dominant Kurdish party on Wednesday called on the UN Security Council to act quickly to ensure the safety of Kurdish-controlled territories in the country’s north, including an enclave that Turkey has threatened to attack.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will launch a military offensive in the coming days against territories controlled by the dominant Syrian Kurdish militia in northwestern and eastern Syria, and in particular the enclave of Afrin, where an estimated 1 million people live.
Turkey views the US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces as terrorists, and an extension of the Kurdish insurgency raging in its southeast. It has criticized the US for extending support and arming the Kurdish forces as part of the campaign that drove Daesh from large parts of Syria.
The Kurdish militia, which forms the backbone of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, now controls nearly 25 percent of Syrian territory. It is the US-led coalition’s chief ally in the campaign against Daesh in Syria.
The US-led coalition recently said it is planning a 30,000-strong Kurdish-led border force, further angering Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that those plans were a “perilous” step that would “seriously endanger ties.” The two met in Vancouver on Tuesday.
“Such a development would damage Turkish-American ties in an irreversible manner,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Cavusoglu as saying on Wednesday.
Erdogan said the imminent military operation is to “purge terror” from near its borders.
The Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, the political arm of the main Kurdish militia, said that if Turkey launches an operation against Afrin, the world will bear responsibility for the lives of people residing there. The PYD called on the Security Council to “move immediately” to ensure the security of Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria.
“Such a responsible behavior will lead to the desired result in finding a resolution for the Syrian crisis,” the PYD said in a statement.
The Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad has, meanwhile, accused the SDF of being “traitors” for cooperating with the US.
On Monday, Erdogan accused the US of creating an “army of terror” in Syria along the border with Turkey, a reference to the plans for the border force. He vowed to crush the border force and called on NATO to take a stand against the US, a fellow ally.
Meanwhile, Syrian activists said Turkish military activities near the borders with Afrin have continued, as well as shelling of the outskirts of the town.
Tanks amassed near the border with Syria, while Turkish media reported that medical personnel in Kilis, a Turkish town across the border from Afrin, were asked not to take leave, apparently in anticipation of military operations.
Turkey’s private Dogan News Agency quoted Turkey-backed Syrian rebels as saying they are awaiting Turkish orders to launch the Afrin operations. It said some 3,000 fighters are ready to participate in operations against Afrin and Manbij.


Turkey made mistakes in Arab Spring ‘from day one’: Ex-FM

Right to left: Former US Ambassador Dennis Ross, former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and Zaid Eyadat, professor of political science and human rights.(Photo/Supplied)
Updated 2 min 30 sec ago
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Turkey made mistakes in Arab Spring ‘from day one’: Ex-FM

  • Dr. Mohsen Milani: Iran’s regional power is likely to decline, especially given the slide in its economic assets
  • Dr. Sultan Al-Nuaimi: Iran is subject to various sanctions… yet even Iranian officials say the problem doesn’t lie with the sanctions but with corruption and governance

DUBAI: Turkey made mistakes “from day one” with its involvement in the Arab Spring, the country’s former Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said on Monday.
Discussing changes in Ankara’s policies on the second day of the fifth Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, he spoke of decision-makers in the ruling party who believed they could “go back to the Ottoman times” and expand Turkey’s regional influence. 
“Realities in the field showed that Turkey had limits, and it couldn’t achieve what it thought it could,” Yakis said on the panel “The Dilemma of Imagined Power: Turkey.”
He added: “Thanks to cooperation with Russia now, Turkey learnt in Syria that it had to adjust its policy to the reality in the field.”
Yakis addressed Ankara’s relationship with Riyadh, saying: “I don’t think Turkish power is capable of making changes within the royal hierarchy of Saudi Arabia… It may have tried in the past… but it isn’t strong enough to make an impact in Saudi society.”
He added: “There’s an appreciation between the Turkish people and the Saudi people, and (President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan’s role isn’t indefinite. He won’t rule infinitely in Turkey.”
Ankara’s regional policies have changed significantly in the last three decades, Yakis said.
In the 1990s Turkey had stronger relations with the West and neglected the Middle East, but in the new millennium it opened up to the latter, albeit to a limited extent, he added.
Dr. Omer Taspinar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said: “Turkey discovered after the so-called Arab Spring, especially in Syria, the limits of its power.”
He added: “There’s currently a mismatch between Turkey’s ambitions and its military, economic and diplomatic power.” 
Experts also addressed Iran’s role as a leading state sponsor of terrorism on the panel “End of Myth: Iran,” and the ongoing Qatar diplomatic crisis on the panel “End of Myth: Qatar.”
The role that Doha has played both regionally and internationally is unacceptable, said Dr. Ibrahim Al-Nahas, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. 
“Saudi Arabia has traditionally followed international law. We want peace. We want all countries to be stable,” he told Arab News.
“We think Qatar will continue its support for terrorist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia won’t tolerate that. Unless Qatar accepts our conditions, there will be no future for us.”
Doha’s actions have put it in “conflict regionally and worldwide,” Al-Nahas said. Fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states view as “very grave” Qatar’s attempts “to trespass on the security system that the region has become accustomed to” and interfere in countries’ affairs internationally, he added, expressing skepticism that Doha will change course.
Dr. Mohsen Milani, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida, addressed Iran in the wake of the latest round of strict US sanctions.
Iran’s regional power is likely to decline, especially given the slide in its economic assets, he said.
“I believe Iran’s regional policies can’t be sustained because Iran is committing one big mistake: It’s becoming overstretched and overcommitted. The Iranian economy can’t sustain that,” he added.
“Iran is on the verge of overreaching. They’re involved in Syria, in Libya, in Afghanistan. It isn’t sustainable.” 
The “only way” to reach a new deal in place of the flawed nuclear one that US President Donald Trump walked away from is to get countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their GCC allies involved in talks that would address much more than Iran’s nuclear activities and ballistic missile program, Milani said. 
Dr. Sultan Al-Nuaimi, a faculty member at Abu Dhabi University, spoke of high-level corruption within the Iranian regime.
“Iran is subject to various sanctions… yet even Iranian officials say the problem doesn’t lie with the sanctions but with corruption and governance. Corruption has reached institutions that should be fighting corruption,” he said.
Experts also addressed Trump’s “deal of the century” to reach a permanent agreement between Israel and Palestine, details of which have yet to be revealed.
Amr Moussa, former secretary-general of the Arab League, predicted that it will be universally rejected. 
“The ‘deal of the century’ is up in the air and nobody knows what’s going on, but everyone is pessimistic… Whatever is coming can’t be sold as something promising,” he said.
“I don’t believe the Jordanians… the Egyptians… or the Palestinians will accept this deal. A deal has to include a certain balance, but as we see, there’s no balance,” he added.
“You can’t give 99 percent to one side and 1 percent to the other. We can’t sell something that’s unreasonable.”
Arab leaders need to be part of the conversation, Moussa said, calling for a roundtable that brings together international experts to draft a new “deal of the century” that takes into account the rights of all parties.
Experts highlighted how major humanitarian issues in the Middle East, including the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, as well as Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, have overshadowed the crisis in Palestine. 
Former US Ambassador Dennis Ross, a William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said: “I have no doubt that the Palestinian issue remains a fundamental issue. It can’t be wished away because there’s a preoccupation with everything else.” 
But, he added, “half a million dead in Syria is a fundamental… strategic and human issue,” and Iran “is a major issue.”
Ross advised against rejecting Trump’s peace plan before it has fully materialized, saying his administration is “going to come with a plan… soon enough. We have to see what that will be. I think it’s a mistake to pre-judge it.”
Among the other speakers on Monday were Khaled Bahah, former Yemeni vice president and prime minister; Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, former prime minister of Libya; and Nabil Fahmy, former foreign minister of Egypt.
In the session “Arab World: Walking on Water,” they raised the issues of discontent among youths in the region, and a growing resistance to change that must be addressed. Jibril called for “the rebuilding of our societies and education.” 
Experts addressed the importance of the Arab world finding its own solutions to its problems rather than relying on outside support.
Bahah said: “Today in the region… the lack of ability to change is leading to violence.” 
He added: “If we as Arabs could solve our problems… it would provide no opportunity (for outsiders) to interfere.”