Turkey’s Syria policy…


longue_vue

© photocredit

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Kobani battle contrasts with Turkey’s previous policy of isolating PYD
Szymon_Ananicz

By – This operation was predominantly political in nature; it reflects the characteristics of Turkey’s policy towards the Syrian conflict. Firstly, Ankara is avoiding direct participation in the fighting in Syria; hence the decision to avoid an armed defence of the Turkish enclave, and to remove a potential flashpoint in relations with the IS. For the Turkish government, this is particularly important in the light of the elections planned for June (the Turkish public is reluctant to get involved in the war in Syria). Secondly, Turkey recognises the continued rule of the Assad regime as a source of destabilisation in Syria. This is why it is avoiding becoming involved in other conflicts, which from its point of secondary importance, such as the fight against the IS. Thirdly, Turkey prefers to act alone, on its own terms, including in its contacts with terrorist organisations (Ankara has not participated in the United States-led military campaign against the IS). From the symbolic perspective, the operation was intended to show Turkey’s determination to defend its historical heritage; and in military terms, to demonstrate the power of the Turkish army (around 600 soldiers and nearly 100 vehicles, including 39 tanks and drones, were deployed in the evacuation).

The operation signals a readjustment in Turkey’s assessment of the situation in the region. Ankara sees the IS as an increasingly problematic player. Also the unprecedented direct cooperation with the PYD is evidence of at least a temporary acknowledgement that the Kurds are in charge of some areas of northern Syria, after they managed to defend these territories against the IS’s offensive in 2014 (including the successful defence of the town of Kobani). This contrasts with Turkey’s previous policy of isolating and undermining PYD.

Turkish government propaganda has portrayed the operation as a great success. However, the de facto surrender of territory to the jihadis, in cooperation with the Kurds of the PYD whom Ankara has traditionally portrayed as a threat, proves that Turkey’s policy towards the Syrian war is deeply defensive. Attempts to play off the IS and the Kurds against each other (as happened during the months-long siege of Kobani) did not increase Turkey’s influence on the situation in Syria. Despite Ankara’s efforts, the informal Kurdish autonomy in the north of the country has been strengthened. Also, attempts to devise a modus vivendi with the militants of the IS have not ensured security for Turkey. Pressure from the jihadists is continuing, and Ankara is making concessions. Full analyses

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There is only one way out of this horrific crisis
Samantha_Power

That is through a comprehensive political solution. To that end, the United States again joins others in commending the efforts of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to halt – even for a limited time – the use of all aerial bombs and heavy artillery in Aleppo, whose civilians have suffered immensely amidst fierce fighting. While it would be a welcome step if the Assad regime were to fulfill the commitments it made to de Mistura to stop unilaterally its aerial bombardment in Aleppo and allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians for six weeks, the regime has an abysmal track record on honoring its commitments. Indeed, these very commitments are supposed to have been implemented under resolutions adopted by this very Council. So what matters, and what we must look to, are the regime’s actions.

In addition to being a year since the adoption of Resolution 2139, we also mark other terrible benchmarks today. On March 15th, we will enter the fifth year of the Syrian conflict. And it has been three years since plain-clothes security officers raided the office of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression – a Damascus-based group dedicated to promoting freedom of expression – detaining 14 staff members. Many of those detained were tortured, according to staff members who were later released. Among those detained was the group’s director, Mazen Darwish, who was charged with so-called crimes, such as publishing human rights reports and documenting the names of people tortured, disappeared, or killed during the conflict.

Mazen is still behind bars today, despite a UN General Assembly resolution last May that included a demand for his immediate release. Writing from jail last year, Mazen said, “There is not a single prison in Syria today without one of my friends inside it, nor is there a cemetery in Syria today that doesn’t contain the remains of one of them.”

There is a risk, in our regular meetings on Syria, to get used to the fact that the numbers of individuals detained and killed and disappeared and displaced and denied food – and so many other measures of human suffering – those numbers continue to rise. Indeed, there is a perverse dynamic whereby, as those numbers continue to rise, our sensitivity falls. Our nerve endings harden, and a sense of inevitability takes hold.

We must not let that happen. We must remember each of those rising numbers, each one of those millions, stands for just another person. We must return to the commitments this Council has made, such as those in past resolutions to take further measures in the case of non-compliance and to hold accountable those responsible for violations and abuses.

This Council’s impact will increase only if member-states’ positions change. And that will happen only if we recognize that there are children just like our own starving in Yarmouk, and mothers just like our own who die in childbirth in Aleppo, because medical supplies have been stolen off UN trucks; or mothers who feel helpless in the face of their children’s pleas for food. If this doesn’t motivate us, literally nothing will. Amb.Samantha Power – U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
(Full text)

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Libya: Getting Geneva Right

Tripoli/Brussels: Libya’s deteriorating internal conflict may be nearing a dramatic turning point. Over six months of fighting between two parliaments, their respective governments and allied militias have led to the brink of all-out war. On the current trajectory, the most likely medium-term prospect is not one side’s triumph, but that rival local warlords and radical groups will proliferate, what remains of state institutions will collapse, financial reserves (based on oil and gas revenues and spent on food and refined fuel imports) will be depleted, and hardship for ordinary Libyans will increase exponentially. Radical groups, already on the rise as the beheading of 21 Egyptians and deadly bombings by the Libyan franchise of the Islamic State (IS) attest, will find fertile ground, while regional involvement – evidenced by retaliatory Egyptian airstrikes – will increase. Actors with a stake in Libya’s future should seize on the UN’s January diplomatic breakthrough in Geneva that points to a possible peaceful way out; but to get a deal between Libyan factions – the best base from which to counter jihadis – they must take more decisive and focused supportive action than they yet have.(…)

§ Libya is split between two sides claiming increasingly threadbare legitimacy, flirting with jihadi radicals and pursuing politics through militia war backed by foreign powers. But the Tobruk and Tripoli authorities are equally matched, and cannot defeat each other. To save the country they must negotiate a national unity government, before their Faustian bargains consume themselves along with the rest of Libya.

§ The region has no shortage of grim examples of what happens when a state disintegrates, outsiders take sides and warlords rule. Everyone should be working for a political solution, which will be less costly for all involved than widening conflict, new military intervention, Libya’s imminent insolvency and a possibly catastrophic humanitarian emergency.

§ The international community is at best irresolute and at worst sharply divided about Libya, and should resist the temptation to shoehorn a complex, multilayered conflict into a binary Islamists vs. non-Islamists template. Outsiders have a responsibility to ensure the talks’ success, particularly as Libya’s current situation is in part the result of a military intervention that received wide support but whose aftermath was left disastrously unplanned.

§ January’s UN achievement in bringing the Libyan sides together for national unity talks in Geneva offers a glimmer of hope. This breakthrough should encourage the UN Security Council to unite, to stiffen the UN arms embargo, to shore up the independence of Libyan institutions managing national wealth and to warn off resolutely those who would use Libya for proxy wars. Full report.

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