31 December 2019 15:30

Trump's praise for Erdoğan and imperialist duplicity in Idlib!

Is the administration in Turkey that has earned Trump’s praise, really trying to avert a humanitarian crisis?

Photograph: Kayhan Özer/AA


A few days ago, US President Trump tweeted a message about the ongoing crisis in Idlib. The message, in which the Erdoğan administration’s policy on Idlib was praised, read, “Russia, Syria, and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib Province. Don’t do it! Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage.”

If we discount the regions that the FSA/SNA hold in collaboration with the administration in Turkey, Idlib counts as the jihadist groups’ final stronghold in Syria. However, since the Syrian army launched an operation against Idlib, a large section of which is held by Al-Qaedaist Nusra’s continuation of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Western imperialists, most notably the USA, immediately spoke of a “humanitarian crisis.” All wars and conflicts most undoubtedly create and are creating humanitarian crises. Nevertheless, it is a policy of gross duplicity for the imperialists who have first-degree responsibility for the humanitarian crises in the region (Middle East) to speak of humanitarian crisis in Idlib!

Was it not Trump who just a few months ago was trumpeting as if he had achieved a huge victory the killing of ISIS leader Baghdadi?

So, what then have the USA and Western imperialists got against the cleansing of the Al-Qaedaist ISIL offshoot, HTS?

In addressing these questions, two points need to be stressed. However, let me initially add a footnote with reference to the relationship between HTS, which is alleged to have furnished the USA with intelligence support enabling the killing of Baghdadi, and ISIS. HTS’s precursor of Al-Nusra was formed in 2012 by Julani and the jihadist militants in his entourage sent to Syria at the ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) leader Baghdadi’s behest. With Nusra gaining a degree of strength in Syria, Baghdadi proclaimed the unification of ISI with Nusra into ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in 2013. The bulk of Nusra’s membership obeyed Baghdadi and joined ISIL, but those who rejected this union remained grouped around Julani in Nusra. As ISIL became a force to be reckoned with in Syria and Iraq, Nusra then set up the Jaysh al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) along with other Turkish and Saudi Arabian-supported gangs and the Jaysh al-Fatah captured Idlib in 2015. The claim that HTS supplied intelligence support enabling Baghdadi’s killing also has as its basis the competition and enmity that arose between these two organizations in 2013.

The first point worth noting here regarding imperialist duplicity is the rhetoric about the civilian deaths/humanitarian crisis.

With their positions vis à vis Russia and Iran in Syria and the region as a whole beginning to recede, the USA and coalition forces brought into implementation a strategy they dubbed “the strategy of countering ISIL.” Under this strategy, military operations were staged to retake regions that ISIL had captured, chiefly Mosul and Raqqa. In staging these operations, hundreds of thousands of civilians suffered loss and were forced to migrate. However, it occurred to nobody at that time to speak of a humanitarian crisis because ISIL was perceived of as being a barbarian organization that was committing crimes against the whole of humanity and the priority was the elimination of this organization. Given that ISIL was a legitimate target, the USA and Western imperialists gave pride of place to the strategy of combatting ISIL aiming to bolster their position in the fight for regional sovereignty.

This robs of credibility those who rained bombs down on Mosul and Raqqa and speak of a humanitarian crisis when it comes to Idlib.

The second point that warrants attention is, given the absence of a factual basis to the humanitarian crisis rhetoric, what informs the USA and Western imperialists in their disposition towards ISIL or Nusra in Raqqa or Idlib.

Had their disposition really been informed by the nature of these organizations as barbaric organizations that commit crimes against humanity, should they not have wished for Idlib what they had wished for Raqqa?

However, the truth is that what informs the USA and Western imperialists in their policy towards ISIL, Nusra and other radical Islamist organizations is how, under what conditions and when they could/can use them for their own interests.

Combatting ISIL was a useful instrument in their own fight for regional sovereignty and hence cooperation with the Kurds against ISIL was embarked on. However, since the taking of Idlib from HTS will reinforce Russia and Iran’s superiority in Syria and strengthen their regional positions, they are bringing the humanitarian crisis and civilian deaths to the fore in the quest to prevent these operations.

In passing, it is also worth noting that, prior to Idlib, the USA, France and UK staged rocket attacks on the Syrian regime citing use by the latter of chemical weapons in the process of cleansing jihadist gangs from Douma on the Damascus outskirts, with a view to preventing this process, and they are once more trying to orchestrate similar claims regarding Idlib.

It becomes easier at this point to appreciate why the Erdoğan administration in Turkey, which in 2018 signed the “Sochi Agreement” with Russia to prevent the operation against Idlib but did not keep its word to cleanse the jihadists here, courts Trump’s praise.

A further question is whether the administration in Turkey that has earned Trump’s praise is really trying to avert a humanitarian crisis.

In fact, information emanating from the ground speaks to the contrary. The administration in Turkey is, by failing to open the gates to those pressing against its borders, shepherding them into the regions that it governs along with SFA-like groups. It thereby wishes to hold them as a trump card. On the other hand, with the threat of a wave of migration, it is trying to spur the Western imperialists into action against the operation being staged. Additionally, in view of the talk of approval for sending troops to Libya being tabled in parliament on 2 January, it must not be deemed beyond the bounds of possibility that the jihadist militants that leave/are taken out of Idlib may be used in Libya in the manner the FSA was used in operations in Syria.

To sum up, those who today speak of a humanitarian crisis and civilian deaths in Idlib are following a duplicitous policy because the imperialists and the collaborationist reactionaries are considering their own interests alone, even when speaking of humanitarian crisis. At the point reached, what will determine whether the people in Idlib, Syria or the region as a whole escape the war, death, destruction and migration that are described as being a humanitarian crisis is the stance they adopt against the imperialists, who impose such policies on them as if fate, the collaborationist regional reactionaries and the barbarian organizations they employ.