Turkey’s Incursion into Syria Could Lead to Conflict with the U.S.

Jan. 24 2018

Over the weekend, Turkish forces entered the northwestern Syrian district of Afrin to drive out the forces of the Kurdish militia known as the YPG, which now controls the area and has close ties to Kurdish separatists in Turkey. In eastern Syria, however, the YPG has participated in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS). Ankara, Frederic Hof explains, most likely chose to focus on Afrin because it is far away from the territory where American forces have been operating, yet still an area that Kurds wish to incorporate into an independent state. But there is no guarantee the conflict will stay contained:

Despite the flamboyant anti-Turkish threats of its Syrian client, Russia has gingerly stepped aside in this corner of the Aleppo province, moving its ground forces and vacating the airspace to accommodate the Turkish operation. For the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, nothing—not even the full political ascendancy of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad—would top Turkey and the United States coming to military blows over Syria. . . .

[W]hat if (for example) Syrian Kurds, suffering casualties and perhaps defeat in the Afrin salient, elect to engage targets inside Turkey from positions east of the Euphrates? What if such targeting were to expand Turkish-Syrian Kurdish hostilities from the extreme northwestern corner of Syria to areas where the Kurds form an essential part of the anti-IS “partner force”? What if Turkish retaliatory strikes were to engage—presumably unintentionally—American forces? . . . .

Why is there no American ambassador in Ankara? Why is there no senior American special envoy being dispatched to Turkey in the absence of an ambassador? Is the administration unaware of what the Kremlin is seeking from this latest dust-up? And is Ankara fully aware of the trap Putin has set? . . . [H]ave Turkish domestic politics reached the point where a potential clash with a NATO ally is no longer unthinkable? Has Ankara taken any initiative to offer Washington help in stabilizing the predominantly Arab areas east of the Euphrates River? . . .

The worst possible outcome of Turkish-American bilateral diplomatic lassitude over Syria would be to hand the Kremlin the kind of easy victory it reaped in the wake of the 2013 redline fiasco [during which the U.S. declared that it wouldn’t tolerate the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and then proceeded to tolerate them], but this one driving a stake directly into the heart of NATO. Unless Washington is comfortable with such a scenario and unless Turkey is content to turn away from Washington and enter Moscow’s orbit, these two allies owe it to themselves to make a sustained effort to get on the same page in Syria.

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More about: Kurds, NATO, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, Turkey, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin

No, Israel Hasn’t Used Disproportionate Force against Hamas

Aug. 15 2018

Last week, Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza launched nearly 200 rockets and mortars into Israel, in addition to the ongoing makeshift incendiary devices and sporadic sniper fire. Israel responded with an intensive round of airstrikes, which stopped the rockets. Typically, condemnations of the Jewish state’s use of “disproportionate force” followed; and typically, as Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, explains, these were wholly inaccurate:

The IDF conducted, by its own admission, approximately 180 precision strikes. In the aftermath of those strikes the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed. One of the dead was [identified] as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were reported as civilians: Inas Abu Khmash, a twenty-three-year-old pregnant woman, and her eighteen-month daughter, Bayan. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas’s bombardment of Israel’s southern communities. With . . . 28 Israelis who required medical assistance [and] 30 Iron Dome interceptions, I would argue the heart-rending Palestinian deaths indicate the exact opposite.

The precision strikes on Hamas’s assets with so few deaths show how deep and thorough is the planning process the IDF has put in place. . . . Proportionality in warfare, [however], is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. . . . Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. . . . In the case of the last few days, it appears that even intended combatant deaths were [deemed] undesirable, due to their potential to increase the chances of war. . . .

The question that should be repeated is why indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli civilians from behind Gazan civilians is accepted, underreported, and not condemned.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict