A little over ten hours ago (24th August) Turkish tanks crossed the Syrian border to supposedly attack ISIS. For the last couple of years Turkish troops and ISIS militants have been exchanging hand waves across the border as month by month hundreds of ISIS recruits have been allowed to cross it.
What changed? Over the last weeks the SDF fought street to street though the town of Manbij, just south of Jarablus. Eventually they forced ISIS out and started to advance towards Jarablus, these advances in effect closing the ISIS supply route across the border. Turkey really didn’t want the SDF which includes the Kurdish YPG and YPJ to capture Jarablus, hence this last minute invasion.
The battle against ISIS for Manbij went on for weeks as SDF forces had to fight house by house, taking casualties from IEDs and snipers all the way. The ‘battle’ for Jarablus began 10 hours ago and has already been declared over. The ‘combatants’ appear to be more worried about snapping a good selfie - while standing out in the open - then staying out of the sight lines of hidden snipers or fearing IEDs or mortars.
Meanwhile U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden just happens to be visiting Ankara, the capital of Turkey, today. Biden said at a press conference that the SDF ”must move back across the Euphrates River." and that if they do not ”they cannot — will not — under any circumstance get American support."
The US has been providing limited military support to what is now the SDF for about 18 months, basically because there were no other ground forces in Syria that were capable of engaging and defeating ISIS. There is nothing particularly shocking that they are now betraying them, the vision of an egalitarian, democratic society that places women’s liberation and environmentalism as central goals is hardly the program of US imperialism. A state-less society organised through community assemblies and workers co-ops is rather a long way from the US vision for the middle east. The question now is how deep and bloody will this betrayal be.
The one aspect that is a little breathtaking is the shortsightedness of US imperialism in apparently treating this handover of Jarablus from ISIS to Turkey as indicating a genuine transformation of the policies of the Turkish state.
We are reminded of the story of the scorpion that convinces a frog to carry it across a river only to sting the frog, and doom them both midway across because such betrayals are inevitable to its nature. There is an older version of that tale in which its a turtle rather than a frog that is doing the carrying. That one is from the region, its Persian, and in it the scorpion fails to sting the turtle through its shell and the turtle then drowns the scorpion.
Words:Andrew Flood (follow Andrew on Twitter)