BY: SERDAR KARAGÖZ*
Days after the explosions in New York and New Jersey, nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States Hillary Clinton faced the cameras to demonstrate how serious she was in fighting terrorism. After the mandatory pledge to make New York – which has been gripped by panic and paranoia – safe against terrorism, she suddenly brought the topic to Syria. In her speech, evidently prepared well beforehand, Clinton declared that under her administration, the U.S. would increase support for Kurds in Syria against DAESH. While such a declaration is of no consequence to the average American voter who would find it hard to point to Syria on a map, the message was obviously directed against someone. How else can one explain her speech which started by giving assurances to Americans worried after the bomb explosion in New York and ended up with a pledge to augment aid given to Syrian Kurds?
In the stealthy fight between the CIA and Pentagon over which side to support in the Syrian civil war, as reported by the American media including the New York Times, Clinton openly declared her side as the latter. The U.S. Department of Defense has been transferring great amounts of arms and ammunition to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which are seen as the Syrian wing of the PKK, a group recognized as terrorist by the U.S. and EU. By implicitly signaling her support for Pentagon’s foreign policy choices, particularly in Syria, she is also sending a message to American intelligence agencies she holds responsible for the email scandal that has been bugging her ever since she declared her intention to run for president.
Notwithstanding her more martial tone, the U.S.’s Syria policy under a possible Clinton administration will be nothing but the extension of Obama’s active disengagement strategy. She seemingly intends to oversee the continuation of Syrian chaos with periodic insincere efforts that give the impression of accomplishment without actually doing anything to end the violence. What makes her remarks more dangerous and irresponsible is the fact that most polls show she will be the next president of the U.S.
One fact Clinton seems to have overlooked is Turkey’s continuing Operation Euphrates Shield that has succeeded in clearing the entire Syrian border and a huge track of land in northern Syria from DAESH in less than a month. At a time when the commander-in-chief of the militarily strongest country in the region speaks about clearing DAESH from Raqqa, Clinton talks about supporting the PYD that has already admitted it will not fight DAESH to enter the strategic city.
An even more grievous mistake is Clinton labeling the PYD as Kurds. Supporting a terrorist group seeped in violent anti-American leftist ideology and responsible for widespread human rights abuses including murder, illegal confinement, ethnic cleansing and coercion in lands under its control should be considered unacceptable. Backing the PYD, recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, a close NATO ally of the U.S., means even more terror and chaos in the region.
One way of interpreting Clinton’s latest remark is to see it as her falling victim to the election fever gripping the country and prove her fighting spirit by openly siding with Pentagon. If this is the case and under her administration, the U.S. will completely overhaul its Syria strategy, there is no reason to exaggerate her gaffe.
However, if the statement becomes the foundation of her administration’s Syria policy, Ankara should immediately formulate its own strategy and under the understanding that there is no way Turkey can resolve the chaos with the U.S. on board. This will call for the formation of an alternative coalition to fight DAESH.
Turkey, which has suffered the most from DAESH terrorism, cannot afford to waste time by waiting for an end to the internal bickering among American institutions or confusion among U.S. politicians.
Turkey should at once begin the process of finding trustworthy and sincere allies in the fight against terror.
Operation Euphrates Shield has demonstrated what can be achieved when a determined military takes the field in the fight against DAESH. Every country that wants to fight DAESH terrorism should display its will by supporting Turkey, which should make pointed choices on with whom it wants to wage this crucial fight. It is time for Turkey to engage in an urgent reorganization of its regional allies.
It is time to let go of the ossified Cold War era politics and resolve regional crises through actively engaging in special alliances. With a clean slate, Turkey should collaborate with countries that are serious in finding a solution to the Syrian quagmire. If the new president and his or her administration present a determined stance against DAESH, it can join Turkey in eradicating this terrorist group in the region and the world. If not, this will be a job for Turkey and its allies.
*SERDAR KARAGÖZ is the Editor-in-chief of Daily Sabaah Turkish newspaper.
(Published in Daily Sabah on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016)