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President Trump warned Turkey shortly after removing troops from the Syrian-Turkish border that if they “crossed the line” he would cripple their economy. The line has been crossed. It’s time to act before things get worse.
As anticipated, Turkey has turned to Syrian militants to conduct many of the attacks against the Kurds in Eastern Syria. These militias are made up of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups who have sworn to destroy America. Multiple news outlets and monitoring NGOs have reported they have entered peaceful Kurdish areas and began terrorizing civilians. One report even notes they murdered a female Syrian politician.
Turkish-backed jihadist forces in Syria murdered two Kurdish prisoners and shot down a woman politician during Turkey’s offensive in Syria on Saturday. The reports have shocked observers of Turkey, a NATO member, and the increasingly brutal campaign it is waging in Syria.
In one incident Turkish-backed extremists who are members of an Arab rebel group that is embedded with Turkey’s military operation are accused of murdering Hevrin Khalef, a female politician in eastern Syria. In a second incident the Arab fighters backed by Turkey murdered two Kurdish prisoners, one of them tied up, on a video. Many of the extremists Turkey has recruited to fight in Syria have openly shouted jihadist slogans claiming they are coming to murder the “kuffar” or “infidels.” Their behavior in the fighting has been compared to ISIS.
Turkey has used the Syrian Arab fighters as a way to avoid casualties, unleashing them across the border to attack and murder Kurds after US President Donald Trump announced the US would leave parts of Syria and open the airspace for Turkish airstrikes. Since October 9 Turkey has launched devastating airstrikes across northeast Syria, causing 100,000 to flee an area that was peaceful. US forces, sheltering in place near Kobane, even came under artillery fire. Turkey has sought to send a message that nothing will prevent it from continuing its operation and using Syrian Arab forces as cannon fodder to attack Kurdish areas and sack towns and villages.
This is the first report of such incidents confirmed by the Pentagon, but many other reports of similar executions of civilians have been coming in as well. The targets seem to be centered around cities and villages Turkey has apparently earmarked for placement of the two million Syrian refugees they have been holding since the height of the Syrian civil war. These villages are not just homes to Kurds. Thousands of Christians and non-Kurdish Muslims are also being displaced, captured, or killed.
According to a Syriac Christian group, this is a form of ethnic cleansing.
“People were so scared, they were telling me, ‘They are bombing us right now!’” Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria, told NPR. “We think this is a message to the Kurds and Christians there to leave, so Turkey can move refugees there. We think it’s a form of ethnic cleansing.”
At least three Christians in the area have reportedly been killed as a result of the Turkish invasion:
Three Christians have been killed in Turkey’s assault on Kurdish-held areas in northeast Syria, reported In Defense of Christians (IDC), citing their sources on the ground.
In Qamishli, a Syriac Christian and his wife died, while in Ras al-Ain an additional Syriac Christian civilian was killed. Ten civilians were injured in the attacks.
The Turkish operation focused initially on a 60-mile stretch of land between the two Arab-majority cities of Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad, a sparsely populated area known as Syria’s breadbasket, reported BBC. IDC, which advocates for Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, said that this area has large concentrations of Christians.
Since the announcement was made a week ago that the U.S. would stop allowing our troops to be human shields preventing the Turkish attack, events have unfolded at a lightning pace. Turkey and their al Qaeda proxies in Syria were obviously mobilized and prepared to attack well before the withdrawal. There was no time allowed for Kurds and other residents in the area to escape, which is telling. This is not about establishing a “safe zone,” as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was claimed. This is about blitzing the region as quickly as possible to eliminate as many Kurdish fighters as they possibly can. If Christians and other civilians are caught up in the destruction, so be it.
This is certainly not what President Trump wanted nor expected. He was lied to, and as a result he must follow through with his threat to cripple Turkey economically. If he cannot get a hold of this situation very soon, it will escalate beyond his ability to correct the issue.
To add insult to injury, it appears the Turks and their Syrian allies are freeing Islamic State prisoners, whether intentionally or as a result of their haphazard invasion.
Five Isis militants have broken out of a prison in northern Syria after Turkish shelling nearby, a spokesman in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has said.
The detainees escaped from a prison in Qamishli city, Marvan Qamishlo said.
Meanwhile, women affiliated with Isis attacked security offices with sticks and stones during unrest at a camp in the region where Turkey has launched attacks.
I have turned this decision around in my head over and over for the last week. While I definitely appreciate the sentiment of bringing troops home, that’s not what’s happening. They were pulled away from the border and will remain in Syria for now. More importantly, these particular troops were with our allies. They were not in harms way as our troops in Afghanistan and other areas in the Middle East are.
Friday, he signed an executive order allowing for broad and swift sanctions to be imposed on Turkey. Monday, he should use these powers to send Turkey a very clear message that we will not stand by and watch as al Qaeda takes over eastern Syria.
The President is losing this narrative thanks to the duplicity committed by Turkey and their al Qaeda allies moving into areas we just vacated. He must follow through with his threat to cripple Turkey’s economy immediately.
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