David Phillips, the director of the Peace and Rights Establishment's Program at the Institute for Human Rights Studies in Columbia University, served as senior adviser and an expert at the Foreign Affairs at the State Department under President Clinton, Bush and Obama. His latest book, Big Treason: How America Forsook the Kurds and Lost the Middle East in an article published in the US newspaper Newsday entitled, "America Has to Decide How to Protect the Kurds from Turkey and protect 2,000 US soldiers."
David Phillips said, "I have recently visited Qamishlo, on the Iraqi-Syrian border, to discuss the political transition. The region is fragile, and if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan succeeds in attacking it, its relative security will be in danger."
Erdogan believes that the Kurdish-Syrian forces are a branch of the PKK, which includes Kurds from Turkey who have fought for their rights since the mid-1980s. Erdogan has vowed to "stifle" the terrorists and establish a security belt along Turkey's border with Syria.
Erdogan's threats to attack the Kurdish forces could harm the US forces in the region. About 2,000 US Special Forces are operating within the Kurdish forces. The United States provides the People Protection Units (YPG) with weapons and air support in fighting against the Islamic State (IS).
The United States has no friends in Syria except for the KurdsThe United States has no friends in Syria except for the Kurds. Syria has become a place where Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Turkey are present. Syria has borders with Israel and can be a starting point for attacks against Israel. Will Washington prevent Turkey from slaughtering civilians, or will it turn a blind eye to Turkey that is targeting the Syrian Kurds?
Erdogan has a record full of war crimes. On 20 January, Turkey launched an unjustified attack on Afrin, a peaceful Syrian area, west of the Euphrates River in order to clear Afrin from the Kurds. The Turkish warplanes bombed Afrin area for 58 days, killing hundreds and displacing 300,000 people.
Trump's administration needs the Kurds to help eradicating 20,000 of IS fighters in areas along the Syrian-Iraqi border. It also helps the Kurds to contain the Iranian influence in Syria. The United States is establishing five monitoring posts on the Turkish-Syrian border as a means of preventing violent conflict between Turkey and the Kurds, but if Turkey would attack, these monitoring centers would be bypassed. In a vague warning, Erdogan asserts, "our goals will never be the US soldiers."
The establishment of a no-fly zone in northern and eastern Syria would eliminate Turkey's advantage in the use of air power and give the Kurds a chance to fight.
But this decision has major security and political negative impact. Most US air forces in the region are at Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey. If the United States establishes a no-fly zone, it is possible that Turkey would prevent the flight of US aircrafts and close Incirlik airport.
In anticipation of the deterioration of relations with Turkey, the United States transferred military aircrafts to Greece. The US airports in Cyprus and US aircrafts' carriers in the eastern Mediterranean can also help to enforce a no-fly zone. The United States faces a historic choice, which can continue its alliance with Turkey, which has helped the jihadi groups in Syria and purchases missiles from Russia in violation of NATO principles, or the United States can support the Syrian Kurds.
The northern and eastern region of the Autonomous Administration in Syria is secular. It could serve as a model of governance in the future Syria. The United States needs to adopt a principled and practical approach, and defend its partners rather than trying to appease its adversaries.