Wednesday, February 17, 2016

That Byzantine Quagmire

"Both Russia and Turkey are looking to position for strategic advantage. The risk is of an actual Russo-Turkish military clash, which would then threaten to draw in NATO."
Tim Ash, Nomura, London

"[Russian shadow flights were] primarily a political demonstration."
"They want to show their view that, in contrast to the international anti-ISIL coalition, they are there at the invitation of the legitimate Syrian government."
German Lt.-Gen. Joachim Wundrak
Syrian Kurdish Republic Of Rojava Becomes Bulwark In Battle Against ISIL
Troops from the Syrian Democratic Forces prepare to fire mortars near Hasaka, in the autonomous region of Rojava, Syria, on Nov. 11, 2015   Photographer: John Moore/Getty Images
The question is how 'legitimate' can a government be, that has openly and without a shred of concern or compassion, destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of its citizens by using the most brutal tactics that no recognized international laws of warfare condone. A government that has deliberately and fully malevolently unleashed the most devastating attacks on its citizenry designed to exact maximum carnage, both to the population and to the infrastructure of the country.

That Moscow doesn't blink at eye at the fact that half of the total population of the country has been displaced, both internally and externally, simply reflects the values that Vladimir Putin brings to a conflict that has pitted a well-armed military against a rebel insurgency that has the support of the West but only to an extent where some small measure of offensive weapons are provided to them; too little, too late.

None of which has stopped Russia's airborne mission from simply emulating what its Syrian friends have done to date, adding to the death toll, and to the number of refugees swarming neighbouring countries, and overlapping into Europe. So, Russia, in its decision to support Syria, has disrupted its traditional amicable relations with Turkey, since Turkey now views Russia as an enemy alien in lands that don't abut Russian borders.

And though Turkey has taken in almost three million Syrian refugees for temporary haven, its humanitarian side has been well balanced by its Islamist brutal expediency side, the same kind of practical expedience that saw it massacre millions of Armenians and tens of thousands of Yazidis at the turn of the last century. Now Turkey has turned its considerable ire not only on Russia, but on its own citizen-Kurds and those of Syria, bombing them as enemies of Turkey's immovable borders.

Turkey's military has unleashed 155-millimetre heavy guns on Kurdish forces, those same forces which both Russia and the United States and its allies support in the conflict against Islamic State. Turkey viewing them as a threat to the sovereignty of Turkey in the Kurdish aim to carve out a territory of their own, and those battling Islamic State recognizing the Kurdish militias as the only truly local effective fighting force on the ground against ISIL.

Global and regional powers are all involved in a Byzantine vipers' nest of competing claims and aspirations. Turkey, a NATO member, is acting as a prod to NATO to protect it while it conducts all manner of nonsensical Islamist manoeuvres, seeing enemies in the guise of erstwhile friends and threatening those it accuses of upending Turkey's interests. It is a ballistic missile gone manically off course, refusing all efforts to correct its errant flight.

Turkey insisting the main Kurdish fighting unit is a terrorist group plotting with autonomy-insisting Kurdish militants is determined to blast them all to hell, even while the United States sees the Syrian Kurds as the key to battlefield successes against the Islamic State. Rebels backed by the U.S., its allies as well as Turkey are being targeted by Russian air strikes helping Bashar al Assad to regain his aplomb and some of his territory.

And here are two of the world's arrogant autocrats, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Valdimir V. Putin, each the equal of the other in perceived entitlements to do as they wish irrespective of the fallout because they view whatever they wish as a matter of their personal prerogatives. The question is whether their personal prerogatives will take them into a confrontation of military violence that neither will be willing to back away from?

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