Original article by Michael Rubin

James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, continues to seek to appease Turkish saber-rattling and appears ready to facilitate Turkish entrance into Kurdish-administered northeastern Syria.

This would be a terrible idea for several reasons:

  • The Kurdish zone in Syria is the most stable and secure region in the country.
  • The Kurds almost single-handedly defeated al Qaeda and then the Islamic State at a time when both received support from the Turkish intelligence service and members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family, if not Erdoğan himself. Kurdish forces allied with the United States when Turkey sought to undermine the U.S. position.
  • Turkish intelligence is deeply flawed and politicized.
  • Turkey’s previous incursion into northern Syria ended in anti-Kurdish ethnic cleansing.

Before President Trump and Jeffrey make any more concessions to Erdoğan and his imperial ambitions, it might be useful for them to consider whether Turkey’s stated grievances are real, or rather a tactic to extract concessions.

Turkish officials state repeatedly that Kurdish-controlled northern Syria poses a terror threat, and that the Kurdistan Workers Party uses the zone as a safe haven from which to stage attacks into Syria.

The Rojava Information Center, a Syrian Kurdish think tank, just released a database of all incidents, almost three dozen in all, across the Turkey-Syria border this year. They found that all but one of the attacks was staged from Turkey into Syria, rather than the other way around. These attacks included heavy weapons and rocket fire from Turkish positions into northeast Syria, killing 27, all of whom were civilian and one of whom was a child. In contrast, there was only one attack from northeast Syria into Turkey, with the perpetrator arrested by the Syrian Defense Forces, the Kurdish-dominated local militias.

Frankly, if Turkey’s concern is the fight against terrorism, diplomats should base their policy on reality rather than what increasingly appears to be yet one more example of tendentious Turkish demands. If either Jeffrey or his Turkish interlocutors dispute the Rojava Information Center database, it’s time they release their own record of Kurdish terrorism emanating from Syria. Their silence suggests, frankly, Turkish grievances are without merit and, therefore, U.S. efforts to appease Turkey at the expense of the Kurds to be both counterproductive and immoral. Rather than Kurdish terrorism, it is Turkey’s proposed buffer zone, Turkey’s revanchism, and its use of fake grievances to justify its imperialism that poses the greatest threat to the region.

Michael Rubin (@Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.