Arab governments criticising Turkey’s operation in northeastern Syria don’t have a leg to stand on.
After years of self-restraint in Syria, Ankara’s reservoir of patience has worn thin. Facing a threatening presence of PKK-linked terror elements along its border, and amidst recurrent reports about the Pentagon’s regular supply of advanced equipment to the YPG, the Turkish leadership had no choice but to initiate a military intervention in northeastern Syria.
The operation is in accordance with international law and is also in compliance with the 1998 Adana Pact, whose provisions clear a legal path for Turkey to undertake such military actions in Syria.
“Operation Peace Spring” is, thus, a legitimate operation that aims to neutralise the source of terrorist threats in the vicinity. It is also an opportunity to restore normalcy in northeastern Syria, thereby providing a safe environment for the voluntary return of internally displaced populations (IDPs) and refugees.
In the past few years, millions of Syrians were forced to leave their country as a result of the operations instigated by the Assad regime, as well as terror organisations, such as Daesh and the PKK/YPG. Paradoxically, instead of backing Turkey in its sovereign right to deal with threats to its national security, some Arab regimes revealed, once again, their political short-sightedness by standing on the wrong side of history.
While the Turkish operation is essentially helping Syrians to free themselves from the yoke of anarchy and terrorism, the anti-democracy axis in the region, which is represented primarily by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, criticised the operation and spewed incendiary language against Turkey via their media. The same actors hid behind the Arab League to produce acerbic communiques against Turkey. It is well documented that the Arab League was historically a British colonial project, and British officials supported the formal creation of the Arab League in 1945. The league was established in Egypt under British occupation, and Britain played a leading role in shaping the structure of the inter-state Arab organisation.
Beyond historical context, the Arab League has been one of the most lamentable international organisations of the past century. Its efforts in conflict-prevention and conflict-resolution in the Middle East have been nothing but a catalogue of shameful fiascos. Under the watch of the Arab League, the oldest and most crucial predicament on the region’s agenda, namely the Palestinian issue, has been relegated to the history books. Instead of standing for Palestinian rights, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt have been the main supporters of the so-called “deal of the century.”
The latter offered no long-lasting peace to the Palestinians, nor does it even consider giving back the occupied lands to their original owners. The entire deal is no more than a real-estate scam, which offers monetary quid pro quos for the illegal land grab of Palestinian lands. Ankara, on the other hand, adopted a principled policy and refused to accept any agreement that renounces the fundamental rights of the Palestinians.
To justify their latest positions against “Operation Peace Spring”, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo are trying hard to portray their positions as some sort of Arab solidarity and as a concern for the jurisdiction of Arab realms. Then again, upon a closer look of these claims, these regimes are the same ones that supported the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, endeavoured to blockade Qatar, fragmented Yemen into pieces, and spread chaos in Libya and Somalia. In Syria itself, Riyadh had a history of supporting the most radical elements, sending one arms shipment after another. It is believed that ISIS (Daesh) benefited from Saudi largess to the extent that this terrorist group was viewed by many as a Saudi project.
These regimes’ histories and intrinsic doublespeak reveal that they have no lesson to teach Turkey, nor do they have any legitimacy or credibility to speak on behalf of Arab people. In fact, Turkey has done much more for the security and wellbeing of the peoples in the Middle East than all these countries put together. Turkey stood for the people of Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Palestine, Libya, Yemen, and Qatar in their darkest hours.
The Syrian people have experienced first-hand Ankara’s values-based policies. Turkey’s track record on refugees speaks for itself. Moreover, during the military operations undertaken earlier, namely Euphrates Shield (2016-2017) and Olive Branch (2018), the Turkish military was highly sensitive to the presence of civilians and minimised the risk to residential areas. As a result, 291,000 Syrian nationals were able to return to their homes. In stark contrast, Raqqa in northeastern Syria, and numerous other localities were bombed to smithereens by the US coalition. Where were the crocodile tears then?
The propaganda war against Turkey is doomed to fail. As the adage goes, “the dogs bark, but the caravan goes on,” and it is in times like these that new opportunities for peace are created and that history is made.