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Turkey's 'Operation Peace Spring' and the world's hypocrisy

Syrian National Army members patrol within Turkey's Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, in on 15 October 2019 [Omer Alven /Anadolu Agency]
Syrian National Army members patrol within Turkey's Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria on 15 October 2019 [Omer Alven /Anadolu Agency]

When Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced the launch of Operation Peace Spring on Wednesday, he faced criticism from almost all countries over the world; however, he is clearly announcing that he is fighting terror, maintaining the national security of his country and working to assist in the resettlement of at least one million Syrian refugees in the northeast of Syria.

Some of countries have voiced their concerns over claims that Turkey is interfering in the internal affairs of another country, undermining its sovereignty or trying to divide it.

However, Erdoğan asserts that Turkey's "anti-terror operations" in northern Iraq and Syria, including Operation Peace Spring launched this Wednesday, and Operation Claw in northern Iraq, launched this summer, will not target countries' territorial integrity or sovereignty.

"Turkey will ensure its border security and the safe return of Syrians by clearing terrorist groups from the east of the Euphrates River, as we did with the west of the Euphrates," he explained, referring to previous anti-terror operations, the first of which, Operation Euphrates Shield, was initiated in 2016.

Erdoğan even stressed, according to Anadolu News Agency, that the Operation Peace Spring intends to protect the rights of the people of northern Syria, including Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis, Chaldeans, Syrians and Assyrians, and not to divide Syria.

READ: United States' UN envoy warns Turkey it faces 'consequences' amid Syria assault

Ankara has explained that it is aiming to establish a 30-kilometre safe zone east of the Euphrates, so that the Turkish borders are secured and over one million Syrian refugees can be returned to Syria. Tens of thousands of refugees have been displaced from their homes in this area, by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a component of the coalition of rebels led by the YPG.

The stance of the countries that do not agree with Turkey's operation indicates a certain hypocrisy, as some of those countries have supported previous Turkish operations with the same goals, and some remained silent on the PYD displacement of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from these areas, after they had been liberated from Daesh.

If these countries were credible in their fears over human rights violations and ethnic cleansing, why did they not agree with Ankara to take joint action against the PYD violations that have been in place in the area since it was liberated from Daesh, more than four years ago?

"We asked them to stop these terrorist groups, but they did not agree," Erdoğan confirmed, referring to the US and EU countries criticising the operation. "So that, we were obliged to go ahead alone. We do not care about those who do not care about our national security or human rights."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Turkey on 15 May 2019 [Erçin Top/Anadolu Agency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Turkey on 15 May 2019 [Erçin Top/Anadolu Agency]

It is worth noting that the PYD have expelled hundreds of thousands of Arabs from the areas liberated from Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Amnesty International stated that the Kurds destroyed homes and properties in the Arab villages after they had been liberated from Daesh in Iraq and Syrian, and displaced their entire population. It disclosed that even Kurdish civilians took part in the burning down of the homes of Arabs, and preventing them from returning back to their hometowns.

Amnesty International visited these areas and interviewed eyewitnesses. "They pulled us out of our homes and began burning the home… they brought the bulldozers… They demolished home after home, until the entire village was destroyed," a witness recounted.

READ: US transfers two of the most dangerous Daesh fighters from Syria to Iraq

According to Amnesty International, the Kurdish fighters were alleged to have doused a house with petrol and set it alight, while its residents were still inside. The villagers were accused by the fighters of supporting Daesh, it reported.

One example of the ethnic cleansing of the Arab majority by the PYD, is the Tel-Rifaat District, where the Kurds expelled more than 200,000 Arabs, after regaining its control from Daesh. Why did the world remain silent and not protest against the PYD actions, which were well-documented by Amnesty International's researchers?

While at the same time, there are countries voicing fear that Turkey is working to occupy Syrian territories through this operation. Why did they not air their concerns when the US sent thousands of troops to Syria for the same reasons as Turkey? Why did they not oppose the creation of US bases in Syria, which have been run by hundreds of US troops?

A photo taken from Turkey's Sanliurfa province shows the armoured vehicles as Turkey, US start first joint ground patrols as part of efforts to establish safe zone east of Euphrates in Syria on September 08, 2019 [Emin Sansar / Anadolu Agency]

Armoured vehicles are seen as Turkey and the US start a joint ground patrols as part of efforts to establish safe zone east of Euphrates in Syria on 8 September 2019 [Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency]

Regarding the violence and fear of targeting civilians, why have these countries and officials never called for ending the US-led operations in Syria, where numerous American attacks have killed civilians and levelled entire residential areas to the ground? Meanwhile, previous Turkish operations liberating areas from terrorists, left homes almost untouched allowing their owners to return to them and resettle easily.

Then, what about the Saudi-led operation in Yemen? For around five years, the Saudi-led coalition has been targeting civilians, hospitals, schools without exception. Why did the world's countries not impose an arms embargo? Few countries imposed a partial and limited arms embargo, and some others have yet to discuss the issue of the embargo in their parliaments or cabinets. However, some of these countries imposed the arms embargo as soon as the Turkish operation had commenced.

READ: Yemen set to become poorest country in the world

Another point which deserves mentioning, is that Turkey is striving to achieve the same goals that the US and the EU are claiming to be working towards – fighting terrorism and resolving the issue of the millions of displaced Syrian refugees. If so, why do they oppose it? Instead of imposing arms embargos or remaining neutral, they must show their support of Turkey.

Regarding fears that the former Daesh fighters would return to their terror and that their families would be released, Turkey made it apparent that it would deal with this issue. "We fought Daesh," the Turkish president chief aide, Yasin Oktay, assured RT on Saturday. "We want to hand over Daesh members to their countries in order to deal with them. The Turks, who are members of Daesh, will to go to prisons."

Speaking to RT, Oktay affirmed "the US and EU are fighting Daesh. We are fighting them. They accepted to receive only a few hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, we received 3.6 million Syrian refugees. They claim they want to solve the issue of the refugees, why did they not support our operation while we are not working to afford a temporary solution for the refugees, but we are working to return them to their homeland."

In relation to the UN announcement of the displacement of more than 100,000 Syrians from the areas of the clashes, this is a war and it is reasonable to see people fleeing their homes, but the issue is whether the liberation force is destroying their homes, or working to afford a safe return for them. Unlike the US and its allies, the PYD militias, Turkey has proven that it is doing so through its previous operations.

READ: 3m homes destroyed in Syria war

Official Spokesman of the Syrian National Army, General Youssef Hammoud announced "we, the National Army, which consists of people originally from this area, are working along with the Turkish army, to liberate our homes from the PYD forces."

Commenting on the escape of thousands of civilians, he disclosed to Syria TV "we are opening safe passages and ask people to go through them to a safe area, until we complete our mission. We are a liberation force, not an occupation. We are fighting Assad's terrorism – PYD and Daesh. We were the first people to fight Daesh. We hope that we liberate the whole of the Syrian soil."

If the world is correct on the issue of liberating Syria, Iraq and Yemen from terrorists, it would have done this within several days. The US alone destroyed Saddam Hussein's regime within days, as well as toppling Taliban. NATO ended the rule of the Libyan dictator, Mu'amar al-Gadhafi, within days. How were they not able to stop Daesh within years, with the backing of all of the regional powers?

The issue worrying the world powers, is not the concerns over human rights violations, or unleashing the hands of Daesh fighters or the occupation of Syrian lands. What concerns them, is the increase of power in the area that may unite the countries of the region, which the West and the US have been striving for decades and paying billions of dollars to divide, turning them into warring entities while previously they have been co-existing with peace and harmony. Behind the human rights violations and Daesh, the hypocritical world is concealed in plain sight.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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