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Turkey’s battle in Idlib exposes US hypocrisy

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and President of Russia Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands at the end of a joint news conference following an inter-delegation meeting at Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on 5 March 2020. [Sefa Karacan - Anadolu Agency]
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and President of Russia Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands at the end of a joint news conference following an inter-delegation meeting at Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on 5 March 2020. [Sefa Karacan - Anadolu Agency]

On Sunday, Turkey and Russia launched their first joint military patrols along the strategic M4 highway, which connects Syria’s east and west. The patrols are part of a ceasefire agreement reached by the two countries at the end of last week that ended a Turkish operation in retaliation for the Syrian regime’s killing of 33 Turkish troops.

Russian news outlets reported that Moscow had dispatched military police and armoured vehicles to take part in the joint patrols. In a statement, the Turkish Defence Ministry said: “Within the framework of the Moscow agreement, the 1st joint Turkish-Russian land patrol on the M4 highway has been completed with the contribution of air and land assets.”

Numerous monitors, analysts and commentators claimed that Turkey had failed the Syrian opposition and the Syrian people and many others described the agreement as a victory for the Syrians, Turkey and its allies – the Syrian opposition.

The deal ended an offensive by the Syrian regime, backed by Russia, in Idlib which displaced around one million, according to the UN.

READ: 4.8 million children born into Syria’s war

But the recent battle for Idlib has brought to light the hypocrisy of the US and NATO, which claim to stand by their alliances with Turkey.

Throughout Ankara’s campaign in Syria over the past three weeks, he US and NATO did not deploy the Patriot air defence system even though Turkey requested their help.

A US official confirmed to Air Force Technology that Turkey had requested the deployment of Patriot air defence system, but the US and the NATO did not deploy it. “We are aware of a request for Patriot missiles in Turkey near the Syrian border, but no decision has been made. We continue to have discussions with the government of Turkey about the troubling situation in Idlib,” the official said. Turkey went ahead with its ground operation and lost 60 troops.

Analysts have said the US was trying to show Turkey that it made a mistake by accepting Russia’s S-400 air defence system; a deal that led Washington to withdraw an agreement to provide Ankara with F-35 fighter jets.

However this is not the only reason for America’s inaction. The US want Turkey – a strong ally – to remain at loggerhead with Russia in the region. It does not, however, want Ankara to beat the Syrian regime, just simply to destabilise it.

This will keep Russia engaged in the war of attrition which may lead it to withdraw from the region or at least remain a point of global criticism as a supporter and partner of war criminals.

Washington also does not want Ankara to become stronger than the US’ strategic partners in the Middle East; Israel, Saudi and Egypt.

READ: Is it the end of the honeymoon for Russia and Turkey? 

Writing in Foreign Policy, Steven A Cook explained Turkey is not a US partner so America does not view offering it help as a necessity. “[Erdogan] has not been a partner, so why should the United States risk direct involvement in Syria’s conflict to help Ankara?” Cook wrote. “The United States simply sees no interests in Syria that it’s willing to defend with military force, including the protection of civilian lives.”

Cook even charged the US of neglecting the humanitarian crisis in Idlib. “While policymakers in Washington shake their heads over the resulting carnage, there is little interest in providing humanitarian assistance in an active war zone,” he said.

This is the US’ hypocrisy, ignoring its obligations towards its ally, human rights and the humanitarian crises arising from a war zone.

This is a new lesson for the whole world that proves the US is not a moral ally, it is an opportunist which is interested only in its own interests. The US does help others, it exploits them even at the expense of human rights and international law and even if innocent lives are at risk.

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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