TURKEY AND SYRIA Separating fact from fiction

By Kurt G Olcer

Türkçe İçin Tıklayın

I have been hearing a lot about the situation in Syria in the news lately and I must say I have witnessed an unprecedented level of bias and false reporting coming out of some of the major U.S. News Media outlets on this issue. Now, it would be naive to expect neutral and balanced reporting from any news media in this day and age- after all, much of today’s news media is owned and dictated by companies that are in the business of making money by promoting and advancing a specific political agenda. However, some of the reporting in the past couple of weeks have been so outrageously biased and inaccurate, I wanted to write this article to separate fact from fiction and set the record straight.

First, let’s start with some background information. Turkey has a sizable southern border with Syria that is 822 km (511 miles) long. Last week, Turkish government decided to take military action in Northern Syria against Kurdish terrorist groups that have been flourishing and launching attacks into Turkey. Unfortunately, these terrorist groups called the YPG/PKK (that later changed their name to Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF) have been equipped and trained by the United States during the Obama Administration to fight ISIS. The Obama Administration was aware of a potential problem, that their would-be Kurdish allies were regarded as terrorists by their NATO ally, Turkey. Washington turned a blind eye to a problem that could be kicked into the future. Now the future is here, and it has blown up.

YPG control of Syria expanded with U.S. support to roughly 30% of the landmass, even though the Kurdish population (which the YPG does not represent) constitutes only 5-10% of the country’s overall population and is concentrated mostly along the northern border with Turkey. YPG expanded into these lands beyond their inherent capabilities with ulterior motives. The overextended YPG ethnically cleansed the conquered territories in an effort to consolidate their control. The YPG occupation has disenfranchised Arabs, minority groups and Kurds who do not share their Marxist-Leninist politics alike.

YPG’s success in Syria is owed directly to American support since 2015 (approximately 30,000 truckloads of American arms and materials). The choice to ally with YPG, which the U.S. assured to Turkey was transactional and temporary, deliberately ignored Turkey’s legitimate and pressing security concerns. U.S. officials have repeatedly acknowledged YPG’s deep affiliation with the PKK, which the U.S. designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 and affirmed in 2019. Commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), “General Mazloum”, in conjunction with the PKK has orchestrated from Syria dozens of large-scale terrorist attacks in Turkey, specifically targeting tourists and civilians. Furthermore, over 50% of YPG fighters are composed of PKK members from Turkey.

The U.S. news media nevertheless insists on portraying the YPG, naively, as “steadfast allies”. Meanwhile, Turkey, a vital ally of the U.S. in the Middle East, Balkans and Afghanistan and a key member of NATO since 1952, is portrayed as an irrational antagonist in the region. Yet, Turkey has been integral in dealing with the humanitarian crisis caused by the Syrian Civil War. According to the UNHCR, Turkey is providing asylum to 3,674,588 Syrian refugees: amounting to 68% of the entire Syrian refugee population. Meanwhile, the EU, the U.S., and the wealthy Arab states of the Persian gulf have made only nominal attempts at relieving the humanitarian crisis or providing asylum. Turkey’s incursion into Syria not only champions its own security concerns but those of the Syrian refugees who long to return to their homeland.

So let’s separate fact from fiction, shall we?

Claim: Turkey is attacking Kurds in Northern Syria.

Fact: There are millions of Kurds in Turkey, living as citizens with equal rights. Ankara’s operation is against PKK and YPG. The projection of Turkey’s operation as a violent act by the mainstream U.S. media is not fair. Despite all the internal problems, Turkey is a strategic NATO ally and acts in accordance with the international law in preventing a safe zone in Syria for terrorist groups that attack Turkish soil regularly.

Claim: The Trump Administration betrayed the Kurds by withdrawing U.S. forces from Northern Syria.

Fact: There were only 50 U.S. servicemen stationed in Northern Syria (1,000 total in Syria). Such a small force is not in a position to dominate the entire northeast quadrant of a country the size of Syria and prevent a conflict between Turkey and YPG/PKK or fight against the will of the Damascus regime and army. Furthermore, the YPG/PKK forces clearly showed they are not the loyal allies the U.S. news media portrays them to be by immediately switching allegiances and brokering a deal with Russia and Bashar Assad a few days after the Turkish army moved into Syria.

Claim: Without YPG/PKK controlling Northern Syria, we will see a resurgence of ISIS

Fact: Both Turkish, Russian and Syrian governments considers ISIS a terrorist organization and will not allow ISIS fighters to regain any territory in Syria. We do not need another terrorist organization, YPG/PKK to protect the region from ISIS. For the long-term security of both Syria and Turkey, we cannot permit another terrorist organization to flourish from the ashes of another.

Next time, when you listen to U.S. news media outlets, who are willing to throw any person or country, even a long-time US ally like Turkey under the bus solely in the name of growing a public political sentiment, consider the following:

Turkey has been a NATO ally, a treaty ally, for almost seven decades. YPG/PKK are not. Turkish troops fought alongside U.S. troops in Korea. Turkey hosted Jupiter missiles targeted on Russia in the Cold War, nuclear missiles the U.S. withdrew as a concession in the secret JFK-Khrushchev deal that ended the Cuban missile crisis.

Turkey is a nation of 82 million, a bridge between Europe and the Middle East and has the second-largest army in NATO. U.S. warplanes are based at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, as are 50 U.S. nuclear weapons.

Turkey is providing asylum to millions of Syrian refugees. No country has carried the burden of the humanitarian crisis in Syria more than Turkey.

And there can be no resolution to the conflict and the humanitarian crisis in Syria without Turkey.

About Kurt Gokhan Olcer
After graduating from Robert College in 1990, he continued his higher education at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and graduated with a master’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering. He began his professional career at Alstom, Inc. a global transportation and energy company. He has worked for 5 years as a project manager in various regions of the US, as well as in South Korea and China, and then worked as a senior consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton, the world-renowned consulting firm in New York. During the same period, he studied entrepreneurship and senior management at New York University’s Stern School of Business. After serving as a senior executive at the Miami based TOL Information Technologies, Mr. Olcer returned to New York, where he served as Vice President for the international digital marketing company Interactive Communication Group.

After these corporate experiences, Mr. Olcer continued his career as an entrepreneur, and was among the founding partners of a private internet shopping club named Shopping4Fans in London and social networking platform Turkiye Online in Turkey. Utilizing his extensive experience in technology, marketing and consulting, Mr. Olcer recently launched Global Trade & Communication, a Seattle-based business consulting firm. GT&C provides strategic consulting, product and project management services to international companies who aim to establish or grow their presence in the United States.

Kurt Gokhan Olcer is an expert in international trade, e-commerce, social media and digital marketing. and serves as the President of the Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry Northwest (taccinw.org),