The terrifying noise announcing the approach of the fighter planes; the slow hiss of the shells before they explode; the ceaseless crackling of machine guns mounted on jeeps; the walls of houses collapsing under the blast; flames that devour everything; columns of black smoke darkening the sky.
This is the war that Turkish President Erdogan has unleashed on villages and towns in northern Syria, territories under the control of the YPG militias (People’s Protection Units), armed wing of the Party of Democratic Union, and other components of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). More than a war of conquest, this is a war of extermination of Kurdish populations and their allied neighbours. At the strategic level, Erdogan does not hide the fact that he prefers to see a Syria in flames, with his mobs of jihadist and governmental slaughterers, rather than any stability that could lead to the constitution of a Kurdish proto-State on the borders of Turkey.
At the tactical level, this translates into the massive bombing of all structures, both civilian and military, by armed forces composed not only of Turkish soldiers, but also of mercenaries and Islamists trained and armed by this State, ready to sow the same bloodthirsty terror as that during the invasion of Afrin early in 2018. And when the earth is burned, the inhabitants slaughtered or driven out, the Turkish State will send the millions of Syrian refugees who are surviving in camps to settle in these emptied territories, sowing the seeds of future civil wars.
The YPG and the SDF today find themselves alone to face the Turkish military operation. Their ally of yesterday, the United States, had previously withdrawn its troops to make way for the war of extermination that Erdogan wanted. One imagines that their other ally, the French, did the same – albeit more discreetly, by withdrawing its special forces mission in Rojava. The loss of past allies can probably, and unfortunately, only lead to the search for new ones. If European States limit themselves to denouncing the announced “humanitarian catastrophe”, or decide to temporarily suspend their shipments of arms and war material to Turkey (now, after the stocks of their ally within NATO have been filled and the profits realised (1)), other powers are emerging, patiently calculating what is up for grabs on the backs of thousands of dead. Russia admonishes, but does not want to jeopardize its new lucrative arms contracts with Turkey (including ground-to-air missiles). There is also the butcher Assad, who, against all odds, has managed not only to save his skin after eight years of civil war, but even succeeded in making himself essential on the geostrategic chessboard in the region and in rebuilding his State.
Such an “alliance” would unfortunately not be a first: Kurdish militias had already reached agreements with the Assad regime at the beginning of the war, allowing him to concentrate the majority of his troops against the Syrian insurgents; and the same happened during the Turkish invasion of Afrin, when the Kurdish leaders invited Syrian government troops to resume their positions in the hope of curbing this offensive.
Of course, it is too late now for any reflection. The military urgency to act cannot fail to take priority in the face of the planned massacre of Rojava. But if it is not the moment to talk about the lessons to be learned, it is high time to choose a path to follow, rather than continuing to end up in the wake of the choices of others. To rely on yet another provisional alliance in order to try to limit the damage would only confirm the role of pawns reserved for the Kurdish militias. In Rojava itself, the resistance is giving some indicative signs: rather than oppose superior forces under the orders of the Turkish State symmetrically, carry out a guerrilla war to prevent any permanent occupation of the territory. Renounce the existence of a “professional army”, like the comrades of “Anarchist Struggle” (Tekoşîna Anarşîst) fighting there, qualifying the Kurdish forces and the FDS, renounce “conventional war” (ground offensive with decisive air support) as it was waged against Daesh, and even renounce “defence of the territory”. And then: blend into the “civil” population and, in the face of the advance of the Turkish and other troops, launch the insurrection. Insurrection, not conventional war, is the only way that could derail the programme of the Turkish State which, as well as the destruction of the YPG, is aiming at the ethnic cleansing of the region. Because in Rojava, there are no mountains in which to entrench oneself. On the Iraqi side, the Peshmerga will undoubtedly endeavour to prevent any retreat and will try to block road against the Kurdish refugees. And in the territories controlled by Assad the refugees can only expect hostilities, or death. There is no way out if the conflict continues to unfold according to the paradigm that has been followed until now.
The Turkish offensive is based on international acquiescence, as Trump has clearly demonstrated. Teary speeches of European leaders conceal ongoing support to Erdogan’s regime, dictated by economic motives (the Turkish market is full of products from the European Union and serves as a valve to overproduction that could lead to a collapse of prices), political motives (mainly the question of managing refugees) and strategic motives (Erdogan regularly threatens to ally himself rather on the Russian side and aspires to playing a major role in the control of the Middle East, especially with speeches about Sunni unity). It is this support that can be attacked today, to change a paradigm that can only lead to catastrophe. Not through humanitarian appeals, but by an intensification of hostilities, attacks on collaboration with Erdogan’s regime, diffused actions against the military industry (which in the face of the suspension of deliveries of material to the Turkish State, will only store up for a few months before resuming as soon as the wind changes).
It is essential now, at this tragic hour where the troops are pounding Rojava and shells and bombs are raining on the towns and villages, to stop following the same path that only leads to the debacle. It is collaboration with any existing power whatsoever (Syrian, Russian, North-American, French, Iranian regimes or the Gulf countries) that undermines any revolutionary perspective on the spot, and not only: to believe that such a political strategy can serve as a shield against bloodthirsty aspirations only perpetuates the vicious cycle of massacre. Historical examples are countless, unfortunately there is plenty of choice. The Lister’s communist brigades, these “brothers in arms against fascism” who massacred and devastated the libertarian collectivizations in Aragon during the Spanish revolution, to the military aids of the Gulf countries, the “brothers of the Muslim community” who contributed decisively to the hegemony of the Islamist and jihadist units and to the burial of the Syrian revolution. If we cannot overcome, let’s refuse to be defeated by the shots in the back by yesterday’s allies! The geopolitical chessboard is to the revolutionary perspective what oil is to the sea. This is not “revolutionary maximalism” speaking, these are our aspirations … and above all experience that should make us understand that this chessboard must be thrown away like all the others if we don’t want to change the bent rules of the game, but the game itself, as someone once said.
It is late, very late, to throw away the chessboard on which one only runs from massacre to massacre. But not too late perhaps. Resistance, even desperate, can still tear off the geopolitical chains that are condemning it to impotence. Internationalism, even belated and despite the lack of critical reflection that has gnawed away at it in recent years, can still put a spoke in the wheels of the world powers. Arms can be extended to other insurgents rather than to other States. If the flames that could ignite a brazier throughout the Middle East feed on oxygen provided by States around the world, it is still possible to light other fires, here where we are, sparks where it is not massacre that dazzles, but an old dream of freedom and solidarity.
October 13 2019.
For example, the French military industry has officially delivered 460 million euros of arms to Turkey in 10 years, the main suppliers of the latter are however the United States, Germany and Italy. Moreover, Turkey produces a lot of weapons itself, and under license (European or North American).
From the [Avis de tempêtes, n. 22, 15 October 2019