Syrian madhouse gets even crazier

LAST summer, I was just across the border from the Syrian town of Afrin around which Turkish and Kurdish and, possibly, American forces, are now poised for a head-on clash. It seems crazy to me that anyone would want to fight over this one-donkey farm town. We were there on a mission to rescue wild animals trapped in a zoo in war-torn Aleppo, Syria.

Why on earth are at least 2,000 US troops mixed up in this fracas in darkest Syria? Because the pro-Israel neocons in Washington, who pretty much run US foreign policy these days, are determined to have revenge for the defeat of US-backed rebel forces in Syria.

So it's once more into the breach near Afrin and the town of Manbij though America has zero national interests in Syria. The US first tried to overthrow Syria's government in Damascus in 1948 because it was too independent and flirting with the Soviets. Today's intervention is part of Israel's plan to fragment Syria and gobble up its water and fertile land resources.

Worse, the Pentagon decided to enlist and arm rebellious Kurds in southern Turkey and Syria, and use them as "native troops" to fight first the rag-tag bands of IS, then the Turkish armed forces.

This was a terrible idea – compounded by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's incredibly foolish announcement that the US would mobilise, arm and finance a "border force" of 30,000 Kurds that was closely tied to the Kurdish PKK rebel group. Washington has only a child's understanding of events in Turkey and the dangers involved. Washington bills the PKK "terrorists". Clearly, it can't even keep its "terrorists" straight. The neocons under Trump have gutted the State Department.

The Turks rightly fear that events in war-torn Syria may enflame demands by Turkey's restive Kurdish minority for an independent state. The very likely involvement of the US in the 2016 failed coup attempt to overthrow Turkey's president, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have deepened Turkish fears of another US-backed plot to divide Turkey.

Turks recall post World War I efforts by Britain, France, Greece and Italy in 1918-19 to divide up post-Ottoman Turkey between them.

The Turks are in a rage. Turkey has been battling a wide-scale Kurdish insurgency since the 1980's. I was with the Turkish Army in eastern Anatolia (just north of Syria), witnessing the brutal, bloody guerilla war between the Turks and Kurds that left 40,000 dead, mostly civilians.

Turkey's democratic leader, President Erdogan, had almost forged a peace with the rebellious Kurds and their PKK leadership when the western intervention in Syria rekindled the war.

As often in the past, foreign powers used the warlike Kurds for their own aims, then abandoned them. Israel has been particularly active in arming and organising Kurdish rebels since the 1970's as part of its grand strategy to fragment the Arab world and Turkey, and degrade them into feeble mini-states.

Intervention by Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah into Syrian "civil-war" caused the defeat of US-Saudi-British-Israeli backed rebel Syrian forces. This, as noted, led the frustrated US war party to directly base US troops in Syria, an act that flagrantly violated international law. As US troops prepared to confront the forces from Damascus and their Russian air support, the Kurds declared all-out war. Involved were not only Syrian Kurds but large numbers of ethnic Kurds in Turkey, who make up about 17% of the total population. Iran's Kurds are next to be stirred up.

All this is a huge, dangerous mess. US and Russian forces are now at rifle's shot from one another while their warplanes buzz the skies overhead. Iranian and US forces are nearing a confrontation, something that would delight the Trump White House. US and Turkish forces are nearing confrontation.

Were it not for the steady hand of Russia's leader Vladimir Putin, a US-Russian clash might have already occurred. While this dangerous game of chicken goes on, US and Nato forces are busy probing Russia's border in the Baltic, Eastern Europe and the Black Sea. The hunger for war grows.

Wretched, largely devastated Syria now faces more fighting. The captive wild animals we rescued from Aleppo, Syria, are still in large part in shock from being trapped in the middle of a war zone. One of the hyenas we saved died last week of organ failure. Think of the suffering of Syria's people as the great powers and their mercenaries turn this once lovely land into a giant cemetery.

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist, writing mainly about the Middle East and South Asia. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com