What Just Happened in Syria?
20 October 2015
Last week, after the White House announced its support for Syrian rebels was finished, the United States said it dropped 50 tons of ammunition from the air into Syria, ostensibly for unnamed Arab groups fighting ISIS. That, supposedly, was the last assistance those people were going to get.
A few days later, various anti-ISIS Syrian Arabs issued a collective, huh?
What happened to that ammo that supposedly fell out of the sky?
Nobody seemed to get any ammo.
All became clear the next day when Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported in Bloombergthat, according to various officials, the aid was never intended for Syrian Arabs. That 50 tons of ammo actually went to the Kurds.
“Turkey cannot accept any kind of cooperation with terror organizations that have declared war against Turkey,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
That ammunition went to no kind of terrorist organization. It went to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, the only half-way sane militia in all of Syria that’s capable of taking on ISIS and winning.
The YPG is allegedly linked to the quasi-Marxist Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, over the border in Turkey which is listed by the United States government, among others, as a terrorist organization. But the PKK and the YPG are different organizations. They have different goals, different ideas, different leaders, and different enemies. They aren’t even in the same country. And the extent of their linkage is hotly disputed.
The Pentagon later said that, no, that ammunition did in fact go to Syrian Arab fighters and that, to the best of its knowledge, none of it was shared with anyone else.
The officials who told Lake and Rogin that it went to the Kurds are anonymous sources. They spoke unofficially and off the record. But this isn’t a case of one person said “this” and another said “that.” Lake and Rogin have American, Kurdish and Syrian Arab sources who back up that claim.
The Pentagon is almost certainly lying so it won’t infuriate Turkey.
Look. Running guns and ammo under the radar to legitimate proxies in a fight against a terrorist army is entirely reasonable behavior on the part of the United States government. We’ve been doing that sort of thing for decades. Pretty much everyone else in the Middle East does it, too, but they almost always run guns and ammo to terrorist organizations rather than to groups fighting terrorist organizations.
Regardless, it’s high time we come out and say exactly what we’re doing and why. Everyone already knows we’re backing the Kurds against ISIS, and everyone already knows the Turks would rather see an ISIS victory than a Kurdish victory. None of this is even remotely a secret. It’s all right out in the open. Official denials aren’t fooling anybody.
Besides, pretending we’re not doing what we clearly are doing just makes it look like the Turkish government’s complaint is legitimate.
Turkey says arming Syrian Kurds is unacceptable. Well. You know what’s unacceptable from everyone else’s point of view? Telling the rest of the world that we all have to suffer the plague of ISIS because an independent Syrian Kurdistan is inconvenient to Turkey.