Interview with Paul Street (October 26, 2014) by FARS News Agency (Teheran), published November 5, 2014 at http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13930803001434
Q: Reports suggest that Turkey’s border with Syria has been the main entry point for foreign militants who seek to join ISIL. Also, Turkey has demanded a no-fly zone, a buffer zone in Syria and greater efforts against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Is the buffer zone aimed at creating a safe haven for the displaced or making the area a paradise for the terrorists?
Street: Of all the nations supposedly united against ISIL, Turkey is perhaps the most significant. This is because it shares a 511-mile border with Syria. Takfiri jihadists of all kinds, including those with ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria) have crossed from Turkey into Syria with great ease until recently. In 2012 and 2013, Ankara helped fuel the militarization of the Syrian uprising and crisis, backing the rebels on the assumption that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would soon be defeated and replaced by the oppositions. This did not happen. A resistance that began as a popular uprising was overtaken by sectarian warlords who thrived under circumstances created largely by Turkey.
The buffer zone that Turkey is demanding as a condition of agreeing to cooperate with the US in attacking ISIL is not about helping displaced Syrians. Ankara wants a Turkish-controlled space inside Syria where anti-Assad rebels can be trained. The anti-Assad forces are dominated by ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra. As a result, the plan means that Turkey, backed by the US, would enter the Syrian Civil war on the side of the Takfiri terrorists. Why does Turkey want a no-fly zone? Because Syria has an air force and ISIL does not. So, yes, Turkey wants to make the buffer zone a haven for terrorists, terrorists fighting the government in Damascus. At the same time, the buffer zone desired by Ankara would likely be devised in part to crush Kurdish autonomy in Syria.
Q: What role is Turkey playing in the region?
Street: A nasty and duplicitous one. On one hand, Turkey is no great fan of extremist Takfiri fundamentalism-terrorism on the models of al-Qaeda and ISIL. On the other hand, it (Turkey) is joined as a NATO member state with the US and other western imperial powers and US-allied Wahhabi monarchies in an alliance against Shiite Iran and against Russia. It is engaged with those other states in a campaign to bring down the Assad government in Damascus – a government that is allied with both Tehran and Moscow. Turkey’s alliance with the West and with the oil sheikdoms and Turkey’s opposition to Iran and the Syrian government have compelled it to aid and abet ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra, blood enemies of Assad and Iran.
At the same time, Turkey has been engaged in an ongoing bloody conflict with its own Kurdish population for three decades. The Left-led Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been waging a political and military struggle for Kurdish self-rule since the mid-1980s. Ever since Syrian forces retreated from the Syrian Kurdish enclaves on the Turkish border in the summer of 2012, Ankara has been extremely uncomfortable with the presence of 15 million self-governing Syrian Kurds right over Turkey’s Southern border.
Make no mistake. While it claimed to have asked the US to bomb ISIL forces to protect the besieged Syrian Kurd city of Kobani last week, Ankara considers the Syrian Kurds a greater threat to Turkey than the fundamentalists. Ankara would rather have ISIL control Kobani than autonomous Kurdish political and military forces.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has undertaken this policy with the expectation that he can safely dismiss the fury of Turkish Kurds over his complicity with ISIL against the Syrian Kurds. More than 30 Turkish Kurds have been killed by Turkish forces in protests against this collusion. Erdogan is willing to see the resulting collapse of Ankara’s recently attained ceasefire with PKK because he figures that the PKK is too preoccupied with fighting ISIL in Syria to resume armed struggle with the Turkish state.
Q: There is an official open public ISIL consulate in Ankara where you can go and get a visa. What’s your perspective on this?
Street: That is depressing, but it is consistent with what I just said about Turkey and ISIL.
Q: The US formed an international coalition to fight the ISIL terrorists in September. So far, US-led airstrikes have failed to stop the ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among the members of the coalition. In fact, the backers of the ISIL are also among the members of the anti-ISIL coalition. There is a contradiction here. What’s your view on this?
Street: Air-strikes are simply inadequate to the task, as Washington knows. But Washington is reluctant to deploy troops, thanks in part to the war-weariness of the US public in the wake of the failed and criminal US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. US planners prefer to rely on proxy regimes (Saudi Arabia and the rest) to protect the US Empire’s oil in and around the Persian Gulf. But the proxy regimes aren’t up to the task, either. They all have different agendas than Washington. Crushing ISIL – a Frankenstein partly of their own creation – is not their top priority. The veteran Middle East reporter Patrick Cockburn recently noted that, “The Sunni Arab monarchies may not like ISIL, which threatens the political status quo, but, as one Iraqi observer put it, ‘they like the fact that ISIL creates more problems for the Shiite than it does for them.’”
Q: Do you believe that another international coalition made up of Iran, Russia, China, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq ought to be formed to counter ISIL as the US-led coalition has so far failed to stop the Takfiri group?
Street: I am not a geopolitical adviser or strategist but it seems to me that such a coalition would be far more likely to have its heart in the job of “degrading and defeating ISIL” than the current US-led coalition.
Q: Syria has been the scene of armed and bloody conflicts since March 2011. According to the UN’s latest report, more than 191, 000 people have been killed in the Arab country since the start of the battle. Countries like US and Saudi Arabia have played a significant role in promoting insurgency in the country by massive funding of the Takfiri-Wahhabi terrorists. Why does the US not cooperate with President Assad to root out the Takfiri terrorists in Syria?
Street: It cannot do so openly because it is on record describing Assad as a criminal dictator and calling for his removal from power. The rhetoric against Assad was quite loud inside the US last year. He is one of Washington’s great, officially designated public enemies (new “Hitlers”), in line with other “bad guys” of the past – people like Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and Osama bin-Laden, Assad is allied with the official US regional and global enemies Iran and Russia. The threat that ISIL and Takfiri terrorism more broadly pose to what is always the top US interest in the region – control of Middle Eastern oil through “cooperative relations” with despotic client Arab regimes – means that the US will have no choice but to “cooperate” with Damascus (and Teheran) to some extent to defeat ISIL. But it can only do so secretly, behind the scenes. At the same time, US planners still want to topple Assad and can be expected to act in accord with that goal. They would also like the war to develop in such a way as to de-stabilize Iran. It’s a delicate and duplicitous balance.
More broadly, it should never be forgotten that the US is itself the top terrorist state on Earth. It has killed many millions of innocents around the world over recent decades. Asking Washington to “uproot terrorism” is like asking a Mafia Don to become a good police officer. It is like asking a sociopathic serial killer to become a caring and decent person.
Never forget that the US is home to a giant military- and security-industrial complex that has strong vested interests in endless war. The elites atop this complex garner wealth and power from the vicious circle of US escalation and Takfiri terrorism. They don’t want to see terrorism uprooted – either the ISIL variant or the US variant. Dealing with this corporate and military complex is the duty of beleaguered democratic forces here in the US, where a revolutionary North American Spring is long overdue. (Interview by Javad Arab Shirazi)