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A US-Russia confrontation in Syrian skies is unlikely to be contained there

THINGS have come to a pretty pass when Turkey poses as the voice of moderation over the conflict in Syria, but Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s “healing wounds” comments merit attention.

Ankara has itself been no slouch in causing Syria’s wounds, having initially worked with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to arm, train and provide entry into Syria for every jihadist outfit, including Isis and al-Qaida affiliates.

Its obsessive hostility to Kurdish self-determination in Turkey and Syria has served to justify backing Isis when it tried to drive the Kurds from Kobane and sending its own armed forces to occupy the Afrin canton of northern Syria’s Aleppo province.

The regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan understands, however, that direct confrontation between the Russian and US air forces in the skies over Syria is unlikely to be contained there.

Moscow’s threat to shoot down missiles directed at targets in Syria and to target the “source of the missiles” could have implications for Turkey, especially its Nato air base at Diyarbakir.

Ankara has distanced itself from the US in recent years — or possibly been distanced by Washington — as its erstwhile friends ignored its pleas not to ally themselves with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which not only stood firm against Isis at Kobane but drove the jihadists out of much of northern and eastern Syria.

In response the Erdogan government has rebuilt relations with Russia that were at rock bottom after Turkish fighters shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane over the Syrian-Turkish border area in 2015.

Both snubbed by Washington, they have eased travel restrictions, normalised trade ties and started military co-operation, with Moscow agreeing to sell Ankara its advanced S-400 anti-aircraft missile defence system.

Russia has said and done nothing about the Turkish occupation of Afrin and expulsion of the YPG.

More significantly, the same applies to the US, despite its recent close co-operation with the Kurds, using YPG troops as its military cutting edge against Isis in Syria as it did previously in Iraq before remaining silent in the face of Baghdad, first, and then Ankara dislodging its allies.

Donald Trump won the presidency partially through his assurance that his administration would not repeat the blood-soaked overseas adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. He stated earlier this month that he would soon bring home all US forces in Syria.

This position was put on hold under pressure from the State Department and Pentagon, but it confirms the lack of public support for GIs being sent to war when the US is under no direct security threat.

There is a similar lack of desire for overseas conflicts in France and Britain, which is why recent involvement by the Nato forces has been restricted to aerial bombardment while proxy ground troops risk their lives in combat.

This meets the requirement of both brass hats and the hand-wringing “we have to do something” B-52 liberals whose consciences are always salved by bombing raids, irrespective of civilian “collateral damage.”

Sending warplanes into Syria’s Russia-defended airspace — or firing missiles from outside its borders — will be no picnic.

It won’t assist in investigating the truth behind the poison gas allegations made by the Jaish al-Islam jihadists and lapped up avidly by the Nato powers and mass media.

Nor will it help the long-suffering Syrian people, whose welfare is supposedly paramount for all concerned.

Bombing plans should be halted and full assistance given to prioritising scientific evidence over assertions to expose the reality of what happened in Douma.


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