Thursday, 15 October 2015

Turks and Russians

When I was a kid, I remember lying on the blue bricked, pavement of our terraced street playing “Turks and Russians”.

A new game of “Turks and Russians” is taking place in Syria. Russia has come in militarily to back the Assad regime, sending in sizeable numbers of war planes, attack helicopters, armour and ground troops, as well as using its naval forces in the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas, to launch attacks on rebel forces in the country. The use of sea launched Cruise Missiles from the Caspian, to fly over 1,000 miles to hit targets in Syria, was simply Russia grandstanding, and saying to the US and NATO, whatever you have been able to do in Serbia, Iraq, and Libya we can do too.

NATO, of course, has denounced Russia for following its example, in feeling free to intervene military across the globe to pursue its strategic interests. Russia was criticised for the fact that although it had said it was intervening to attack ISIS targets, a lot of its attacks had been on non-ISIS, rebel targets. Of course, that is totally hypocritical for several reasons.

Firstly, NATO member Turkey, as well as the Gulf States, which have been long-time clients of NATO, have been directly financing, training and supplying all of the various jihadist groups for the last couple of years. Turkey allows ISIS fighters to slip back across its borders into sanctuary on Turkish territory, as well as being the main route for western jihadis from the UK and Western Europe, into Syria. Qatar is even home to the Taliban's main offices.

Its no surprise then that after Turkey said that it was going to bomb Syria, only a few of its targets were against ISIS, whilst the main attacks it launched were against Iraqi Kurds, who have been the most effective fighters on the ground against ISIS. Yet, there was little or no criticism of Turkey from its fellow NATO members for such action. Nor is it any surprise, therefore, that the attacks on a peaceful pro-Kurdish demonstration in Turkey last week, was bombed by ISIS suicide bombers, who its widely believed operated with the sanction of the Islamist Turkish government.

The argument used for bombing Syria, given by NATO is that they have a right to pursue combatants across borders. That was also the argument given by David Cameron, for the recent UK drone strike in Syria. Yet, when Russian planes infringe the Turkish border, this brings dire warnings from NATO.

The game of “Turks and Russians” I played as a kid involved crawling along on your stomach slowly towards your opponent, but not so much as to enable them to be able to touch you. The idea was to get as close as possible, whilst still being out of their reach, because the winner was the one who was able to eventually reach out and touch the other. Something similar is happening in the Middle-east with potentially calamitous consequences.

NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, last week announced that if Russia infringed Turkey's border with its planes, Turkey would have the right to shoot them down. If Russia then responded, NATO would take that as an attack on NATO as a whole, under Article 5 of its Constitution. In other words, it would mean World War III.

Now, if we consider that Turkey is routinely attacking the Kurds, in both Syria and Iraq, the similarities of this situation with WWI, and the interlinking pacts between countries that led up to it become clear. If Russia were to form a defence pact with the Iraq, or Syria, along similar lines to that which Turkey enjoys as a member of NATO, then the next Turkish attack on the Iraqi Kurds, or the Syrian Kurds, would justify it in treating its as an attack on Russia, and enabling it to respond by attacking Turkey!

This is a good reason why the attitude of socialists should be to demand that both NATO and Russia clear out of the Middle East, and all other conflict zones. Its why workers across the globe should demand that their governments stop providing the Gulf States with the weapons, which they are currently using to oppress their own people, and to equip the jihadists. The task of dealing with the jihadists, and the oppressive governments of the Middle East, is one which only the workers of that region can themselves bring to a progressive solution.

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