by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Bidenangered some Middle Eastern leaders by making a true statement. Speaking at Harvard, Biden said that the U.S. allies were determined to overthrow Bashar al-Assad from power so they “poured hundreds of millions dollars, and tens thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against al-Assad, accepted the people who would be in supply for al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and extremist elements of jihadists coming from other parts of the world.” Known for his blunt statements, Biden flatly admitted that U.S. “biggest problem is our allies. Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks… the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc…”
The White House, under pressure to keep the fragile anti-ISIL alliance together, tried to limit the damage of these extraordinary admissions, first published the transcript of the Vice President’s lecture without these statements (they were said during the Q&A session). When the video clip of the Vice President’s remarks made its way to the Internet, Biden spent the next couple of days calling Turkish and Emirati leaders to clarify his comments and offer qualified apologies. Biden should not have apologized; he should have warned them of the dire consequences of their reckless and criminal actions.
Despite his efforts, Turkey is still refusing to help stop the genocide that is happening near its border by refusing to allow volunteers to cross to Syria to help defend Kobane and by denying residents who are still inside the city resisting ISIL attacks weapons and food. Before he would do any of that, Erdogan wants the West to establish a buffer zone within Syria allegedly to house refugees. In reality, he wants to establish a no-fly zone in northern Syria to help Syrian armed groups, including ISIL and al-Nusra, overthrow the Syrian government. In other words, he does not want to weaken ISIL unless the Syrian government is even weaker or better yet, overthrown. He does not seem to care who would take over as long as Assad is out. Erdogan repeatedly stated that his priority is to overthrow Assad, not fight ISIL and similar extremist groups.
When Turkish citizens protested his callousness, he ordered his security forces to do whatever it takes to impose order, killing 32 civilians as of October 11. Erdogan, who allowed foreign fighters and weapons to cross into Syria to fight the Syrian government, is now refusing to allow Syrians to cross the border to protect civilians against the genocidal ISIL fighters. He claimed that the protesters are PKK terrorists. He uses brute force to kill Kurds who are fighting for cultural, political, and economic rights but he condemns the Syrian and Iraqi governments for fighting genocidal groups determined to purge their countries from Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Shia, Yazidis, and anyone who does not believe in they believe and submit to the self-declared caliph.
Erdogan, Turkey’s most polarizing politician, alienated 45% of the Turkish people and is attempting to export his brand of politics outside Turkey. He is following a policy that punishes dissent, stokes sectarianism, and fuels civil strife. He is a destabilizing force who aided in the murder of nearly 100,000 Syrians who were killed on the hands of armed groups and offered the Syrian government cause to kill the other 100,000 people. He ought to be held responsible for killing Turkish protesters and aiding genocidal killers in Iraq and Syria.
* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.