After the U.S., Turkey Should Be Next to Leave Syria

After the U.S., Turkey Should Be Next to Leave Syria
A Turkish military convoy in Idlib province, Syria, Feb. 22, 2020 (AP photo by Ghaith Alsayed).

With the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crash dominating the headlines, the civil war in Syria has faded into media obscurity. But there is more bad news there that warrants the world’s attention.

Turkey is engaged in a military campaign in Syria’s northwestern ldlib province that risks a conflict with Russia, protects radical Islamist rebels and prolongs the civil war, all at the expense of the civilians Turkey claims to protect. Meanwhile, the limited cease-fire deal that Ankara recently negotiated with Moscow only delays further bloodshed. Washington, which provides military aid to Turkey both bilaterally and through NATO, should stop underwriting Turkey’s recklessness. Instead, it should withdraw support and encourage a settlement that helps end Syria’s nearly decade-long conflict.

With the destruction of the Islamic State’s self-declared “caliphate” and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s consolidation of control over most of the country, the fate of the civil war is clear. Assad, who enjoys the backing of both Iran and Russia, is going to win. The question now is how much more blood will be spilled in the process. The United States has no clear security interests at stake in Syria, so it should try to minimize harm. Instead of backing Turkey, and thus prolonging the war, Washington should use its diplomatic leverage with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to press for a settlement that neuters the remaining militant jihadist groups in Syria, prevents further military escalation and limits violence against civilians.

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