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Media Outlets Turn Syria into Their Latest Melodrama

November 10, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Mainstream media outlets inundated President Donald Trump with shrill denunciations when he announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria’s northern border with Turkey. The most frequent, emotionally laden criticism was that he had betrayed America’s Kurdish allies who had done much of the fighting against ISIS, giving Turkey a “green light” to launch a brutal military offensive against them. Most opinion pieces—and editorials masquerading as news stories—used such terms as loyal, noble, faithful and democratic to describe the Kurds. Once again, news coverage turned a complex geopolitical issue into a simplistic melodrama featuring admirable protagonists confronting odious villains.

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Trump’s handling of the withdrawal issue was indisputably clumsy, and the Turkish government has many unsavory features. Indeed, as I’ve written elsewhere, it should be an embarrassment to Washington to have the duplicitous, autocratic Turkish government as a NATO ally. But Ankara’s concerns about the impact of Kurdish separatist campaigns in Syria and Iraq on Turkey’s own festering Kurdish minority problem is not without merit.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey has waged a secessionist war intermittently since the early 1980s. Turkish leaders worry about ties between the PKK and their ethnic brethren in Syria and Iraq. The nature and extent of the relationship is the subject of considerable uncertainty and controversy. Writing in Time, Jared Malsin, a Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, notes that both Turkey and the U.S. list the PKK as a terrorist organization, “but the U.S. insists that its militia partners in Syria are a separate group from the PKK.” Yet, Malsin emphasizes, “the two organizations have direct ties, and Kurdish citizens of Turkey are among the YPG’s [People’s Protection Units] fighters.” The Kurdish Democratic Union Party of Syria, which controls the YPG, originated in 2003 as an offshoot of the PKK.

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The Kurdish political movements in both Syria and Iraq also …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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