Friday

18th Oct 2019

Turkish attack on Syria might revive Isis

  • 'The Kurds didn't help us in World War Two', president Donald Trump said (Photo: Jeso Carneiro)

US president Donald Trump has suggested during a press conference that he is not worried about thousands of Isis fighters in Syria "as they are going to be escaping to Europe".

His remarks come amid fears that by pulling US troops out of Syria, more than 10,000 Isis fighters, currently guarded by Syrian Kurdish and American soldiers, would be freed.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The Kurdish fighters, together with Syrian opposition troops (SDF), helped a US-led Western coalition to beat Isis in Syria.

However, this week the US announced it would withdraw its forces from Syria, removing oversight of the jailed Isis fighters too.

The withdrawal prompted Turkey on Wednesday to attack the Kurdish area in northern Syria, pushing Kurdish fighters to flee the area, leaving the Isis fighters unguarded.

But Trump did not seem to see a problem in this, saying they would go to Europe.

"That's where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes," he said.

Trump also said that he had given Europe four chances to take their Isis fighters back.

"But Europe didn't want them from us. We could have given it to them, they could have had trials, they could have done whatever they wanted. But as usual it's not reciprocal," he said.

The rebirth of Isis

In February 2019 Trump had asked Europe to take back 800 Isis fighters with European nationalities, after he declared a total victory over the so-called Islamic State.

France responded that it was prepared, but it is unclear how many fighters actually did go back to France.

Other countries, such as the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, were much more reluctant. They preferred the Isis fighters to be tried in Iraq instead.

However, now that US troops pulled out of Syria and Syrian Kurdish fighters are fleeing Turkish attacks, fears are growing that Isis might regroup.

American intelligence officials told NBC that they fear "a replay of what happened in Iraq between 2010 and 2013, when the core group who founded Isis were released or escaped from detention after US forces left the country".

With 12,000 Isis fighters, Kurdish Syria is currently keeping the highest concentration of terrorists worldwide.

EU tells Turkey to cease attack

In the attack that started on Wednesday, Turkey is advancing in the northern part of Syria, east of the Euphrates, a territory currently in the hands of the Syrian Kurdish YPG.

The Turkish army has confirmed "launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river" adding it had hit 181 "militant targets".

Turkish president Racip Teyyep Erdogan earlier announced he wanted to create a safe zone in this part of Syria in order to give Syrian refugees in Turkey the chance to go back to their home country.

The fact that these Kurdish fighters played a crucial role in the fight against Isis does not seem to bother president Trump.

After the start of the attack he issued a statement saying that "The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea."

However, he added that Turks and Kurds "have been fighting each other for centuries".

Concerning the US debt to Kurdish fighters, he said: "They didn't help us in the second world war, they didn't help us with Normandy … but they're there to help us with their land."

Hungary veto?

The European Union reacted five hours after the start of the Turkish attack. The common resolution was reportedly delayed because of a veto from the Hungarian government.

Hungarian MEP, Katalin Cseh, tweeted: "Another attack on EU unity: Hungary today vetoed resolution warning Turkey not to attack Northern Syria. Again the EU appears to be a lame duck thanks to Orban, who continues to back Erdogan as well as Russian foreign policy interests. Irresponsible and treacherous as always."

Later on, an agreement was found and a statement of the high representative was published on behalf of the EU.

In the statement the EU "calls upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action," adding that "renewed armed hostilities in the north-east will further undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements."

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said in the European Parliament that "if the plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don't expect the EU to pay for any of it."

In the meantime, Jenan Moussa, a journalist for Anbar news, reported that thousands of Kurdish Syrians are currently fleeing their homes.

This might be just the start of a new wave of refugees.

Analysis

Pentagon: ISIS is resurgent in Syria

The US department of defence warns that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is working on a come back in Syria. It is regrouping and supporting activities. This might trigger a new refugee displacement to Europe.

EU powerless in new Syrian mayhem

EU foreign ministers are meeting to find a common position on the Turkish invasion in Syria. However, events are evolving quickly, as Kurdish forces asked the Syrian army to protect them.

EU countries to halt arms sales to Turkey

EU states have agreed to stop arms sales to Turkey over its invasion of Syria, marking a nadir in relations with their Nato ally. In response, Ankara mocked the decision as a "joke".

News in Brief

  1. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  2. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  3. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  4. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  5. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  6. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  7. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products
  8. G7: Libra should not operate until all risks addressed

Crucial summit: last EU-28 format?

The EU summit will be crucial for the future of the EU, but especially for the UK. The next EU summit will not be the same since the UK's withdrawal will have consequences for the power relations within the council.

EU parliament quietly hoards visitors' wi-fi data

The European Parliament is retaining the data of everyone who uses their wi-fi network, including journalists and visitors, and providing access to national authorities in case of investigations.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us