The unfolding scenario in Syria after the launch of the Turkish military assault on Kurdish strongholds unveils an extremely disturbing situation in the fragile Middle East. A grave humanitarian crisis could as well be unfolding, as Turkish planes pound the Kurdish bases in northeast Syria. Reports speak of thousands fleeing the targets of the military planes raining bombs even as Turkey and Syria appear to be heading for a potentially catastrophic situation. Unmindful of the possible outcomes, the United States, Russia and Iran appear to be sizing up the opportunities to turn the situation to their advantage. The United Nations too presents a picture of a voiceless and helpless entity, with the big brother the US almost giving a green signal to Turkey to go ahead with the incursions into Syrian territory, after it pulled out its forces that till recently fought shoulder to shoulder with the Kurdish fighters against the Islamic State (IS). The IS has been reined in and thousands of battle-hardened IS fighters and their family members have been confined to detention camps. This should be the biggest cause for concern as the Turkish onslaught had already forced the Kurdish fighters to deflect their attention from guarding the detention camps where the IS fighters are held to countering the Turkish assault. It’s, therefore, not out of way if one apprehends the revival of the IS.
The ill-timed Turkish assault also has dangerous consequences for the US. The US may be wary of fighting ‘endless’ wars and its President Donald Trump cited this as the reason for pulling out his forces from Syria. But the silent nod given to Turkey to go ahead with the incursion will certainly earn the US a reputation of it being an untrustworthy ally. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has already voiced the feeling that his country should not have joined hands with the US in the anti-terror war. Now Russia and Iran are moving cautiously on the Turkish-Syrian conflict. Russia has so far advised Turkey to show restraint and Tehran has not officially spoken anything, but it is natural that both the countries, which do not see eye to eye with the US, would like to seize the opportunity and strengthen their position in the Middle East with their deft moves. A statesman like move at this juncture should be to set aside the geopolitical advantages to be accrued and begin tackling the worst possible outcome of the ongoing turmoil – that of the possibility of revival of the IS. India, while asking Turkey to show restraint and respect sovereignty of Syria, has asserted that the current offensive could undermine fight against terrorism. But little heed is paid to words of caution, as the superpowers and regional players continue to have a myopic vision.