On January 20 2018, Turkish forces invaded Syrian territories in a military operation dubbed Olive Branch. The aim has been to clear Afrin from Kurdish “terrorists”—and Ankara vowed to continue its drive inside Syria to the Iraqi-Syrian borders to the east, to drive out all the Kurds from this vast stretch of territory. In so doing, the Turkish government asked the United States to withdraw any American forces that could be stationed along its advance. To this, the Pentagon commented that it understands Turkish concerns and would be ready to discuss with the Turks the establishment of a “safe zone” along the Turkish-Syrian borders. The Turkish government replied that trust should be restored between Washington and Ankara before discussing such a proposal.
In the meantime, and while the Turkish forces were advancing through Syrian territory from west to east with insurgents from the so-called Free Syrian Army, no Arab government, nor the League of Arab States have condemned the Turkish military invasion of a sovereign Arab country. So far, not a single Arab country has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss such a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter.
While the Turkish forces were advancing in Syria, world attention was centred on the annual conference of the ultra-liberal World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. Every year, statesmen, senior government officials, globalists, the believers in unbridled free trade and the “international liberal order”, and the CEOs of multinationals gather in the Swiss Alps to discuss the state of the world and to defend globalisation. This year, the guest of honour, if we may say so, was United States President Donald Trump, the first sitting American president to participate in this important annual gathering of the wealthiest and the mightiest, in 18 years. The last American president to address the World Economic Forum had been former president Bill Clinton in 2000. The participants were eager to hear from Trump for several reasons, the most important of which was the fact that in his first year in office, he decided to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and has clamoured “America First”, while attacking the “unfair” free trade deals that the United States has signed over the years. His image has been of an American president who does not believe in the rules of the “international liberal order”.
In his remarks on Friday 26 January, he tried to lay to rest the fears of the free traders and the globalists by stressing that “America First does not mean America alone.” He even hinted that he would be open to rejoining the TPP if its rules would be changed to accommodate American interests.
As far as American foreign policy is concerned, he touched on Iran, North Korea, and the “Islamic State” group (Daesh), and the fact that it lost almost 100% of the territory it had controlled in both Syria and Iraq. Moreover, it is interesting to note that he called on America’s partners to join the United States in confronting Iran and its “support” for terrorism without dealing with the Turkish invasion of Syria, with help from a group of Syrian and non-Syrian extremists in the ranks of the Free Syrian Army.
The Turkish military operation Olive Branch was not a subject of interest or concern at Davos. To put it differently, the regional situation in the Middle East has been relegated to the background of world affairs, as if the wars and mini-wars that have been raging in the Middle East do not pose a threat to international peace and security. The “international liberal order” could coexist with this state of controlled warfare in the Middle East and the Gulf as long as the interests of this world order are not threatened. The Arab participants at Davos, whether through officials or businesspersons, did not exert efforts to warn against the destabilising consequences of the present situation in the Middle East on international peace and security. And maybe the world has left to the United States, Russia, Turkey, and Israel the task of taking care of the Middle East. Before delivering his remarks on 26 January, President Trump had met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos.
From Afrin in the northwest of Syria to Davos in Switzerland, the Arabs have been, glaringly, conspicuous with their absence.
It is a deafening silence with long term consequences for their security, stability, and national independence.