The triple alliance of Russia, Iran and Turkey which has established a “security zone” in Syria may, at first sight, appear odd: what does a NATO ally do on the side of the Kremlin and its regional theocratic partners in Tehran –both of them, instigators and perpetrators, of the endless Syrian massacre. The elements of diversity between them are, however, less defining than the affinities of the nature of the three regimes, their respective cardinal responsibilities in perpetuating the carnage, and the community in the short term at least – of their regional interests.

More particularly, Mr. Erdogan’s nascent regime does, increasingly, resemble that of Mr. Putin’s, while its religiosity, albeit Suni, may bring it closer to Tehran. Furthermore, Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Davutoglu had done their utmost to inflict on Syria the most extreme elements of Suni fundamentalism in order to destabilize the entire region and magnify their own geopolitical importance. Vice President Biden had said so but had to apologize afterwards.

The community of the short term interests of the three is obvious: the Kremlin and the theocrats of Tehran are determined to sustain at any price of bloodshed the obscene Baathist regime of Damascus –a creature of the USSR–, the geopolitical protégé of both. Ankara’s priority, on the other hand, is to establish and to maintain an advanced operational platform to attack Kurdish formations on Syrian territory.

In brief, what is about to emerge is not a humanitarian sanctuary for the hapless subjects of the Syrian regime but a vast concentration camp providing the pretext for the enduring Russo-Turco-Iranian military presence in Syria.

This did not need to have happened. Regional developments could and should have been prevented from following this disastrous course… if only the previous Administration in the US, NATO allies and EU partners, had –while Russia was still measuring their determination and Turkey was importantly different–, dared to impose their own non-flight zone in the air and establish safe areas or the ground, protected mainly by Kurdish forces.

Alas, democracies, the “West”, chose once again to appease dictators. Dictators did not flinch; they dared. lessons must, at long last, be learned.

should one hope that the recent decision of the US to arm Syrian Kurdish combatants marks a new beginning? Kurdish armed formations in Syria are the most efficient ground force confronting the ISIL. They are also Turkey’s nightmare and a territorial barrier to Tehran’s and Hezbollah’s pro-Assad militias. Nor are they loved by Russia. Equipping them makes eminent sense, operationally and strategically. Will the US persist?

Indeed, when all is said and done, the establishment of “safe zones” on other continents could become the cornerstone of a radical strategy to contain the waves of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean; it all depends though, morally, politically and practically, on who is providing the forces guarding their perimeters. The soldiers of brutal dictatorships should not qualify: “quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

P. C. M.