ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Dutch Christian Union Party, a member of the Dutch government coalition, proposed on Friday to send Dutch soldiers to Syria to join a “coalition of the willing” where they will help French and British troops in the war-embattled country.
Joel Voordewind, a Dutch MP for the Christian Union, praised the Kurdish coalition partners who contributed “a lot of efforts in the battle against” the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
“If we withdraw now, [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] or Turkey could overrun the Kurdish areas,” Voordewind said, according to the Trouw newspaper.
“According to [US President Donald] Trump, Turkey can take over the fight against IS. But this is wishful thinking since Turkey was the…base for IS,” he added.
“If the Kurds have to use all their military power to fight off a Turkish invasion,” the MP warned, “the remains of IS can regroup.”
Voordewind also noted that the risk for Dutch soldiers is relatively low, and they would only be to there as a deterrence to stop Turkey from attacking the Kurdish-held areas.
However, most opposition and government parties are skeptical about the proposal.
Andre Bosman, a defense spokesperson for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), a government party, was “annoyed” by the proposal, the Volkskrant reported.
According to Bosman, the Dutch government is required to inform parliament in advance, as stated in Article 100 of the Dutch Constitution. He added that it is unclear if the Dutch army is militarily prepared for the endeavor.
“I know people are worried, but let’s first see what kind of steps, for example, Russia, Iran, and Turkey will take. Then, we can also see what France’s plan is, and what risks are involved,” Bosman said.
Until now, Russia opposes the presence of Western troops in Syria. On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that “French, British, and German service personnel are illegally deployed on the ground.”
Meanwhile, the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) is against the plan to send troops but supports a no-fly zone.
Dutch CDA MP Martijn van Helvert expressed his party’s worries about the consequences of a Turkish attack. According to the MP, the Dutch government must pressure Turkey.
He also noted that it would not be a good idea to send Dutch soldiers without coordination with other European countries.
“A no-fly zone over the Kurdish area would be a good idea. But the Netherlands cannot do this alone,” van Helvert stated.
“Therefore, I won’t call for sending Dutch soldiers. It would be a better idea if [Dutch FM] Stef Blok spoke about this with other foreign ministers.”
Members of other Dutch opposition parties said they are unconvinced about the plan.
Sadet Karabulut, a member of the opposition Socialist Party (SP), explained that a military mission would not “contribute to stability and peace.”
“This country [Syria] doesn’t need more military contributions. Therefore, a new illegal military invasion by Turkey in northern Syria is completely unacceptable,” she told Kurdistan 24.
“The Kurdish experiment in northern Syria needs protection instead of Turkish aggression. This should be made clear to NATO-partner Turkey.”
So far, only the opposition Christian Reformed Political Party (SGP) is positive about the proposal.
SGP MP Chris Stoffer said he wants to see the cabinet’s judgment about the diplomatic context and before they consider military possibilities.
“I support the intention to back the Kurdish area. Also, because many Christians live there, I feel an extra responsibility,” Stoffer told Trouw.
Johannes de Jong, head of the EU think tank Sallux, said the Christian Union is aware of the risks of a Turkish attack.
“Not only for the Christians in that region but for the region as a whole. Chaos there will lead to major problems for Europe,” he told Kurdistan 24.
That is why the Christian Union party wants to send a serious signal to the Dutch government, de Jong said.
“Of course, there is not much enthusiasm for this, mainly due to the fact that many parties are still trying to understand the consequences. Not all parties rejected the proposal, but said they need more time.”
The Dutch Parliament is expected to hold a debate after the New Year on the Christian Union’s plan and Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
“I hope we have learned how harmful the consequences are for Europe if there is chaos in a region where there is still a presence of IS underground and on the ground,” de Jong said.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany