the turkish/kurdish debacle in northern syria
Please feel free to add what you know, what you suspect is so, and what you’ve read that’s rubbish but dangerous. I’ll include the following sources. Add your own sources at will, as well.
Syrian army, Iran threaten counterattack against Turkish invasion of Syria’, Alex Lantier, 14 October 2019, wsws.org
“The war unleashed by Turkey’s invasion of Syria, targeting formerly US-backed Kurdish forces, escalated out of control this weekend as the Syrian army and Iran moved to counterattack. With Turkish troops and allied Al Qaeda militias advancing deep into Kurdish-held territory in Syria, the Middle East is only days away from an all-out war between the major regional powers that could trigger a global conflict between nuclear-armed world powers.” [snip]
“Turkey’s Syrian “rebel” allies, the Islamist Syrian National Army (SNA, formerly the Free Syrian Army), are executing Kurdish civilians in areas they hold, according to multiple reports. Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf was executed; her bullet-riddled car appeared in a video surrounded by SNA fighters. Beyond Al Qaeda-linked calls to destroy infidels, the British Daily Telegraph noted, the SNA’s main outlook “is sectarian: they are anti-Kurdish and they are Arab chauvinists.”
Yesterday evening, the Syrian army announced it would march on the area. The official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported: “Syrian Arab Army units began moving north to confront Turkish aggression on Syrian territory… The movement comes to confront the ongoing Turkish aggression on towns and areas in the north of Hasaka and Raqqa provinces, where the Turkish forces committed massacres against locals, occupied some areas and destroyed infrastructure.
The Syrian army has reportedly reached an agreement with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, whose alliance with the United States was broken by Washington a week ago. Under this agreement, Syrian army troops would reach the city of Kobani near the Syrian-Turkish border in 48 hours. On Saturday, President Donald Trump had authorized the remaining 1,000 US troops in Kobani to withdraw, and US forces were in full retreat across northern Syria this weekend to avoid being cut off by advancing Turkish troops.
Iran, which has deployed tens of thousands of troops as well as drones to Syria in recent years to back the Syrian regime against a NATO-led proxy war, indicated it would support the Syrian army.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Advisor for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati met with Syrian Ambassador to Iran Adnan Mahmoud yesterday in Tehran. He gave Iran’s “full support to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, calling for the withdrawal of the Turkish forces,” SANA reported. Velayati added, “The principled policy of Iran is based on supporting the people and government of Syria and defending their righteous stances in a way that entails continuing joint cooperation until terrorism and terrorist organizations are completely eliminated.” [long snip]
“The Kurdish-led SDF militias in Syria, vastly outgunned by Turkish forces and vulnerable to air strikes, warned US officials in talks leaked by CNN that they would appeal for Russia to attack Turkey and protect SDF and Syrian army forces. As Turkey is legally a NATO ally of Washington and the European powers, such an attack could compel the United States and its European allies to either break the 70-year-old NATO alliance or go to war with Russia to protect Turkey.” [snip]
“US forces across Syria were in full retreat, however, and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told US television news yesterday that the Turkish-Kurdish conflict “gets worse by the hour.” Given the attempts by the Kurds to work out an alliance with Syria and Russia, he added, Trump “directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.”
Esper said he would “not place American service members in the middle of a longstanding conflict between the Turks and the Kurds. This is not why we are in Syria.”
Esper said the Turkish army was rejecting the Pentagon’s appeals for a ceasefire with the Kurds and instead expanding its war aims inside Syria. “In the last 24 hours, we learned that they likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned, and to the west,” he said. Esper added that “all the exact things” US officials warned their Turkish counterparts would likely happen if they invaded Syria were now taking place, including the release of tens of thousands of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters held in prison camps by Washington’s former Kurdish allies.”
Now as far as I can tell, Alex Lantieer’s headline is misleading, in that Iran has only given their “full support to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, calling for the withdrawal of the Turkish forces’, and I did look at presstv.com, and found nothing. What I did find, however, was this link on FM Zarif’s Twitter account to this piece at Sputnik News:
‘Iran’s Zarif Offers Mediation in Resolving Turkish-Syrian Border Standoff’, Oct. 13, 2019
‘Syrian Government Regains Control Over Country’s Northeastern Parts’, Oct. 14, 2019, moonofalabama.org
“Eight days ago U.S. President Donald Trump gave a green light for another Turkish invasion of Syria. We explained why that move made it inevitable for the Kurds to submit to Damascus and to let the Syrian Arab Army back into northeast Syria:
While the YPG might want to fight off a Turkish invasion they have little chance to succeed. The land is flat and the YPG forces only have light arms.
There is only one solution for them. They will have to call up the Syrian government and ask it to come back into the north east. That would remove the Turkish concerns and would likely prevent further Turkish moves.
After Trump had spoken with the Turkish president Erdogan, the U.S. military removed a few of its forces from some areas near the Turkish border. The Pentagon was still under the false impression that Turkey would limit its invasion to some 5 kilometer in depth. It was obvious, as we wrote, that Turkey wanted far more:
A major goal is to interrupt the M4 highway that runs parallel to the border and allows for troop movements between the east and the west of the Kurdish majority areas. The highway is about 20-30 kilometers from the border.
The M4 road is also one of the major logistical routes for the U.S. troops stationed in the western part.
The Kurds could do little to resist the Turkish onslaught. On Saturday Turkish supported “Syrian rebels” reached the M4 highway and captured and killed several Kurdish troops and civilians who were passing by. The Pentagon finally took notice [<<WaPo, w/ video of DoD Esper crying ‘war crimes!’] of the imminent danger:
“This is total chaos,” a senior administration official said at midday, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the confusing situation in Syria.
Although “the Turks gave guarantees to us” that U.S. forces would not be harmed, the official said, Syrian militias allied with them “are running up and down roads, ambushing and attacking vehicles,” putting American forces — as well as civilians — in danger even as they withdraw. The militias, known as the Free Syrian Army, “are crazy and not reliable.”
Ahhhh. The “Free Syrian Army“, which the U.S. built and supplied with an immense amount of weapons to fight the Syrian government, is “crazy and not reliable”. How come that all the think tankers and ‘journalists’ who for years lauded that ‘army’ never noticed that?
The Pentagon finally recognized that it was not possible to hold onto the area without starting a war with its NATO partner Turkey. On Saturday evening Trump gave the order that all U.S. troops shall leave northeast Syria within 30 days. The Secretary of Defense did not resign as his predecessor did over a similar decision but defended the move.
The decision was the kick in the ass the Kurds needed to agree to the return of Syrian government troops to the area they had held on to while under U.S. command. Currently Syrian troops and their heavy weapons are streaming in. Their primary task is to prevent any further encroachment by Turkish forces. They will also move to retake the oil fields east of Deir Ezzor and they will take control of the prison camps where ISIS fighters are held.
As of this writing Syrian troops (red) have entered Manbij, Ain al Issa, Tabqa airbase near Raqqa and Tel Tamr. Turkish supported groups (green) hold Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ayn and the villages between those two cities. That area has an Arab majority population.
The Kurds wish to keep their ‘autonomous administration’ of northeast Syria. While talks are still ongoing I do not expect that the mostly Arab inhabitants of the whole area, nor the Syrian government will agree to that. There can not be a special status for any of Syria’s many ethnic or religious groups.
The Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces will be disbanded. Its soldiers will be integrated into the Syrian army. The Syrian government will also disband the ‘autonomous’ Kurdish administration. It will confiscate the weapons the U.S. has given to the Kurds. All this will take some time but it will, in the end, remove the Turkish concerns that the organized Syrian Kurdish groups could enter Turkey to fight on the side of their PKK separatist brethren.”
Now this is where it gets seriously fascinating:
“The strategic plan behind last weeks development must have come from Moscow. Russia has tried for some time to get Turkey into its camp. Russia, Iran and Syria allowed Turkey a limited invasion of Syria to scare the U.S. out. Russia largely supported the Turkish move but it will also set its limits.
Since last year Trump looked for a chance to move the U.S. troops out of Syria. The borg made that politically unfeasible. The Turkish (Russian) move gave him the excuse he needed.
It is possible that the whole arrangement was made for exactly that purpose.”
I’m agnostic on bernhard’s final paragraph, but his link I’ve bolded above goes to this cogent (imo) analysis of further news:
‘A Turkish-Russian entente cordiale in the making’, October 12, 2019, M. K. BHADRAKUMAR, indianpunchline.com
“Shall we sit upon the ground and tell there is no longer daylight between Russia and Turkey? We are almost there. The Turkish incursion into Syria on Wednesday is the tipping point. Turkey and Russia are closely coordinating.” [snip]
“There has been widespread criticism in the Beltway that the US is jeopardising its Kurdish partners on the ground and unleashing unpredictable consequences for Syria — and, above all, badly damaged US credibility. Some forewarn that Syrian conflict is intensifying just when the embers were cooling.
Some of this criticism may be true. Because, Turkey is vengeful. It has long wanted to move across the border into northern Syria, where it sees the Syrian Kurdish forces or YPG as joined at the hips with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, separatists that Turkey considers a terrorist group that has waged an insurgency for decades, and has long put Turkey on edge.
“But there is the “X” factor: Is Turkey going into this enterprise alone? Much hinges on the answer, which in turn relates to the alchemy of the overall Turkish-Russian strategic understanding that goes far beyond Syria.
In a little-noticed development last Tuesday — precisely, during the 36-hour interregnum between Trump’s announcement of troop withdrawal from Syria and the Turkish incursion into northern Syria — the Russian Finance Ministry announced that Moscow and Ankara have inked an agreement on using Russian rubles and Turkish lira in mutual payments and settlements. The RT reported that the agreement aims for “further expansion and strengthening of interbank interaction, as well as ensuring uninterrupted payments between business entities of the two countries.”
Plainly put, Moscow and Ankara have created a firewall against possible US and/or Western sanctions against Turkey in future.”
M.K. then quotes RT as explaining that the new bilateral system as an analog to the SWIFT system, allowing Russia MIR payment cards rather than Visa or MasterCard, which is at the heart of the two nations’ aims of obviating the Amerikan Dollar. He then notes the system as being a major foreign policy decision. Would Turkey have been ineligible for the INSTEX payment system? Has it been capitalized as had been hoped? Even a few EU nations had been signing onto it, as I recall.
“The Russian reaction to the Turkish military operation is nuanced. On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters while on a visit to Turkmenistan, “Since the start of Syrian crisis, we emphasise that we understand Turkey’s concerns over its border security.”
Lavrov suggested that these concerns could be eased within the framework of the the Adana agreement signed between Turkey and Syria in 1998 (which stipulated direct security coordination between Ankara and Damascus.)
Lavrov put the blame for the Turkish incursion squarely on the US policies. He recalled that Russia had warned the US against playing the “Kurdish card” and making Kurdish and Arab tribes to come face to face.
Importantly, Lavrov added, “Russian and Turkish military officials are in contact over the operation. Now, we will try to establish a dialogue between Damascus and Ankara. We think this is in the interest of both sides.”
On the same day, Thursday, when the Western nations wanted the UN Security Council to condemn Turkey, Russia stonewalled the move, arguing it wanted the “illegal military presence” of other nations (read US, France, Germany, etc.) also to be addressed. Russia urged “direct dialogue” between Ankara and Damascus.” [longish snip to Russia’s over-riding intentions]:
“In this intricate balancing of contradictory interests, the bottom line is that Russia keeps nurturing the warming ties with Turkey. The Kremlin’s big trophy is that a major NATO country is stepping out of the US orbit. The European pressure will mount on Turkey in the coming days to be ‘with us, or you’re against us’. France is taking the lead.”
(cross-posted from Café Babylon)