Now that the terrorist group ISIS has ended its life in its stronghold in Syria, regional and international actors are struggling to maximize the risks they could face in a future Syria and at the same time enjoy the greatest possible opportunities for their interests and their security.
Turkey is no exception as a country that shares 911 kilometers of borders with the northern regions of Syria. Ankara is increasingly worried about the growing power and influence of Syrian Kurds, especially the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkish leaders see as the Syrian branch of the sworn enemy of the Workers’ Party. of Kurdistan (PKK).
Of the 911 kilometers of Syria’s common borders with Turkey, nearly 700 kilometers are under the domination of the Syrian Kurds who established their autonomy in the three border cantons of Afrin, Kobani and Island nearly two years ago.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Kurdish territorial seizures in the north have worried Ankara, along with Turkish leaders, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling for the establishment of a security zone in the northern province of Darfur. Aleppo. Ankara observed a 90-kilometer forbidden zone with a depth of 50 kilometers in a northern region between the Azaz and Jarabulus towns. But until September 23rd, 2016, when the Turkish army launched a military operation, named Euphrates Shield, and advanced in Jarabulus then Azaz and al-Bab, the Western powers, and mainly the United States, prevented the creation of safe areas.
Since mid-November 2015, when the United States and its military alliance sponsored the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurds of Syria have made resounding achievements on the battlefield with the direct help of Washington. As the SDS advanced against the IS, militia, mostly Kurds, seized the terrorist group Tell Abyad in Raqqa governorate in the first steps. Subsequently, the militia forces moved to the western shores of the Euphrates River to drive out ISIS from Manbij and reinforce their power. The SDF’s gains extended to October of this year when they ousted ISIS from the strategic city of Raqqa, which under the rule of ISIS served as de facto capital to the self-appointed Caliphate.
US-backed SDF triumphs continued last month when the coalition managed to take the oil-rich parts of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria to ISIS. Despite this, two more questions than any other are cold in the blood of Turkish leaders.
First, when the SDF celebrated the capture of Raqqa, their fighters waved a poster of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, pointing out that the most dangerous anti-Turkish armed group could have access to the weapons provided by Americans. Second, Turkey has questions and concerns about possible PKK relations with the United States. The Turks do not hide their fear that Washington is behind the arming of the PKK.
The last days have seen Turkish leaders take action in reaction. Erdogan spoke on the phone to US President Donald Trump on November 24. Trump, seeking to assure Erdogan of the lack of risk posed by the US-Kurdish alliance, told the Turkish leader that he would end the military support of the Syrian Kurdish coalition that brings together the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).
According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish news agency Anadolu said: “Trump assured President Erdogan that the United States will cease supplying weapons to Syrian Kurdish militias”.
The questions that come to mind are: Will Trump’s commitment take effect on the ground? What is Washington looking for behind this policy?
1. Financial and military aid to the Kurds continues in secret
A strategic look at developments in recent years clearly shows that Syrian Kurds, who lead a coalition that also includes Arab opposition factions, have been used as infantry serving the US agenda in Syria. Expanding cooperation with them and sending them arms – albeit at the expense of deteriorating relations with one of Ankara’s key Washington allies – shows that Washington’s leaders have long-term plans in mind. for the Kurds of Syria.
A panoramic view of Syrian developments apparently gives the idea that the Kurds are the main pawn of the American game in the Syrian crisis, since Washington finds the Sunni Arab opposition rarely strong and influential on the scene.Thus, cutting relations with the Kurds can clearly mean that Americans are obsolete in the Syrian game. At least in the short term, the logic of the American game tells Washington to avoid cutting aid and partnership with Syrian Kurds. Therefore, the most realistic label to Trump’s promise of ending AIDS is “ostensible”. This means that they will continue to receive all types of US military and financial assistance.
2. Press Turkey using a Kurdish map
Another idea is that Washington wants to put pressure on Ankara by means of the Kurdish map. After all, in recent years, relations between Turkey and the United States have cooled considerably, with ties between the two countries now at their lowest in years. In this condition, a logical game of Trump and American strategists is the use of Syrian Kurds as a pressure card and even a secret support of the PKK to put pressure on the Turkish government. This is intended to bend the Turks to the American requirements on the one hand and on the other hand to stop crossing the red lines by going further to Russia and Iran, the rivals of the United States on the arena Syrian.
3. The empty hope of Erdogan at Trump vows
Looking at the American president’s recent remarks and actions, one may think that his words are invalid even among his assistants and subordinates, many of his remarks being regarded as mere personal comments and therefore without effect on the ground.
This is more palpable when it comes to the military and foreign policy stage. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis have shown that they are fighting for more freedom of action, putting Trump’s plans on the back burner. As a result, it is unlikely that the US strategy will be changed to pave the way for the removal of support for Kurdish forces.
The reports of recent days came out with the consensus that US arms shipments to the SDF continue to pour in. A recent report from the Military Times website, quoting a Syria Syriac Counter member who also operates in the SDF, maintained that the United States had not reviewed its current SDF equipment strategy, with weapons still being provided. by Washington. It is next to the vagueness of the statement issued by the White House that refused to specify that it stops cooperation with the Kurds.
All this gives an idea: the Trump administration pursues two goals behind its Kurdish promises to Erdogan. First, he wants Ankara to avoid getting closer to Russia and Iran. And secondly, to hinder the Turkish army and its Syrian allies from attacking Afrin township in northwestern Syria. The Ankara operation in Afrin may drag the United States into a great regional crisis and simultaneously put US-Turkish relations on ice.
But the unprecedented remarks of Turkish leaders on the US role in the region perfectly show their awareness of the American decline to keep words. Therefore, they should continue their rapprochement and convergence with Russia and Iran on the future of Syria.