Alwaght- The Syrian Kurds, who are gathered under the coalition of Syrian Democratic Forces and are directly backed by the US, announced on Sunday that they launched the military operation to liberate Raqqa, the so-called “capital” of self-proclaimed ISIS' caliphate.
This comes while earlier they showed no interest in taking part in the liberating operation. However, Turkey with big willingness has expressed interest in joining the anti-ISIS assault on the condition that the Kurds are excluded from the offensive.
The Kurds did their best to connect the three self-governed Kurdish cantons of Afrin, Kobani, and Island in northern Syria in a bid to establish an autonomous Kurdish region in the country, a plan considered by Ankara a red line. Turkey warned that under no conditions it will allow the Kurdish People’s Protection Units that Ankara says are the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Turkey’s archenemy, to realize their dreams for independence in Syria. As part of attempts to block the way of the Kurds for autonomy, the Turkish army forces started an offensive inside the Syrian city of Jarabulus to check advances of the Kurds towards western Syria where Afrin canton is located.
Ankara’s attacks on the Kurdish forces have put the US in dire straits because both the Kurds and Turkey are key allies of Washington in Syria. Their clashes signal that the US has big trouble pursuing its plans in Syria.
Ankara wants the Kurds to move back to eastern banks of the Euphrates River. Turkey's demand comes while the Kurdish forces paid a huge price in their way to the western banks of the Euphrates River as well as their operation to retake the Manbij town standing 30 kilometers away from the Euphrates. This means that they are not going to retreat easily from areas they captured. Meanwhile, the US call for the Kurdish forces to move back to east of the Euphrates on the behest of Turkey and its silence to the Turkish airstrikes on the People’s Protection Units have caused a serious distrust of the Kurds, pushing them to grow fears that at the end of the road Washington will sell them out and prefer Turkey.
In return for the Kurdish forces' retreat from western Euphrates, the US offered them progressing towards south of Syria and joining the Raqqa recapture operation, an American offer that first faced reluctance of the Kurds.
The residents of Raqqa are majorly Arab, and liberation of the ISIS-held city not only is not considered a priority for the Kurdish forces but also it could impose huge costs on them. The Turkish leaders, however, in past few weeks several times expressed readiness to take an active role in the operation to reclaim Raqqa as the stronghold of ISIS in Syria but they stipulated that the Kurdish forces must be out of the battle.
But with the sudden announcement of launching operation against ISIS in Raqqa and without presence of Turkey, it appears that Washington in this stage has succeeded in de-escalating the tensions between its allies. Meanwhile, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph during a meeting with his Turkish counterpart has maintained that without Turkey the Raqqa liberating assault will not see advances, adding that Washington and Ankara reached an agreement on a long-term plan for encirclement, recapture, and administration of the capital of the self-proclaimed caliphate.
It seems that Ankara in return for its silence over Raqqa recapture offensive has taken a promise from the Americans that the Kurdish forces will go out of Manbij. The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Sunday that Ankara told the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff that pushing the Kurdish militants out of Manbij was a priority for Turkey.
Despite the relative US success in relaxing the crisis between Turkey and the Kurds, it is very unlikely that this lasts for a long time, especially if Ankara seeks advancing towards Manbij.
On the other side, the observers believe that the Americans are not serious in intentions to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, and the main aim of starting the anti-ISIS operation in the Syrian city in this very time is to influence the US presidential election. They add that the present US government uses the Kurds as instruments for electoral goals.