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alwaght.com
Analysis

US Tightly Holds Kurdish Card in Syria

Monday 20 March 2017
US Tightly Holds Kurdish Card in Syria

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Alwaght- The crisis in Syria is moving beyond its sixth year while the conflict between the warring sides remains spirited, and all sides of the struggle appear to put the dialogue and diplomatic efforts in the second place, right after the military priority.

In past few months, ascension of Donald Trump to power as the US president made the analysts expect arrival of possibly great developments in the way of how things go on in Syria. Right after taking the office at the White House, the new US president reiterated his promises for establishing safe zones in Syria, positing that perhaps an American-Russian accord will lead to setting up safe zones, two in north, one in south, and one in east of the crisis-hit country.

Continuing his Syria-related comments, the American leader said in another speech that he commissioned the Secretary of Defense James Mattis to, within a month, work out a new military strategy that will offer a course for moving to wipe out ISIS terrorist group in both Syria and Iraq, the two countries where the terrorists are holding considerable ground. But no resounding changes have happened to the American policy since Trump announced this plan in late January.

However, what has been so attention-grabbing more than any other thing in Syria conflict's scene is the boosted American support for the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in the country’s north. This pro-Kurdish US approach is not exclusive to the Trump administration as before him the former President Barack Obama had initiated contacts and then alliance with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a militant bloc predominantly consisted of the Kurdish fighters.

But this American-Kurdish alliance is challenged as the element of Turkey, an anti-Kurdish party of the conflict, more than any other time rises in the Syrian equations as the fresh developments keep rolling on. After Trump's victory in the presidential election in the US, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of and other Turkish leaders organized their policies toward getting the new American government to the side of their demands and stances in any way.

Meanwhile, the key demand of the Turks, without doubt, from the US was confrontation of advances of Syria's Kurdish forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)— Ankara’s archenemy and labeled a terrorist group by Turkey. During their remarks, contacts, and meetings with the Americans, the Turks urge the Trump administration to quit backing for the Syrian Democratic Forces. Binali Yildirim, the prime minister of Turkey, during his talks with Mike Pence, the US vice-president, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference held from 19 through 21 February this year warned the American official that the continued Washington aids for the advancing Kurdish forces in northern Syria will raise friction in the US-Turkey relations. The hardened Turkish rhetoric against the American-Kurdish ties continued as Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey during comments on February 27 this year expressed Ankara concerns over the US decline to take a clear approach in relation to the crisis. Yildirim called the rival Kurdish militant groups' participation in the upcoming major Raqqa liberation operation a “big mistake.” Still more of the Turkish officials' remarks, Erdogan after capture of the northern Syrian town of Al-Bab from ISIS by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters asserted that it was time for Turkey to, in next steps, take control of Manbij, a half-Kurdish half-terrorist-held town, and then capture Raqqa.

But the US appears to move contrary to the Turkish leaders' demands and remarks. The freshly published reports suggest that the US military plans to send additional 1,000 troops to Syria whose task will be aiding the Syrian Democratic Forces that are bracing for Raqqa recapture assault. The scenario requires Mattis and then Trump's go-ahead, and should it is implemented, it will mean the biggest American deployment of military forces to fight ISIS terrorists in a couple of years. According to Pentagon's figures, 500 American troops are now stationed in Syria, offering logistical backing to the Syrian Democratic Forces. If we put the number of current troops a little beyond the Pentagon announcement like 700 or 800, we can conclude that arrival of new 1,000 American boots on the ground in northern Syria will spark a wave of worries among the different actors in the Syrian struggle.

According to a Reuters new agency's report, published on March 17, Sipan Hemo, a chief commander of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), an affiliate of the Syrian Democratic Forces, told the news outlet that they were planning to launch the final offensive to recapture Raqqa, the so-called capital of the self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate in Syria, in April with backup from the US military. He assured that seizing back control of the ISIS-held city will be fast and not last more than several weeks. Reacting to these Kurdish comments, the Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis noted that the allies were yet to make a final decision on the time to begin the liberating operation in Raqqa, however.

The comments on Raqqa liberation are coming while the Syrian Democratic Forces have started their assault to retake the ISIS Syria stronghold on December 5, last year. The operation is scheduled in three stages, and so far they have managed to reclaim a vast rural area around Raqqa. They, reportedly, for the first time crossed the lines into the Deir ez-Zor province. After finalizing the encirclement of the city in over the past month, the Americans seemingly intend to kick off the final push to retake the city from the terrorist group.

The operation could be hit by some barriers, however. The reports suggest that the only remaining crossing for evacuation of the civilians from the city in case of clashes outbreak is the Euphrates River, lying on Raqqa's southern borders. At the same time, however, the human rights organizations have reported that all bridges that can secure safe exit of the civilians have been razed, and possibly the difficulty in civilians' removal from the city will cause huge human tragedy once the military action starts.

While the US continues backing the Syrian Kurdish forces in their battle, the Turkish officials go forward with pressures on Washington to halt its cooperation with the Kurds, and on the other side Russia, Iran, and the central Syrian government remain pessimistic about the American intentions that remain largely shrouded in secrecy.

The American strategists, it is obvious however, have reached the conviction that the only card that can offer them expanded influence in Syria is the Kurds of that country. The political and military leaders of the US now come up with the notion that all of actors, the regional and international of them, have some party to back on the ground, and have already designed a clean-cut strategy.

In Washington, withdrawing support for the Kurds will mean a big loss for the Americans. If the US decides to do so, it will risk its elimination from the rivalry circle. Just contrary to some analyses that say Washington purses Syria partition ends behind its support for the Kurdish forces, the main goal is very clear: it wants to have an effective presence on the battlefield like other significant actors to gain bargaining chips for the upcoming negotiations and scenarios.

The highly disregarded fact is that Trump’s major focus in the region is on Iraq not Syria. Syria is exploited instrumentally to preserve the Western political and military influence in West Asia and to keep prepared for surprise scenarios. So Turkey and other actors should buy the fact that protection of the Kurds is the only window through which the Americans can guarantee their presence or at least their regional influence. Thereby, this simple American strategy should be understood that at least until end of the Syrian crisis, the US will put all of its eggs in the Kurdish basket, but it remains a matter of time decision if this backing for the Kurds continues in a post-crisis Syria.

 

Tags :

Kurds US Turkey Syria Crisis Raqqa Operation

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