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Syrian Kurdish Forces Launch Powerful Counterattack Against Turkey
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Turkey is hoping for a quick victory in Afrin, but its soldiers and allied Syrian militiamen are facing counter-attacks by Kurdish forces on villages close to the border. The Kurds are reported to be readying reinforcements to join the battle from their bases in north east Syria where they have thousands of troops who until recently were fighting Isis.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says there would be “no stepping back from Afrin” which means that the campaign, bizarrely named ‘Operation Olive Branch’, will continue. But it will take time to drive the Kurdish YPG paramilitary forces out the Afrin enclave north of Aleppo. So far the Turkish offensive has captured only a few villages close to the border in three days of fighting and there are a total of 350 villages in Afrin.

The population of the enclave is estimated to be 200,000, many of whom will be come refugees if Turkey and Arab militiamen take control.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that there had been a strong Kurdish counter-attack overnight that had recaptured two villages called Shenkal and Adamaly.

Turkey needs a swift success in Afrin because it is diplomatically isolated and there is growing international pressure to end the fighting. France has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the fighting in Afrin and other parts of Syria. Britain said it would look for ways to prevent escalation. But Mr Erdogan said said in a speech in Ankara that Turkey had discussed the Afrin offensive “with our Russian friends, we have an agreement with them.” This probably refers to Russia agreeing to limited Turkish action as warning to the Kurds not to become the permanent proxies of the US in Syria.

Turkish forces and some 10,000 Free Syrian Army militia based in Turkey would be facing even more difficulties if Russia had not allowed Turkish jets to operate in Syrian airspace. Though Turkey is a member of NATO, it has become closer to Russia because of US military support for the Syrian Kurds against Isis since 2014 and Turkish suspicion that the US was complicit in the military coup that almost overthrew Mr Erdogan in 2016.

A clash between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds was always likely once Isis had been defeated. Ankara had hoped that the US would then drop its alliance with the Kurds once Isis had been defeated. But on 17 January, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a speech in which he said that US troops would stay in Syria on an open-ended basis, which in practice means they will remain based in the Kurdish enclave in the north east of the country. He said they would do so to prevent the advance of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and reduce Iranian influence in Syria. This was a dangerous new departure for the US in Syria.


Mr Tillerson said that the continued US presence would stabilise the country but in fact it has done the exact opposite. He himself does not seem to have taken on board that this was wholly predictable since his words would anger Russia, Syria and Iran but, most importantly, would have an even more explosive impact on Turkey.

In effect, the US was underwriting the existence of a permanent Kurdish statelet under US protection and controlled by people whom Mr Erdogan has denounced as “terrorists” and promises to destroy.

Several days earlier the US had said it would train a 30,000 strong border force to be drawn from the ranks of the Syrian Democratic Forces. This grouping contains Arab fighters, but is essentially run by the Kurds.

Turkey is putting out contradictory signals about how long its operation will last. Mr Erdogan insisted that it will go on as long as necessary, regardless of outside pressure. But Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek who oversees economic affairs said: “our investors should be at ease, the impact will be limited, the operation will be brief and it will reduce the terror risk to Turkey in the period ahead.”

There are other dangers stemming from the Turkish intervention. Syria is riven by ethnic and sectarian rivalries and territorial claims with all sides claiming that their community has been displaced recently or in the recent past.

Mr Erdogan has been stirring up these animosities saying at the week-end that “55 percent of Afrin is Arab, 35 percent are the Kurds who were later relocated, and about seven percent are Turkmen. We aim to give Afrin back to its rightful owners.”

This means that If Turkey and its Arab militia allies do occupy Afrin there is the prospect of ethnic cleansing of Kurds living there. Christians and Yazidis are also fearful that they will be targeted by the Arab militiamen fighting alongside the Turkish army.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Kurds, Syria, Turkey 
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  1. Ethnic cleansing shouldn’t be a dirty word. It’s the only real path to peace.

    • Replies: @another fred
    , @Kweli
  2. mikkkkas says:

    More wishful thinking from a staunch supporter of “israel” and the infamous Yinon plan. In Iraq there were not much of fighting at all after US dropped the Kurds, they simply fled in panic. So much for US media-pumped-up rhetoric about the “fearless Kurdish peshmerga fighters”.

    In Syria US just threw these opportunistic female genital mutilating nomads that wandered into Syria in the 30’s, under the bus for the third time since the start of the war against Syria. After they refused Syrian and Russian protection in exchange for raising the Syrian flag they are on their own and have just released a flurry of statements accusing everybody involved of “betrayal” and hundreds of Kurds started their war by fleeing to, wait for it, Damascus.

    Cocky can stop jumping up and down, there won’t be a second “israel” here either. It’s just a matter of time before US has to drop the SDF cutthrotes in eastern occupied Syria as well. This landlocked cauldron with its sitting duck US forces is not only surrounded by hostile states and militias within shooting range but is facing an insurgency from Arab tribes that makes up the majority of inhabitants, not Kurds, and Kurds loyal to Damascus as well.

  3. Talha says:

    bizarrely named ‘Operation Olive Branch’

    Hmmm…not sure. We know what it represents in the Western tradition but maybe in Turkish tradition it’s what you use to beat someone over the head when you can’t reach your axe.

    May God end this fratricidal madness.


    • Replies: @El Dato
  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    who is the olive branch for?

    my guess is Damascus, because with isis mostly wiped out, and HTS and friends on ropes. the only substantiation threat to the syrian government at this time is the kurds with their american puppet masters.

    and so turkey might now see assad as a potential ally against their only real mutual enemy left.

  5. TT says:

    Proxy war of USI vs RU. The rest are just canon fondle.

    Where are those hundreds of united UN hypocrites who think Jerusalem is more important than thousands of Syrian lives? Aren’t they gonna vote to demand US immediate withdrawal from illegal occupying Syria & Iraq lands to stop further blood bath?

    Where is US top human right advocate Nikki who has so much compassion for anyone including their enemy Iran’s protestors?

    Where are those Americans & Europeans human right advocates poking nose everywhere?

    Oil still worth more than blood & human rights.
    So Youtube and FB will continue their best support to head chopper heart eater IS to recruit.

  6. May God end this fratricidal madness.

    I believe that it will not end until the few survivors decide that it is no longer worth fighting over.

    It will no longer be worth fighting over when the population has been reduced to a point that there is enough room for all the survivors to live at a distance from their neighbors.

    • Replies: @Talha
  7. @Lemurmaniac

    The dirty part is in the pain and suffering on the way to that peace, but you probably know that.

    Seems to be the only way. As the poet said, “When man stinks, turn to God.”

    • Replies: @Lemurmaniac
  8. Kurds sooner or later will run out of ammunition.
    Will US resupply them with ammunition?
    This will be interesting to watch.

  9. Talha says:
    @another fred

    Possibly. This is one way.

    Another way is that they can remember that they are indeed brothers and that the Kurds and Turks have a long history together of mutual cooperation that far, far exceeds their mutual animosity. The Kurds were some of the most loyal Ottoman subjects:
    “Especially among the Kurds, the caliphate had been held in high esteem. When, at the outset of the First World War, the Sultan in his capacity of Caliph or supreme leader of all Orthodox Muslims proclaimed a jihad, most Kurds rallied to the call. The large sums that had been spent by Russians in an attempt to buy some Kurdish chiefs’ loyalties were of no avail, nor could emotional appeals by Kurdish nationalists complete agains the Caliph’s word…As Van Bruneissen observes, it was not until this supra-ethnic bond was severed with the elimination of the caliphate that ‘more or less nationalist-inspired revolts’ began to emerge among the Kurds.”
    Longing for the Lost Caliphate: A Transregional History (Princeton Univ. Press)

    If they cannot see past their nationalistic differences, then they will continue to fight and be used as pawns against each other in “great games” played by others on their soil and with their lives.


  10. El Dato says:

    May God end this fratricidal madness.

    That’s the point: It’s not fratricidal.

    Also, that axe looks fake.

    • Replies: @Talha
  11. Talha says:
    @El Dato

    That’s the point: It’s not fratricidal.

    It is – we took an oath when we bore witness to God and His Messenger (pbuh).
    “The believers are but a brotherhood, so make reconciliation between your brothers and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” (49:10)

    “Hold firmly to the rope of Allah – all together – and do not become divided. Remember the favor of Allah upon you, when you were enemies and he brought your hearts together and you became brothers by His favor.” (3:103)

    It’s a package deal.

    Others are free to define brotherhood as they please. If you are Muslim, you submit to how your Maker defines it…and if you don’t, He reserves the right to repeatedly humiliate you at the hands of others until you learn the lesson.

    The axe is from a TV show called “Ertugrul” – so it likely is.


  12. @another fred

    can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.

  13. Kweli says:

    Ethnic cleansing shouldn’t be a dirty word, so long as the cleansing steers clear of your own ethnic group.

  14. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Erdogan is a guy who needs to be taken out by any means necessary. He’s just nothing but trouble to his own people and every country around him.

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