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Syria: Turkey to attack Kurdish area soon

A place to talk about domestic politics in Middle East (Iran, Iraq , Turkey, Syria) Also includes topics about Assyrian, Armenian, Chaldean .

Syria: Turkey to attack Kurdish area soon

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:26 pm

Where do the Kurds fit into Syria's war?

The future of Kurdish-led areas of northern and eastern Syria has been thrown into doubt by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops who have helped to secure the region

Amounting to about one quarter of Syria, the area is the largest chunk of territory still outside the control of President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.

Trump said on Wednesday the United States would withdraw slowly “over a period of time” and would protect the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters as Washington withdraws troops, but without giving a timetable.

Syrian Kurdish leaders fear Turkey will use the withdrawal as an opportunity to launch an assault.

As a result, they are in contact with Moscow and Damascus in the hope of agreeing arrangements to protect the region from Turkey while also aiming to safeguard their political gains.

HOW DID THE KURDS EMERGE AS A FORCE?

The main Syrian Kurdish faction, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), began to establish a foothold in the north early in the war as government forces withdrew to put down the anti-Assad uprising elsewhere. An affiliated militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), secured the region.

Early in the conflict, their control was concentrated in three predominantly Kurdish regions home to roughly 2 million Kurds. Kurdish-led governing bodies were set up.

The area of YPG influence expanded as the YPG allied with the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State (IS), becoming the spearhead of a multi-ethnic militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

SDF influence widened to Manbij and Raqqa as IS was defeated in both. It has also reached deep into Deir al-Zor, where the SDF is still fighting IS.

Kurdish leaders say their aim is regional autonomy within a decentralized Syria, not independence.

WHY DOES TURKEY VIEW THEM AS A THREAT?

The PYD is heavily influenced by the ideas of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights. Ocalan has been in jail since 1999 in Turkey. He is convicted of treason.

The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Turkey says the PKK is indistinguishable from the PYD and YPG.

Turkey has a Kurdish minority equal to 15 to 20 percent of its population, mostly living in eastern and southeastern areas bordering Syria. Wary of separatistism, Turkey views the PYD’s Syrian foothold as a national security threat.

Syria’s main Kurdish groups do not hide Ocalan’s influence: they organized elections towards establishing a political system based on his ideas.

Turkey has already mounted two cross-border offensives in northern Syria as part of its efforts to counter the YPG.

FOR KURDS, IS ASSAD A FRIEND OR FOE?

Syria’s Baathist state systematically persecuted the Kurds before the war. Yet the YPG and Damascus have broadly stayed out of each other’s way during the conflict, despite occasional clashes. They also have been seen to cooperate against shared foes, notably in and around Aleppo.

The YPG has allowed the Syrian state to keep a foothold in its areas. The YPG commander told Reuters in 2017 it would have no problem with the Assad government if Kurdish rights are guaranteed in Syria.

But Damascus opposes Kurdish autonomy demands: the Syrian foreign minister last month said “nobody in Syria accepts talk about independent entities or federalism”.

Talks between the sides last year made no progress.

The Kurdish-led authorities are launching a new initiative aiming to put pressure on the government to reach a political settlement “within the framework of a decentralized Syria,” leading Kurdish politician Ilham Ahmed said last week.

Analysts say the Kurds’ negotiating position has been weakened by Trump’s announcement.

WHAT WOULD AN ASSAD-KURD DEAL MEAN FOR THE WAR?

The territory held by Damascus and the Kurdish-led authorities accounts for most of Syria. A political settlement - if one could be reached, perhaps with Russian help - could go a long way to stitching the map back together.

But it would not mark the end of the war.

Anti-Assad insurgents, though defeated across much of Syria by the government and its allies, still have a foothold in the northwest stretching from Idlib through Afrin to Jarablus. Turkey has troops on the ground in this area.

The rebels include Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army groups and jihadists.

Enmity runs deep between the YPG and these groups.

For the YPG, one priority is recovering Afrin from the rebels who seized it in a Turkey-backed offensive last year.

Assad also wants Turkey out as he vows to recover “every inch” of Syria.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mide ... SKCN1OX16L
Last edited by Anthea on Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:13 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Syria: Turkey to attack Kurdish area soon

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Re: Where do the Kurds fit into Syria's war?

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:50 pm

Fighting among Turkish-backed mercenaries leaves dozens dead

Clashes between the Turkish-backed mercenaries in Syria have spread to a wider region, leaving dozens dead

Fierce clashes have been taking place between al-Qaeda originating Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) and the National Liberation Front (NLF) founded by Turkey since Tuesday.

Fighting between the Ankara-backed mercenaries has spread to northwest Syria on Thursday. Reports suggest that more than 30 members of the two mentioned groups have been killed.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) clashes first erupted in Aleppo and then spread to Hama and Idlib. SOHR reported that 17 members of the HTS and 16 members of the NLF have been killed in Wednesday’s confrontations. During the past two days, at least 76 people from both groups have died, while 6 civilians lost their lives.

SOHR Director Rami Abdul Rahman stated that two more battle fronts have been opened as clashes spread to southwest of Idlib and northwest of Hama.

According to reports, HTS is making advances and has taken control of 17 towns and villages.

HTS reportedly launched a counter attack after the killing of 5 of their members by the NLF-affiliated Nuredddin el-Zenki group.

SOHR stated that HTS has launched attacks on several locations in Idlib countryside with dozens of military vehicles Thursday morning.
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Re: US says Turkey must not attack Kurdish fighters

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:04 pm

Bolton says Turkey must not attack
Kurdish fighters once U.S. leaves Syria


White House national security adviser John Bolton added a new condition on Sunday to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, saying Turkey must agree to protect the United States’ Kurdish allies

President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to announce a U.S. pullout from Syria left many questions open, chiefly whether Kurdish fighters who had been operating in northern Syria alongside U.S. forces would now be attacked by their long-time enemy, Turkey.

Bolton, on a trip to Israel and Turkey, said he would stress in talks with Turkish officials, including President Tayyip Erdogan, that Kurdish forces must be protected.

Ahead of talks with Israeli officials, he told reporters the pullout would be done in a way that guaranteed the Islamic State jihadist group “is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again.”

And it would be carried out in such a way as to “make sure that the defense of Israel and our other friends in the region is absolutely assured, and to take care of those who have fought with us against ISIS and other terrorist groups.”

Asked whether a U.S. withdrawal would not take place in Syria until Turkey guaranteed the Kurdish fighters would be safe, Bolton said: “Basically, that’s right.”

The Syrian YPG militia has been highly effective in the war against Islamic State, a part of the wider Syrian conflict pitting a range of insurgent groups against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and sometimes against each other.

But Turkey has long castigated Washington for its military relationship with the YPG. Ankara regards the YPG an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish armed group that has waged an insurgency in southeast Turkey for over three decades.

“PRESIDENT’S REQUIREMENT”

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum,” Bolton said, “so they don’t endanger our troops, but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered.”

The YPG has indicated that it might seek a deal with Damascus after the U.S. forces have gone.

Bolton, who will travel to Turkey on Monday, said the United States would talk to Ankara to find out what its objectives and capabilities were.

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey’s targets were the YPG, the PKK and Islamic State.

“One aim of Turkey’s fight against the PKK and its Syrian extensions is to rescue the Kurds from the cruelty and oppression of this terrorist group,” state-owned Anadolu news agency quoted Kalin as saying, in comments that emerged after Bolton made his remarks.

“Turkey will continue decisively its efforts to end the war, provide security, and implement the process of political transition without discriminating between our Syrian brothers on the basis of religion, ethnicity or sect,” Kalin said.

In Washington on Sunday, Trump reiterated that the United States would be pulling its troops out of Syria but suggested the move might not happen soon.

“I never said we are doing it that quickly. But we are decimating ISIS,” Trump told reporters.

Later on Sunday Bolton met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reassured Israel and other allies of the United States’ commitment to their security.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran ... SKCN1P003M
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Re: US says Turkey must not attack Kurdish fighters

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:07 am

Turkey says US plea on Kurds 'unacceptable'

Turkey's president has strongly rejected US calls for his country to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria

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1041

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said such statements made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton at the weekend were "unacceptable".

Mr Bolton was in Ankara to seek guarantees that a Kurdish militia battling the Islamic State group would be safe after US troops pulled out.

Turkey regards the People's Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist group.

Mr Erdogan told MPs from his governing Justice and Development Party on Tuesday that he could not "accept and swallow" Mr Bolton's message.

The Americans did not know who the various Kurdish groups were, he said, adding: "If the US evaluates them as 'Kurdish brothers' then they are in a serious delusion."

He considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades. The YPG denies any direct organisational links to the PKK.

US officials were informed that Mr Erdogan was unable to meet Mr Bolton because of a local election campaign and a speech to parliament.

A senior US official said that Mr Bolton had subsequently complained to an aide of Mr Erdogan that the Turkish president's recent opinion piece in the New York Times was "wrong and offensive".

In the piece, Mr Erdogan wrote that US-backed forces had "relied heavily on air strikes that were carried out with little or no regard for civilian casualties" and that Turkey was "the only country with the power and commitment" to stabilise Syria.

Why is the US withdrawing from Syria?

In 2014, militants overran 100,000 sq km (39,000 sq miles) of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, and imposed their brutal rule on almost 8 million people. Now, they control only 1% of the territory they once had.

However, the defeat of IS is far from final. A US defence department report estimated in August that there might be as many as 14,000 jihadists left in Syria and 17,000 in Iraq.

President Donald Trump consequently shocked allies and faced strong criticism at home last month when he ordered US forces to immediately begin withdrawing from the approximately 30% of Syria controlled by the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.

Over the weekend, Mr Bolton laid out several conditions for the withdrawal, which suggested that the four-month schedule agreed by Mr Trump could slip.

He told reporters in Israel that it would be done in a way that guaranteed IS "is defeated and is not able to revive itself", and that the US would "take care of those who have fought with us against [IS] and other terrorist groups".

Erdogan's blunt message
Analysis by Selin Girit, BBC News, Istanbul

US-Turkish talks in Ankara over the withdrawal of US troops from Syria were expected to be tense after Mr Bolton's comments about the YPG. But no-one really contemplated that President Erdogan would speak in such blunt terms.

Mr Erdogan said it was impossible to swallow Mr Bolton's comments suggesting that Turkey should agree to protect YPG forces as a pre-condition to the withdrawal.

He said Turkey would do whatever it takes to kill terrorists, adding that an operation in the Kurdish-controlled area in northern Syria would take place soon.

Ankara sees the YPG as a national security threat. But Washington wants to reassure the Kurds over the Turkish threat, so they don't feel obliged to cosy up to Russia.

How did Mr Bolton's talks in Ankara go?

He met Mr Erdogan's aide, Ibrahim Kalin, to discuss how the US withdrawal could take place.

Later, Mr Kalin told a news conference that he had asked Mr Bolton about the heavy weapons and facilities that the US had handed over to the YPG.

"We should not allow the withdrawal process to open new opportunity fields for terror organisations," he said.

Mr Kalin also said that Turkey would not seek permission from anyone to carry out military operations in Syria, amid reports that it is preparing to attack the SDF-controlled town of Manbij.

What is the US presence in Syria?

Some 2,000 US military personnel are reported to be deployed in Syria.

Ground troops first arrived in autumn 2015 when then-President Barack Obama sent in a small number of special forces to train and advise YPG fighters.

The US did this after several attempts at training and arming Syrian Arab rebel groups to battle IS militants descended into chaos.

Over the intervening years the number of US troops in Syria has increased, and a network of bases and airfields has been established in an arc across the north-eastern part of the country.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-46792329
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Re: Syria: Turkey to attack Kurdish area soon

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Jan 10, 2019 6:11 pm

US to 'expel every Iranian boot' from Syria

The US will work with allies to "expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says

Mr Pompeo warned there would be no US reconstruction aid for areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until Iran and its proxies had left.

He also criticised ex-President Barack Obama's Middle East policy, saying he had made "dire misjudgements".

Mr Pompeo was speaking in Cairo three weeks after President Donald Trump said US troops were pulling out of Syria.

The announcement had shocked US allies and sparked strong criticism in Washington.

Mr Pompeo, who has been seeking to reassure allies following Mr Trump's surprise announcement, said: "America will not retreat until the terror fight is over. We will labour tirelessly alongside you to defeat Isis [the Islamic State group], al-Qaeda and other jihadists that threaten our security and yours."

He said that the US was a "force for good" in the Middle East, adding: "Where America retreats, chaos follows."

Why did Pompeo mention Iran?

Iran, alongside Russia, has been supporting the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war, providing arms, military advisers, and reportedly combat troops.

The US is deeply suspicious of Iranian activity in the Middle East and views it as a destabilising force in the region.

It is also an ally of Israel and Saudi Arabia, two of Iran's foes.

On Thursday, Mr Pompeo said "we will not ease our campaign to stop Iran's malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world."

He added that American sanctions against Iran were "the strongest in history and will keep getting tougher".

Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif mocked Mr Pompeo's speech, saying that wherever the US interferes, "chaos, repression and resentment follow".

What is the US's approach to Syria?

The US, along with Turkey, Gulf Arab states, and Jordan, has been supporting some rebel groups.

Some 2,000 US military personnel are reported to be in Syria, and have been involved in fighting Islamic State militants.

In December, Mr Trump said he was withdrawing all remaining troops because IS had been "defeated", adding "they're all coming back and they're coming back now".

The announcement shocked allies and several US defence officials, including Defence Secretary James Mattis, resigned shortly afterwards.

Since then, US officials have appeared to row back slightly on the decision. Mr Trump said the troops would be pulled out "slowly", while National Security Adviser John Bolton said the withdrawal would depend on certain conditions.

Analysts have described the administration's Syria policy as "messy" and confusing for allies.

Mr Pompeo's Thursday speech appeared to be an attempt to reassure partners, while also reiterating Mr Trump's decision to pull out troops.

"President Trump has made the decision to bring our troops home from Syria... but this isn't a change of mission. We remain committed to the complete dismantling of the Isis [IS] threat," he said, adding that the US also wanted its partners to "do more".

How did Pompeo criticise Obama - and why?

Mr Pompeo did not directly name Barack Obama, Mr Trump's predecessor.

However, he referred frequently to a key speech Mr Obama gave in Cairo in 2009, where he had called for "a new beginning" for the US and the Middle East.

Mr Pompeo said: "It was here, here in this very city, another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology... He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed 'a new beginning.' The results of these misjudgements have been dire."

"We were timid about asserting ourselves when the times - and our partners - demanded it," he said.

The Trump administration has been critical of Mr Obama's decision to strike a deal to limit Iran's nuclear activities, and had accused him of being too soft on Islamist terrorism, and a poor ally to Israel.

National Security Action, a think tank involving many of Mr Obama's former policy advisers, criticised Mr Pompeo's speech.

"That this administration feels the need, nearly a decade later, to take pot-shots at an effort to identify common ground between the Arab world and the West speaks not only to the Trump administration's pettiness, but also to its lack of a strategic vision for America's role in the region," it said in a statement

"Together with the broader administration he represents, Pompeo sees Islam as an enemy, human rights as a side concern, and autocrats worthy of embrace," the group added.

Mr Pompeo's Middle East tour will also see him stopping in countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-46828810
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Re: Syria: Turkey to attack Kurdish area soon

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jan 12, 2019 4:14 pm

Pompeo ‘optimistic’ both Turkey’s
security and Syria Kurds can be protected


Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Saturday he is “optimistic” America’s Syrian Kurdish allies can be protected while also allowing Turkey to “defend their country from terrorists” when the US withdraws its troops from northern Syria

Pompeo, who is in the UAE capital on the fourth leg of his Middle East tour, made the comments following a phone call with Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“We recognize the Turkish people’s right and President Erdogan’s right to defend their country from terrorists and we also know that those who aren’t terrorists, those who were fighting alongside us all this time, deserve to be protected and we are confident that we can achieve an outcome that achieves both of those: protect the Turks from legitimate terror threats and prevent any substantial risks to folks who don’t present terror risks to Turkey,” Pompeo said.

“We had this conversation, many details still to be worked out but I am optimistic we can achieve a good outcome.”

Pompeo is currently touring the Middle East to drum up support for America’s anti-Iran campaign and reassuring regional allies about its policy in Syria.

US President Donald Trump announced in December the imminent withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops stationed in northern Syria, where they have been supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against ISIS.

Reports indicate US forces have already begun withdrawing equipment – but troops remain in place.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which makes up the backbone of the SDF, fears Turkey will attack them once US forces withdraw.

Ankara has repeatedly said it intends to march east of the Euphrates River and crush the YPG, which it views as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party

http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/120120191
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