Senior Turkish officials have recently threatened to launch a third military operation against the Syrian Kurds over what they call repeated Kurdish attacks on Turkish troops inside Syria and shelling into Turkey. Meanwhile Russia, which has previously given the green light to Turkey's attacks, has not yet made a clear statement. One the other side, the United States, which has about 900 troops in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria, has extended the state of emergency in northern Syria as Turkey continues to threaten the fight against ISIS. Also, the Kurds, who have shown willingness to negotiate with the Syrian government, have not reached a conclusion yet. There is also the issue of the withdrawal of US forces from the Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria, and if these forces withdraw, there is a risk of a sudden Turkish attack on the Kurdish-controlled areas of the war-torn country.
Tension between Turkey and Syrian Kurds in Russia-controlled regions
"Russia and the Syrian armies are not controlling the whole of Idlib yet, but their bombing campaign have continued on civilians and civilian infrastructures, despite the several past ceasefires between Moscow and Ankara," Joseph Daher, a Doctorate in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, told Kurdpress about the situation in the north and northeast Syria that are under the control of the Kurds, Russia and Turkey.
About a possible Ankara and Moscow deal over Syrian Kurdish regions, the analyst stated: "There is currently no agreement with Russia in order to allow Ankara to control the North East under the domination of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES)."
The university professor further stated that Russia is worried over Turkey expansion of its controlled regions in northern Syria and said: "Moscow wants Ankara to reduce its military presence in Syria as much as possible, while pushing for the restoration of political relations between Turkey and Syria. Moscow would like to bring Turkey to establish relations with the Assad regime within the framework of the Adana agreement signed between Damascus and Ankara in 1998 (an agreement that commits the Syrian regime to fight the Kurdistan Workers' Party on their territory). "
"Turkey is afraid if it reduces its presence or leaves Syria that it will have less capacities to fight against and threaten the military troops of the PYD and the whole border frontier be used as a safe haven for the PKK fighters," he told Kurdpress about the reasons behind Turkey intension for its presence in Syria.
About Moscow position over the fate of northern Syria, Dr. Daher stated: "Russia also wants to regain full control of the M4 highway (the route through the Idlib region to connect Aleppo to Latakia). This is important for communications and trade. Moscow has criticized Turkey for not expelling the jihadist group Hay'at Tahrir el-Sham, which controls nearly half of Idlib region."
The professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland attributed Turkey's success in Syria to cooperating with Russia and moving away from the West and added that "At the same time, Turkey and Russia have developed closer as a result of the tensions between Moscow and the West, and the increasingly difficult relations between Turkey and its NATO allies. For example, Russia has sold S-400 anti-aircraft systems to the Turks, prompting protests from Washington. Ankara and Moscow also have important common economic interests, especially in tourism and food exports. Mr. Putin also mentioned on several occasions the inauguration in 2020 of the TurkStream gas pipeline, which transports Russian gas via Turkey and the Black Sea to Europe."
The danger of another Afghanistan scenario in Syria Kurdish-controlled regions
"I think the scenario is different as the US has only a small contingent of soldiers in Syria and mainly focus on fighting Daesh [ISIS]," he said about a possible US pullout from the region in northern Syria.
He described the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a change in US tactics and strategy and underscored that "The chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is a new defeat for U.S. imperialism, following the much larger one in Iraq. It is not, however, the end of the era of Washington's imperialist policies. U.S. imperialism's plan is still to maintain its global dominance, but through more "efficient" management of its military commitments abroad. In Joe Biden's foreign policy speech following the withdrawal from Afghanistan, he declared that we must 'end an era of major military interventions designed to reshape other countries...', while affirming the continuation of the fight against 'terrorism' and above all the need to consolidate 'American competitiveness' in order to respond to the challenges posed first and foremost by China and, to a lesser extent, by Russia."
Dr. Daher went on to say that "Washington's imperial military strategy will therefore rely more on bombing on different scales, from individual assassinations by drone to missile or air strikes, while seeking to exercise overwhelming superiority to destroy or weaken other countries."
"In this context, Washington will maintain for the short term a small of contingent of US soldiers in order to maintain their 'fight against terrorism', especially as Daesh [ISIS] has increased its military attacks in Syria in the past two years. It's also a way to pressure the Syrian regime to maintain a military presence in Syria, while not allowing its return in the North East," the professor said about the future of the US presence in Syria.
A possible Turkey bombing?
About the possibility of a third Turkey attack against the Kurds in northern Syria, Dr. Daher said: "I believe this will not occur in the short term because of the US presence in the North East, while Russia would not like to see an extension of Turkish troops throughout the North of the country. Moscow declared on numerous occasions that the Syrian regime must take control of the country’s northern provinces, notably to regain control of Syria’s oil reserves."
Who can expel Turkey from Syria?
"The departure of Turkey from Syria will occur most probably following a deal with Syrian regime sponsored by Russia. The main objective of Turkey is to end or diminish considerably any influence and presence of PYD (and of PKK) at its southern border," he also said.
A possible agreement between Kurds and Damascus
About the result of the talks between Syrian Kurds and the central government in Damascus, the expert stated that "Damascus refuses to grant any form of concession to the AANES, especially any form of minimal autonomy. On the contrary, the hostile rhetoric of the Syrian state media and the political maneuvers of the Syrian regime against the AANES have been increasing to undermine its autonomy more and more."
"The only concessions Damascus could accept are symbolic ones on cultural issues, and very low level of administrative decentralization," he further added.
Dr. Daher stressed that there are many hurdles over an agreement between Damascus and the Kurds and said: "The negotiations between regime’s and SDF officials have actually not advanced. SDF officials themselves have acknowledged major challenges stand in the way for an agreement, including the continued lack of recognition of Kurdish rights and a federal political system."
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