Turkey Has No Problem with Syria’s Kurds, Says Defense Minister

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey Has No Problem with Syria’s Kurds, Says Defense Minister

Monday, 16 December, 2019 – 11:15
An aerial view of displaced children in the middle of the Kilis border refugee camp with Turkey after heavy rains. AFP file photo
Ankara – Saeed Abdelrazek
Ankara does not have a problem with Kurds, but rather terrorist organizations, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has affirmed.

Turkey’s commitment to fighting terrorist organizations such as ISIS, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated by Ankara as a terror group, and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the largest component of the Syrian Democratic Forces that Turkey considers an extension of PKK in Syria, and others, has not changed.

“We don’t have any problems with Kurds or any other ethnicity,” Akar said in a speech delivered Sunday at the 19th Doha Forum held in Qatar.

“Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria is a counter-terrorism effort and does not target a specific ethnicity.”

He noted that the world is going through a sensitive stage, in which risks and parties threatening international relations have increased.

Extremist groups pose a threat not only to their own countries but also to the international community, Akar stressed, adding that every weapon given to the YPG was transferred to the PKK to target Turkey.

Turkey is ready to hold talks and cooperate with all parties that wish to spread peace and security in the world, he said.

Akar further noted that Turkey is one of the states most affected by terrorism and is now facing several terrorist organizations that pose a direct threat to its security and stability.

Ankara does not seek to change the demographic structure in the region or get involved in an ethnic cleansing of Kurds, Akar said, referring to the Operation Peace Spring launched in October 9 to eliminate Kurdish fighters from northern Syria, east of the Euphrates River.

He said the operation also aims at securing Turkey’s borders, aiding in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensuring Syria’s territorial integrity.

Turkey only aims to protect all civilians regardless of their ethnic background, the region and the civilian infrastructure in Syria, Akar added.

Meanwhile, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani described the role of his country, Turkey and Russia in resolving the Syrian crisis as “very important.”

He made his remarks at the 12th Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) meeting in the southern Turkish city of Antalya.

The three countries sponsor the Astana talks for a political solution in Syria as guarantor countries despite the differences in their goals.

Saudi: Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

Saturday, 2 November, 2019 – 12:45
Turkish military vehicles arrive at the Turkish-Syrian border before a joint Turkish-Russian patrol in northeast Syria, near the Turkish border town of Kiziltepe, Turkey, November 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey announced Saturday that it would send captured ISIS members back to their home countries, complaining about European inaction on the matter.

“That is not acceptable to us. It’s also irresponsible,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said of Europe leaving Turkey to deal with the prisoners alone.

“We will send the captured ISIS members to their countries,” he told reporters.

Turkey has captured some escaped ISIS members in northeastern Syria over the last month after it launched a military incursion there.

Ankara launched its offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units following President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of 1,000 US troops from northern Syria in early October. The YPG helped the United States defeat ISIS in Syria.

Last week, Ankara and Moscow agreed to remove the Kurdish fighters to a depth of at least 30 km south of the border.

Under the deal, Turkish and Russian troops in armored vehicles held their first joint ground patrols in northeast Syria on Friday.

Syrian Kurds: ‘The world has closed its eyes on us’—“Trump Has No Honor”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Syrian Kurds: ‘The world has closed its eyes on us’

Displaced Syrian man and children in Hasakeh, north-east Syria (24/10/19)Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gains made by Kurds over the years have been rolled back in a matter of days

On our way to Qamishli, the largest Kurdish city in northern Syria, we see a US military convoy escorted by fighter jets heading east towards the Iraqi border. They are leaving the Kurdish region.

The first time I saw an American in Syria was in 2016. He was part of US special forces, sent to support the Kurds fighting the Islamic State (IS) group. Locals were excited to see them arriving.

But it was in stark contrast this time around. Now you could see the fear and anxiety in the faces of onlookers.

We were only a few kilometers from the Turkish border as one of the jets circled overhead, leaving a trail of white smoke as it passed in and out of Turkish airspace.

One of our guides sighed. “Trump bi namoose,” he said to me in Kurdish. “Trump has no honor.”

Media caption Trump on Syria: “Let someone else fight over this long, blood-stained sand.”

The Kurds have every reason to be worried. On one side they face neighboring Turkey, on the other, Syrian government forces.

Now the US is leaving, Kurds here are convinced they have no friends other than the mountains they inhabit.

‘Trump sold us’

From the moment we arrived in Qamishli, ordinary Kurds from baker to waiter asked, “why did Trump sell us out?” This is a traditional society that prides itself on a code of honour and does not understand why it has effectively been cut loose.

“America stabbed us in the back… Trump sold us… we were betrayed,” we heard, again and again.

Kurdish woman at funeral of SDF fighters in Ras al-Ain (24/10/19)Image copyright AFP
Image caption Syrian Kurds have died in Turkey’s offensive, for which many say the US gave a green light

Qamishli ‘s squares and electricity poles are decorated with the pictures of the fallen – men and women killed in the war against IS.

Every day there are funerals somewhere in this tiny region. It has been this way since IS attacked the Kurds in 2014. But now the victims are those who have been killed since Turkish and allied forces launched their cross-border attack earlier this month.

At the funerals, many mourners hide their tears. Instead they lead the caskets to graveyards with dances and chants.

At one such ceremony, for a fallen fighter of the Kurdish YPG, a tall man in his 60’s approaches me and calmly says: “Erdogan doesn’t like the Kurds. He wants us to leave,” referring to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regards the YPG as terrorists.

The Kurds lost 11,000 men and women battling against IS. “The fight wasn’t ours only, we fought on behalf of humanity,” the man says. “Where is the international community? Why don’t they stop Erdogan?”

‘What’s the point?’

In a bakery sits a pile of bread, baked for fighters on the front line. Bahouz, a 16-year-old boy who is cutting dough, asks me my opinion of Americans and Europeans.

“Do you think they will stop Erdogan from massacring us?” An older boy shouts: “Trump sold us – oil is more important than our lives.”

Map showing Turkey and Russia's deal on north-east Syria (23 October 2019)
Presentational white space

The young boys are clearly frightened. They know if the pro-Turkish Islamist militias arrive here, they would be prime targets. Already videos have emerged apparently showing Turkish-backed militias shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and shooting handcuffed young men just like them.

At a hospital treating wounded YPG fighters, a doctor, Rojda, runs from one operating theatre to another. Rojda, a petite woman in her 30s, is also the director of the facility.

“What’s the point of filming?” she asks wearily. “Don’t waste your time. The world has closed its eyes on us.”

Media caption“We were by the gate when a shell hit”

One of the patients I meet there is 23-year-old Jiyan. She sits on her bed, staring into the distance. There are dark circles around her eyes. Her head has been surgically pinned, her skull fractured; a hand and both legs are injured.

She laughs derisively. “I survived fighting IS in Kobane, Manbij, and Raqqa, but it was the Turks who almost killed me!”

Jiyan was in Ras al-Ain when Turkey attacked the border town. Her unit came under extensive Turkish artillery and bombardment.

“We put up a good fight against Turkish-backed thugs, but we couldn’t match Turkish firepower,” she tells me, adding: “I lost many friends.”

‘They are coming for us’

On our way out of Syria, I meet Kino Gabriel, spokesperson for the SDF, the Kurdish-led alliance of militias.

Media captionCivilians pelt US vehicles with potatoes

A tall man with a big smile, he is the founder of the Christian Syriac Military Council, part of the SDF. He avoids criticising President Trump, hoping, it seems, that the US will change course and come back to the SDF’s aid.

“Those jihadists backed by Turkey are not only coming for our land, they see us as infidels. They are coming for us,” he says.

US soldier with YPJ insignia on his sleeve in Tal Tamr, northern Syria (20/10/19)Image copyrightAFP
Image captionA US soldier pictured with the insignia of the Kurdish YPJ militia on his sleeve

As US troops withdrew from Qamishli last week on Donald Trump’s orders, one picture in particular – of a US soldier in his armoured vehicle wearing YPJ (the Kurdish women’s fighting force) insignia on his sleeve – resonated with the Kurdish allies they were leaving in haste.

“The American soldiers are just like us – shocked and disappointed with this political decision,” Kino Gabriel says. “But it is not their fault. We honour their sacrifices too.”

Turkey: Erdogan Vows to Continue Buying Oil, Gas from Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Erdogan Vows to Continue Buying Oil, Gas from Iran

Friday, 27 September, 2019 – 11:00
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed Ankara would continue to purchase oil and natural gas from Iran despite US sanctions.

“It is impossible for us to cancel relations with Iran with regards to oil and natural gas. We will continue to buy our natural gas from there,” Erdogan told Turkish reporters before leaving New York where he was attending the UN General Assembly.

Despite this vow, Erdogan admitted Turkey faced difficulty in purchasing oil since the private sector “pulled back because of US threats”, NTV broadcaster reported.

“But on this issue especially and many other issues, we will continue our relations with Iran,” he promised, adding that Ankara still sought to increase trade volume with Tehran.

The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, and says it aims to reduce Tehran’s energy sales to zero.

Erdogan previously criticized the sanctions, insisting that they achieved nothing.

NTV also quoted the Turkish president as saying that preparations by Ankara and Washington on a safe zone for refugees in northeastern Syria are on schedule.

“The schedule is moving along, all our preparations along the border are also complete.”

“Upon returning (to Turkey), we will hold evaluations … on what sort of steps to take and implement them … because Turkey is not a country that can be stalled,” he said.

Turkey and the US started joint land and air patrols along part of Syria’s border with Turkey. Ankara wants Washington to clear the Syrian Kurdish YPG from a 480-km-long border area, and Erdogan warned that Turkey would act unilaterally if the group was not removed.

Saudis: US Says Will Prevent Turkish Incursion against Kurds in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

US Says Will Prevent Turkish Incursion against Kurds in Syria

Tuesday, 6 August, 2019 – 09:45
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Turkey on Tuesday that Washington would prevent unilateral incursions into northern Syria against Kurdish forces.

On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey, which already has a foothold in northwest Syria, will carry out a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates in northern Syria.

“Clearly we believe any unilateral action by them (Turkey) would be unacceptable,” Esper told reporters traveling with him to Japan.

“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests… the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria,” Esper said.

The SDF stands for the Syrian Democratic Forces. With US backing, the SDF, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have taken control over the last four years of much of northeastern Syria from ISIS. Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist organization.

Esper said the United States did not have any “ambition” to abandon the SDF, but stopped short of guaranteeing that the United States would protect them in case of a Turkish operation.

He said the US is trying to work out an arrangement that addresses Turkey’s concerns, adding: “I’m hopeful we’ll get there.”

He did not provide details on where progress is being made.

A team from the Pentagon was in Turkey to speak with Turkish officials about the issue.

Esper suggested that a Turkish operation into northern Syria could affect the SDF’s focus on ensuring ISIS did not retake the territory it once held in Syria and the ability of the US-backed forces to hold the thousands of alleged ISIS fighters in detention.

Esper said the US will not abandon its SDF allies.

The Turkish-led campaign, which has for months been delayed due to resistance from Washington, is aimed at evicting YPG forces from a string of border town in Raqqa and Hasaka provinces.

Ankara has accused Washington of stalling progress on setting up a safe zone inside Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey that would be cleared of the YPG.

This week, Erdogan said both Russia and the United States had been told of the planned operation, but did not say when it would begin. It would mark the third Turkish incursion into Syria in as many years.

Hundreds of US troops are stationed east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria working with the SDF, and an incursion by Turkey could put them in the middle of any firefight between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Turkey and the US have been negotiating for months over the establishment of a safe zone along the Syrian border that would extend east of the Euphrates to Iraq.

Turkey wants to establish a 25-mile-deep zone. But so far the two sides have failed to reach an agreement.

Ties between the two NATO allies have been strained over a host of issues, including the United States’ removal of Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program after Ankara bought and took delivery of Russian S-400 missile defenses that Washington sees as a threat.

Kurdish Officials’ Visit to Elysee Triggers French-Turkish Crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Kurdish Officials’ Visit to Elysee Triggers French-Turkish Crisis

Saturday, 31 March, 2018 – 06:45
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AP
Ankara, Paris- Said Abdul Razek and Michel Abu Najm
Paris was quick on Friday to reassure Ankara after President Emmanuel Macron was misquoted as saying that his country would deploy forces in the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly responded to the French statements, saying that Manbij would be the next target of his forces to liberate the city from Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG).

Ankara also rejected any French mediation between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the YPG, which are considered by Turkey as terrorists.

On Thursday, an SDF delegation including Kurdish officials visited the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Macron told the delegation he hoped to build dialogue between the Democratic Forces and Turkey, with the help of France and the international community, according to a communiqué from the Elysee.

However, Turkey completely dismissed the suggestion, as Erdogan said: “We have no need for mediation… We are extremely saddened by France’s… wrong stance on this.”

“Those who go to bed with terrorists, or even host them in their palaces, will sooner or later understand the mistake they’re making,” Erdogan said in Ankara.

He also warned that Ankara did not need a mediator.

“Who are you to mediate between Turkey and a terror group?” Erdogan said at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital, Ankara.

According to the Elysee, Macron reaffirmed the priority of the battle against “the terrorist threat” and assured France’s support to the SDF, particularly in stabilizing the security zone in northeast Syria “to prevent the resurgence of ISIS while awaiting a political solution to the Syrian conflict.”

The French show of support to Kurds is not new. Macron was the first Western leader to warn against the possibility of the Turkish operation in Afrin turning into an “invasion of Syrian territories.”

US-Backed Kurdish Militia Now Fighting U.S. Ally, Turkey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(ANYONE WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVES THAT TURKEY IS A “U.S. ALLY” OR AN ALLY OF NATO IS EITHER TRULY IGNORANT OR THEY MUST BE SMOKING METH) (COMMENTARY BY oldpoet56)

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)A US-backed Kurdish militia is diverting 1,700 fighters from the battle against ISIS and redeploying them to northwest Syria to repel an offensive by US ally Turkey, in a development could hinder the fight against the terror group.

Four branches of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), thus far tasked with defeating ISIS in Syria, have been transferred from east of the Euphrates Rivers to the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told CNN in a statement.
“We won’t abandon our positions, but since the beginning of the invasion of Afrin we have said that Turkey is trying to give ISIS another chance at life, and directly affects military operations and campaigns against ISIS,” said Bali.
“Now, offensive operations have ended and we have transformed from a force that hunted ISIS to a force that is concentrated in defensive positions,” he added. Bali said the “majority” of the alliance’s forces are moving to Afrin.
The US-led coalition warned that the SDF’s move could slow the campaign to defeat ISIS.
“The departure of some SDF forces from the Middle Euphrates River Valley highlights the potential costs of any distraction from the defeat-Daesh fight,” said coalition Director of Public Affairs Col. Thomas Veale, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“We remain undeterred in pursuing our mission to defeat Daesh, understanding the effort may take longer with the increased complexity of the situation in northern Syria.”
Turkey, a NATO ally, launched an operation targeting Kurdish groups in Afrin in January to clear the border area of militias it considers to be terrorist organizations. Three Kurdish militias — the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — have borne the brunt of the offensive.
The YPG is considered the backbone of the US-backed SDF, which was instrumental in eliminating ISIS’ territorial foothold in Syria.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has said it is Turkey’s “natural right” to ask the US to halt the SDF’s redeployment to Afrin.
The United Nations on Sunday said it was receiving “disturbing reports” of civilian deaths in the northwestern Syrian enclave, and that it believes “tens of thousands” have been displaced.
Syrian Kurds attend a funeral in Afrin in mid-February for Kurdish fighters.

Turkey has said that the nationwide ceasefire ordered by the UN Security Council last month would not affect its Afrin offensive. The ceasefire has also been ignored by Syrian government forces and rebel groups, mainly in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, where fighting has caused heavy civilian casualties.
Redeployed SDF forces will be joining pro-Syrian government fighters who entered Afrin last month as part of a deal between the regime and Kurdish forces. Turkey’s deputy prime minister warned at the time of “disastrous consequences” should Syrian government forces intervene in Afrin.

An ‘apocalypse’ in Eastern Ghouta

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces continue to pummel the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, where the UN says more than 600 people have been killed in recent weeks.
In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, UN human-rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein accused the Syrian government of planning an “apocalypse.”
“It is urgent to reverse this catastrophic course, and to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court,” said Al Hussein, according to a UN statement.
“Nearly half of the food” aid bound for besieged Eastern Ghouta, where reports of malnourishment are rampant, had to be returned, according to the United Nations.
A 46-truck aid convoy — some vehicles stripped of desperately needed medical kits — brought some supplies to the area on Monday, but activists said the convoy had to pull out before everything was unloaded.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on all parties in Syria to “immediately allow safe and unimpeded access” for aid convoys to “deliver critical supplies to hundreds of thousands of people desperate need” in the Damascus suburb, according to a statement from spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday.
Activists say that many of Eastern Ghouta’s residents have taken to makeshift shelters underground, rarely venturing above ground to seek food and water amid nearly incessant airstrikes.
The Syrian government continues to send reinforcements to the rebel enclave, where a ground offensive is underway and regime forces are reported to have captured large tracts of farmland.

Turkey launches Syria offensive against Kurdish faction

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(The war criminal Erdogan continues his murder campaign against Kurdish people, U.S. does nothing to stop him from murdering the only people in the region who helped the U.S. eliminate ISIS.) (Commentary by (trs))  

Turkey launches Syria offensive against Kurdish faction

Ankara wants to remove threat from YPG group, which enjoys close ties to US, and thwart establishment of a Kurdish corridor along its border

This photo released by the press office of the Kurdish militia, People's Protection Units or YPG, shows protesters waving giant flags of the YPG and other parties and militias, during a demonstration against Turkish threats, in Afrin, Aleppo province, north Syria on Thursday, Jan 18, 2018. (YPG Press Office via AP)

This photo released by the press office of the Kurdish militia, People’s Protection Units or YPG, shows protesters waving giant flags of the YPG and other parties and militias, during a demonstration against Turkish threats, in Afrin, Aleppo province, north Syria on Thursday, Jan 18, 2018. (YPG Press Office via AP)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s defense minister said Friday there is no turning back from his country’s decision to launch a ground assault on a Syrian Kurdish-controlled enclave in northwest Syria, saying the offensive had “de facto” started with the sporadic Turkish military shelling of the area.

Nurettin Canikli told Turkey’s A Haber television in an interview that the Syrian Kurdish fighters in the enclave of Afrin and other Kurdish-controlled territories pose a “real” and ever increasing threat to Turkey.

“This operation will take place; the terror organization will be cleansed,” Canikli said in reference to the Syrian Kurdish group, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which Turkey says is an extension of an outlawed Kurdish rebel group that is fighting inside Turkey.

Turkey wants to remove the threat from YPG group and thwart the establishment of a Kurdish corridor along its border. It has been massive troops and tanks along the border in past weeks.

The US however has developed close ties with the YPG over the shared fight against the Islamic State group.

Canikli said Turkey was determined to carry out an offensive in Afrin, and would not be turn back from its decision. He said the operation had “de facto” begun, in reference to Turkish artillery attacks that have been taking place against suspected YPG targets.

He would not say when the operation would take place saying authorities were working out the best timing for the assault. They were also working to minimize possible losses for Turkish troops, he said, without providing details. Canikli said the operation would be conducted by Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters with Turkish troop support.

Canikli also said Turkey had detailed information about the YPG’s military capabilities, adding that Turkey had developed sophisticated weapons since its last incursion into Syria in 2016 that were able to counter them.

In a stark warning to Turkey, Syria said on Thursday said its air defense would shoot down any Turkish jets that carry out attacks within Syria. Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said a military incursion into Afrin would be “no picnic” for Turkey and would be considered an “aggressive act.”

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Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Fingerprint

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Fingerprint

We reap what we sow. Many countries did not pay attention to the fact that maps need constant maintenance to prevent them from aging and rotting, and that relations between entities should be continuously repaired as well.

The first condition of maintenance is to prioritize the notion of citizenship and to build a state that deserves to be called as such; which means a state of law and institutions, a state that guarantees equal rights and duties.

Discrimination against citizens creates a hole in the map; a hole that allows the infiltration of winds and foreign influence. The ruler believes that power can silence the people forever. He has forgotten that the balance of power can be distorted and twisted and that the oppressed can grab any opportunity to take revenge. Grievances can make them jump out of the map.

The ruler commits a fatal error when he gives power the last say and when he refuses to listen to people’s complaints or demands. He believes that he has an endless ability to silence them and that fear can make the wounded and the disadvantaged forget their injuries and the injustice against them.

The worst scenario of all is when the ruler regards a group of citizens as a foreign body that was planted by destiny inside the map, and when he believes that the solution is to abolish the features of this group, separate it from its heritage, weaken its language and force it to gradually relinquish its identity.

The call for holding an independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan region on September 25 has ignited the Kurdish issue. Baghdad opposed the call. Iran rejected it. Ankara saw it as a huge mistake. The reactions of those parties are not surprising. Countries that have scattered Kurds across their maps following World War I, including Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, can disagree over anything but on the necessity to abort the Kurdish dream of having an independent state.

Masoud Barzani is aware of this truth. It is clear that the referendum will not lead to immediate measures. Lessons have taught Barzani to differentiate between dreams and illusions. He understands that rushing to completely leave the Iraqi entity could make the province an easy prey for major players in the region.

It is widely believed that Barzani is hopeless over the future of Iraq as a whole, especially in the wake of the ongoing rivalries between the Sunni and Shiite entities.

However, Barzani knows well that reviewing the borders involves major risks unless it is achieved under an international umbrella that sponsors a process of such size and nature.

ISIS’ invasion of Mosul has accelerated the dismantling of the Iraqi entity. It has intensified conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shiites. It has also increased the distance between Erbil and Baghdad.

ISIS attempted to invade the Kurdish province to fortify its presence in its mountains and take advantage of its location on the border of three countries. The Kurds engaged in a fierce battle to defend their region. They paid heavy prices. The Kurdish leader has once again concluded that the Sykes-Picot entities are artificial and not endlessly viable. He considered that “new maps are drawn with blood.”

Barzani knows that a Kurdish state in northern Iraq is a quasi-impossible dream. Yet, perhaps he is trying to consolidate the right to independence, even if it was not possible to be achieved in the near future. Some people believe that he is ready to accept a less-than-a-divorce formula. A formula that is based on confederate states that would save Erbil and Baghdad from being entangled in complex relations.

However, such formula needs a dance partner. It needs a realistic partner in Baghdad. Without the presence of such collaborator, Baghdad might be pushed towards a new conflict following the fall of ISIS: a conflict that can be triggered in “disputed areas”, beginning with Kirkuk. Some people do not exclude an upcoming confrontation between the Peshmerga and the Popular Mobilization Forces, with all the consequences that may imply on the Iraqi and regional levels.

While talking about Iraq, one should not neglect the deep transformations taking place in Syria. Syria’s Kurds today are different from those who were living there six years ago when the war broke out. Syria’s Kurds did not rush to engage in the country’s uprising. They took the role of spectators and were preparing for the worst. ISIS’ insistence to target their areas has offered them several opportunities. Their victory in Kobani has given them a much longed-for legitimacy. The Democratic Union Party, led by Saleh Muslim, succeeded in militarizing a society that felt threatened.

It was widely believed at the beginning that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has not cut its relations with the regime, and that the latter was able to manipulate it at the right time to suit its own interests. Nonetheless, the Kurds proved to be coherent forces at a time when the Syrian opposition was being struck on several sides. Syria’s Kurds have found a major role in fighting ISIS. They received training and arms. Washington was betting on their role, despite Erdogan’s anger and warnings.

It is true that the Turkish Army succeeded in preventing geographic communication between Kurdish areas, but this did not keep the YPG from changing the landscape in several Syrian regions.

Saleh Muslim says that the Syrian regime has practically collapsed. He means the single-party regime. He also says that it was impossible to revert to the pre-war situation in 2011. He notes that the Kurds will live in self-administered zones. The role of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqa reinforces the belief that the Kurds will not have a marginal role.

In the past century, maps were sketched on the detriment of the Kurds. It looked like they were confined inside the borders. Abstaining from treating the Kurds with equity while preserving our maps has led us to the explosion.

It is clear that the Kurdish fingerprint will be seen when drawing the future of Iraq and Syria, which raises the fears of Turkey and Iran.

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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Erdogan Says Turkey, US Can Turn Raqqa into ISIS ‘Graveyard’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

Erdogan Says Turkey, US Can Turn Raqqa into ISIS ‘Graveyard’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Ankara and Washington can join forces to turn ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria into a “graveyard” for the jihadists.

“The huge America, the coalition and Turkey can join hands and turn Raaqa into a graveyard for ISIS,” Erdogan told an Istanbul meeting.

“They will look for a place for themselves to hide,” he said.

Erdogan’s comments come ahead of a meeting with President Donald Trump on May 16 in Washington.

Erdogan said Friday that Washington’s support for Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria damaged “the spirit of solidarity” with Turkey, but that he believed a new page would be turned in ties under Trump.

The US believes the YPG is essential in the fight against ISIS.

But Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a deadly insurgency against Ankara since 1984.

Turkey this month announced that it had completed its half-year Euphrates Shield operation in northern Syria against jihadists and Kurdish militia, although it is keeping a presence to maintain security in towns now under control of pro-Ankara Syrian rebels.

Ankara is keen to join any US-led operation to clear Raqqa of ISIS jihadists, but without Syrian Kurdish militia forces.

Erdogan on Saturday said he would present Trump at their meeting next month with the “documents” proving YPG’s links to the PKK, which is designated as a terror group by Ankara and Washington.

“We are telling American friends so as not to take a terror group along with them,” the Turkish leader said.
Tension between Turkey and the YPG has been rising. Turkey conducted airstrikes against Kurds in Syria and Iraq on Tuesday, prompting clashes.

Turkey’s military said Saturday that it killed 14 PKK members in air strikes in northern Iraq.

Six fighters were killed around the area of Sinat-Haftan and eight in the countryside around Adiyaman in two separate air strikes, the military said in a statement.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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