Posts Tagged ‘Syrian Kurds’


Peace Spring and Ottoman dreams

October 20, 2019

The phrase “Ottoman dreams” has different meanings to different people. It can have an erotic connotation, refer to furniture, be understood as a historical term, or be used to point out the urge of Turkish nationalist groups and leaders to invade neighboring countries and permanently occupy new territory.

The phrase “Peace Spring” is an invention of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and it is the name of a military operation to conquer a stripe of land along the Turkish-Syrian border from Kobane to Derik in order to drive out the native Kurdish population and replace it with radical Islamists of Syrian descent.

Turkish readers of the blog (are there any?) will strongly object and insist that only the militant Marxist, Apoist (Ocalan worshipping) Kurds of the YPG (People’s Protection Units) will be driven out, and the new settlers will be democracy loving, moderate Islamists, like the ones which constitute the various Turkish funded, trained, and armed groups under the umbrella of the SNA (Syrian National Army), also known as TFSA (Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army). 

Only Turkish President Erdogan knows, why the military operation to replace the militant Marxist, Apoist Kurds with a more acceptable population is called “Peace Spring.” It maybe means, that appeasements will flow out from the muzzles of Turkish artillery guns and when the artillery bombardment finally stops, there will be eerily quiet — peace in other words. 

One could of course argue, that “War Spring” or “Violence Spring” would be better fitting titles of the Turkish military operation, but don’t let us bicker about words.

Before “Peace Spring” President Erdogan conducted the military operations “Olive Branch” to conquer the majority-Kurdish Afrin District of Syria and “Euphrates Shield” to conquer the Jarabulus and al-Bab region west of the Euphrates in Syrias Aleppo Province.

If you reach out with an olive branch, peace should flow out from every spring, beautiful flowers will bloom in a peaceful spring, and love will conquer hate.

Did Recep Tayyip mean it this way?

The war of words

or: Euphemisms, reinterpretations, metaphysical semantics, innovative logic, and epistemology.

The war of words on social media has become an associated battlefield to the war of guns and bombs on Syria’s soil, and it could be entertaining and amusing, if there was not a solid two-way connection between the two battle scenes.

US President Donald Trump has become a major voice on Twitter with a remarkable dense output of tweets and statements. A few examples:

I view the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be, for the United States, strategically brilliant.

Syria and Turkey can fight…They’ve got a lot of sand over there…“There’s a lot of sand that they can play with.

Sometimes you have to let them fight like two kids in a lot. You got to let them fight and then you pull them apart

Syria is protecting the Kurds. They’re safe.

The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.

Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place – and we will hold them to this commitment.

…..this thinking years ago. Instead, it was always held together with very weak bandaids, & in an artificial manner. There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success. The U.S. has secured the Oil, & the ISIS Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey….

Just spoke to President @RTErdogan of Turkey. He told me there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated. He very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work. Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen. Too bad there wasn’t…..

Western nations comment:

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab: “This risks destabilizing the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh [Islamic State] which should be our collective focus.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian: “The operation is jeopardizing the anti-Islamic State coalition’s security and humanitarian efforts and is a risk for the security of Europeans. It has to end.”

French Defense Minister Florence Parly: ”It is dangerous for the security of the Kurds. Dangerous because it benefits Islamic State, which we have been fighting for five years. It must stop.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok: “I call on Turkey not to follow the path it has chosen … No one can benefit from the potentially terrible humanitarian consequences. The operation can trigger new refugee flows and harm the fight against IS [Islamic State] and stability in the region.”

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod: “Deeply concerned about Turkish military operation in Syria … In my view, this is a regrettable and wrong decision, which can have serious consequences for civilians and the fight against IS. Turkey must show restraint. Denmark is in close contact with allies on the matter.”

Czech President Milos Zeman: “President Erdogan calls the Kurds terrorists, but I strongly disagree … on the contrary, I’m asking myself if those who attack the Kurds and commit those beastly murders like the murder of that Kurdish politician are not terrorists themselves … Turkey was building close ties with Islamism, with the radical, murderous Islamism we have now seen in northeastern Syria … I think Turkey has committed war crimes and in any case I think it should not be an EU member.”

European Council president Donald Tusk: “This so-called ‘ceasefire’ is not what we expected. In fact it’s not a ceasefire, it’s a demand of capitulation for the Kurds … I think that we have to be very consistent here and we have to reiterate our call for Turkey to put a permanent end to its military action.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison: “We are very concerned about what this could potentially mean for the Kurdish people … We’re concerned about what this could mean for the potential for the resurgence of Daesh [Islamic State].“

Middle East nations comment:

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry: “a blatant and unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of a brotherly Arab state.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry: “This is a blatant violation of international law.” 

Iraqi President Barham Salih: “It will cause untold humanitarian suffering, empower terrorist groups. The world must unite to avert a catastrophe, promote political resolution to the rights of all Syrians, including Kurds, to peace, dignity, and security.”

UAE Foreign Ministry: “the aggression represents a dangerous development and a blatant and unacceptable aggression against the sovereignty of an Arab state in contravention of the rules of international law.”

No friends but the mountains 

With more than 30 million people, Kurds are the worlds largest ethnic group without their own state. The predominately Kurdish areas in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran could easily form an economically viable and politically stable new state, which of course would mean that the mentioned four countries would lose large parts of their territory. For exactly this reason even the slightest and most modest demands for more autonomy and some form of independence are resoundingly rejected by all concerned governments.

Turkey, with a steadily increasing percentage of Kurdish citizens (due to higher birth rates), now reaching 15 million, is especially vulnerable and worries about a possible breakaway of the Kurdish regions are not unfounded. This is of course unthinkable for nationalistic Turks, who would rather like to increase Turkish territory than lose parts of it, and measures to suppress Kurdish language, culture, and political representation have been ferocious and brutal.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, political parties that represented Kurdish interests were banned. It is illegal to use the Kurdish language in private and public schools. Intellectuals, local leaders, journalists, and artists who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish are languishing in prison.

Things look not good at the moment, but the old adage “the Kurds have no friends but the mountains” is not completely true. Syria’s Kurds have lot of sympathies in Western anti-establishment circles because of their efforts to install local political structures based on Murray Bookchin’s Communalism. Their principles of local autonomy, direct representation by local councils, public ownership, and gender equality has them endeared to every one who opposes consumerism, globalization, and imperialism.

The alliance between Kurds and US forces would have unravelled sooner or later because of the completely contradictory ideologies, Erdogan and Trump only quickened the turn of events. 

While a pact between Kurds and the Syrian government could be built on ideological similarities. The Baath party of Dr. Bashar al-Assad has, after all, socialist roots; Baathism is based on principles of pan-Arabism and Arab socialism, as well as social equality, public ownership, and secularity.

The deal between the Kurdish dominated SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) and the Syrian government, translated into English by Jenan Moussa:

Memorandum of Understanding

On October 13, 2019, a meeting took place between representatives of the Syrian government and the Syrian Democratic Forces, and this is what was agreed upon:

The SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) agreed to the entry of the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) and the SAA control will extend over the entire region, starting from Ayn Diwar in the east till Jarablus in the west.

SAA forces will be moving into SDF territory using three axis:

1) From Tabqa in northern direction towards Ayn Issa and its countryside. Also in northern direction towards Syrian Turkish border at Tell Abyad and towards the west.

2) Second axis from Manbij into the direction of Ayn al Arab on the Syrian Turkish border until Tell Abyad and towards the west (the agreement mentions only the Arab name of Ayn al Arab, which is called in Kurdish: Kobane).

3) Third axis from Hasakah/Tall Tamr, arriving in Ras al Ayn and towards the east arriving in Qamishli and then Al Malikiyah and towards the south.

The SAA forces will spread in the Manbij region, starting from Arima and along the Sajur River, sticking to previous deals regarding the distribution of forces in Arima.

By that, the SAA will be present in the entire region east and north of the Euphrates and in coordination with local military councils, while area between Ras al Ayn and Tell Abyad stays as an unstable combat zone until it is liberated.

The SDF confirmed they are prepared to preserve the territorial unity of the Syrian Arab Republic and are under the flag of Syrian Arab Republic. They will stand by the SAA in confronting Turkish threats to Syrian land under leadership of Mr. President Bashar al-Assad.

According to Kurdish sources however, negotiations on political issues, including the future of the SDF and local councils, have been left to a later stage. Existing self-rule bodies will continue to function until a settlement is reached. The SDF might be incorporated into the Syrian army as part of the 5th corps if partial autonomy or the federation model proposed by the Kurds is accepted, the sources said, adding that no decision has been made on the handover of oil facilities. Joint military operations on Afrin and Idlib have been discussed, but no final decision has been made. The Kurds had previously made it clear that military collaboration to the west of the Euphrates would require some guarantees on autonomy. 

Saleh Muslim, head of foreign relations of the PYD (Democratic Union Party), the political wing of the YPG, confirmed that constitutional issues would be taken up later: “The deal was sealed at the request of Russia. We’ve always wanted that in order to protect the borders … They will not meddle in the administration and the local councils. The deal is about protecting the borders only. Discussions concerning the constitutions will be held in later stages.”

The battlefield of guns and bombs

In the end, what happens on the ground is more important than any statements and declarations, many of which are meaningless, silly, or intentionally misleading.

The towns Tell Abyad and Suluk are currently Turkish-controlled and Turkish backed Islamists (called TFSA or SNA) have reached parts of the M4 Motorway, which runs parallel to the border and connects the Kurdish regions along the border.

The offensive has been paused after the US delegation under Vice President Pence visited Ankara. Turkish air force and artillery are not very active. Isolated clashes between the SDF/SAA and TFSA are taking place at Manajir, northwest of Tal Tamir.

The Syria army sends cargo planes towards the north and moves heavy weapons from Tabqa to Ain Issa, including BM-21 GRAD multiple rocket launchers. Large columns of troops are moving north, more government tanks and heavy weapons are also on their way to Kobane.

The Syrian Army has entered Hasakah, Qamishi, and Derik town centers, hoisted Syrian flags and set up checkpoints.

Some YPG groups have changed uniforms and are wearing uniforms of government forces. In the western sector of the border there is occasional artillery-rocket fire of the Turkish army, causing civilian casualties; however, the fire has not been as heavy as at the beginning of the invasion.

One special important development happened in the western sector of the Manbij-Kobane line. Syrian and Russian units moved in quickly, taking over hastily abandoned US-positions and camps. Turkish F-16s fighter jets tried to slow down the advance of Assad forces but were chased away by Russian Sukhoi Su-35 jets.

Manbij and Kobane (Ayn al-Arab) therefore are already removed from the scope of the offensive since Syrian troops and Russian military police entered there. Turkey won’t attack cities or areas with their presence and even Erdogan has gone on record saying they won’t go after those areas if Syria/Russia remove the YPG.

There was heavy fighting towards Ayn Isa, but Ayn Issa is the largest town in that area and it isn’t likely going to fall. The SAA is already there in force for backup and the attackers are just TFSA without air support. The most what TFSA will achieve is to take a handful more villages around far north Raqqa countryside near the M4 Motorway.

Ras al-Ayn (Serekaniye)

This is a historic site. During the Armenian Genocide, the Turks killed 80.000 Armenians in the infamous Ras al-Ayn camps. Kurds helped and were not against it, a fact which the PYD (the political wing of the Kurdish forces) admits and apologizes for. It is documented that some Kurds protected Armenians, but the main Kurdish tribes and the Ottoman army slaughtered them as well.

There is no no-fly zone other than a self-imposed one in that the Turkish air force isn’t going to bomb towns, cities, or other land where SAA and Russian troops are demonstrably shown to be present. Ras al-Ayn and its immediate vicinity is the only area in northeast Syria left which is still a free-for-all in this sense for Turkish aerial assets since the battle started there before the Damascus-PYD deal was inked and the SAA isn’t going to send its forces, nor Russian MPs, into a city that is already actively being bombed.

There’s intensive street-to-street fighting between YPG and TFSA with heavy loss of life on all sides, including civilians. In one incident 49 members of the TFSA were ambushed and killed by the YPG, confirmed even by pro-TFSA sources.

The Kurds have built an extensive tunnel system in the town to be able to inflict these losses and still hold on after constant attacks, while the TFSA/SNA are canon fodder level of soldiers, purely trained and even less motivated.

The attack is led by Jaysh-al-Islam, a group which has experience in urban warfare (gained in Ghouta) and a terrible track record of human rights abuses (torture, electrocution, summary execution, parading captured civilians in cages as human shields). The assault is supported with tanks, heavy artillery, and continuous Turkish airstrikes; some sources believe that there are Turkish special forces on the ground.

Syrian artillery is reported to have arrived, starting shelling of jihadist positions, but the town is still encircled and besieged. 

Redur Khalil, a senior SDF official, told journalists that the Kurdish forces at the 120 kilometer stretch along the border between Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad would move 30 kilometer south pasts the M4 Motorway, once Turkey allows the Kurdish defenders to evacuate fighters and civilians from Ras al-Ayn.

A partial evacuation took place Saturday. Medical convoys were let into part of the town still in Kurdish hands, evacuating 30 wounded and four bodies from a hospital. Khalil said the operation to complete the evacuation from Ras al-Ayn is now expected for Sunday.

All things considered the Turkish forces are confined to a rectangle of territory between the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tell-Abyad, possibly extending 30 km south to the M4 Motorway – which is the strategic spine of Rojava. The YPG until now has avoided costly engagements (with the exception of Ras al-Ayn), but could become more of a threat if backed by Syrian army artillery and tanks.

The agreement between Turkish President Erdogan and US President Pence to pause Turkey’s assault for five days reaffirms the US relationship with Turkey as a NATO member, and states that Turkey has “legitimate concerns” on its southern border.

It appears that Turkey and allied jihadist rebel groups violated the agreement within hours and shelled civilian areas in Ras al-Ain, killing SDF fighters and a paramedic. The attacks disrupted civilian efforts to deliver medical relief to the battered area.

There are rumors that the US military is leaving al-Shaddadi, a town in southern al-Hasakah province far away from the Turkish offensive, and one wonders how many US bases will remain on Syrian land. The Omar oilfield and the al-Tanf pocket are most likely to remain occupied, but both are isolated and cannot be utilized in any other way than to irritate and humiliate the Syrian government.

While the military achievements of Operation Peace Spring until now are very modest, the human and economic implications are enormous.

The closure of the M4 Motorway disrupts commerce, civilian travel, and aid shipments from humanitarian organizations. An estimated 176,000 civilians have been displaced, at least one displaced-persons camp was relocated out of the line of fire, a front-line hospital was abandoned, and critical water infrastructure was damaged. The Alouk water pumping station which serves 400,000 people in Hasaka was attacked and taken out of service.

President Erdogan’s peace plan:

As already mentioned before, Erdogan’s long-term problem is that there aren’t enough Turks in Turkey. Turkey’s Kurdish citizens continue to have three or four children while ethnic Turks have fewer than two. By the early 2040s, most of Turkey’s young people will come from Kurdish-speaking homes. The Kurdish-majority southeast of Turkey will then threaten to break away.

The strategical goal of Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch was to ensure that the Kurdish enclave never reached the Mediterranean Sea. Resettling the Turkish funded militiamen and their families was a secondary goal, it was achieved by driving out the native Kurdish population.

The land cannot feed so many.

Who will move voluntarily to a place which could be a war zone for years to come? Turkish officials say that around 340,000 refugees have returned to Syria, but the UNHCR, which is mandated to oversee the process, has only monitored 62,000. Many of the returnees have been coerced or duped, the Western press reports forced deportations to Idlib, where some of the refugees are instantly arrested and disappeared by HTS (al-Qaeda).

Turkey has drawn out a detailed plan for resettling two million Syrian refugees in the safe zone and many are concerned that once Turkish loyalists have resettled on Turkey’s border, Ankara will claim ownership of Syria’s northern region. The plan would cost roughly 27 billion US$ and Turkey has asked for other nations to grant funds to carry out its plan (good luck with that).

Turkey’s plan includes establishing 140 villages, 10 towns, a Turkish university with three faculties including an Islamic Sciences faculty in Azaz, an Education Faculty in Afrin, and an Economics and Administrative Sciences faculty in Al Bab. Each village would have 1,000 homes which would house 5,000 people. Each town would have 6,000 homes and house 30,000 people. The project would have a total of 200,000 homes to house an estimated 1 million people.

Turkey is attempting to repeat across northern Syria what it accomplished in Afrin during the Olive Branch operation. In Afrin the Kurdish population was largely driven out and replaced with Islamic fighters from Turkish funded militias and their families, changing the demographics.

Geopolitical implications

President Erdogan achieved his goals of ending the territorial ambitions of the Kurds and breaking the ties between the USA and the YPG, but it remains to be seen if his neo-Ottoman dreams of expanding Turkish territory will come true.

Erdogan’s plan of resettling Syrian refugees is a pipe dream. Driving out the local Kurdish population will completely destroy the economic structures of the area. The new settlers will have no jobs and if there are job offerings, they will not have the necessary skills to apply; they will have to be supported by Turkey for a long time. Crime and social unrest will be inevitable.

The YPG will fight against the occupation as fiercely and determined as they fought against IS, it will have the full support of the Syrian state and the covert support of Iran and Russia. This military adventure could become very costly for Turkey.

Any rational consideration should convince Erdogan to back down, and that is also what he will hear from Russian President Vladimir Putin at the planned meeting in Sochi.

Yet, there are the neo-Ottoman dreams, the memories of a lost empire, the deep rooted instincts of getting bigger, more powerful, more influential. Will that be enough to justify the long term costs of territorial expansion?

Since Erdogan launched Operation Peace Spring, Turkey has become more diplomatically isolated than he might have envisaged when President Trump appeared to permit the invasion.

Despite getting a green light from Trump on October 7, Erdogan didn’t imagine that Trump could reverse course in such a short time and so drastically, that Assad and the YPG could come to terms so quickly and comprehensively, and that the US would handover Manbij and Kobane without any delay to Syria.

Erdogan is due to visit Russia in less than a week so, besides Ras al-Ayn, one shouldn’t expect big militarily changes. After the fall of Tell Abyad and the bombardment of Ras al-Ayn the Turkish operation became more of a political affair being negotiated. Only a few regular Turkish units have crossed the Syrian border.

Turkey respects Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity,” President Erdogan said in a statement: “Once a legitimate government that represents all groups is formed in this country, we will leave the administration of the areas we have made secure to them,” he added. Well, regime change again — but it is not anymore up to Turkey, and not even up to the US/NATO/Gulf alliance, who will govern Syria in the coming years. This train has left the station. 

If Putin can convince or coerce Erdogan to abandon the Islamic mercenaries of TFSA and HTS (al-Qaeda), Turkey can probably restore to some extent its relations with the Syrian government. Any reconciliation will be very limited though.

Assad’s advisor Bouthaina Shaaban likened Erdogan to Hitler and said: “Syria is not seeking dialogue with a force occupying part of our land” and “the Syrian Arab Army will expel the IS and Al-Nusra terrorists who attacked our land under Erdogan.”

After training and arming thousands of jihadists in the north, after shelling Syrian troops across the border numerous times, after letting IS oil trade continue uninterrupted for years (even with Erdogan’s relatives involved), after orchestrating false flag attacks to justify an invasion, Turkey will be hated forever by the post-war Syrian government and people.

The 1998 Adana Protocol is a framework document of the agreement between Turkey and Syria to regulate the PKK’s existence and Kurdish autonomy demands in Syria. It could be still revived, though a lot of things have changed since 1998. Syria is weakened by 8 years of war, but its current tactical position is nevertheless strong because of Russia, Iran, and world opinion. A revision of this protocol should not come as a surprise.

The Adana agreement specifies that Turkey can only intervene for five kilometers. Given the Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield operations, given Turkey’s support of jihadists against the Syrian government for 8 years, the agreement is no longer valid, but it could still be basis of a new accord. 

Turkey against the world

Turkey’s standing in the West is getting worse by the day and sanctions will further burden the economy, making Turks more dependent on Russia and Iran, also increasing the need to reconcile with Assad. “Turkey against the world” sounds great as a patriotic slogan, but a country surrounded by hostile neighbors is not an easy place to live.

Only Pakistan, Qatar, and Azerbaijan didn’t condemn the invasion.

Erdogan recently said that offers were “pouring in” for alternative fighter jets to the American F-35, suggesting that Ankara will not try to salvage military cooperation with its NATO ally but rather shift to the Russian axis.

Which would include Iran and China.

China is coming to Turkey’s aid during its economic crisis with 3.6 billion US$ in funding for infrastructure projects.

Though Erdogan in the past had accused China of “genocide” against the Uyghur minority (some 15 million Muslims in Xinjiang Province who speak a dialect of Turkish), he declared after the Chinese bailout however, that the Uyghurs are “living happily.”

Chinese investment insulates Turkey from Western sanctions, the catch is, that China also opposes the invasion of Syria.

This is all very different from 18 months ago when the Turkish army and Islamic militiamen invaded the Kurdish-populated zone of Afrin north of Aleppo and ethnically cleansed its population.

None of this was particularly secret and bands of al-Qaeda and IS-linked gunmen, under Turkish control, posted videos of themselves persecuting Kurds and looting their houses and shops. Human rights groups confirmed and publicized the abuses of the Turkish-led occupation forces, but this appeared to have little impact on the wider world.

Nothing happened then, but the international media treatment of the Operation Peace Spring is very different from the disinterest it showed during Operation Olive Branch in Afrin. We will see if this will have any impact on real politics.

Hapless Trump

US President Donald Trump really is not the peace-maker he promised his constituency to be, and Washington’s establishment has not give up the dream of a balkanized Syria. US SOF (special operation forces) are still in al-Tanf, US soldiers are also still at the Omar oil fields in Deir Ez-zor. The USA will probably try to split the Arab part of the SDF from the Kurds in order to keep the area between Euphrates River and Iraqi border occupied.

Beyond that the USA, though not yet irrelevant, has not much influence in the ongoing developments and Trump’s best option to save face is to take credit for ending a war.

This is a monumental failure on behalf of the United States”, commented Aaron Stein of the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute think-tank, as quoted by Reuters. Stein added that “it would be the Syrian government or Russia, not American sanctions, that could stop the Turkish operation.”

Let’s not forget, while officially Western governments and media claim that the Kurds fought a war against jihadist terrorism, the Kurds were used to annex Syrian territory, especially the oil-rich and water-abundant northeastern regions. Yet, by establishing a Kurdish dominated statelet, the USA antagonized Turkey, driving it away from the Western alliance and inciting it to military action against the Kurds.

Nobody in the higher echelons of Western leadership seems to have anticipated this outcome and one could say with some merit, that it is not only Trump who failed and that they more or less are all delusional lunatics.

Russia and Turkey 

Putin’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev delivered the strongest statement on Turkey’s policy at a press conference in Abu Dhabi during Putin’s visit shortly after Erdogan commended on the Russian leader’s allegedly “positive approach” to the Turkish incursion. Lavrentiev called the Turkish incursion “unacceptable” and asserted that it had not been cleared by Moscow in advance. Harsh rhetoric aside, the most important message Lavrentiev sought to deliver was that Moscow in fact did not mind the incursion, but wants it to stay within certain limits, meaning those stipulated in the 1998 Adana Protocol.

According to the Adana Protocol, Turkey can temporarily make incursions up to 10 kilometers into Syria to conduct counterterrorism operations. “But it doesn’t give them the right to remain on Syrian territory permanently and we are opposed to Turkish troops staying on Syrian territory permanently,” Lavrentiev noted.

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said, that Ankara does not want either Syrian forces nor Kurdish fighters in the border area because refugees would not go back to areas under government control. And Erdogan himself: “If we cannot reach a solution with Putin on the pro-Assad forces deployed in northern Syria, we will implement our own plans.”

This could be posturing, but one cannot rule out, that it is for real, and in this case the Syrian war will head for an unexpected bloody climax. Putin surely has not forgotten or forgiven that Turkey in 2015 shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M jet near the Syria–Turkey border.

The most helpful outcome for Russia would be a total defeat of the TFSA in Rojava by the united forces of YPG and SAA, followed by a SAA attack on Idlib and Latakia, followed by a third offensive toward Afrin by YPG plus SAA troops.

Such a development would leave Erdogan with only two choices: Full war with Syria (using regular Turkish army) or making a fake deal (for public consumption) and withdraw from Rojava, claiming: “Mission accomplished.”

The cruelty of war

Kurdish health authority in northeast Syria announced that 240 civilians have died since the Turkish offensive started, including 20 children.

Amnesty International, a NGO which surely is not sympathizing with Syria, Russia, and Iran, reported serious warcrimes by Turkey and allied Islamist proxy forces 

Kurdish authorities accuse Turkey of resorting to banned weapons such as napalm and white phosphorus munitions. Six civilians injured in airstrikes on Ras al-Ayn are treated for severe burns in a hospital in Hasakah. The doctors say they suspect the patients, which include two four and six year old children, may have been exposed to white phosphorus.

The Kurdish administration alleges, that Turkey has resorted to the use of banned weapons because of unexpectedly stiff resistance by Kurdish fighters in Ras al-Ain. “We urge international organizations to send their teams to investigate wounds sustained in attacks.”

The OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) in turn confirmed that it had been “made aware of the situation in northern Syria” and was collating information about the allegations.

When the Islamic fighters of the TFSA unexpectedly fast reached the M4 Motorway, they captured a few cars driving there. All people in these cars were killed. Among them was Hevrin Khalaf, the 35 year old secretary general of the Future Syria party.

Mutlu Civiroglu, a specialist in Kurdish politics, described her death as a great loss: “She had a talent for diplomacy, she used to always take part in meetings with the Americans, the French, the foreign delegations,” he said.

The Turkish newspaper Yeni Safek described the summary execution of Hevrin Khalaf as a “successful operation.” Of course, from a Turkish nationalistic point of view the Armenian genocide with 1.5 million people killed was also a “successful operation.”

The autopsy of Hevrin Khalaf revealed, that her legs and jaw were broken, that she was dragged by her hair until the skin of her scalp came out, and that she was repeatedly shot.

This poor woman has suffered terribly in the last minutes of her life. Just like Libyas leader Muammar Gaddafi and Afghan president Mohammad Najibullah, both slaughtered by US-supported Islamists. Just like the thousands who were burned alive, hacked to death, tortured to death in unimaginable cruel ways by IS, al-Qaeda, and similar radical Islamists.

The TFSA is not very different from IS and al-Qaeda, motivated by the same genocidal ideology known as Salafism which promotes the idea of genocide as a holy duty, constantly citing verses of the Quran and referring to the Prophet Muhammad to legitimize their crimes.

TFSA factions including the Levant Front seized the houses of Armenians and other Christians in Tell Abyad, stealing phones, money, and jewelry. The Glory Corps (Faylaq al-Majd) kidnapped several young men from Bir Atwan, west of Tell Abyad, and beat and humiliated them for no reason. Before that the Glory Corps had already been withdrawn from Tell Abyad after similar violations against the population.

Beside kidnapping, looting, steeling cars, the Islamists have randomly burned down several houses of not involved civilians.

It should not be left unmentioned that the USA has provided money, equipment, and training to 21 of the 28 militias which are taking part in Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.

IS resurgence?

The estimated number of male IS (Islamic State) detainees in Syria is 12,000. Some 10,000 of them are either from Syria or Iraq; the rest are from other countries around the world. Most of these fighters are being held in prisons in the northeastern province of Hasakah, 88 kilometers south of Ras al-Ayn and 80 kilometers away from Kobane. The largest camp where families of IS fighters are being held is al-Hol, 145 kilometers south of Ras al-Ayn.

The al-Hol camp, which houses 68,600 people, reportedly has become out of control. There have been escapes, threats, attacks and open calls for an uprising in the past week after most of the forces securing the camp moved to the front lines. Inmates throw rocks and try to get security officers weapons, many carry knives.

In September, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on fighters hiding in northeastern Syria to help the families inside al-Hol escape, energizing calls within the camp to rebuild IS.

There is undeniably a risk of an IS resurgence in Syria because of Turkey’s invasion. Five IS militants have broken out of a prison in Qamishli after Turkish shelling nearby, IS also attempted a breakout at Ghuwairan prison with a car bomb set off at the front entrance.

About 100 women and children from IS families, held in a secure section at the Ain Issa camp, escaped when Turkish shells struck nearby and they began to riot and were able to overwhelm the guards.

Turkish-backed TFSA jihadists filmed themselves taking away IS prisoners and their families in trucks from Ayn Issa camp. It will be interesting to see how many end up being a part of the TFSA.

The Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria has forced the US military and its Syrian Kurdish allies to sharply curtail military operations against IS at a critical moment in the ongoing fight to stamp out the group’s residual presence, creating an opening for the militants’ comeback. The SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the Kurdish YPG) had been conducting daily raids and missions to root out sleeper cells, financiers and recruiters, and until now they believed they were managing to stay a step ahead of the militants’ efforts to regroup.

The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer. Turkey will now be responsible for all IS fighters,” the White House statement said soon after President Donald Trump announced the US troop withdrawal from Syria, paving the way for Turkey’s operation against the Kurdish YPG.

President Erdogan might have agreed to take the responsibility of IS prisoners held in camps in northeastern Syria to get a blessing for the invasion, but Ankara soon realized the trouble it got itself into as experts warned that the invasion could lead IS fighters to escape prison camps and reorganize.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu: “We will go only 30 kilometers down from the border. I cannot take responsibility for IS fighters who are being held 65 kilometers away from the border. They are under the responsibility of those who are controlling that area.” 

In an attempt to reassure the international community about Turkey’s ability to handle IS prisoners in Syria, Erdogan summarized his plan by saying that the ones who should be kept in prisons will be kept behind bars, the ones who are accepted by their countries will be extradited, and that the rest — women and children — will be reintegrated into society through rehabilitation and reintegration programs.

This plan means Erdogan, who has repeatedly complained about the Syrian refugee population in Turkey and has even threatened to flood Europe with refugees, is willingly take the responsibility for a problematic and criminal group of some 88,000 IS prisoners.

Turkey is a country where Islamism is on the rise on many levels, Diyanet, the government’s main official body for religion and religious education does not have a comprehensive strategy for countering IS’ jihadi-Salafi ideology. Maybe this is intentional, AKP (Justice and Development Party) leaders have repeatedly shown their sympathy for Salafi, Wahabi, Takfiri teachings.

What they overlook is, that the young men, who are radicalized by Imams in mosques and in Saudi-financed madrassas will learn nothing which could contribute to a civilized society. They will be able to recite flawlessly Quran Surahs, they will maybe be able to handle an AK47, load a howitzer, drive a technical or man the machine gun on it. They will be able to plant an IED (improvised explosive device) or vandalize property of despised religious and ethnic minorities. They will be able to kill and destroy.

They will not be able to repair machinery, appliances, or to fix electrical wiring and plumbing. They will not be able to repair the destruction war has caused.

When they have been in heavy battles they will be shell-shocked, maybe suffer from ADHD, they will be nearly deaf from the noise of shooting and explosions. This will severely hamper their reintegration into society.

They will not have the nerves for acquiring new skills in an apprenticeship or with vocational training, they will not be interested in learning new trades.

They will end as drug addicts, criminals, hoodlums, wasting away their lives and being a constant disturbance and worry for the communities where they live.

Is that the future of Turkey? 

Further reading:


Ras al-Ayn has been completely evacuated by YPG.

President Trump is leaning in favor of a new Pentagon plan to keep a small contingent of American troops in eastern Syria, perhaps numbering about 200, to combat the Islamic State and block the advance of Syrian government and Russian forces into the region’s coveted oil fields.

Russian forces began establishing a major military base in Tabqa Airbase, which is an important strategic location.