Turkey’s determination against Kurds alienates US, Russia

Ankara’s move against Kurdish-held Manbij has brought rare agreement between Moscow and Washington – and US troops into the fray

BY SARAH EL DEEB, TOI

BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey achieved a milestone in its goals in Syria: It established a foothold in the heart of the country’s north after driving Islamic State militants away from its borders and seizing al-Bab, one of the extremist group’s major strongholds and a major supply route.

But Turkey’s determination to also push back the Kurds is alienating the other big players in Syria — Russia and the United States — and threatens to undermine the fight against IS in the imminent assault on Raqqa.

Ankara’s threats to attack the nearby town of Manbij, held by US-backed Kurdish-led forces, prompted Washington to deploy new troops in the area to prevent Turkish advances. Turkey’s Syrian allies have been fighting the Kurds around the town, reportedly with Turkish cover, raising the possibility of friction with the Americans.

At the same time, Turkish forces shelling Kurds hit Syrian government forces, whose patron Moscow reportedly has advisers in the area.

As a result, Ankara has effectively unified Russia and the US in the goal of limiting Turkish expansion in the north. Syria experts say Ankara has lost influence to realize its aim of pushing the Kurdish forces back to the east of Manbij across the Euphrates. Moreover, Washington is pushing ahead with partnering with the Kurdish-led forces in the planned attack on Raqqa, despite Turkish opposition.

“Turkey’s valuable leverage” to disrupt that alliance “has been tossed away as the Russian military and US Special Forces moved last week in Syria’s Manbij to prevent Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces from attacking the city,” wrote Ragip Soylu, a Washington-based Turkish columnist for the pro-government English language Daily Sabah newspaper.

From the start, Turkey’s goal with its military incursion into Syria has been to push IS militants back from its border and prevent Kurdish forces from holding contiguous territory from east to west across the border. Turkey considers the main Syrian Kurdish force, the People’s Protection Forces, or YPG, as terrorists since they are linked to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

Capturing al-Bab last month met both those aims. Turkish forces and allied Syrian fighters marched into al-Bab after the militants withdrew following a grueling fight that lasted over two months and claimed dozens of Turkish soldiers. With al-Bab in its hands, Turkey blocked the Kurds from joining territory they hold to the east and the west.

But from the very start, a chief goal was Manbij, a small but crowded town 40 kilometers east of al-Bab that is the birthplace of one of the Arab world’s most prominent classical poets. When the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces captured the town from IS in August, Turkey sent its troops into Syria, complaining to the Americans that the Kurdish forces must retreat east across the Euphrates.

“Turkey has always set the Euphrates as a red line,” Noah Bonsey, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said in a telephone interview. “The problem is it will be a huge gamble to really do that with US, Russia and YPG, who are a proficient fighting force.”

In a new move, the US military moved in with small number of troops now positioned on the western outskirts of Manbij to prevent an escalation of violence between its two allies. Calling it a mission to “reassure and deter,” US officials say the troops, with light combat vehicles and visible American flags, are to keep a lid on the tensions brewing in the increasingly crowded battlefield.

US Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, of the anti-IS coalition, said all the forces acting in Syria have converged “within hand-grenade range of one another.”

“We encourage all forces to remain focused on the counter-ISIS fight and concentrate their efforts on defeating ISIS and not toward other objectives that may cause the coalition to divert energy and resources away from Raqqa,” Townsend said last week. He suggested Turkey has no reason to be in the Manbij area. “With the liberation of al-Bab, Turkey has now secured its border from ISIS.”

Meanwhile, as Turkish troops and their Syrian allies advanced east of al-Bab and threatened to move on Manbij, Russia brokered a deal that effectively created a buffer zone between them and Kurdish-led forces by handing over some villages to Syrian government troops.

On Thursday, Syrian government media said Turkish shelling killed a number of its troops. Kurdish officials said Turkish advances continued despite the buffer zone.

Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, blamed Russia and the United States for emboldening the Turkish push toward Manbij: The US coalition by providing the Turkish forces with air cover during the assault on al-Bab, and Moscow by agreeing to let Turkey take over al-Bab despite a Syrian government push to liberate the town.

Now with both US forces and Russian advisers in the area, Turkey is not letting up, she said. “In all the wars the Americans took part in, their forces’ presence has some prestige, status, and confrontations are avoided.”

Turkey’s ultimate intention in pressuring Manbij may be to keep the SDF out of the Raqqa offensive. Ankara has repeatedly demanded from the US that the Kurds not be involved in taking the city, which is the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in Syria. Fighting at Manbij may be intended to tie down SDF fighters that could go to the Raqqa campaign.

Ahmed said if the US wants the Raqqa campaign to move ahead, “they must protect Manbij.”

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6 Comments / 6 Comments

  1. watsa46

    Kurds are “3rd class citizens” in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria when not considered terrorists.
    They must get their own independent state!
    This would solve a number of problems in that region.
    Turkey MUST pay a prize for her support of ISIS!

  2. Sebastien Zorn

    @ watsa46:
    I agree. That being said, it annoys me that it takes so long to win these battles. Remember Faluja? We could have just destroyed the place with one bomb or placed it under siege and starved them out but NOOOO. We have to be humanitarians and in the process even more get killed. War should be quick and dirty.

  3. Michael S

    Hello, Sebastian

    Ideas of what war “should” be, have changed since 1945, because of the creation of the UN. That body was created, primarily, to prevent another WWII-type struggle, with nations overrunning one another and annexing territory.

    The UN have been very successful in this goal. There have been moves into disputed territories, such as Red China’s annexation of Tibet, Morocco’s de facto annexation of Western Sahara, Croatia’s annexation of Rahova, NATO’s forced occupation of the Serbian national homeland of Kosovo, Russia’s virtual annexations of Georgian, Moldovan and Ukrainian territory, and a few others; but these power plays have been pulled off without a world war.

    Now, the Turks and Americans have invited themselves into Syria; and the Syrians have invited the Russians, Iranians and related militias. Under international law, we have clearly been in the wrong here; but as the world’s foremost power with a veto in the UNSC, we can get away with it. Still, wars have become the province of lawyers, more than soldiers. The continuing drama between Israel and a fairy-tale “Palestinian State” is the primary example of this.

    What I have just described, is essentially the military aspect of the “NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM”, boasted on the backs of our $1 notes and put in place with the establishment of the UN. This order is on the verge of collapse, as has been noted elsewhere. Zechariah 14, in the Bible, describes the nuclear war that will signal its end. I expect this to happen soon.

  4. marty

    Michael,

    I seriously doubt Zec 14 is speaking of nukes. but to your point about war being fought by lawyers. I have a question, Why do we not see more lawyers with their arms and leg’s blown off? As for the UN….. nukeem!

  5. Michael S

    Hi, Marty.

    You said you had “serious” thoughts about Zech. 14. How would you interpret this:

    Zech. 14:
    [12] And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.

    The world has never seen such a plague, until August, 1945, at Hiroshima.

    As for the lawyers, they generally don’t risk their lives to the battlefield; yet an inordinate number of them become US Presidents. They have power, and power wins wars.

    I wouldn’t nuke the UN building, while it’s still in NY City. That’s part of the problem of the UN (read, “The United Goyim”): The US invented it, with full support from all our allies. I see many posts by supposedly pro-Israel bloggers, extolling the current “Liberal World Order”. Even Ted Bellman seems to like that idea. That World Order was created and defined by the UN. Destroy the UN, and you are sailing uncharted waters — probably waters that lead to the very nuclear war you “don’t believe in”

    On the day after, tell me what you think.

  6. marty

    Michael,

    It was meant to be humorous, But since we are talking about it. I do not think God is interested in radiating the Holy land, and Which is the setting of Zec.14, as I understand it. Why would he(YHVH) want to make the place un-liveable? The nuke ideal placed on Zec. 14 is just a misunderstanding of God’s power, he does not need man’s weapons of mass-destruction. I think Christians came up with that viewpoint and now some Rabbis’ have started repeating it also. When it comes to the UN their days are already numbered. I find it hard to believe Messiah will put up with their crap and treatment of Israel. But if you think, Zec.14 is really speaking of the UN building in NYC, then maybe I will agree with your understanding of Zec 14. so Nukem! 🙂

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