World #1 – Kurds strike deal with Syria following U.S. troop withdrawal

Daily News Article   —   Posted on October 15, 2019

(Reuters) BEIRUT/AMMAN — The Syrian army will deploy along the length of the border with Turkey in an agreement with the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria to help repel a Turkish offensive, the Kurdish-led administration said on Sunday.

The army deployment would support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it said, in reference to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels.

It would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin, the statement said. The Turkish army and its Syrian rebel allies drove Kurdish forces from Afrin in 2018.

The agreement follows last week’s move by the United States to pull a group of its forces from a section of the border, opening the path for Turkey’s incursion.

The SDF, a vital US ally in the campaign against Islamic State, has called Washington’s move “a stab in the back.”

“In order to prevent and block this (Turkish) assault agreement has been reached with the Syrian government – whose duty is protect the borders of the country and to protect Syrian sovereignty – for the Syrian army to enter and deploy along the length of the Syrian-Turkish border,” the statement said.

Kurdish-led forces have established control over swathes of eastern and northern Syria since the country descended into civil war in 2011, setting up their own governments but always saying their aim was autonomy rather than independence. [Kurds in Iraq and Turkey say they want independence. Most likely all Kurds would prefer their own state; independence.]

Despite mutual enmity between these Kurdish groups and Damascus, where the Baathist government systematically persecuted Syrian Kurds, the SDF has seldom clashed with the Syrian government during the war [as both were fighting Islamic State terrorists].

The sides have also at times appeared to coordinate military campaigns against shared enemies, notably the Turkey-backed rebels taking part in the offensive with the Turkish army.

Published by Reuters .com on October 14, 2019. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Thompson Reuters.


Why has Turkey launched an assault on the Kurds?

One main reason: Turkey considers the biggest militia in the Kurdish-led alliance a terrorist group. It says it is an extension of a Kurdish rebel group fighting in Turkey.

Turkey has vowed to push back from its border members of a Syrian Kurdish militia called the People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkish leaders view the YPG as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.

The YPG dominates an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has driven IS out of a quarter of Syria over the past four years with the help of air strikes by a US-led coalition.

Turkey has carried out two cross-border offensives against the Kurdish forces.

In early 2018, it attacked the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, in western Syria. Dozens of civilians were killed.

In December 2018, with IS close to defeat, President Donald Trump said the US would begin withdrawing troops from Syria. When commanders and allies expressed concern about the fate of the Kurds, he proposed creating a "20-mile safe zone" along the border.

Mr Trump later suspended the withdrawal, but Turkish President Recep Erdogan continued pressing for a safe zone.

In August, the US and Turkey agreed to establish one together, but called it a "security mechanism". The YPG complied and began dismantling border fortifications.

But two months later, Mr Erdogan warned Mr Trump that Turkey was going to set up a safe zone alone.

Mr Trump said US troops would withdraw from the border area and that Turkey would be responsible for all IS militants detained by the SDF.

Mr Erdogan is confident his proposed 480km-long corridor will ensure Turkey's border security and become home to between 1 and 2 million Syrian refugees.

The SDF said it had been "stabbed in the back" by the US, and warned that a Turkish offensive would create a "permanent warzone" and reverse the defeat of IS. (from BBCNews)