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17.05.2017 - 14: 13

Erdogan and Syrian Kurdistan: the process becomes irreversible

The decision of the US administration to supply the Syrian Kurdish militia with a new batch of weapons and military equipment has plagued the Turkish leadership in shock. Under the predecessor of Donald Trump in the White House, the issue of US military supplies to the Kurdish "People's Self-Defense Forces" (YPG) was one of the most painful points in the relationship of the two NATO allies. With the arrival of Trump in Ankara, there were expectations that Washington would meet the wishes of the Turkish side and reconsider its alliance with the Syrian Kurds to the east of the Euphrates. However, these hopes came down on the same day - 9 May, when representatives of the US Department of Defense announced the replenishment of the arsenals of the Arab-Kurdish coalition "Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). As part of this coalition, the leading role continues to be played by YPG. Therefore, the decision of the US administration can be safely put in the asset of the Kurds of Syria, controlling the northeastern areas of Syria and leading a successful attack on the "capital" of the terrorist group DAISH ("Islamic State", IG, IGIL) in Rakka.

The shock situation of the Turkish military-political leadership was due to a number of factors. 25 April, the Turkish Air Force inflicted a powerful missile and bomb strike on the positions of YPG in the Syrian province of Hasaka. The reaction of the Trump administration was very harsh: the step of the Turkish authorities in Washington was called absolutely inappropriate. Ankara was warned of the consequences in the event of a repeat of such air raids. To ensure that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government do not have any outstanding issues, 9 May, the Pentagon made its resonant statement about arms deliveries to the Kurds.

Their nomenclature of the American side has not been disclosed. Sources in the military and diplomatic circles in the US reported that YPG fighters, as "the most effective force in ground operations against the IG" in the direction of the RACC, will receive small arms, 120-mm mortars, light armored vehicles. In this case, the absence of podcherkivaotsya the American side plans to arm the coalition SDF missile and artillery systems and missiles of class "surface - the air."


American soldiers with Kurdish fighters YPG in the area Darbas Hasaka province

By the blow of 25 April Erdogan tried to create for himself a more comfortable field for future negotiations in the US-Turkish tops, and ran, in fact, to the opposite effect. The bitterness of the pill was reinforced by another nuance that made the Turkish leader and his team seriously worried. Before the visit of Erdogan 15 in May in the US and the next day's negotiations with Trump, a group of Turkish President's proxies consulted with American partners. Work contact was established even before Pengagon's statement on the supply of weapons to the Kurds. Among the people who participated in the discussions were, in particular, the press secretary of the head of the Turkish state Ibrahim Kalyn and the chief of the National Intelligence Organization of Turkey (MIT) Hakan Fidan. The announcement of the US military department from 9 May became for the Turkish negotiators a "cold shower". Apparently, the White House thus made it clear to the Turkish emissaries and to Erdogan himself that Ankara will not be allowed to conduct a dialogue with Washington on an equal footing, especially with the use of some resources of pressure on the United States.

The need to "put the Turks in their place" arose from the Trump administration for another important reason. The Turkish leader "skidded" to the formats of the stabilization of the situation in Syria, which the Americans dislike. 3 May Erdogan goes to a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Sochi. The next day Astana signs a trilateral agreement (Russia, Iran and Turkey) on Syrian de-escalation zones. Ankara clearly decided to demonstrate something to Washington as its available geopolitical alternatives. Talks about the purchase of Russian air defense systems by S-400 by the Turkish army underlined the game of Ankara on the feeling of jealousy in Washington.

However, as it was noted, the actions of the Turkish authorities pushed them into an even more complicated situation. The calculation was made to expand the field for bargaining simultaneously with the US and Russia. However, on the segment 3 - 16 May (between Erdogan's talks with Putin and Trump), the space for maneuvering in the issue of Syrian Kurds in Ankara narrowed to the minimum. The Americans unequivocally made it clear that the Kurdish YPG remain their most trusted and at the same time combat-ready partner "on the ground" in Syria. After June 3, the Russians send the same signals to the Turks, but already with regard to the Kurds in the north-west of Syria - in the Afrin Valley, to which the Turkish Armed Forces and its Syrian "moderate" rebels have been unsuccessfully trying to crash for several months. In the area of ​​Afrina, Kurds hang out Russian flags, the soldiers of the Special Operations Forces and the Military Police of the RF Armed Forces are periodically spotlighted here. Both the US and Russia make it clear to Turkey about the futility of its attempts to persuade the two powers to give up the Kurdish militia of Syria, recorded by Ankara in "terrorist organizations", to be torn apart.

An important touch, complementing the picture of the current Turkish government in shock from hearing and seen on the "Kurdish dossier" from Washington. Starting point of his first foreign tour, Trump chose the Middle East. However, it was not Turkey, but Saudi Arabia, who was honored to be the first to host the new American leader, where Trump will arrive three days after the talks with Erdogan - 19 May. There is no single Middle East member of NATO on the Trump tour map at all. Moreover, a few hours before the start of Trump's trip to the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Israel) and Europe (the Vatican, the NATO summits in Brussels and G-7 in Sicily), the Turkish president is actually called "on the carpet" at the White House.

Erdogan at every step, in small things and at a conceptual level, from the United States weighs one "slap in the face" after another. But he has to put up with, endure and try to find some sort of foothold in building relations with the Trump administration. Washington analysts before the meeting of Trump and Erdogan outline the approximate range of "deal schemes" between the two NATO allies (1). At the first positions in these schemes appear the Kurds, and immediately in Syria and Iraq. It is assumed that the subject of the deal could be the exchange of mutual concessions by Turkey and the United States in the areas of Syrian Rakki and Iraqi Sinjar.

Supported by the United States, the SDF coalition and the Kurdish YPG last week knocked down the terrorists from the city of Taba and the dam at the Al-Assad reservoir, at 50 km west of Rakki. Immediately after this the Kurds announced the timing of the beginning of the decisive offensive on the capital of the "Caliphate" - the first days of June. The Turkish army remained on the sidelines of the operation "The Wrath of the Euphrates," not having achieved either an increase in the role of the Arab component in the SDF as opposed to the Kurds within this coalition, nor the involvement of the friendly third countries (Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Persian Gulf) in the storming of Rakki. To somehow level out its losses associated with the expansion of the Kurdish control zone south of the Turkish borders and the imminent rise soon of the creation of Syrian Kurdistan east of the Euphrates, Ankara is trying to elicit from Washington an operation against "terrorists" from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iraqi Sinjar.

After a series of massive attacks by Turkish aviation on the main bases of the PKK in the Kandil Mountains to the north of Iraqi Kurdistan, a large part of the forces of the Kurdish fighters and their field commanders regrouped in Sinjar, taking advantage of a favorable location near the border with Syria. For Turkey, the entrenchment of the PKK in the Iraqi province of Ninewa is categorically unacceptable. But without a signal from the Americans, and against the backdrop of the strained relations between Ankara and Baghdad, the Turkish intervention in Sinjar risks turning around for Erdogan another major trouble.

Among other things, the Turks are being urged to invade Sinjar by the presence of a limited contingent of their "military instructors" in the Bashik area northeast of Iraq's Mosul. The battle for Mosul is close to its denouement. The Turkish advisers in the camp "Bashika", contrary to the demands of the government in Baghdad to return them home, continue a certain mission of training local forces to fight terrorists of the Dash. Although there is no need for this already a month. It turns out that only a hypothetical ground operation of the Turkish army in Sinjar can prolong the presence of uninvited guests in Bashik.

While Turkey's anger over the redeployment of the PKK from Kandil to the west, to the Syrian border, was limited to the air strike of 25 April and the subsequent statements of the Turkish generals about the determination not to create the bases of "Kurdish terrorists" in Sinjar. The further model of Ankara's behavior will depend on the results of Erdogan's talks in Washington. Meanwhile, even now, regardless of the Turkish president's receipt of the possible benefits following the meeting with Trump, it seems obvious that the Syrian Kurds manage to do a lot. They began to noticeably outstrip their Turkish opponent, even in what seemed to Ankara to be superior to Kurds and other forces in the region by an order of magnitude - a game on the balance of interests of world and regional powers.

Immediately several key players in Syria and the Middle East in general are interested in creating a "buffer strip" between the Turkish army and the government forces of Damascus. Only regions controlled by the SDF coalition and Kurdish YPGs are suitable for this role. Whether in the future these territories will be recognized or accepted as the default form "Syrian Kurdistan", now it is not important. The question is that this entity, which will be called the "Federation of Northern Syria" or otherwise, so as not to accent the Kurdish element in its foundation, is already in abundance, there are serious grounds for claiming a special status in Syria's post-war structure.


control zone in Syria for April 2017 years

The de facto elements of the Syrian Kurdistan, to Turkey's extreme discontent, are expanding and getting deeper with direct US support. Russia and Iran - the two partners of Turkey to ensure the ceasefire and create zones of de-escalation - also look at strengthening the Kurdish positions in the long "buffer zone" very positively. Saudi Arabia and Israel in this matter are generally neutral, but they, of course, because of their own interests, will not refuse to maintain a powerful stimulus for this country in the southern underbelly of Turkey for years to come.

The weapons to the Syrian Kurds are supplied and will continue to be sent as the successful offensive against Raccoon unfolds. The US military has no alternative anti-Jihadist infantry in the region, in addition to the 25 thousand YPG militias (in all, the SDF coalition, according to the Pentagon and the US Central Command, about 50 thousand fighters, about half of which are Kurdish YPG). By knocking out the Danish government from Rakka and entering the administrative boundaries of the Deir ez Zor province, the Arab-Kurdish units can be partially mobilized for action against the last major bulwark of terrorists in the region - the city of Deir ez Zor and the surrounding areas. But on the territory south of Rakka, with "stratification" on the Deir-ez-Zor, lying to the south, the limits of the future Syrian Kurdistan are unlikely to expand significantly. The Kurds and their allies from the Arab tribes of northern Syria have yet to demonstrate effective control over the lands already sacked from the "Caliphate".

Units Kurdish self-defense with the US and some Russian arms and military equipment will be transformed into a kind of paramilitary forces "Peshmerga" of Iraqi Kurdistan. It will happen in a matter of months immediately after the fall of the "capital" Daishev in Raqqa. From that moment, the process of creating in the region de facto Syrian Kurdistan will virtually irreversible.

In the upcoming talks with Trump, the Turkish leader, led by everyone in the corner, can not play the situation back. The chances of the Turkish military and political leadership to make substantial compensation in the bargain with the US administration are also doubtful. At best, Erdogan will be "thrown out of the bone" in the form of extradition from the US of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, accused by the Turkish authorities of organizing a coup attempt in July 2016. To hope for other benefits of the "compensatory" property, in order to somehow keep the face in the "Kurdish file" of Syria, the Turkish authorities have no good reasons.

(1) Soner Cagaptay, Reaching a US-Turkish Deal in Syria: Four Steps // The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 12, 2017.

A source: EADaily

Tags: Erdogan, the Kurds, Turkey, Syria, Middle East, USA, War, International Relations, Research, Policy, Trump