Turkish artillery bombards YPG forces in Syria after Erdogan’s ‘final warning’

Turkey carried out an offensive against YPG forces in Syria's Afrin region earlier this year and has repeatedly said it would target YPG forces to the east of the Euphrates River. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 October 2018

Turkish artillery bombards YPG forces in Syria after Erdogan’s ‘final warning’

  • Turkish forces bombarded Kurdish YPG militia positions on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River in northern Syria
  • The bombardment targeted the Zor Magar area and was aimed at preventing ‘terrorist activities’

BEIRUT: Turkish artillery on Sunday bombarded Kurdish militia positions on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.

The shelling came two days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a “final warning” to anyone who endangered Turkey’s borders, and said Ankara would focus its attention on Syrian Kurdish fighters east of the river.

The bombardment targeted YPG militia forces in the Zor Magar area to the west of northern Syria’s Ayn Al-Arab region. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The rare Turkish shelling east of the Euphrates comes a day after an international summit on Syria hosted by Turkey, which called for an inclusive political process and for creating conditions to allow the return of millions of refugees.

Speaking at the summit, Erdogan said Turkey has been among those most harmed by “terror organizations” in neighboring Syria.

“We will continue eliminating threats against our national security at its root in the Euphrates’ east as we have done so in its west,” Erdogan said.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said Turkish artillery strikes Sunday hit trenches and positions built by the YPG on a hill in the village of Zor Moghar, in rural northern Aleppo.

The village is across the Euphrates River that separates Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces and the YPG.

The YPG said in a statement the shelling killed a Kurdish fighter from the Self Defense Forces. The newly formed forces are affiliated with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, leading the fight against Daesh in eastern Syria.

The YPG said the Turkish shelling was “unprovoked” and is a distraction from the fight against Daesh in eastern Syria.

“Any illegitimate attack against northern Syria will not go unanswered,” the YPG said in a statement.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kurdish Hawar news agency also reported the shelling, saying Turkish artillery targeted other villages east of the Euphrates as well. Hawar said there were no reports of casualties.

The Observatory said the shelling in the villages west of Kobani, a stronghold of the Kurdish fighters, came while Kurdish fighters were on high alert following Turkish threats.

The YPG took control of large areas of northeast Syria in 2012 when Assad regime forces pulled out. The militia forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-Arab alliance that has received extensive US support in the fight against Daesh.

That support is a major point of contention between the US and Turkey, and a large-scale offensive east of the Euphrates could aggravate already tense relations.

Turkey has also repeatedly threatened an attack on the YPG-controlled Syrian city of Manbij, where US troops are deployed.

To ease tensions, Washington and Ankara agreed on coordinated patrols around the city, one of which took place on Sunday.

Further east in Syria, Daesh drove the SDF from the Hajjin pocket near the Iraqi border early on Sunday, after two days of fighting.

The SDF, backed by US-led coalition air strikes, launched its campaign to recapture the Daesh holdout on Sept. 10, but have faced a fierce fightback from the militants.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 72 SDF fighters were killed as Daesh took advantage of a sandstorm that hampered coalition air cover and dispatched suicide bombers as part of their fightback.


Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.