After US green light, Turkey prepares military operation in Syria

Syrian Kurdish women carry flags and banners as they demonstrate against Turkish threats (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2019

After US green light, Turkey prepares military operation in Syria

  • The announcement followed a phone call between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • American soldiers began withdrawing from observation posts along the Turkish-Syrian border, at Tal Abyad and Ras Al-Ain early on Monday

ANKARA: US troops will withdraw from northeast Syria ahead of an imminent Turkish military offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its main component, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the White House said.

The announcement followed a phone call between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The US, which will not support or be involved in the operation, said it is giving Ankara responsibility for thousands of Daesh captives who are currently held in SDF facilities.

In its fight against Daesh, Washington has long backed the SDF, which Ankara considers a terrorist group.

The White House announcement angered the SDF, which said “American forces did not fulfill their commitments,” and it will cause a “great negative” impact on the war against Daesh.

American soldiers began withdrawing from observation posts along the Turkish-Syrian border, at Tal Abyad and Ras Al-Ain early on Monday.

Ankara is determined to establish a 300-mile-long, 18-mile-deep “safe zone” in northeast Syria, including the towns of Kobani and Qamishli, after the withdrawal of US forces to secure Turkey’s southern border and enable up to 2 million Syrian refugees to settle in the zone.

Turkish and US defense chiefs have discussed details of the zone in recent days, but the timing and scope of the operation are still unclear.

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said: “Turkey will correct the demographics changed by the Syrian-Kurdish YPG in the region.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

If Ankara launches a military operation against Syrian Kurds, experts say it will pave the way for a Russian-brokered deal between Damascus, Turkey and the Kurds.

“The YPG is left with only two scenarios: Either ally with the (Syrian) regime to face Turkey and pull out from the southern flanks of areas under its control in order to defend the northern parts, or try to negotiate a new deal with the US in which the YPG retreats from limited border areas and maintains its presence in the south,” Dareen Khalifa, a senior Syria analyst at the International Crisis Group, told Arab News.

She said the latter option might be more difficult given the broken trust in US promises and the significance of the border towns to the YPG.

Trump and Erdogan are expected to meet in Washington in the first half of November. Meanwhile, US Sen. Lindsey Graham said: “I will do everything I can to sanction the Turkish military and economy if they set one foot in Syria.”

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, said Turkey’s long-term goal is to completely eradicate the YPG from northern Syria.

“But as this is close to impossible due to the YPG’s relations with the US, Russia and potentially the Syrian regime, Turkey is adopting a strategy through which it will change the facts on the ground in a limited way and continue negotiating with other actors until it’s ready to further change the facts on the ground, after which it will continue to negotiate from that point,” he told Arab News.

Unluhisarcikli said the last thing Turkey or the US want is their troops clashing in Syria. He added that while the US would certainly object to a massive Turkish incursion, or one that targets major Kurdish towns such as Kobani, it has begrudgingly chosen to turn a blind eye.

“There are wide swathes of territory in northern Syria without a significant Kurdish population, and Turkey will probably limit its incursions to those territories for the time being,” he said.


Iran dismisses US efforts at UN sanctions as currency drops

Updated 20 September 2020

Iran dismisses US efforts at UN sanctions as currency drops

  • Iran’s currency dropped to 272,500 to the US dollar at money exchange shops across Tehran

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran dismissed US efforts to restore all UN sanctions on the country as mounting economic pressure from Washington pushed the local currency down to its lowest level ever on Sunday.
Iran’s currency dropped to 272,500 to the US dollar at money exchange shops across Tehran.
The rial has lost more than 30 percent of its value to the dollar since June as sweeping US sanctions on Iran continue to crush its ability to sell oil globally. Iran’s currency was at 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which was signed by the Obama administration but which the Trump administration pulled the US from.
As the currency plummeted, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh slammed the Trump administration’s declaration Saturday that all UN sanctions against Iran have been reimposed because Tehran is not complying with the nuclear deal.
The US move has been rejected as illegal by most of the rest of the world and sets the stage for an ugly showdown at the world body ahead of its annual General Assembly this week.
Even before the US declaration, other Security Council members had vowed to ignore it. They say the US lost legal standing to invoke snapback sanctions when President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing US sanctions on Iran.
The Iranian government spokesman said the snapback sanctions have only happened in “the fantastical world” of the Trump administration. He said the US stands on the wrong side of history.
“They are attempting to make everyone believe it, but nobody is buying it except for themselves,” Khatibzadeh said during his weekly press briefing on Sunday.
“It is a television show whose sole presenter, viewers and those cheering it on are Mr. Pompeo himself and a handful of others,” the spokesman said, referring to the US secretary of state.
“Tehran’s message to Washington is clear: return to the international community, return to your commitments and stop bullying so the international community will accept you,” he added.
The White House plans to issue an executive order on Monday spelling out how the US will enforce the restored sanctions, and the State and Treasury departments are expected to outline how foreign individuals and businesses will be penalized for violations.
Tensions are running high between Iran and the US, particularly since a US strike in January killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, prompting Tehran to retaliate with a ballistic missile strike on Iraqi bases housing American troops.