Syria Kurds call up civilians to defend against Turkey

A member of the Kurdish Internal Security Forces of Asayesh stands guard during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats in the town of Ras al-Ain in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border on October 6, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 October 2019

Syria Kurds call up civilians to defend against Turkey

  • Kurdish forces took heavy losses in the US-backed campaign against the Daesh group in Syria which they spearheaded
  • Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syria, including one in 2018

QAMISHLI, Syria: The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria called up civilians on Wednesday to defend the region against a feared Turkish assault, believed to be imminent.
“We announce three days of general mobilization in northern and eastern Syria,” it said in a statement, urging all civilians to “head to the border with Turkey... to resist during this delicate historical moment.”
It also called on Kurds in Syria and abroad to protest against Ankara’s planned offensive. Ankara said on Tuesday it would “shortly” begin an offensive into northern Syria, as it sent more armored vehicles to the border.

Meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Turkey to show restraint and avoid military action in Northern Syria, and said US forces should leave the region.
“Turkey is rightfully worried about its southern borders. We believe that a correct path should be adopted to remove those concerns... American troops must leave the region... Kurds in Syria... should support the Syrian army,” state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying.
Turkey’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, wrote in the Washington Post that Kurdish forces can either “defect” or Turkey will “have no choice but to stop them from disrupting our counter-Islamic State efforts.”

The head of the Arab League said he is alarmed at Turkey's planned military offensive into northeastern Syria, against the Syrian Kurdish fighters there. Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement on Wednesday that such an invasion would be a "blatant violation of Syria's sovereignty and threatens Syria's integrity."

He added that Turkey's planned incursion also threatens to inflame further conflicts in eastern and northern Syria, and "could allow for the revival" of the Islamic State group. Turkey has been preparing for an attack on the Kurdish fighters in Syria whom Ankara considers terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.

Opinion

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US President Donald Trump has blown hot and cold since a surprise announcement on Sunday that Washington was pulling back 50 to 100 “special operators” from Syria’s border with Turkey.
After appearing to give a green light to the Turkish invasion, he later threatened to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it went too far.
He also insisted the United States had not abandoned its Kurdish allies by pulling forces out of the area.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday warned of the risks of Washington sending mixed signals on an American withdrawal from northern Syria.

“(US actions in Syria) are full of contradictions and reflect our American colleagues’ inability to reach agreements,” Lavrov said on a visit to Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan.

“Americans have violated their promises many times.”

He also accused the United States of violating Syria’s territorial integrity and seeking to create “quasi-states” in northern Syria to the displeasure of Arab tribes living on those territories.

“This is a very dangerous game,” Lavrov said.

Russia’s top diplomat, who visited Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish capital Irbil earlier this week, said he discussed the topic with the Kurdish leaders in Iraq.

“They are extremely alarmed that such a lightweight treatment of this extremely delicate subject could ignite the entire region,” Lavrov said.

“This must be avoided at all costs.”

On Wednesday, the Kurdish administration said it would hold its US ally and the whole international community responsible for any “humanitarian catastrophe” that unfolds in the territory under its control.
Kurdish forces took heavy losses in the US-backed campaign against the Daesh group in Syria which they spearheaded.
In March, they declared the territorial defeat of Daesh after overrunning the jihadists’ last redoubt in the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria.
Ankara strongly opposed Washington’s support for Kurdish forces in Syria citing their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has fought a deadly insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syria, including one in 2018 that saw it and allied Syria rebels overrun the majority-Kurdish Afrin enclave in the northwest.

 


US to pull last troops from north Syria

Updated 14 October 2019

US to pull last troops from north Syria

  • The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria
  • Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of US’s Kurdish-led ally the Syrian Democratic Forces

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States said on Sunday it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria and the failure of the US policy of keeping Assad from reasserting state authority over areas lost during the more than eight-year conflict with rebels trying to end his rule.
The developments also represent wins for Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad since 2011 when his violent effort to crush what began as peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule of Syria exploded into a full-blown civil war.
While the US withdrawal moves American troops out of the line of fire, the return of Syrian soldiers to the Turkish border opens up the possibility of a wider conflagration should the Syrian army come in direct conflict with Turkish forces.
The Turkish onslaught in northern Syria has also raised the prospect that Daesh militants and their families held by the Kurdish forces targeted by Turkey may escape — scores were said to have done so already — and permit the group’s revival.
The remarkable turn of events was set in motion a week ago when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw about 50 special operations forces from two outposts in northern Syria, a step widely seen as paving the way for Turkey to launch its week-long incursion against Kurdish militia in the region.
Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been a key US ally in dismantling the “caliphate” set up by Daesh militants in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said the offensive would extend from Kobani in the west to Hasaka in the east and extend some 30 kilometers into Syrian territory, with the town of Ras al Ain now in Turkish control.
US Defense Secretary Mike Esper said the United States decided to withdraw its roughly 1,000 troops in northern Syria — two US officials told Reuters it could pull the bulk out in days — after learning of the deepening Turkish offensive.
It was unclear what would happen to the several hundred US troops at the American military outpost of Tanf, near Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan.
Another factor behind the decision, Esper indicated in an interview with the CBS program “Face the Nation,” was that the SDF aimed to make a deal with Russia and Syria to counter the Turkish onslaught. Several hours later, the Kurdish-led administration said it had struck just such an agreement for the Syrian army to deploy along the length of the border with Turkey to help repel Ankara’s offensive.
The deployment would help the SDF in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it added, referring to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, and would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin.
The fighting has sparked Western concerns that the SDF, holding large swathes of northern Syria once controlled by Daesh, would be unable to keep thousands of militants in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.