The Takeaway: Syrian-Kurdish fault line intensifies as Erdogan vows to crush ‘separatist terror’

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Dec 30, 2020

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Syrian city of Ain Issa flashpoint for contemporary section in battle

Most of Ain Issa’s 7,000 individuals are fleeing escalating violence between the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army and the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The small city, lower than 30 miles from Tell Abyad, which is on the border with Turkey, can be a node on the strategic M4 freeway from Iraq through Aleppo to the Syrian coast. Northeast Syria has additionally been a mixture of Arab, Kurdish and Druze communities, which till the warfare has principally lived peacefully. No extra.

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Here are six takes on why Ain Issa issues within the newest section of the Syria warfare, based mostly on Al-Monitor’s reporting:

Erdogan vows to crush ‘the head of separatist terror.’ For Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ain Issa can’t stay answerable for the Syrian Kurdish autonomous governing authority and its gendarme, the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which he considers the Syrian department of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In October 2019, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to drive Syrian Kurds out of key cities alongside the border. While the United States and the European Union, like Turkey, take into account the PKK a terrorist group, they don’t lengthen the designation to the YPG, which makes up the majority of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the on-the-ground US accomplice within the battle towards the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. On Dec. 17, Erdogan once more lumped the PKK/YPG with IS and mentioned, “We will maintain our fight until the eradication of [this] herd of murderers.”

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‘Only a matter of time.’ Its Syrian proxy forces have picked up the Turkish line that the YPG is a separatist arm of the PKK. Turkey has blocked efforts to incorporate SDF-affiliated Syrian Kurdish events from UN-mediated negotiations among the many Syrian opposition. A commander of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is doing the majority of the on-the-ground combating for Turkey in Syria, advised Sultan Al-Kanj, reporting from Idlib, that Ain Issa “is a Syrian land occupied by a non-Syrian terrorist organization,” referring to the YPG. The commander added that the FSA dislodging the SDF in areas it controls is “only a matter of time.”

Arab-Kurdish tensions on rise elsewhere too. Ain Issa shouldn’t be the one Syrian city the place ethnic tensions have risen. Shelly Kittleson just lately traveled to Abu Khashab, the place the SDF is in cost and political violence between Arabs and Kurds is escalating. Abu Khashab sits “along a dusty desert road south of Hasakah and north of the governorate’s major oil and gas fields. Deir ez-Zor, unlike Hasakah and other areas with a mixed Kurdish and Arab population further north, is almost entirely Arab and characterized by tribe-based networks.”

Meanwhile, Akrin Ahmed stories that “Turkey and allied Syrian opposition factions led by the FSA have deliberately deprived of water more than 1 million civilians in Hasakah and its countryside, the towns of Tel Tamr, al-Hol and Abu Raseen, and the nearby villages and communities in an area that is already suffering from drought and water scarcity.”

Putin treads calmly. Russian President Vladimir Putin additionally has a stake in Ain Issa. Earlier this month Russia arrange three police remark posts across the city, however these posts have achieved little greater than observe the deteriorating state of affairs. His purpose is to dealer a deal that may formalize some understanding between the SDF and Damascus, which in the long run could possibly be acceptable to Turkey. But that’s going nowhere, in accordance with SDF sources interviewed by Khaled Al-Khateb in Syria. Putin needs to maintain good ties with Erdogan, regardless of friction in Syria. While there had been speak of some trade-off — permitting a Syrian takeover in Idlib in trade for a Turkish move towards Ain Issa and close by cities — that too isn’t occurring. Kirill Semenov has the should learn take right here on Moscow’s place.

Shake downs by Syrian, Iranian forces. Meanwhile, as Syria’s economic system deteriorates, the areas beneath management of both the Syrian authorities, Turkish or Turkish-backed Syrian forces, and the SDF all are doing enterprise with one another — however at a excessive worth. “The checkpoints deployed by the Syrian regime forces and pro-Iranian militias along the main road between the cities of Deir ez-Zor and al-Bukamal — which were liberated from the Islamic State (IS) in November 2017 — are among the main sources of huge sums of money for Syrian officers and Iranian officials in charge of these checkpoints,” writes Akhin Ahmed from Syria. “They do not allow civilians and traders to cross with their merchandise except after having paid significant royalties.”

SDF seeks political lifeline from Biden. In response to the strain from Turkey, Sinam Mohamad, Washington envoy for the SDF, referred to as on the Biden administration to acknowledge the Kurdish administration in elements of northeast Syria beneath the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political arm of the YPG, as Jared Szuba stories. In an unique interview with Amberin Zaman in November, SDF commander Mazloum Kobane referred to as on Biden to extend US troop deployments in Syria.

Our take: Erdogan has vowed to upend SDF and YPG forces in its “security corridor” in Syria, and that features SDF-controlled Ain Issa and surrounding areas. His strikes are more likely to be contained to those areas. He clearly thinks US President Donald Trump will do little to cease the advance within the remaining three weeks of his administration. The route of US-Turkey relations beneath President-elect Joe Biden stays unclear. Biden’s crew is more likely to take into account a request by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for US forces to assist tackle the PKK alongside the Iraq-Turkey border, first reported right here by Amberin Zaman. The KRG has good relations with Ankara, and the United States will possible proceed to rely upon the KRG’s steerage and assist to hunt to ease the YPG away from PKK affect.

Three different fast takes on Turkey: Erdogan sticks to its missiles; hand prolonged to Biden; debt piles up

Turkey defends S-400 buy: Despite US sanctions and rebuke from NATO allies, Erdogan seems dedicated to his buy of the S-400 Russian missile protection system, though there are ongoing efforts to mitigate the perceived risk from NATO’s perspective, whereas saving face for Turkey. “Extracting Turkey from a potential S-400 debacle would ultimately require a transformed Erdogan who is less impulsive and more in tune with Ankara’s NATO allies,” writes Semih Idiz. 

Erdogan extends hand to Biden: Commenting on Dec. 23 on his optimism for US-Turkey ties beneath a Biden administration, Erdogan mentioned, “Together with all our friends who take the hand we extend, we will continue our efforts for peace, justice and prosperity, and particularly for the de-escalation of tensions in our region.” 

Debt on the rise: Erdogan is pleased with how he has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, however potential “havoc” lies forward, given the debt used to prop up the economic system, in accordance with Mustafa Sonmez.  “The Turkish government’s monetary expansion policies, used as a quick fix to prevent major economic contractions, have resulted in an extraordinary consumer and corporate debt that poses further dilemmas for Ankara down the road,” Sonmez writes. “The government’s ability to act as a guide, especially to companies, could limit the damage as economic actors navigate the storm. Its failure to do so could result in extensive havoc.”

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