Turkey weighs assault on Syrian Kurdish city

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Dec 29, 2020

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IDLIB — The metropolis of Ain Issa in Raqqa’s northern countryside, managed by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), continues to be reeling underneath every day shelling by the Turkish military’s artillery and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). 

In a Dec. 10 report, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated the bombings carried out by Turkey and the FSA forces displaced inside a month about 7,000 civilians who feared a looming Turkish navy operation.

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In one other Dec. 18 report, the conflict monitor stated the SDF introduced navy reinforcements to Ain Issa district, a day after Turkey and its allies deployed reinforcements consisting of tanks, artillery, troop autos and four-wheel-drive autos outfitted with heavy machine weapons to the villages of Abu Kharza, Sallum and Rummana, reverse the villages of Hoshan and Khalidiya, adjoining to the M4 freeway that hyperlinks Aleppo to Hasakah.

On Dec. 19, the operations room of the first Corps of the FSA introduced the beginning of the battle to liberate town of Ain Issa. The announcement got here someday after the FSA, backed by Turkish artillery, launched an assault in Ain Issa that ended with the FSA-affiliated Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed faction seizing a number of villages near town.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had vowed to proceed navy operations in Syria till Turkey will get what it had been promised. “The terrorist zones that still exist in Syria must either be cleared as promised, or we will come and do it ourselves,” Erdogan stated in an Oct. three speech.

Ain Issa is strategically vital, because it constitutes a key transportation node linking the provinces of Aleppo and Hasakah by way of the M4 freeway that passes by it.

In a parallel improvement, the SDF reached on Dec. 10 an settlement with Russia and the Syrian regime to deploy joint commentary factors within the city of Ain Issa to observe a cease-fire reached with Turkey, the United States and Russia in northern Syria in October 2019. The settlement supplied for the institution of three joint commentary factors in Ain Issa: one to the west, one other to the east, and a 3rd on the worldwide Raqqa-Aleppo highway, north of the city.

In this context, Al-Monitor met with the chief of the FSA-affiliated al-Mu’tasim Brigade, Al-Farouq Abu Bakr, who resides within the northern countryside of Aleppo. “The entry of the FSA into Ain Issa and the other cities and towns controlled by the SDF is only a matter of time. The cross-border separatist terrorist organizations (in reference to the Kurdish-controlled SDF) cannot be allowed to keep their control over Syrian cities and towns. We cannot remain silent for long about the forced displacement by SDF militia of the local residents including Arabs, Turkmen and national Kurds.”

Abu Bakr stated that Ain Issa isn’t solely a strategic geographical location, nevertheless it additionally has ethical strategic significance for the SDF. During the earlier interval, the city has been the SDF’s predominant headquarters for holding conferences and conferences.

He added, “Talk about a Turkish-Russian swap of Ain Issa with Idlib is unrealistic and illogical. The SDF media are behind these rumors aimed to stir a rift in the Syrian-Turkish relations. We trust the Turks with whom we stand in the same trench in the war on terrorism. They have earned our trust in previous battles such as operations Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch and Peace Spring. Our next goal, after taking control of Ain Issa, is Manbij, which is a target for the FSA. We believe the Syrian regime is a key operator of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but they now seem to have conflicting interests. The regime’s interference will not change anything at the strategic level.”

Abu Bakr believes that Ain Issa is a Syrian land occupied by a non-Syrian terrorist group. “Those who oppose the idea of recapturing Ain Issa with the support of the Turks want the areas controlled by the revolution (opposition) forces to remain confined to a small patch of land. They definitely do not want the return of those forcibly displaced by the SDF to their homes and want to maintain the militia’s occupation of these areas.”

Ahmed Hassan, a Syrian journalist and researcher specializing in Turkish affairs, instructed Al-Monitor, “There is no Turkish decision yet to launch a military operation in the town of Ain Issa. For now, Turkey is threatening to wave such an operation to pressure Russia into forcing the SDF to surrender Ain Issa. Meanwhile, the United States seems to be working on a political approach between the SDF and Turkey in order to prevent a military operation. Three scenarios are available. In the first one, Turkey would push the FSA to exert military pressure on the SDF, whether by blocking the Aleppo-Raqqa international road or laying a siege on Ain Issa. The second scenario entails handing over Ain Issa to the regime and Russia, which is rejected by the SDF and the United States. This is why the United States seems to be pushing for negotiations between Turkey and the SDF to resolve all disputes. The third scenario would be a Turkish operation on Ain Issa and the remaining border area toward Iraq. In this case, Ankara would face US sanctions.”

Turkey’s goal behind this escalation is to weaken the SDF and stress it to disengage with the PKK. “Turkey also wants to divide the areas under the SDF control over stages,” Hassan stated. “Currently the goal is to pressure the SDF to change its project aligned with the PKK that Ankara classifies as a terrorist organization.”

Hassan believes the out there political bargaining between Russia and Turkey goals to enhance Turkey’s place in Idlib the place Russia has the higher hand, in trade for Turkey enhancing Russia’s place within the east of the Euphrates as a way to threaten US pursuits in jap Syria. So far, there is no such thing as a clear system for this bargaining deal in gentle of the US position within the east of the Euphrates and the Iranian position in Idlib, he added.

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