U.S. and Turkey Bargain over Undermining Syria’s Sovereignty
Aug. 5, 2019 (EIRNS)—While the U.S. and Turkey are arguing about a so-called “safe zone” in northern Syria, lost in the reporting is that both countries are already violating Syrian sovereignty—Turkey with its multiple military operations in northern Aleppo province and with its support of the armed jihadi groups in Idlib province; and the U.S., which has had troops in eastern Syria for about four years, ostensibly to fight ISIS. All the while, both countries have been paying lip service to Syria’s territorial integrity while clearly having little intention of returning the territories they control back to the sovereignty of the Syrian government. Now, their zones of control are about to collide.
According to Turkey’s official Anadolu Agency, a U.S. military delegation is in Ankara trying to head off another Turkish invasion into Syria, this one along a stretch of the northern border between Kobani and Tel Abyad. The Turkish Defense Ministry reported in a statement that day one of the talks has concluded with the talks set to resume on Aug. 6. Anadolu gives little indication of what the discussion was about beyond the Turkish demand for a safe zone, but the Washington Post, in a report posted yesterday, said that the U.S. delegation would be bringing to Ankara a proposal for a joint U.S.-Turkish operation to secure a strip south of the Syria-Turkey border that would be about 9 miles deep and 87 miles long, and from which the Kurdish fighters would be withdrawn. The U.S. and Turkish militaries would destroy Kurdish fortifications and then jointly patrol the area, which would cover the middle part of the border. Turkey wants its “safe zone” to extend 20 miles deep and run the entire length of the border from the Euphrates to Iraq, and to control it itself.
The Post cites unnamed U.S., Turkish, Kurdish, and European officials who now say, despite the fact that Turkey has been threatening to take such action for two years, that the threat is real and imminent. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made this quite clear in a speech in Bursa, yesterday.
“We entered Afrin, Jarabulus, and Al-Bab [in northern Syria], and now we’re going to enter east of the Euphrates,” he said, referring to two earlier Turkish incursions in Syria since 2016, Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch. “We shared this [information] with the U.S. and Russia.” The Post reports that, if the Turks do invade, the U.S. cannot legally intervene on behalf of the Kurds, whose People’s Protection Unit (YPG) has had years of U.S. backing. The Turks are reported to have six combat brigades of assault troops along a 40 mile stretch of the border. The force is well equipped with armor and artillery and is likely too much for the YPG to successfully resist.
The Kurds, themselves, are warning that they don’t have the manpower to both fight off the Turks and also guard the 10,000 or so ISIS prisoners in their custody. “Either we will fight” the Turks “or guard” the prisoners, said Aldar Xelil, a leading Kurdish politician in northeast Syria. “We cannot do both together.”