By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
Turkey’s government is very unhappy today about developments in Syria.
President Obama’s special envoy, Brett McGurk, said Sunday that the some 50 men from special operations forces will arrive in Syria in the very near future. But Turkey has been upset that the US troops will be deployed in support of the YPG, the leftist Kurdish party. Turkey is afraid that autonomy or semi-autonomy for Syrian Kurds with make Turkish Kurds restive.
The US has also stepped up its diplomatic campaign, with Sec. of State John Kerry commenting on the recent meeting on Syria that we could be “weeks away” from the beginning of a transition:
“”AT this time there is a genuine process which presents certain possibilities. Four weeks ago we did not have such a process. In other words, until we convened in Vienna approximately four weeks ago, we did not have a viable political process. We have found a common agreement on the principles and established a concept of giving life to a negotiation with Iran and Russia at the table. When we look at the past four and a half years, we see that this is a unique development. And we have reached the next phase in Vienna, we have determined the dates– specific target dates. In a very important manner, all the sides have agreed on a cease-fire. Currently we are only in need of launching a political process and with that, the cease-fire will go into effect. This is a gigantic step. [French President Francois] Hollande also noted this. If we can get that done, that opens up the aperture for a whole bunch of things.”
The Vienna process imagines regime talks with the ‘moderate’ rebels beginning in January, with a ceasefire in May of 2016 and new elections in May of 2017.
Turkish journalist Cengiz Candar wondered in Radikal whether Kerry’s Syria efforts are doomed to the same fate as his Palestine-Israel negotiations. He also worried that Turkey has no ‘plan B’ beyond its current policies.
Meanwhile, the Russian department of defense said Monday that its air force had launched 141 airstrikes and hit 472 ‘terrorist’ targets in Syria since the beginning of November. The targets have been in the privinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, al-Raqq, Homs and Deir al-Zor.
One of the groups bombed is the Turkmen on the northwest border near Turkey. Turkey is seeking an urgent UNSC meeting over the bombing.
Related video added by Juan Cole: