Turkey-Backed fundamentalist Militias attack US Troops in Syria

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

US troops in Syria operating north of Manbij have been fired on twice in the last couple of weeks. The attackers are fundamentalist remnants of the Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkey.

The US has tried to persuade rebel groups to concentrate their firepower on ISIL (IS, ISIS, Daesh) rather than on the Syrian regime of president Bashar al-Assad. It hasn’t been particularly successful. The Arab fighters, many of them linked to the old Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, still desperately want the regime to fall, and they’ve expended far more energy attacking it that they ever did in attacking Daesh.

The US troops are closely allied with the Syrian Kurdish YPG or People’s Protection Units, a leftist paramilitary that favors women’s rights and cooperatives. As leftists, these Kurds are relatively secular-minded, though they are nominally for the most part Sunni Muslims (some are Yazidis).

The Arab fundamentalist fighters are nearly as scathing about the leftist Kurds as they are about the Baath regime.

The Kurds have exacerbated tensions with Arabs by attempting to establish a land bridge between the Kurdish enclaves of Kobane and of Afrin in the west, between which lie Arab villages. Arabs accuse the Kurds of ethnically cleansing Arab villages that stand in the way of this unification of Kurdish territory.

So there is a low-intensity struggle between the US-backed Kurds and the Turkey-backed remnants of the Free Syrian Army. Since the US strongly supports the Kurds, its personnel are being targeted by the Arab fundamentalists.

The US sent over a sharp note of protest to Turkey’s foreign ministry. Turkey is a NATO ally, but you couldn’t tell it by its relative disinterest in the rolling up of ISIL. On the other hand, Turkish troops did not assist in the attack on their American forces and Turkish sources insist that they helped halt the Arab fundamentalist assaults.


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9 Responses

  1. The potential for false-flag attacks in Syria, or attacks designed to look like false-flag attacks, has probably never been greater, nor the incentive to do so. Desperate groups will do anything to ignite a US involvement if they think they can benefit from it.

  2. As usual, Dr. Cole, you do an excellent job of untangling for us the many strands in this conflict.

    On the other hand, this complexity explains why it was a catastrophic mistake for the US to ever become involved in the Middle East, going back (at least) to 1953 in Iran.

  3. It can truly be said about the Middle East that you can’t tell the players with out a scorecard. We have no idea whether the folks whom we are supporting with blood and treasure are really on our side, and what it is that they are actually fighting for, as we seem to know as little about them as we do the creatures of Alpha Centauri.

  4. The displacement of Syrian Arab and Turkmen families by Kurds attempting to establish a land bridge between Kurdish enclaves of Kobane (200 km East of Iskenderun) and of Afrin 150 km to the west is being facilitated by US airpower.

    While the genesis of the Free Syrian Army is in dispute,
    now that the USA has stopped supporting them,
    they have gravitated to the side of these people we are now displacing.
    The Turkish government is supporting them now.

    This “ethnic cleansing,” if you will, is replacing Arabs and Turkmen along the southern side of Syria’s border with Turkiye. Turkiye sees these Kurds that we are bringing in as part of the PKK terrorist enemy.

    The US military has over a dozen posts, camps and stations on the Turkish side, and perhaps even more on the Syrian side of this stretch of the border. The YPG Kurds have said that the US military is there for the long haul.

    I can’t see Turkiye abiding that situation for very long.


    This is separate from the campaign of “ethnic cleansing” that is replacing Syrian Arab families with Kurds in the area along the Euphrates below (South of) Deir az-Zur.

    The USA has decided where the new Kurdish state will extend.

  5. US military forces are illegally in Syria, as they were never invited into the country by the Syrian government, the internationally recognized government of a sovereign nation. That said, it has never stopped the US from illegal invasions, bombings and wars; Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan.

  6. once this is all over or most of it, watch for the americans to abandon the Kurds and the others to start the assault on them, lead of course by Turkey.

    In my opinion, Erdogan is simply solidifying his position so that when it comes time to invade and eliminate the Kurds he won’t have much in the way of opposition in Turkey.

    Turkey may at some point be booted out of NATO. the joined and had hoped to join the E.U. but in my opinion they will now not be admitted given the dictatorship and other problems. Erdogan is setting himself up as a Muslim strong man to take advantage of the vacumn left by Saddam Hussein. Erdogan acts like a thug and is good company for a vacation with Netanyahu, Trump, Assaid, and Putin. Might as well let the Presidents of China and the Phillipines go along.

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