As US throws Kurds under the Bus, Is Turkey preparing to invade Syria?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The BBC reports that Turkish armed forces are massed on the border with Syria in preparation for a possible move into the Kurdish-held areas of Afrin and Manbij. The Kurdish militia, the YPG, took Manbij away from ISIL with US support. Afrin, home to some 500,000 mostly Kurdish residents, is one of three Kurdish-majority cantons in northern Syria, containing about one-fourth of Syria’s Kurds. It is surrounded on both sides by Arab populations, some of them aligned with strongly anti-Kurdish hard line Salafi fundamentalists. Syrian Kurds are for the most part Sunni Muslims, but either they practice mystical Sufi traditions or they have become modern leftists. In either case, the Salafi militants hate them.

Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan gave a fiery speech Monday, in which he announced a determination to invade and wipe out what he called the terrorist threat in Afrin and Manbij. He is presumably equally concerned about the YPG stronghold in Kobane and Jazira, which have been united, but these two cantons now have a US military security umbrella and 2000 embedded US special operations forces. The YPG was the main US ally in defeating ISIL in Raqqa. Despite Erdogan’s announcement that he will not be deterred by perfidious so-called “allies” (i.e. the Trump Administration), it is a little unlikely that the Turkish military will invade the northeast. Afrin, in contrast, is alone and isolated.

Indeed, the US military on Tuesday made a cowardly announcement that Afrin falls outside the area of responsibility of the anti-ISIL coalition operating in eastern Syria. Erdogan will certainly see this statement as a green light. It is a little hard to see how the US can string the Syrian Kurds along for three years as allies against ISIL and then blithely allow the ethnic cleansing of one fourth of them by a NATO ally!

The US announcement was made at a tumultuous NATO military meeting in Brussels, where Turkish chief of staff Gen. Hulusi Akar exploded at the Americans over their announced plan to create a 30,000-strong Kurdish border patrol on the Syrian-Iraqi border. This police force is supposedly to deter reinfiltration by ISIL but covertly is aimed at trying to interfere with Iranian logistics in getting men and materiel through Iraq into Syria and Lebanon, a key goal of US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel. Turkey fears a standing, US-armed Kurdish military force on its borders will promote secessionist tendencies in eastern Anatolia.

It strikes me as odd that President Trump has not said anything about this growing crisis.

Ironically, the Russians are the ones who might stand up for the Kurds in Afrin, since they have cultivated a relationship with the Syrian Kurdish political leadership.

Turkey is afraid of Kurdish nationalism spreading to its own Kurds, some 1/5 of the Turkish population, and sees the leftist-anarchist YPG militia that controls Afrin as a branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorist group. In contrast, the US sees the YPG as an essential partner in fighting ISIL and other extremist terrorist groups.


Related video:

Al Jazeera English: “Syria ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡พ: Kurdish civilians fear threat of Turkey ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท offensive”

11 Responses

  1. Seems like Assad only has to sit back and watch as his frenemies remove the last obstacles to a united Syria.

  2. It’s possible Trump doesn’t know what to say about the growing crisis. It doesn’t look as if it’s progressing anyone’s policy, but seems just to unfold under its own momentum from one situation to the next.. The proposed plan for 30,000 troops to police the Syria/Turkey border could be a considered and serious US intention or simply Colonel Dillon’s wishful extension of a hypothetical assessment of what it would take to seal the border. Since Trump doesn’t apparently read and reputedly has a minimal attention span it’s highly unlikely he has much, if any, idea what is going on there. The ubiquitous ‘anonymous senior Western official’ floated, and several journals have taken it up, the notion the US is planning concrete diplomatic steps to recognise the northern Syrian territories governed by indigenous Kurds and Arabs link to , a story which may have sprung from a piece in Jerusalem Post link to It looks like another occasion for Putin to get behind the wheel because Trump isn’t capable, nor does he seems to have appointed anyone around him who is.

  3. Trump? Trump is aware of very little and in regard to policy he is a puppet of the far right. Regarding the military, Mattis and McMaster call all the shots with a little help from Kellys.

  4. If our current administration were only capable of coherent thought, I’d make some sort of clever partition of Poland analogy. As it is, I don’t know what the F is going on in this “shithole” region, and expect our “leaders” don’t either…

  5. ” This police force”……
    Police force with MANPADs and heavy anti-tank weaponry to deter….Iranian tanks and helicopters in Northern Syria?

    These brave fighters with impeccable fighting record need to help US in Korea standoff, too. Next step is dangling NATO membership for these brave fighters with best mattresses in the world, followed by a potential EU membership.


  6. “…It is surrounded on both sides by Arab populations, some of them aligned with strongly anti-Kurdish hard line Salafi fundamentalists. Syrian Kurds are for the most part Sunni Muslims, but either they practice mystical Sufi traditions or they have become modern leftists. In either case, the Salafi militants hate them.”

    Hopefully there are no divisive Syrian Kurds that have been influenced by the Salafists and joining their ranks instead, unlike what was alleged in Iraq.

    In some of Rania Khalek’s pieces last year, there were claims, by Yazidis, that there were a few number of Iraqi Kurd fighters, some that may have actually willingly fought with Daesh (the extreme Sunni Islamist cult, which had international and different ethnic recruits, not just local Arabs) but were allowed back into the fold amongst the Kurdish population by Peshmerga and the then autonomous Kurdish government in Kirkuk.

    I remember she also gave an anecdote highlighting a prejudiced negative attitude by one random average conservative Sunni Kurd towards the Yazidis, which was said in the same religious (rather than just ethnic) overtones like many Sunni Arab Islamists.

  7. Are these some of the Kurdish forces that the Canadians trained and worked with as well? If so, I wonder where the Canadian government stands after investing so much in developing a well trained and more professional Kurdish forces that were by far the most effective in taking ISIS out of the areas the Kurds fought to free.

    • .
      Hizb’Allah was pretty effective in fighting ISIS.
      Didn’t the YPG Kurds wait out the fighting several times as part of their negotiations with their US backers ?

  8. Landis has a different take
    link to
    and it is possible that US and Russia are keeping Erdogan pinballing like a grad student whose committee has no intention of passing him or failing him out.
    As Semih Idiz notes, none of Turkey’s Syrian interlocutors are tolerable to the US or Russia.
    link to
    THo sitting back and letting the Russian-supplied Syrians shoot down TC jets is strategically not a bad deal for the US.

  9. I posted this comment a week ago to another article here:

    It seems to me that one of the primary goals of the US, UK, Israel and Saudi (GCC) in Syria was to eliminate how Iran uses Iraq and Syria as a pathway towards Lebanon and to the Mediterranean. If the US or its proxies control eastern Syria, won’t the US coalition have achieved this goal?

  10. Perhaps the other thing that needs to be considered is Turkey’s internal situation. Erdogan needs a win. He can get that by getting the US and Russia to say they will not allow the creation if a Kurdish state in Syria.
    Assad won’t allow it. Russia has no interest in allowing it when Assad is their client. Trump is not going to push for it.
    The fact that it was never on the table doesn’t matter in Turkey because even the “respectable” writers at Hurriyet are in war-cry mode against the Kurdish-State-Existential-Threat on the southern border. These guys always wind up doing Erdogan’s bidding (that’s why they’re not in jail), and it plays with the rubes.

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