Turks Threaten al-Assad if he sends Army to Defend Syrian Kurds

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Rumors swirled on Monday that the Democratic Union Party in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria had made an agreement for Syrian government troops to come defend them from the current Turkish assault on them .

Reports were circulating (some of them from the unreliable Russia Today Arabic) that some pro-al-Assad militias (these are typically Lebanese or Iraqi Shiites or Iran-backed Afghans) were coming up to Afrin to support the Kurds and engage in guerrilla warfare against invading Turkish troops.


CGTN: “Syrian Kurds and Damascus ‘strike deal’ to counter Turkey”

The reports enraged the Turkish government, which has invaded Syria to quash the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) militia in Afrin, which has some 500,000 Kurds. The deputy speaker of the Turkish parliament threatened Damascus with “catastrophe” if it dared try defend Syrian territory from the Turkish incursion.

The Turkish assault is aimed at halting growing Kurdish power in northern Syria and to spike American plans to support a Kurdish police force of some 50,000 men, which the Turks see as a dire threat. Ankara considers the YPG to be a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey and the US view as a terrorist organization. Turkey and the US differ over the YPG, however.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had a marathon 3-hour meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan this week, without the benefit of a State Department interpreter, but the outcome of these talks is unkown.

The rumors were denied in several quarters on Tuesday.

A Berlin spokesman for the Democratic Union Party denounced the al-Assad regime in Damascus as just as repressive as the Turkish government in Ankara and questioned that any accord had been reached.

The Syrian government, run by the Baath Party, has since the 1960s had an Arab nationalist cast that has tended to make Kurds second class citizens or even to withdraw citizenship from them. Arabness is defined as speaking Arabic as one’s mother tongue, so it is a form of linguistic nationalism. Kurds speak Kurdish, and Indo-European language related to English and Persian, as their mother tongue, though Syrian Kurds are bilingual in Arabic. The question raised by the civil war that began in 2011 is whether the Damascus government can evolve into, or be switched out for, a government of all the Syrians–Christians, Alawis, Sunni Arabs, Kurds, etc. rather than for Arabs alone, with a bias toward Alawi Shiites. Ironically the Turkish invasion could increase pan-Syrian nationalism.

The paramilitary of the party in Afrin (the People’s Protection Units or YPG) said that they had simply called for Syrian troops to come up to defend the Syrian border, not to coordinate militarily with the militia in Afrin city itself.

Posted in Featured,Syria | 12 Responses | Print |

12 Responses

  1. I can’t see Assad’s people going for this. From their perspective, wouldn’t it be better to just sit back and watch both the Turks and Kurds duke it out, thereby weakening both of them?

  2. And meanwhile, the regime launched another murderous air attack against civilians – this report puts the latest death count over 100. I watched the streamed session from the Munich security conference. How Sergey Lavrov can maintain that Assad is a legitimate leader is bewildering beyond belief. Of course, we’re all numb to this by now. But one day, maybe, an international tribunal will be able to hold some of the participants accountable. Probably not – but I hold out hope.

    link to washingtonpost.com

    • I’d like to see justice everywhere, no one’s hand in this war are clean. The US has killed plenty of civilians in Syria too and elsewhere all over the world. Russia has killed civilians too. The Saudi, Turkish funded rebels have too. If we seek a true just solution to this conflict, everyone must be held accountable not just the regime and its backers. While we’re at it, we should hold Netanyahu accountable for what his army did in Gaza in 2014, and King Salman for what they are doing in Yemen. I’m all for accountability, but the way it is painted in the western media, it is all about vilifying one person, while turning a blind eye to people on “our side”. I reject that premise. Let’s have accountability, but let’s cut the hypocrisy.

      • Americans do not want accountability,
        particularly if it means taking another look at the casualty count in Iraq, 2003 – 2009.

  3. Only a tiny bit off-topic, but having a clearly intense and implicitly consequential 3-hour meeting with Erdogan, relying on his interpreter and by implication no transcript to later parse internally, begs belief. It is way, way beyond amateurism.

    The congress, in fact, declined the Administration proposal to gut the State Department budget, but I gather top area specialists and negotiators have been leaving in droves. They apparently have not had that much of a head-count decline, but in terms of experience and understanding the Administration is setting itself up for failure.

    An apparent strategy can be seen across the board just looking at what is happening, even if there is no evidence of active Russian collusion or control over the Administration. If they had such influence, the Russians would be careful not do anything that would directly destroy the US or diminish its influence, thus showing their hand. They would, however, arrange for all the small things they could, such as we’re now seeing, that would make disasters across the gamut of US interests inevitable, compromising the ability of this country to rebound for perhaps decades.

  4. What a god awful mess. As predicted, Syria has become a wonderful place to avoid. The US is in a position where it may be working with Assad forces or allies to fight against a NATO ally. And why would a Secretary of State go into a meeting with a top foreign leader and not bring his own translator, especially when having contentious talks? That is incredibly stupid.

  5. A report on german TV showed two busses filled with elderly volunteers arrive in Afrin. One was interviewed and he claimed to be part of a rescue operation by the syrian people against the turkish aggression.
    The volunteers didn’t exactly look like a big help.

  6. Tillerson met for three hours without a State Department interpreter.

    Did Rex hire one himself with his fortune? Seriously, what in the world does he think he agreed/disagreed with?

    • He used the Turkish prime minister as the translator, and has no idea how is words were transmitted to Erdogan, whose English is not fluent.

    • The business of translation in real time, aka simultaneous translation, is hardly as easy as one might assume. And at this level and with the stakes involved, hard to accept. Simply saying that someone “speaks Turkish,” or any other language is in itself meaningless.

  7. Assad’s butcher, the US created this mess with its support of non-existent moderate Sunni forces.
    Still, this is all on Turkey and its desire to assert itself as the regional Sunni hegemon, decimate Kurds, and, yes, reclaim influence if not direct control over what these neo-Ottomanists regards as its “historic lands.”
    The present carnage stems from the Turkish invasion (there’s no other word) while Trump hung out to dry his only reliable ally against ISIS in the area and Putin, I suppose, hopes to see Syria become Erdogan’s quagmire.

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