Tag: Rojava

De-romanticising YPG

Kyle Orton is a budding Middle Eastern analyst who authored an important op-ed for the New York Times last year on the former dictator Saddam Hussain’s rarely mentioned role in creation of Islamism in Iraq. In Syria, he is anti-Assad regime, pro ‘moderate’ rebels, and unsympathetic towards Kurdish national self-determination.

 

Recently, Orton published a couple of blog pieces on western volunteers in the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) ranks, here and here. The pieces, based on two separate lengthy interviews with a former and a current fighter, do a reasonable work of de-romanticising YPG’s International Brigades of Rojava.

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Turkey helps USA’s enemies kill USA’s friends in Syria

Ahmet Binici13 hrs·Tc ve öso

The USA and the western world have been hoodwinked by Turkey … again!
 
The map shows the movement of the Turkish and the allied jihadi forces. They are not moving west to cut off ISIS on the border or southwest to take al-Bab.
 
Instead, they are heading south along the Euphrates river to fight the secular Kurdish-Arab forces who liberated Manbij from ISIS two weeks ago with US help. Turkey just killed 35 civilians in airstrike.
 
When will Americans stop taking Turkish word at face value? When will Obama and Biden stop trusting their so-called friends and allies in Turks?
 
American foreign policy in Syria is in a complete and utter mess. Americans are letting their enemies kill their friends. How bloody dumb can this get?

 

Questioning Senator Graham

Senator Lindsey Graham of the US Congress questions Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on the links between Kurdish groups in Turkey and those fighting ISIS in Syria back in April. (full transcript here, pp 98-101). Turkish media went agog, and they still do, about Secretary Carter’s admission of the links which has long been an open secret.

There are other open secrets too. Turkey’s alliance with al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra terrorists, which is on the US terrorist lists, is well-known to all political actors and people following the events. Turkey’s blind eye to ISIS jihadism and its hand-in-glove fight against it was also witnessed by the world in Jarablus. Turkish military and al-Qaeda terrorists took the town without firing a shot. There are credible reports that ISIS fighters simply switched sides in Jarablus.

What is interesting in Senator Graham’s questioning of Secretary Carter is that he seems to care more about the open secret bothering the Turks than those that should bother Americans. According to Senator Graham, a ‘dumb policy’ is when the US supports the YPG who are fighting for a secular democratic government in Syria. The US support for Turkey, which supports enemies of America and the YPG, is not dumb policy by his reckoning.

If I were a journalist with an opportunity to question Senator Graham, it would be as follows:

Q1: Senator, is al-Qaeda responsible for killing Americans?

Q2: Is al-Nusra Front on the US terror list as the Syrian arm of al-Qaeda?

Q3: Is Turkey supporting al-Nusra and other jihadi rebels fighting our allies in the Kurdish YPG and Kurdish-Arab alliance of SDF?

Q4: Then how dumb is it that the US should let Turkey and our jihadi terrorist enemies kill our secular Kurdish friends?

On al-Bab and Sides in Syria’s Conflict

manbij-afrin

Here is a map for the benefit of those who are confused about who controls what territory from the Euphrates to the Amanos mountains in the north of Syria.

The yellow areas in the right of the map is the recently liberated Manbij and its countryside. Until six months ago, Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) and the Kurd-Arab umbrella organisation it belongs to, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), were firmly on the east bank of the Euphrates.

In a two month long campaign, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is represented in purple, was dislodged from Manbij and was forced to retreat first to Jarablus, which is in the north of Manbij and later to al-Bab to the west of Manbij.

On the left side of the map is the Kurdish enclave of Afrin which we hear little about. The Afrin canton is also protected by the YPG and allied Arabs but its greatest advantage is relatively homogeneous Kurdish inhabitants and the mountainous terrain. The Syrian civil war has not affected those areas significantly yet.

What Kurds want is to link Manbij in the east with the Afrin canton about 100 Kms to the west so they can have a single contiguous zone along almost the entire length of Turkish-Syria border. This is necessary in order to cut off ISIS from the outside world but also to make Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) whole again.

In the Kurds’ way are, apart from ISIS, two other forces in the Syrian civil conflict. The Assad government’s Syrian Arab Army (green) and the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA in brown). The regime and the rebels have long been battling over Aleppo with neither side able to inflict decisive blow.

The key town that all sides want to control at the moment is al-Bab. It is a Kurdish populated town that is currently held by ISIS which is on the run. The SDF want it because it will unite the cantons. FSA want it because it will open a new front to attack government held districts of Aleppo. The Assad regime are unable or unwilling to launch an offensive to capture it.

What Turkey wants is to get in the Kurds’ way. So Ankara has bought a gang of FSA rebel mercenaries and helped them to capture Jarablus first and now wants them to move to al-Bab. It is likely that they will not go for Manbij because the rebels don’t have the numbers to take it or to even hold it for long.

As of this moment, there are conflicting reports coming from all sides as the Turkish-backed military advance continues. One thing is clear: the areas represented on the map with al-Bab at the centre is where most of the future conflict in Syria will take place.

Silver linings in the fog of Rojava

Like many observers in the international media, Foreign Policy magazine also states in no uncertain terms that Turkish-backed FSA jihadi rebel incursion in Syria to capture Jarablus is intended not against ISIS but to roll back Kurdish gains in the west of Euphrates.

This article as well as several other news sources have stated that the Kurdish YPG have transferred the control of Manbij to the Arab-Kurdish alliance of SDF and “returned to base” without mentioning when and how the alleged withdrawal took place.

FP also states that the FSA jihadi rebels who took Jarablus in the north of Manbij without a fight might move on to al-Bab where ISIS fighters retreated. Al-Bab is a Kurdish populated town in the west of Manbij and until a few days ago was in YPG’s sights. Kurds there must now wait longer for liberation.

If there is a silver lining to the dark clouds over Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), that is the lack of convincing ideology, disorganisation and ineptitude of FSA rebels. They are not fighting and dying for a just cause but for the money they receive from Ankara. There is not a single town under FSA control that is administered properly. They will fail in al-Bab and Jarablus too.

As for the YPG’s withdrawal from Manbij, that resembles another incident during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. At the time, Kurdish control of Kirkuk was also a red line for Turkey. The Peshmerga liberated Kirkuk, Turkey complained, the USA ordered withdrawal, and the Kurdish government said “we are doing it right now”, which they never did. Kirkuk is the most heavily defended city in Kurdistan now.

The fog of war prevents us from observing the YPG’s withdrawal back to the east of the Euphrates. What we know is that if the FSA rebels want Manbij, they will have to fight and die for it like Kurds did to liberate it from ISIS barbarians.