World View: Turkey Doubles Down on Shelling Kurds in Syria

The Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units via AP
The Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units via AP

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Turkey doubles down on shelling Kurds in Syria
  • Qatar says it will join Saudi Arabia, UAE sending troops to Syria
  • John Kerry suggests that al-Assad and the Russians are delusional

Turkey doubles down on shelling Kurds in Syria

A woman makes her way through the rubble of damaged buildings after Syrian government airstrikes on Friday (Reuters)
A woman makes her way through the rubble of damaged buildings after Syrian government airstrikes on Friday (Reuters)

Turkey continued shelling the positions of Kurdish YPG militia in Syria on Sunday for a second day. YPG militias in Syria continued to move closer to the border with Turkey, and Turkish officials claimed that Turkey was responding to mortar fire from the Kurds in Syria.

The YPG is the military wing of the Kurds in Syria, and has links to the PKK in Turkey, which is considered a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the US. Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization as well, and is in bitter disagreement with the US, which considers the YPG to be an ally in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

According to Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the shelling will continue until the YPG meets its demands:

The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding area, and will not go close to it again. It will not attempt to shut their corridor ever again. It will not have delusions of using Menagh base to attack the opposition.

A YPG spokesman said that Davutoglu’s demands will be ignored.

Davutoglu said that when US Vice President Joe Biden visited Istanbul last month, they agreed on some issues:

  • “Firstly, the YPG should not cross the Euphrates River and should not do anything to bother Turkey.”
  • “Secondly, the Russian offensive on Aleppo should not turn into something that would trigger a wave of immigration.”
  • “Thirdly, we should jointly support the [Syrian] opposition’s offensive against Daesh on the Marea-Jarabulus line.”

According to Davutoglu, “When Biden asked about the latest developments, I told him there has been no development regarding these three fundamental principles.”

France is calling for an immediate end to all Syrian, Russian and Turkish violence around Aleppo, including airstrikes and shelling. It seems unlikely that anyone will do as called for.

The United States is pressuring Turkey to end the shelling of the YPG in Syria. Other nations are expressing alarm that the shelling will sink last week’s “peace agreement” between the US and Russia. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Al-Jazeera and Anadolu and dpa

Qatar says it will join Saudi Arabia, UAE sending troops to Syria

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar have all announced that they would send troops to Syria to fight ISIS if appropriate. There has been talk of a joint troop operation by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

According to last week’s peace agreement, a full ceasefire is supposed to begin in a few days, and the nations involved were supposed to start to wind down their hostilities. ( “12-Feb-16 World View — US and Russia agree to a farcical ‘cessation of hostilities’ in Syria”)

Instead, all the nations involved have been intensifying their hostilities. There are two ways of looking at this.

Some analysts take a Pollyannaish view that everyone is getting one last burst of violence out of their systems so that they can honor the cease fire.

Others take the view that everyone is using the ceasefire agreement as a cover for more violence, and there is no chance at all that the ceasefire will be honored.

We’ll see in a few days which of these views is correct. Anadolu and NPR and Al Monitor

John Kerry suggests that al-Assad and the Russians are delusional

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the 2016 Munich Security Conference on Saturday, and chastised Russia and Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad by name for using “free-fall bombs” to kill civilians, and suggested that they were delusional for thinking they could win the war:

And the Security Council Resolution has demanded that “all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians.” That, too, has not happened to date. And indeed, the violence by the regime, as we all know, went up. Free-fall bombs are being used, which are not precise. We all know civilians are being killed. So we hope this week can be a week of change.

Now, some have argued that the reason humanitarian access has been denied and has – and there’s been this bombing is because Assad and his allies, including Russia, might believe that by defying the will of the international community, they can win the war. That is a proposition that is being discussed. If that is what Russia and Assad think, then I believe they would be missing the lessons of the last five years. The Syrians who have rejected Assad have endured four years of shelling, barrel bombs, gas, Scud missiles, chemical attacks, torture; and they may be pushed back here or there, but they are not going to surrender. I don’t believe there’s anybody who believes they will. And the countries that have supported Assad and the countries that have opposed him say they’re both committed to continuing that. That is not a recipe, obviously, for a resolution.

So it is critical for all of us to take advantage of this moment to make this cessation of hostilities work. And one thing I would say is that the more successful people are in standing up Assad, at the same time, the more successful they will be in attracting more jihadis to the fight. That’s the perverse reality of what has happened there.

Very often when Kerry speaks, he is so afraid to offend anyone that his speech becomes completely muddled, sometimes even worthy of being a skit on Saturday Night Live.

But in this speech he was very explicit – accusing al-Assad of using missiles, Sarin gas, chlorine gas, torture and missiles on civilians, and suggesting that if al-Assad thinks he can win the war then he must be delusional.

He also makes the point that we’ve been making for years: that young jihadists from around the world have come to fight al-Assad resulting in the creation of ISIS, and that they’ll continue to come as long as al-Assad keeps attacking innocent Sunnis in Syria. US State Department

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Turkey, Syria, Kurds, YPG, Bashar al-Assad, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Ahmet Davutoglu, Joe Biden, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, UAE, John Kerry
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