World View: U.S. Forced to Choose as Turks Bomb Kurds in Syria

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This morning’s key headlines from

  • Turkey’s invasion of Syria continues, bombing Kurdish targets
  • America may be forced to choose between Turkey and Kurds

Turkey’s invasion of Syria continues, bombing Kurdish targets

Turkish military action starting Aug 24. Objective is to prevent Kurdish forces (shown in yellow) from linking up western and eastern regions. (Anadolu)
Turkish military action starting Aug 24. Objective is to prevent Kurdish forces (shown in yellow) from linking up western and eastern regions. (Anadolu)

Turkey continued execution of “Operation Euphrates Shield” on Sunday by striking at the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia backed by the United States in its fight with the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Airstrikes from Turkish warplanes killed at least 25 or more people near the city of Jarablus. Turkey claims that all those killed were Kurdish terrorists. Other reports claim that dozens of civilians were killed.

Besides striking at ISIS, a major objective of Turkey’s invasion into Syria is to prevent further expansion of the region controlled by Syrian Kurds.

As the map above shows, the YPG now controls large regions of northern Syria, including an uninterrupted 400 km (250 mile) stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border from the eastern frontier with Iraq to the Euphrates river, and a pocket of territory in northwestern Syria. The Kurds want to gain control of the region in between, controlling a long strip of land, creating an independent Kurdish state called Rojava.

The Turkish military objective is to prevent the Kurds from doing this, and to force the YPG in the east to retreat back across the Euphrates River.

The Kurds have had some notable military successes recently. It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Syrian Kurds regained control of the city of Manbij from ISIS. ( “14-Aug-16 World View — Wild celebrations in Manbij Syria, after major defeat for ISIS”) Since then, the Kurds began advancing on Jarablus in the east, and on the city of Azaz in the west.

A major ISIS terror attack on a wedding in Gaziantep, a Turkish town near Jarablus, there was a major change in Turkish policy, which led to the military invasion of Syria. ( “22-Aug-16 World View — Turkey’s Erdogan announces a complete U-turn on Syria policy”)

Operation Euphrates Shield has already prevent the Kurds from taking control of Jarablus, and the Turks have indicated that they intend to drive the Kurds out of Manbij, back across the Euphrates River. The Turks say that they will take control of a region up to 30 kilometers from the border with Turkey, and create a “safe zone” for civilians, under the control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

In a speech on Sunday, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he considers ISIS and the YPG to be the same:

These betrayers will be drowned in the blood they shed. … Turkey has not and will not surrender to any terrorist organizations or terror methods. … We know the same face is behind all of them [ISIS and YPG].

Turkey has no toleration for any terrorist organization activities within its borders and nearby. Our operations against the separatist organization [YPG] will continue without interruption.

Erdogan’s remarks echo the statement on Friday by Turkey’s prime minister Binali Yildirim: “We’ve declared all-out war against these terrorist groups.” Anadolu (Ankara) and BBC

America may be forced to choose between Turkey and Kurds

Turkey’s invasion of Syria so far consists of warplanes, tanks, artillery, and special forces, backed by an army of so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels known as the Free Syrian Army, or FSA. Turkey is targeting both ISIS and the Kurdish YPG.

The United States is an ally of Turkey, which is a member of Nato. The US is also an ally of the YPG, which has been the most effective force fighting ISIS. And the US has also supported the FSA, because they were fighting against the forces of the genocidal president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.

The US has been “forced to choose” between Turkey and the Kurds. In a visit to Ankara on Wednesday, US vice president Joseph Biden said:

We have made it absolutely clear that they [pro-Kurdish forces] must go back across the [Euphrates] River. They cannot and will not, under no circumstances, get American support if they do not keep that commitment.

A big question is whether the Kurds will “obey” Biden’s mandate. The Kurds have a long history of feeling betrayed by the West, and with an independent state in sight, they may refuse to retreat.

Both Russia and Syria’s al-Assad regime approve of the Turkish invasion of northern Syria, because it’s the only thing preventing the Kurds from taking control of the entire northern region and declaring the independent Kurdish state of Rojava. Washington Post and Daily Sabah (Ankara) and BBC (23-Aug)

Related Stories

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Turkey, Kurds, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Joseph Biden, Operation Euphrates Shield, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, Rojava, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Kurdish People’s Protection Units, YPG, Jarablus, Manbij, Euphrates River, Free Syrian Army, FSA
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