The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), recently handed over control of territory near northern Syria’s Manbij region to the Russian and Iranian-allied regime of Bashar al-Assad in exchange for support in repelling an imminent attack by Turkey, the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reported Tuesday.
Turkey is reportedly trying to coordinate with the American government and Russia its efforts to push the YPG, considered terrorists by Ankara, out of the territory it controls in northern Syria, which lies along the Turkish border, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared Tuesday.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration announced plans to pul the 2,000 American troops from Syria, handing the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) to Turkey and effectively giving Ankara the green light to attack the YPG.
Soon after the U.S. announced its Syria withdrawal plans, the YPG reached out to the Assad regime for help in repelling a Turkish attack promised by Erdogan.
Syrian Kurds, who have assisted the U.S. in pushing ISIS out of Syria, have accused the Trump administration of abandoning them, noting that a U.S. withdrawal will leave them vulnerable to Turkish attacks and would lead to a resurgence of the jihadi group.
When the YPG turned to Assad for assistance against Turkey in Syria’s Afrin region early this year, Russia attempted to pressure the Syrian Kurds to “hand over” the territory to Assad to avert a Turkish military offensive, to no avail.
Russia has reportedly made a similar offer to the Syrian Kurds who are facing a planned attack by Turkey.
Echoing Reuters, AA reported on Tuesday:
Forces of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime on Tuesday entered the country’s northwestern Manbij region in coordination with the YPG/PKK terror group, according to the local sources.
Following a brief meeting with the heads of the YPG/PKK, 40 pickup trucks carrying regime forces, two tanks, trucks carrying equipment and armored vehicles carrying other staff made an entrance to the Arimah town in the western countryside of Manbij, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to security reasons.
The YPG/PKK left the control of Arimah, which is between Manbij and the areas rescued with Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield, to the regime.
Citing an unnamed source, Bas News revealed that Russia had urged SDF to “hand over the border Arab residential areas, including Deir ez-Zor, Raqa, Hassaka, and Manbij to the Syrian Regime in order for the country’s forces to prevent the Turkish army from overrunning the territories.”
Under Russia’s plan, the Assad regime and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing of the YPG, would be responsible for protecting Kurdish territory in northeastern Syria.
Last Thursday, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a group that uses ground sources to monitor the conflict, confirmed that the SDF leadership and the Assad regime held discussions in northern Syria to hand over oil fields in exchange for a veto on the prospective Turkish invasion.
Turkey is intent on crossing into YPG-held territory east of the Euphrates river in northern Syria as soon as possible, Cavusoglu proclaimed Tuesday.
“The battle will soon start,” Major Youssef Hamoud, spokesman for the National Army, the main Turkish-backed Syrian opposition force near Manbij, told Reuters. “What we see on the front now is reinforcements to all forces to reach full preparedness for the battle.”
The PYD reportedly controls about a third of Syria while the Assad regime holds over half of the country. Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces control the rest.
Although Turkey and Assad are on the opposite side of the conflict, U.S. support for the Syria Kurds has strained the relationship between NATO allies Ankara and Washington, pushing Turkey closer to Russia.
Before the U.S. withdrawal announcement, Turkey indicated it was open to working with Assad.