A “safe zone” in Rojava is averted… for now – TTG


BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:00 P.M.) – Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday that talks with the U.S. on a safe zone in northern Syria have been ‘positive’ after a previous meeting left Ankara agitated. “We witnessed with satisfaction that our partners grew closer to our position. The meetings were positive and quite constructive,” Akar stated, as quoted by state-owned Anadolu Agency. “Our plans, preparations, the deployment of our units in the field are all complete. But we said we wanted to act together with our friend and ally, the United States,” Akar continued, adding “if that isn’t possible, we have said multiple times that we will do what is necessary.”

Turkey previously threatened to launch a large-scale military operation to capture the eastern region of the Euphrates River Valley. According to Ankara, the eastern Euphrates region is controlled by ‘terrorist’ groups allied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In particular, the Turkish regime has accused the U.S. Coalition of harboring the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG), who Ankara says is an offshoot of the PKK.

Washington has denied coordinating with the YPG, but maintains that they work with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who is made up of several ethnic groups, including Kurds and Arabs. (Al Masdar News)


That’s the Turkish view of the just completed negotiations in Ankara with the US Embassy to work toward establishing a “safe zone” along the entire northern border with Syria. The US Embassy issued a short, terse statement:

From August 5-7, 2019, U.S. and Turkish military delegations met at the Turkish Ministry of Defense to discuss plans to coordinate the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria.

The delegations agreed on the following:

a) the rapid implementation of initial measures to address Turkey’s security concerns;

b) to stand-up a joint operations center in Turkey as soon as possible in order to coordinate and manage the establishment of the safe zone together;

c) that the safe zone shall become a peace corridor, and every effort shall be made so that displaced Syrians can return to their country.

Mazlum Abdi, an SDF spokesman, said this after the US-Turkish agreement was announced: “With regard to the safe zone, we certainly accept it and support it if it is intended to support stability and peace in the region, and we have shown a lot of flexibility so far in this context, but there are Turkish conditions that are completely rejected. Turkey wants to stay in the region and control it, or pushing militant factions to be part of the safe zone, this is not acceptable in any way. But in the framework of coordination With the coalition forces and the U.S army, monitoring patrols can be conducted”

In my view, Turkey is holding a strong hand and is playing it well. Turkey has been massing its forces and especially her jihadi allies across her southern border east of the Euphrates in preparation for an invasion to drive the Kurds away from that border. Surely the purpose of this offensive is not so much to eliminate this perceived threat, but to expand the new Ottoman Empire at the expense of Syria. The US agreed to establish a joint headquarters for this safe zone in a desperate effort to stave off this Turkish offensive. The Kurds, who remain the backbone of the SDF, would have rushed to the border to defend Rojava from a Turkish invasion. Although the Kurds would make the Turks and their jihadi allies pay dearly for every inch of Rojava, they are no match for the full might of the Turkish military. Even so, I don’t think Erdogan is ready to risk throwing his full military force into an invasion. An invasion may also spread his jihadi allies too thin. He may very well lose Idlib and the area around Aleppo as the price of gaining a strip of Rojava. For now he is content with what he has extracted from the US Embassy.

Neither the Syrian forces nor the YPG forces are in a position to defend that border against a full scale Turkish incursion. They are both otherwise occupied. Russia has influence, but I don’t think she is willing to bloody Erdogan’s nose or even demand he abandon his dream of a new Ottoman Empire. Russia has a longer term goal concerning her relationship with Turkey. The US dreads an open conflict with a NATO ally and does not have sufficient forces in the area to successfully deter Erdogan’s aspirations. So, although a wide scale invasion of Rojava has been temporarily averted, Erdogan is left sitting in the catbird seat at least for now.




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18 Responses to A “safe zone” in Rojava is averted… for now – TTG

  1. jonst says:

    Any state entity contemplating ‘boots on the ground’ involvement in the Syrian Civil War will, at best, find their plans frustrated. And at worst, find themselves in a bloody and ruthless engagement, that has no end in sight. I would think this far from the ‘catbird’s seat’. It is one thing to ‘throw punches’ from outside the ring. It will be another thing to get inside the ring. And ‘safe zone’ will sound perfectly Orwellian.

  2. turcopolier says:

    You are right. This is merely a reprieve and it will not last long. I notice that the SAA is back on offense on the Idlib front. It will be interesting to see how Turkey tries to block that.

  3. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Ascribing the Turkish position to “Ottoman Dreams” is an oversimplification. tayyip is wounded. He lost an election-massively- and is fighting for survival. His Syria policy has failed. The Turkish population, including most of his supporters, want the Syrian refuges in Turkey gone. The formation of a kurdish “state” on our border would cause him further trouble. A few questions:
    1-What is israel’s position on the separatist kurds of Northern Syria?
    2-Why are FUKUS special forces,including the colleagues of our fellow pilgrim Patrick Bahzad, in Syria?
    3-How long will this conflict continue?
    It is highly likely that this saga will end in a catastrophe for all, but especially for your kurds.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  4. jonst says:

    TTG, Ishmael, if either of you care to comment; do either of you think the Turkish opposition, admittedly, a nebulous term, will use opposition to Turkish involvement in Syria as a tool against tayyip? Or, will Turkish Nationalist sentiment prohibit use of this would be tool? And the opposition will stick with more domestic centered tools..ie. repression, education, and the economy?

  5. Barbara Ann says:

    Glad you posted on this TTG. Averted for now only in the sense that although it now seems a certainty, its implementation date has not yet been announced. The State Department communiqué suggests agreement on the safe zone is a fait accompli with simply the details to be forthcoming (Turkish press is reporting the zone will be TAF controlled and 18 to 25 miles deep). I agree with your appraisal of who is in the driving seat in this situation.
    What is BOHICA in Kurdish?

  6. JP Billen says:

    The demilitarized zone in Idlib did not work out well.
    Turkey was supposed to use it’s network of observation posts in Idlib to secure the rebel-held DMZ, but they never did. In fact they did the opposite in many cases facilitating the jihadis within that DMZ. The radical groups like HTS et al who per the Russian/Turkish agreement were supposed to leave the zone, but they never left. The so-called moderate groups (Turkish backed) who per the agreement were allowed to stay but were supposed to remove all tanks, artillery, rockets, and mortars, bit they never removed them.
    None of the Idlib groups ever opened the M4 and M5 highways to unrestricted civilian use.
    I never heard of any joint Russian/Turkish patrols along the DMZ as per the agreement. Did they ever happen?
    Turkey never held up their part of that agreement to “combat terrorism in Syria in all forms and manifestations”. In fact since that agreement was signed they have sent more arms and support to those terrorist groups that they support. And some of the Turkish contingents at the “observation posts” have fired artillery at Syrian government troops.
    Any similar deal in NE Syria will lead to the introduction of more terrorists into Syria by Erdogan.

  7. Chiron says:

    The US policy of favoring certain ethnic groups over anothers can backfire in a very violent way if American interventionism ends, the Kurds have burned their bridges with the Arabs, Turks, and probably also the Iranians thinking that USA and Israel will support them forever. The Kurds might be for a rude awakening in a few years down the line.

  8. Linda says:

    Seems to me the Ottoman Empire is doing pretty well right now

  9. Ishmael, Ottoman dreams is an oversimplification, but largely accurate. You’re absolutely right that another important reason for Erdogan to expand his territorial control into northern Syria is to have a place to herd the massive burden of Syrian refugees.
    – Concerning your questions, I don’t know what the Israeli position is in all this. I’d bet money that their position involves making life more miserable for all involved.
    – US Special Forces involvement with the YPG Kurds began with the 50 or so Green Berets inserted back in 2016, soon followed by 200 more, a Marine artillery battery for shelling Raqqa and a company of Stryker mounted Rangers to guard the northern borders. With the ignominious failure of US sponsored jihadis west of the Euphrates, the US pinned its hopes for regime change in Syria on an occupied rump state east of the Euphrates.
    – When will this end? I have no idea, but no time soon. You’re right about the Kurds. They will surely take it up the ass once again. They should have realized an autonomous or semi-autonomous Rojava between Syria and Turkey was never in the cards. And choosing the US as an ally was a fatal error.

  10. JP Billen says:

    I heard Erdogan wanted full control in the zone and wanted it to be 40km (25 miles) wide. Jeffries may (or not) have talked him down to joint US/Turkish control, but I haven’t heard on whether there will or will not be resettlement of jihadis. But no agreement that I know of has yet established the width. Jeffries suggested 15km (~9 miles).
    The SDF said it wants no more than 5km (~3 miles). But even a 5km zone will affect al-Qamishly, which is partially under the control of the Syrian government. There is no way they would let either US or Turkish patrols within their area. 5km would also affect the Kurdish majority border city of Kobani, and the Kurdish/Assyrian/Armenian city of Ras al-Ayn.
    It ain’t gonna work is my opinion. And if jihadi resettlement is part of the deal it will be completely rejected by the locals. Unless possibly the resettlement camps come under the jurisdiction of the Asayish/Sutoro police, which are Kurdish and Assyrian law enforcement and anti-terrorism SWAT teams. Erdogan won’t allow that and Jeffries will probably go along with him.

  11. JP Billen says:

    Erdogan’s main opposition party, the CHP, has called for a “peaceful” solution in northern Syria. But whether they will be able to convert that into getting Erdogan’s aspirations toned down is unknown for now.

  12. d74 says:

    Sir, respectfully, I do not agree on everything.
    1- The Kurds of Syria and their allies (Arabs, various Christians, Yezidis and Circassians) do not want a state. Mustafa Barzani said so back in 1967. Ocalan repeats it. You have to believe them. They want the sustainability of what they have built in 7 years of struggle: autonomy within a federal Syria. Is it so difficult to drop the Arabic mention of SAR, when Syria is multi-ethnic?
    2-Syrian Kurds are not paired with the USA. They don’t have much in common. The current Rojava is not a paradise for Coca-Cola and Mcdonald . Everything suggests it will never be if the duration is granted to this part of Syria. They’re just on the same side of the barricade. They are very good guerilla fighters on their soil. They ask for very little. And they have made enormous efforts to approach modern, i. e. Western, civilian criteria. It is a de facto alliance from the Kobane battles where they showed their valour.
    After the grotesque and costly failures of the US forces with moderate and Islamist head cutters, the effectiveness and modesty of the Kurds must have been a happy surprise. Everything suggests the USA has chosen the Kurds! The Kurds will have to choose the right time to abandon the USA. For the moment, taming the northern neighbour without the USA is beyond their means. After 7 years of war, compromises with Damascus are inevitable.
    3- Agree with you on the pan-Turanian satrape.

  13. d74, with equal respect, what Barzani wants for his Kurds has nothing to do with what the Rojava Kurds want or wanted. I’m pretty sure most would be happy to be left alone as an autonomous region of Syria. As they freed more of their territory from the IS jihadis, there was talk of an independent Rojava. It was more patriotic romanticism than pragmatic realism, but the idea was still there.

  14. JP Billen says:

    I suspect d74 was speaking of the long deceased (1979) Mustafa Barzani of Mahabad fame. And not the son Masoud. Mustafa B was double-crossed by British, Soviets, Iraqis, Iranians, Azeris, and Uzbeks, as well as the US.
    And Ocalan that d74 mentions was also a victim of an international double-cross. Just today Ocalan from his prison cell has stated he is “ready for a solution on the Kurdish issue” and that he could “stop the conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish militants within a week”. But IMO it ain’t gonna happen with Erdogan in charge. He needs to keep the Kurds as enemies to stay in power.

  15. turcopolier says:

    JP Billen
    Oh, c’mon a Kurdish agha never met a non relative who was not a candidate for betrayal.

  16. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    JP Billen
    re: And Ocalan that d74 mentions was also a victim of an international double-cross. Just today Ocalan from his prison cell has stated he is “ready for a solution on the Kurdish issue” and that he could “stop the conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish militants within a week””
    Care to explain who double-crossed Ocalan and how? What was the agreement between him and those who double-crossed him before the double-cross? Do you know who supported his “movement” and for what ends? Any idea about the magnitude of the support channeled to the pkk over the past 40 years? What was to be the pay-back for this support by ocalan & co?
    If you think that, within the Turkish polity, only tayyip and his supporters detest ocalan and his two-bit terrorists, you are deluded.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  17. JP Billen says:

    I assume you are a Turk, so you know would know a thousand times more than I the public sentiment in Turkey. My uninformed comment was based on reports that Ünal Çeviköz, a CHP deputy, called for dialogue and a peaceful approach by the Turkish government in NE Syria. And I’ve read elsewhere that the CHP has close to a quarter of the MPs in parliament.
    Of course his statement may be a strawman, upon which he and his party will never do more than to give it lip service? Just to get more Kurdish votes in the next election. Perhaps you know.

  18. JP Billen says:

    You are right. The KNC, allied with the Turks against both Assad and the YPG, is a case in point. But then the same could be said for some other Middle Easterners. And even for a some US politicians.

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