Khalid Zaka: The U.S. pullout and Turkish aggression against Syria

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      By Khalid Zaka

      Following Donald Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, Turkey has restarted and escalated its aggression.

      Turkish military forces are already present inside Syria. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that a long-planned Turkish military operation in northeast Syria has begun.

      “The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #Operation Peace Spring against PKK/YPG and Daesh [Isis] terrorists in northern Syria," Erdoğan stated on Twitter. "Oue mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area.”

      Turkey says it is seeking to establish a 32-kilometre-deep safe zone along the border to secure the country against the threat of what it says are Kurdish terror groups as well as Isis. 

      Northeast Syria is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, which the U.S. worked closely with in the battle to defeat Islamic State (IS). The Syrian Democratic Forces—commonly abbreviated to SDF, HSD, and QSD—is an alliance in the Syrian Civil War composed primarily of Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian/Syriac militias, as well as some smaller Armenian, Turkmen, and Chechen forces.

      Kurds, in the presence of the U.S. and French forces, have also established a so-called “Socialist" enclave called "Rojava". Kurdish forces described Trump's decision to pull US troops out of the area as a "stab in the back".

      The forces belonging to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, have also been on the move to the south of Syria’s Kurdish-held region, leaving the SDF pinched between Turkey and Syria.

      The five European countries currently on the UN Security Council have called for a special session on the Turkish invasion, but diplomats said it was unclear how far the council could go in the face of silent Russian support for the Turkish move and U.S. uncertainty.

      In response to Turkish aggression, Kurdish leaders in the area issued a general mobilization call, urging civilians to "head to the border with Turkey to resist during this delicate historical moment". The SDF has resumed digging trenches and tunnels in the border areas, covering streets with metal canopies. and stockpiling tires to burn to block the cameras of Turkish drones.

      It's been reported that Kurdish officials have asked Russia, Assad’s major ally, to facilitate a dialogue with Damascus. The Kurds risk losing the autonomy they won during Syria’s eight-year-old war by realigning with the Syrian regime, but such a move is likely to stave off the worst of a Turkish attack.

      The U.S. forces' pullout from northern Syria and the Turkish invasion have raised a few crucial questions.

      • Under which international law were U.S. forces in Syria?
      • Under which international law did Turkey launch its aggression and now escalate it against a sovereign country, Syria, and establish a 32-kilometre-deep safe zone along the border to secure the country against the threat of what it says are Kurdish terror groups, as well as Isis?
      • Did the SDF attack Turkey and violate its sovereignty?
      • Did the Syrian government at any time invite U.S. forces?
      • Were there any United Nations Security Council resolutions authorizing the U.S. and Turkish forces to invade Syria?
      • Is the presence of Russia in Syria to help Syrian people or to fulfill its geopolitical designs?
      • Has Russia shown Middle Eastern countries that it can stand against the U.S. and its allies?
      This map shows the area known as Rojava in northeastern Syria, which is the westernmost territory claimed by the Kurds.
      Azad G99

      The Russian presence in Syria has resulted in the erosion of U.S. hegemony and political influence. The ruling elites in Middle Eastern countries have started looking toward Russia for help.

      Qatar, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey are showing their economic and political inclination toward Russia and are entering into economic and political agreements.

      Russia is in Syria, on the one hand, supporting Asaad's government. And on the other hand, Russia is collaborating secretly with Turkey against the interest of Assad's government.

      Russia, at present, is not taking a clear and open stand against the U.S. and its allies. Capitalist Russia safeguards its own capitalistic economic and geopolitical interests.

      However, Russia’s next move in the current situation is crucial. The Kremlin recognizes Turkey’s right to defend itself, but also emphasizes the need to protect Syria’s “territorial integrity". And  Russia has been careful not to alienate the Kurds in Syria entirely. 

      It's unclear how Assad and his regime in Damascus will react to Turkish aggression into northern Syria.

      One possibility is that Assad government forces, backed by Russia, could take advantage of the situation and advance from the south into the Kurdish region. This would force the Kurds to fight on two fronts at the same time—something they are unlikely to survive.

      There is another possibility. If the Kurdish political forces are successful in negotiating a deal with Damascus to set up a federal government system in Syria, like what exists in Iraq, these two forces could unite against the "foreign invader".

      Speaking at the UN General Assembly in September, the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, has already called for the withdrawal of American and Turkish forces in Syria.

      Meanwhile, China has taken a stand for the sovereignty of Syria. China said on Thursday that Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity "must be respected".

      So is it possible to develop and construct socialism in the Rojava Enclave with the help of U.S., which is the leader of international capitalism?

      This is a highly debatable question. I leave it to the readers for their discussion and comments.