Northern Syrian Kurdish Regions: Shake before Erdogan’s attack

Status: 21.06.2022 15:11

Observers expect Turkish President Erdogan to fulfill his threat of an offensive to expel the Kurds and relocate Syrian refugees. But when he marches remains unclear.

Author: Christian Buttkereit, ARD Studio Cairo

Unfortunately, Turkish President Erdogan, as a mediator in the war in Ukraine, has failed to do anything. In the event of another conflict, however, he manages to force the opposite poles, the USA, Russia, Iran and Syria. Washington, Moscow, Tehran and Damascus are rejecting what Turkey has been announcing for weeks: a new offensive in northern Syria.

Christian Buttkereit

Erdogan wants to expel the Kurds from the border area with Turkey and settle there instead of Syrian refugees from Turkey. Because Erdogan also hopes for domestic liberation, most people in northern Syria do not ask whether Erdogan will fulfill his threat, but when he will march.

“We are ready”

Commander Muhammad Kabso is a member of Al Jabat al Shamiya, the Levantine Front, which is affiliated with the so-called Free Syrian Army. Which, in turn, is the de facto Turkish mercenary force in northern Syria. He stands in camouflage clothes on a background of withered bushes. A bulletproof vest and a belt with bullets around the body signal readiness to fight. “We are ready, we have completed the training and we are waiting for the Turkish order to start the fight,” he says.

Operations against Kurdish militias: a Turkish offensive in northern Syria is expected

Daniel Hechler, ARD Cairo, daily news at 12:00, June 21, 2022

The attack, which Kabso talks about, will focus on the Manbij and Tall Rifaat areas, Turkish President Erdogan said weeks ago. The declared goal is to expel the so-called Kurdish People’s Liberation Units (YPG) from the 30-kilometer strip beyond the Turkish border. Because they are a Syrian branch of the PKK, which is banned as a terrorist organization in Turkey and in Europe, and therefore a threat to Turkey.

In general, the Kurds do not belong here, says Commander Kabso: “The Kurds must get out of here, it is not their territory.” The Kurds in the villages are not from the area, they have immigrated and “settled here,” says Kabso. “We are the inhabitants of this area and these villages, we want to return to our villages and our refugee families should return.”

The Kurds report resistance

However, it was Kurdish fighters who expelled the so-called Islamic State from Tall Rifaat in 2016. Manbij, the most important city in the region, has been under Kurdish rule for ten years. And so it should remain, says Ahmed Jibna, commander of the Kurdish YPG, from his position at the Turkish border. They would take precautionary measures and prepare for war. “We will resist with God’s will because we belong here and insist on our rights. We do not want Assad’s army, mercenaries or Turks. Turkey wants to go back to the glorious Ottoman times,” says Jibna.

In fact, during the Ottoman Empire, Cherkess refugees settled in Manbiji – as a pro-government counterweight to the rebellious Bedouins. The Kurds are now to be kept in check.

The attack, announced by Turkish President Erdogan, is targeting the Manbij and Tall Rifaat areas.

impact on the population

Only when the offensive begins is completely unclear. However, the effects on the population are already clear. So far, Mandij has been the safest place in Syria and the economic center of the region, says Adnan Al-Marai, who runs a diesel wholesaler there: “My warehouse was full. But it is empty since the Turkish threat. Now I have all my goods from Manbij and taken to safety . ” Most dealers would do so – for fear of war.

The potato factory, meanwhile, was relocated to the other side of the Euphrates, a 100-kilometer-long Rakka, and a large bakery in Manbiji was closed.

The global political situation provides a break to breathe

Turkey has been shelling villages near the border for weeks and Turkish reconnaissance drones are buzzing over the area. The offensive can start at any time or not. Erdogan wants to settle Syrian refugees from Turkey in the areas to be conquered – which many in Turkey are happy to hear. But the refugees are already here. Many families from Aleppo and Idlib have taken refuge in Manbiji.

Aisha Nasr lives with her eight children in one of the tent towns there. The 50-year-old is afraid of the announced Turkish offensive: they have escaped twice and have had to go through a lot each time. “We feel reasonably good here again. But now we are afraid we will have to flee again. We do not know where to go,” says Nasr.

At the moment, the tangled global political situation gives them room to breathe. Because Erdogan is facing resistance with his plans for a new offensive in Syria. Not just on the part of the USA, which was to be expected, because they are cooperating with the Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State. Russia and Iran also denied Erdogan’s consent to the attack. Both want all of Syria to come back under Assad’s control. And then there are the negotiations on the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, which Turkey is blocking. It is quite possible that Erdogan will wait for the NATO summit at the end of June with an attack.

Northern Syrian Kurdish Regions – Shake before Erdogan’s attack

Christian Buttkereit, ARD Istanbul, 21 June 2022 14:24

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