CNN International’da yer alan habere göre, Suriye Demokratik Güçleri (DSG) Genel Komutanı Mazlum Kobani son gelişmeleri tartışmak üzere ABD’ye gidiyor.
CNN International’da yer alan habere göre, Suriye Demokratik Güçleri (DSG) Genel Komutanı Mazlum Kobani son gelişmeleri tartışmak üzere ABD’ye gidiyor.
C’è anche una attivista per i diritti delle donne tra i 9 civili trucidati ieri a sangue freddo dai miliziani filo-turchi nel nord-est della Siria. Secondo quanto riferisce il Guardian, Hevrin Khalaf, 35 anni, segretaria generale del Partito Futuro siriano, e il suo autista, sono stati assassinati a colpi di arma da fuoco su un’autostrada dopo essere stati prelevati dalle loro auto da milizie sostenute dalla Turchia, riferiscono le forze curde. Le uccisioni di tutti e 9 i civili sono state filmate e il video diffuso in rete.
Citing an escalation of violence by Islamic State-affiliated women, supervisors at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria are calling on the international community to find a solution for thousands of such women and children who are being held at the overcrowded refugee camp. VOA’s Mutlu Civiroglu reports from the al-Hol camp.
BY TOM O’CONNOR
The United States’ primary allies in Syria have supplied oil to Damascus, despite the government being sanctioned by Washington.
The Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, and the Kurdish forces that comprise the majority of the Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have long maintained a working relationship despite vast political differences before and after a 2011 rebel and jihadi uprising that has threatened both of their livelihoods. As the two factions emerge as the most influential forces on the ground, their ongoing ties are receiving new attention.
The dialogue between the Syrian government and Syrian Democratic Forces has centered on the former’s need for oil from resource-rich regions held by the latter, which has demanded greater autonomy. U.S. plans to withdraw from the conflict following the virtual defeat of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), however, have expedited Kurdish desires to be on good terms with Damascus.
Reporting by Turkey’s official Anadolu Agency and Daily Sabah newspaper cited local sources Thursday as saying that a new deal had been reached to allow the People’s Protection Units (YPG)—the leading faction of the Syrian Democratic Forces—to more quickly transport oil via new pipelines being built under the government-held, eastern city of Deir Ezzor.
The sources claimed that companies operating under government control had already begun laying pipes near Al-Shuhayl, a town off the western bank of the Euphrates River that divides the separate anti-ISIS campaigns waged by the Syrian government in the west and the Syrian Democratic Forces. The deal was reportedly the result of an agreement made during talks last July when the two sides agreed to share production profits.
The day after the Turkish report was published, The Wall Street Journal published its own piece citing a person familiar with U.S. intelligence and a tanker driver transporting oil in elaborating on the arrangement. The article found that oil tankers were traveling near daily to transport oil to the Qatarji Group, a firm hit by U.S. sanctions in September due to its alleged involvement in facilitating oil deals between the government and ISIS.
The official U.S. military mission in Syria was limited to defeating ISIS, but Washington and its regional allies previously intervened in the country via support for insurgents attempting to overthrow Assad, whom they accused of human rights abuses. The U.S. began targeting ISIS as it overtook half of both Iraq and Syria in 2014 and teamed up with the Syrian Democratic Forces the following year, just as Russia intervened on Assad’s behalf.
Since Moscow stepped in, the Syrian military and pro-government militias—some of which were Iran-backed Shiite Muslim paramilitary groups mobilized from across the region—have retaken much of the nation, leaving only the northwestern Idlib province in the hands of the Islamist-led opposition now primarily sponsored by Turkey, and roughly a third of the country under the Syrian Democratic Forces’ control in the north and east.
The Syrian Democratic Forces’ share includes most of the nation’s oil resources, which produced up to 350,000 barrels per day prior to the war before dwindling to about 25,000, according to current estimates, while the government still controls the nation’s oil refineries. The successful Syrian Democratic Forces campaign to retake the oil and gas fields from ISIS helped to starve the jihadis of their black market revenue. Now Damascus is in dire need of this income to establish an economy stable enough to capitalize on successive military victories.
This has led to a number of profit-sharing agreements, extending back to at least 2017, as Damascus continued to pay the salaries of workers in Kurdish-held cities and talks expanded last year to include the Syrian government potentially retaking control of certain facilities such as the Al-Tabqa dam near the northern city of Raqqa. In return, the Syrian Democratic Forces have pushed for wider recognition of the country’s significant Kurdish minority and for greater self-rule. More than anything, however, the militia has now sought the Syrian government’s protection against a common enemy.
Turkey, a fellow U.S. ally, considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization due to suspected ties to a Kurdish separatist insurgency at home. With President Donald Trump planning to soon withdraw from Syria, many Kurdish fighters have expressed fears that their protective umbrella would close. Pro-government groups, too, have clashed with the Syrian Democratic Forces in apparent attempts to seize oil and gas infrastructure, which—along with the rest of the country—Assad has vowed to reclaim through diplomacy or force.
Though Trump has vowed to protect the Kurds in the event of a U.S. exit, he also accused them last month of “selling the small oil that they have to Iran,” even though “we asked them not to”—a charge denied by leading Syrian Kurdish politician Salih Muslim in an interview with journalist Mutlu Civiroglu. Like Syria, Iran was subject to extensive sanctions by Washington, restricting its ability to market oil internationally.
Iran has, however, sent up to 10,000 barrels per day to Syria, as estimated by TankerTrackers.com and reported by The Wall Street Journal, furthering both countries’ economic interests in a development that has prompted anxieties among Arab states feeling increasingly sidelined by Tehran. As the Syrian Democratic Forces rushed to repair relations with Damascus, a number of Arab League states have also begun to repair ties gradually in hopes of steering Syria away from Iran.
Novinar Mutlu Civiroglu je tri sedmice svjedočio borbama za posljednje uporište ISIL-a u Siriji. Pogledajte intervju u kojem govori o Bosancima koje je tamo sreo, ali i o trenutku kada su pucali na njega – što se vidi i na snimcima koje objavljujemo.
A suicide attack killed four U.S. personnel in northern Syria Wednesday, costing Washington its worst combat losses in the war-torn country since 2014 as it prepares to withdraw. Nine Syrian civilians and five U.S.-backed fighters were also killed in the attack.
The bombing, claimed by the Islamic State (ISIL) group, comes after U.S. President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month that he was ordering a full troop withdrawal from Syria because the jihadists had been “largely defeated”.
The Pentagon said, “Two U.S. servicemembers, one Department of Defense (DoD) civilian and one contractor supporting DoD were killed and three servicemembers were injured while conducting a local engagement in Manbij.”
“Initial reports indicate an explosion caused the casualties, and the incident is under investigation,” it said, adding that the names of the dead were being withheld until 24 hours after their families were informed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier said two Americans soldiers, nine Syrian civilians, and five U.S.-backed fighters were killed in the attack on a restaurant in the northern city of Manbij near the Turkish border.
Rubble littered the outside of the eatery in the city center and its facade was blackened by the blast, footage from a Kurdish news agency showed.
According to Pentagon statistics, Wednesday’s blast was the deadliest attack for U.S. anti-ISIL forces in Syria since they deployed in 2014.
The U.S. Department of Defense has previously only reported two American personnel killed in combat in Syria, in separate incidents.
The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources in Syria, said it was the first suicide attack in the city in 10 months.
Addressing a gathering of U.S. ambassadors in Washington, Vice President Mike Pence did not comment on the attack, saying only that the United States would ensure the defeat of IS, also known as ISIL.
“We’ll stay in the region and we’ll stay in the fight to ensure that ISIL does not rear its ugly head again,” he said.
The bombing comes as Syrian Kurds present in areas around Manbij rejected any Turkish presence in a planned “safe zone” to include Kurdish-held areas along the frontier.
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to attack Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies, who Ankara views as “terrorists” on its southern flank.
Washington, which has relied heavily on the Kurds in its campaign against IS in Syria, has sought guarantees for their safety since Trump’s pullout announcement.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara would set up a “security zone” in northern Syria following a suggestion by Trump.
But senior Syrian Kurdish political leader Aldar Khalil said any Turkish deployment in Kurdish-held areas was “unacceptable”.
He said the Kurds would accept the deployment of UN forces along a separation line between Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops.
But “other choices are unacceptable as they infringe on the sovereignty of Syria and the sovereignty of our autonomous region,” Khalil told AFP.
The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has been a key U.S. ally in the fight against ISIL.
They have taken heavy losses in a campaign now nearing its conclusion, with the jihadists confined to an ever-shrinking enclave of just 15 square kilometers (under six square miles).
But the jihadists have continued to claim attacks nationwide and abroad.
Ankara has welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal of some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, but the future of Kurdish fighters has poisoned relations between the NATO allies.
On Monday, Erdogan and Trump had a telephone conversation to ease tensions after the U.S. leader threatened to “devastate” Turkey’s economy if Ankara attacked Kurdish forces in Syria, and called for a “safe zone”.
No ‘outside interference’
Erdogan said he and Trump had a “quite positive” conversation in which they spoke of “a 20-mile (30 kilometers) security zone along the Syrian border… set up by us”.
The YPG-led forces fighting IS in a statement said they would provide “necessary support to set up the safe zone” – if it came with international guarantees to “prevent any outside interference”, in an apparent reference to Turkey.
The Turkish army has launched two major operations in Syria in recent years.
In the latest, Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies seized the northwestern enclave of Afrin from the Kurds last year.
Critics have accused Turkish troops and their proxies of military occupation and abuses in Syrian sovereign territory.
But while Ankara has spoken of a YPG-free “security zone” under its control, analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said it was not immediately clear what the U.S. president meant by a “safe zone”, or who he thought would patrol it.
Analysts were “waiting for a clarification from Washington to see what the president really meant”, he told AFP.
The U.S. planned withdrawal has sent the Kurds scrambling to seek a new ally in Damascus, which has long rejected Kurdish self-rule.
With military backing from Russia since 2015, Syria’s regime has advanced against jihadists and rebels, and now controls almost two-thirds of the country.
A northwestern enclave held by jihadists and pockets held by Turkish troops and their allies remain beyond its reach, along with the much larger Kurdish region.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Syrian government must take control of the north.
(Cover: An image grab taken from a video obtained by AFPTV shows US troops gathered at the scene of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, January 16, 2019. /VCG Photo)
“If the (withdrawal) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told local news station NTV, without elaborating on a timeline.
The warning comes after American officials attempted to condition a U.S. troop pullout on a guarantee of safety for its Kurdish partners and Turkish non-aggression — something Turkish President Recep Erdogan promptly smacked down on Tuesday. Now Ankara, which has amassed thousands of Turkish troops along its border with Syria, says it will act regardless of a U.S. delay.
“We are determined on the field and at the table,” Cavusoglu said. “We will decide on its timing and we will not receive permission from anyone.”
White House national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have spent the week in the Middle East trying to reassure allies of America’s commitment in the wake of President Donald Trump’s shock announcement to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria. Security officials and lawmakers have warned this would mean abandoning local partners on the ground and undermining U.S. credibility when it comes to alliances.
The White House and State Department did not respond to requests for comment on Cavusoglu’s statements at the time of publication.
Turkey’s government has long threatened to unilaterally attack the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the U.S.-supported militias controlling large swaths of northern Syria that spearheaded the local fight against the Islamic State. Ankara views the YPG as terrorists and a security threat on its southern border, stressing its ties to a separate Kurdish group that’s carried out a decades-long, violent insurgency against the Turkish state.
The two NATO allies continue to lock horns over the issue of the Kurds, which has proved a massive thorn in U.S.-Turkey relations since the Pentagon began arming and training the Kurds to battle IS in Syria in 2015.
Allies in the global anti-IS coalition and in Congress also voiced concern that the campaign against the extremist group was not finished. Trump, defending his decision, stressed that it’s now time for other countries to fill the U.S.’s role, and welcomed Erdogan’s offer to take on the fight against IS — an offer that many critics see as a cover for having free reign to kill YPG members in Syria. Experts also warn that if Turkey attacks the Kurds, they will be forced to abandon the anti-IS fight in order to defend themselves.
For those who have long studied the region, a guarantee of Turkish non-aggression toward the Kurds, as White House officials have suggested, was never going to be feasible.
“The U.S. (or Bolton) attitude is precisely that the YPG should be left alone. This is not a feasible condition, and indeed, its improbability is what makes it attractive to US officials looking to keep the U.S. in Syria,” said Faysal Itani, a Syria expert at the Atlantic Council.
For the Kurds themselves, the crisis may be existential.
“Kurds in Syria that I am constantly in contact with say they want to see action rather than statements because in their view threats from Turkey are very serious,” Mutlu Civiroglu, a Kurdish affairs analyst based in Washington D.C., told CNBC. They point to Turkey’s offensive in the northwestern Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin that began in January of last year and drove hundreds of thousands of Kurds to refugee camps.
“If Trump’s team allows Erdogan to move his forces into northeastern Syria, it would be like inviting the fox to guard the henhouse,” said Nick Heras, a Middle East security fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former research associate at the National Defense University. This, he said, would be “a policy that would invite massacres, not the stabilization of post-IS Syria.”
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Salih Muslim, the former co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), denied claims made by US President Donald Trump that Syrian Kurds have sold oil to Iran.
During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump said he was not happy that the Kurds are selling oil to Iran.
“I didn’t like the fact that [the Kurds] are selling the small oil that they have to Iran, and we asked them not to do it,” the US president stated.
It was not entirely clear whether Trump was referring to the Syrian Kurds or the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq.
Speaking to Kurdish journalist Mutlu Civiroglu, Muslim rejected the American leader’s claims and said there is only local use of oil by Kurds in Syria.
“I asked our people here in the administration, in the YPG [People’s Protection Units], and the others, and they said there are no sales of oil to any side outside of Syria,” the former PYD head said.
The Syrian Kurds have no borders with Iran to sell oil to them, Muslim added, “there is no way, everybody should know the reality.”
Muslim suggested Trump was referring to “other Kurds” because “Syrian Kurds have no relations with Iran.”
“We have no deal, nor sales of oil [with] them, not at all,” he said. “Maybe others are doing so, but that’s not our business.”
According to Çeleng Omer, a former university lecturer from Afrin with expertise on oil, while Iran produces four million barrels per day (bpd), Syria’s production before the war was 400,000 bpd, which equals 10 percent of Iranian oil production.
According to Omer, oil production in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) areas in northeastern Syria is only 50,000 barrels. He said this quantity is “consumed locally by refining it in primitive refineries,” adding that Trump may have “confused the Kurds in Syria, with those in Iraq.”
“There is no border between the Syrian Kurdish region with Iran, and the oil produced in their areas is not enough to satisfy local needs, and the war destroyed a large part of the oil fields” which need to be restored before being exported, Omer explained.
“The oil produced in SDF areas meets the needs of fuel in the domestic market only.”
Nicholas A. Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), said: “Trump’s statement could mean a couple of things.”
“One, he declassified hitherto classified info about the extent of YPG-Iranian relations in Syria. Or two, he mixed up talking points in his head from an earlier conversation with Turkey about Kurds in Iraq and Syria.”
Meanwhile, Alan Mohtadi, head of T&S Consulting Energy and Security, told Kurdistan 24 he is certain President Trump confused the Syrian Kurds with Kurds in Iraq.
Mohtadi explained that Syrian Kurdistan produces between 30-40,000 bpd, adding that almost all of the oil is used for local consumption.
“They would need to produce three to four times more, get a decent transport route (the border with the Kurdistan Region is tightly controlled), and transport it via trucks to Iran,” he said.
“This is not profitable and logistically almost impossible.”
The KRG announced in November that oil exports to Iran stopped after a new round of US sanctions were enforced.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany