U.S. IS IN BUSINESS WITH SYRIA’S ASSAD—WHETHER DONALD TRUMP LIKES IT OR NOT

BY TOM O’CONNOR

us, oil, business, syria, trump, assad
Syrian government forces stand at the entrance of the Rasafa oil pumping station after taking it from ISIS, on July 9, 2017. The site is situated southwest of the city of Raqqa, where ISIS would be driven out by the Syrian Democratic Forces months later.GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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.

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Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. soldiers (left) gather at the Al-Tanak oil field as they prepare to relaunch a military campaign against ISIS near Al-Bukamal, which is under government control, along with Deir Ezzor city, on May 1, 2018. The United States’ primary allies in Syria have supplied oil to Damascus, despite the government being sanctioned by Washington.DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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.

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Syrian government forces stand at the entrance of the Rasafa oil pumping station after taking it from ISIS, on July 9, 2017. The site is situated southwest of the city of Raqqa, where ISIS would be driven out by the Syrian Democratic Forces months later.GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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.

https://www.newsweek.com/us-oil-business-syria-trump-assad-1325018

 

 

 

Svjedok propasti ISIL-a: Na njihovim licima nisam vidio kajanje

 

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.

https://ba.voanews.com/a/svjedok-propasti-isil-a-na-njihovim-licima-nisam-vidio-kajanje/4889063.html

 

ISIS’s ‘caliphate’ was crushed. Now Syria’s Kurd-led alliance faces bigger battles

Reporting from shattered Syria in the dying days of the caliphate, Jared Szuba talks to Kurds and Arabs about the fight for their shared future

SDF fighters in Baghuz, SyriaSDF fighters in Baghuz, Syria in March 2019. Image: Jared Szuba for The Defense Post

In the last days of Islamic State’s professed caliphate, under the cover of thunder and heavy rain, Coalition aircraft bombed an ammunition depot south of the Syrian village of Baghuz.

The detonation touched off a cluster of fires in the cult’s densely-inhabited encampment.

The next morning, more than one thousand of the remaining believers gathered at the foot of Mount Baghuz to surrender to the alliance of Syrian militias that surrounded them on three fronts. To their south lay the Euphrates riverbank, within range of the Syrian Arab Army across the water.

For weeks their tents had been raked with automatic fire, their zealous mujahideen picked off by the polished snipers of the predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Each night, their dugouts and shelters were slammed from all sides with American and French 155mm artillery and 120mm SDF mortars.

“Strike and wait, strike and wait,” a stocky Syrian Democratic Forces conscript told me at the base of the cliff. The progress was grueling. “We’re advancing, but can’t with the civilians in front,” he said.

Every few days the jihadists called for an evacuation, and the main assault halted. But sniper operations continued, cadre said, to prevent them from exploiting the quasi-ceasefire.

“They send the civilians out then they stay. We keep telling them, ‘Whoever doesn’t surrender, dies.’”

Behind him, a procession of black veils shuffled up the path, contrasting with the sandy bluff illuminated by the setting sun. They clung to dirty children, some crying.

A lanky teenager with a Kalashnikov gestured to the bags born by one of the black forms. Without hesitation, she jettisoned the luggage down the cliff.

“That’s the last group!” someone shouted in Arabic. A gang of fighters shouldered their rifles and jumped off sandbags, skidding and jogging down the gravel path towards the front. One told me to leave the area. “It’s going to begin again any minute.”

I legged it back to the van and climbed in. Half a football field ahead, two American-made Humvees bearing the yellow flag of the SDF squatted before of a one-story concrete home.

On the roof, silhouetted against the sun through palm fronds, two fighters extended the bipod of a PKM with casual proficiency. As we pulled away, the crackle of small arms fire broke out, then grew into a steady rhythm. A Dushka chugged away somewhere behind.

“Their resistance is softening,” said Haval Ahmed, my 20-year old escort.

“It’ll probably end within days.”

People surrender to the SDF in ISIS-held Baghuz, SyriaA YPJ fighter watches as people surrender to SDF colleagues in ISIS-held Baghuz, Syria in March 2019. Image: Jared Szuba for The Defense Post

The ground war against Islamic State has been declared finished. Coalition bombs are still pounding the last stragglers holed up under the south face of the cliff.

At a safe house a few kilometers north of the front, veteran SDF fighters told me Baghuz had been the most taxing fight of their war against ISIS.

“Honestly when we came here, we expected a big battle. But not these enormous numbers,” Mervan Qamishlo of the SDF’s Military Media Command said.

As we spoke, the ostensible caliphate that had once stretched nearly from Aleppo to Baghdad was being measured in square meters.

Already synonymous with savagery, the death cult nearly outdid itself in its last stand. Women and children returned fire on the SDF, an officer at the front said, and at least one surrendered mujahid said their leaders were withholding food from those who refused to fight.

The day after I arrived, a delegation of black-veiled suicide bombers mingled with the evacuees only to detonate among their own, wounding a handful of SDF guards.

Veteran jihadists from Anbar, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Turkey commanded the last of the believers, Mervan Qamishlo told me.

The hardened cadre had slipped past the Iraqi Army at Mosul and the YPG in Manbij, fled Raqqa and pulled back across the desert plain of Deir Ezzor, Hajin, and Sousa under catastrophic bombardment.

But if Daesh’s “elite” had concentrated in Baghuz, the same was true for their adversaries.

With every city the fanatics fled over the past four-and-a-half years, they surrendered thousands of their able-bodied survivors to a confederation of Western-backed militias that promised revenge, and a place in a new Syria.

SDF continue ISIS clearing operations inside Baghuz, SyriaSDF continues ISIS clearing operations inside Baghuz, Syria on March 20, 2019. Image: Mutlu Civiroglu/@mutludc/Twitter

Detachments from the YPG, its all-female counterpart the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), and the Syriac, Manbij, and Deir Ezzor Military Councils, as well as former Free Syrian Army factions such as the Liwa al-Shamal al-Dimokrati (Northern Democratic Brigade) and Jaysh al-Thuwar (Army of Revolutionaries), congregated for the final thrust of the war. (That SDF representatives in Baghuz could not account for all units participating signalled both the unity and urgency of their cause.)

Salih, a 20-year-old self-professed forward observer from Hasakah, had joined the YPG three years earlier “to fight terrorism.” We spoke on the roof of the house, overlooking miles of ruins that stretched from the Euphrates to the Iraq border.

After Baghuz, he said, he wanted “to go home.”

“We’ve finished the end of the road,” Salih, an Arab who previously had been affiliated with a Sunni rebel group, said. He stared over the sunlit battlefield with a sharp, empty gaze.

“This is the end of Daesh … We’ve liberated ourselves from terrorism inshahallah,” he said”We want a homeland so we can just live in security.”

For others, the fight was far from over.

Inside the house, a group of tired recruits just back from the front huddled on the floor scooping heaps hot rice and chicken from styrofoam trays.

I asked what they expected next after Baghuz. They hesitated, keeping their eyes on the food. A burly fighter in his late twenties took the opportunity to speak for them.

“We’ve had enough of war,” he said. He gave his name as Salaheddin.

A five-year YPG veteran who fought at al-Hol, al-Shaddadi, Manbij, Raqqa, and other battles – more than he could now recall – Salaheddin was on his third tour of the Deir Ezzor campaign.

“We’d love to rest,” he said, before adding, “we have much work ahead. Daesh isn’t finished. There are a lot of sleeper cells.”

“After we finish with the sleeper cells,” he paused, then gave a sly grin. “I’m not able to talk about that.”

YPG fighters on Mount Baghuz, SyriaYPG fighters YPG on Mount Baghuz overlooking the evacuation of ISIS civilians. Image: Jared Szuba for The Defense Post

Threat of Turkish invasion

The SDF declared Saturday it has taken a staggering 32,000 casualties in the conflict. If accurate, the losses are more than half the Pentagon’s estimate of its current forces. 11,000, including civilian volunteers who took up arms in Kobane and Efrin, are believed to have died.

The half-decade war against the Islamist genocidaires will one day be seen as the easy part, northern Syrian officials told The Defense Post.

To the north of their nascent territory, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is openly vowing a military assault to destroy the YPG and to purge its political arm, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), from local governance and re-settle hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees into Kurdish-majority areas in the north.

YPG officials, some known to be former members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have long sought to distance the Syrian project from the insurgent group, but Turkey isn’t buying it.

The Washington establishment may have called Erdogan’s bluff on an invasion for now, but northern Syrian officials are taking the threats very seriously. In 2017, Turkey launched an incursion into Efrin that displaced hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Kurds, in an act yet to be labeled by any international body as an ethnic cleansing.

YPG graffitiYPG graffiti in eastern Syria in March 2019. Image: Jared Szuba for The Defense Post

To the south, Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub last week reiterated his government’s demands for the north’s total capitulation and reintegration into the pre-war Baathist system, under which Kurds were denied citizenship for decades.

A regime assault would “only lead to more losses, destruction and difficulties for the Syrian people,” the SDF responded.

The Kremlin, having offered to mediate a favorable outcome for the north, now say they can do little to sway Assad, northern Syrian officials say.

Within their current borders, the conflict has dumped tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners and their families into under-prepared internment camps. Northern Syrian authorities are now calling for U.N.-led and financed international tribunal to be held in Rojava (the Kurdish name for majority-Kurdish lands in northern Syria), their previous requests for the repatriation of foreign fighters mostly ignored.

Without formal international recognition, heavy artillery, armor or aircraft, the fledgling province’s fate may be largely out of its leaders’ hands for now.

Democratic project in northern Syria

In the meantime, northern Syrian authorities are managing matters within their control.

“We have defeated ISIS militarily. Now, we must do so ideologically,” said SDF media chief Mustafa Bali.

The north’s security institutions are set to be reorganized to focus on internal security operations. Officials are tight-lipped about details, but both the SDF and Asayish, or police forces, have already received new training programs focusing on hunting ISIS sleeper cells and dealing with explosives.

The U.S. Defense Department has requested $300 million in the 2020 budget for “vetted Syrian opposition” partners, including increased outfitting of northern Syria’s internal security forces and $250 million to support “border security requirements” of partner forces.

“Fighting at the front is different than the internal battle,” Aldar Xelil, senior TEV-DEM foreign affairs official, explained to me in Qamishli.

“The sleeper cells are considered the hardest phase. Harder than the phase we are undertaking now,” Mervan told me in Baghuz, as gunfire rattled in the distance.

Shouldering the weight will be the Asayish and internal intelligence services. But the vanguard against whatever remains of ISIS or its ideology will be the population of northern Syria itself, officials say.

People surrender in ISIS-held BaghuzPeople leave their belongings behind as they surrender from ISIS-held territory to SDF fighters in Baghuz, Syria in March 2019. Image: Jared Szuba for The Defense Post

There is a perception among many northern Syrians that segments of region’s Sunni Arab population are now more religiously conservative after living years under Islamic State, so the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria has instituted an ambitious education campaign to break down what they see is a toxic mixture of Sunni Arab chauvinism and Assadist authoritarianism.

“For 50 years this region was indoctrinated with the racism of Arab nationalism under the Baath party,” Bali said. Sectarianism, officials say, is ingrained in the Syrian constitution, legal code, and culture.

“This generation must learn and be raised [knowing] there are others such as Kurds, others such as Syriacs, others such as Christians, and it’s their right to live like you,” Bali said.

“Hussein and Mu’awiya,” early Islamic figures associated with the roots of the Sunni-Shia split, “are gone,” Bali said. “They’re dead. We need to learn how to live together.”

They will need to proceed cautiously.

The PYD’s social policies have already incurred protest in some majority-Arab areas, such as Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. Their enforcement of mandatory conscription for men and moves against political opponents have earned them some detractors among the Kurdish population.

“Every new project is met with violent reaction,” Bali told me. Nonetheless, officials say they are confident Syria’s disparate sects will embrace their stated goal of secular democratic confederalism – and a society in which women wield significant authority – once properly exposed to it.

“Society needs to breathe the oxygen of life,” Bali said. “The educational system can rescue future generations from war, from sectarian war.”

“We want to remove the barriers between nationalisms and religions,” Xelil said.

“We’re seeing a lot of progress … but we still need much time.”

They may not have it.

‘Multiple parties, not multiple armies’

The Pentagon’s reassuring gestures to the SDF belie the deeper crisis: that American diplomats have not yet found a force sufficient to replace the more than 2,000 U.S. troops maintaining stability in the north.

Nor have they found an appropriate force to man the Turkish border. Nor have they made northern Syrian officials any promises.

A residual presence of a few hundred American troops is not remotely adequate to accomplish either, former U.S. defense and national security officials say.

Syria-Turkey borderThe Syria-Turkey border in March 2019. Image: Jared Szuba for The Defense Post

Northern Syrian officials have called for an international force for border protection against Turkey, and continue to receive sympathetic reassurances from the French and British.

But the Europeans say they cannot commit to a mission not led by a sizeable U.S. force. Even if American officials could wheedle Trump up to leaving, say, 1,000 residual troops, they still appear not to have an exit strategy to offer their western allies.

James Jeffrey, Washington’s pointman on the crisis, downplayed the dilemma last Friday.

“We’re not really looking to a coalition being peacekeepers or anything like that … We’re asking coalition personnel to continue to contribute and to up their D-ISIS operations, and we’re getting a pretty good response initially,” Jeffrey said.

James JeffreyUS Ambassador James F. Jeffrey swears in as Special Representative for Syria Engagement, at the US Department of State on August 17, 2018. Image: US State Dept/Ron Przysucha

Meanwhile, Jeffrey’s team is seeking local Syrian forces to guard the border in order to “meet everybody’s needs.”

So far that has proven elusive. Turkey rejects any YPG presence on the border, a position Jeffrey endorsed last week. “We don’t want another Qandil in Syria,” Jeffrey said, referring to the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq.

“We need defense against Turkey, not the other way around,” a northern Syrian source with knowledge of the discussions said.

Publicly, officials from the SDF’s political arm, the Syrian Democratic Council, say they believe Jeffrey’s team is working on their behalf, and that they can understand the U.S.’s strategic concerns as Turkey flirts with Moscow.

Privately, there are frustrations. Jeffrey is perceived as ingratiating to an erratic and duplicitous supposed NATO ally using the YPG issue as a political steam-valve.

Indeed the American team appears to be waiting out Turkey’s regional elections, set for March 31, to plan the next move.

The friction may well be mutual. Northern Syrian officials reject the veteran diplomat’s proposals to bring in at least two exiled Syrian militia forces, the Rojava Peshmerga and the Syrian Elite Forces (the latter affiliated with Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Jarba), to secure the Turkish border.

“Not possible,” Xelil told me. “First of all, Jarba doesn’t have the forces. Secondly, to those who liberated this region and administrate it, there’s no place for Jarba in this whole project. Where did this come from? It’s not possible.”

The Elite Forces’ brief cooperation with and integration into the SDF in 2016 and 2017 was seen as a political win for the Kurdish-led administration, but they fell out during the battle of Raqqa in 2017.

The Rojava Peshmerga is aligned with the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria, a political rival of the PYD closely linked to its namesake in Iraq.

“The [Rojava] Peshmerga,” Xelil said, “is a red line.” He accuses the force of being trained and funded by Turkey. “How can we trust them?”

Importing rival forces with unclear allegiances will only complicate matters, northern Syrian officials said, at a time when the SDF is striving to unify its own various components.

“Democracy means multiple parties, not multiple armies,” the source said.

“We don’t see this as in the best interest of North and East Syria’s security,” the source said, speaking to The Defense Post on the condition of anonymity.

The American team is set to discuss its “initial concept,” whatever that may be, with Turkish officials any day now.

“After this is agreed upon, then we can discuss the details,” Xelil said.

In the meantime, they have instructed northern Syrian officials not to engage with the Assad regime, a difficult seat to take.

Rebuilding Syria

Even if the U.S. can cut a deal for additional forces, the Autonomous Administration must still confront near-Sisyphean tasks.

Much of Syria’s north lies in ruins from eight years of war, and there is no coherent plan to rebuild.

Trump unilaterally cancelled $230 million set aside for the endeavor last year. The president wants the rest of the Coalition to foot the bill, and U.S. officials say the $230 million has been replaced by pledges from Gulf nations. But the city of Raqqa, which was largely destroyed by Coalition airstrikes, alone needs some $5 billion, the city’s mayor said last autumn.

Apartment buildings near February 23 Street, Raqqa, SyriaApartment buildings near February 23 Street, Raqqa, Syria, July 25, 2018. Image: Gernas Maao/The Defense Post

Incidentally, the Saudis asked the U.S. government if Trump’s December withdrawal announcement meant they were off the financial hook (Trump’s subsequent tweet made it clear they were not).

The northern administration’s domestic legitimacy rests heavily on its ability to fight ISIS. With the caliphate gone, people will be looking for a return to normalcy.

“The SDF bring great security but it can still be hard to get basic goods. The situation is much better now than before, but we need help,” said Hassan, a shopkeeper in Tal Abyad.

Civilians who spoke to The Defense Post in Hasakah, Manbij, and other areas of northern Syria echoed similar sentiments. Whatever their opinions of the SDF, they feared the American withdrawal.

“We’re still living in a state of war,” Xelil said. “We need a number of services to be rebuilt. We’re deficient in municipal services, electricity, food distribution, healthcare. Syria in general is crushed.”

“The services in some other areas may be better, but our ambition is stronger,” Xelil said.

SDC officials have elicited the technical support of the Syrian regime in limited projects, but full reconstruction depends on a political settlement to the civil war.

And the Americans appear unwilling to offer that, likely in deference to Ankara’s long-standing opposition to the SDC’s participation in the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva.

“We need doors open for our participation in political operations,” a source with knowledge of the discussions told The Defense Post, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Lack of reconstruction is a serious long-term security threat, former U.S. officials said.

Raqqa Internal Security ForceA Raqqa Internal Security Force member guards an entrance to a courtyard in Raqqa, Syria, February 19, 2018. Image: US Army/Sgt. Travis Jones

In Deir Ezzor, especially, tribal grievances linger from the ISIS war and the destruction of the local oil economy by Coalition bombing.

“There is animosity towards the Kurds in some Arab areas for what is perceived as heavy-handed ​governance or the inequitable sharing of power and resources,” said Alexander Bick, who was Syria director in Barack Obama’s National Security Council.

“That’s a fairly combustible situation. Certainly something the Defense Department is well aware of, and has tried to address by pushing the SDF to be more inclusive, but there aren’t perfect solutions to it – particularly in the absence of resources, which this administration has decided not to put in.”

US support for the YPG

In retrospect, former U.S. officials who spoke to The Defense Post say roots of today’s crisis were sown from the beginning.

On the one hand, aligning with the YPG’s tactical goals has borne perhaps the most successful U.S. Special Forces train-and-assist mission to date.

But American officials ignored the gap between their and the YPG’s strategic goals for years, an oversight that now threatens to leave one of the world’s most vulnerable populations in what appears to be an intractable geostrategic crisis.

YPJ fighter in RaqqaA YPJ fighter in Raqqa, Syria, October 2017. Image: YPJ/Twitter

Still, officials say, the decision to arm and support the YPG was not made lightly.

“They were problematic from a number of different angles,” a former official said, not simply for their roots in the PKK, which Turkey and its western allies have designated a terrorist organization.

For the Americans, however, the alternative was to accept a Turkish proposal to utilize Arab rebels “without even being shown evidence that these groups existed in sufficient numbers, organization, training to actually carry that out.”

The YPG was undoubtedly the most adept ground force available in northern Syria. And, two former officials said, its secular ideology proved an appealing antidote to the region’s toxic sectarianism.

“There are 20 million Sunni Arabs between Baghdad and Damascus who in important respects lack meaningful political representation in either country,” Bick said.

“So as long as this persists, we can and should expect radicalism to reemerge down the road.”

It was American planners who pushed a reluctant YPG to capture vast Arab-majority territories in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.

“I think everybody [in Washington] recognized at the time that you didn’t want to be trying to govern large swaths of territory with Kurdish forces that would be perceived as outsiders,” Bick explained.

“We didn’t want a situation, strategically, where we’d be relying … exclusively on the Kurds.”

Hence the “snowball” method: As the YPG took territory, it absorbed local factions into a “professional coalition” – the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The challenge for the Obama administration was how to leverage the YPG’s military and organizational abilities against ISIS while ensuring that the burgeoning alliance was constituted in a way that would minimize intercommunal tensions after the war.

“We worried about all of those issues,” Bick said.

“The question is not was the choice perfect, but what were the other choices?”

“Did we think about it? Yes. Did we come up with a satisfactory answer to it? No,” he said.

“Did we think that getting ISIS out was a sufficiently important priority for the United States that we would, to some extent, have to fly the plane as we built it? Yes.”

The consequences of that decision have come home to roost. Turkey’s position on the YPG shifted fiercely after the U.S. in 2016 pushed the group to capture from ISIS the majority-Arab city of Manbij, near the Turkish border.

“It’s probably the most complex security situation, fighting situation I’ve seen in over four decades of dealing with – with fights,” then Defense Secretary James Mattis said in February 2018 when asked about Turkey’s position on Manbij.

“And it is one where I believe we are finding common ground and there are areas of uncommon ground where sometimes war just gives you bad alternatives to choose from.”

US and Turkey conduct joint patrol near Manbij, SyriaUS and Turkish forces conduct a convoy during a joint combined patrol near Manbij, Syria, November 8, 2018. image: US Army/Spc. Zoe Garbarino

The U.S. did not have a coherent Syria policy until at least early 2018 – a year into Trump’s presidency – a former official with knowledge of the matter said.

“As the terrain changed, they moved … You end up at a place based on one decision, one decision, one more,” the official told The Defense Post on the condition of anonymity.

“There were people saying, ‘We can stop this anytime we want.’ No, you can’t,” the former official said. “If you go in here and you start doing this, you own this problem.”

The Trump administration finally pronounced a Syria plan to Congress in January 2018, after the SDF had largely captured the country’s north.

American troops would continue to occupy the country’s resource-rich territories while the Treasury Department would economically isolate the Syrian regime to bring Assad to the Geneva negotiating table, David Satterfield, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told a baffled senators in a chaotic hearing.

Just five weeks later, Trump began suggesting it was about time to pull the plug. In his December phone call with Erdogan, he tanked the whole policy.

“No prom queen aspires to be a crack whore. But some end up there through incremental bad decision-making,” the former official said.

Efrîn bernadin

With or without the Americans, the war is not over for the SDF.

Back in Baghuz, I caught one of Salaheddin’s young recruits in the stairwell of the safe house and asked what comes next for him after this battle.

He responded excitedly, “I’ll go to Efrin.”

I felt a bolt of sympathy for the kid. “You’re from Efrin?” He looked no older than 19.

He glanced over my shoulder, smile intact. “No, I’m from the graveyard of ISIS.” Kobane.

Bombs hit Efrin, SyriaA plume of smoke rises near a village after bombs were dropped by aircraft as Turkey’s military began Operation Olive Branch against the Kurd-controlled Efrin region in Syria, January 20, 2018. Image: trthaber/Twitter

“We’ll go wherever the revolution is needed,” said a European YPJ volunteer, who gave her name as Cude, later that afternoon on the roof.

“We will take back Efrin, we will keep our liberated area and when we are finished with Rojava, we will liberate all the other oppressed areas,” she proudly told me.

No decision to widen operations against Turkey-backed Islamist rebels in Efrin has yet been made, Xelil emphasized. But covert operations and military preparations, he said, are “always being made.”

The SDF declared in February that, though it prefers dialogue with Turkey, it intends to retake Efrin and facilitate the return of its population in the post-ISIS stage.

Efrin is surrounded, Xelil said, and Russian and Syrian regime troops have been interdicting attempted YPG deployments, so any future operations depend in part on those actors.

“I think the end of Baghuz and military victory over ISIS will greatly ease matters regarding Efrin,” Xelil said.

The Americans reportedly censured the YPG for its insurgency tactics there in late 2018.

How the YPG’s ambitions may impact U.S. efforts to make nice between their partner force and NATO ally to the north was of little concern, Xelil said.

Baghuz, SyriaBaghuz, Syria after it was deserted by thousands of ISIS fighters and their families in March 2019. Image: Jared Szuba for The Defense Post

Northern Syrian leaders expressed profound gratitude for the support of the Americans, but Xelil said Efrin was their decision to make.

“If [the Americans] get involved, we’ll say why didn’t you get involved when Turkey attacked us?”

In Baghuz, SDF fighters were of the same mind. “If America leaves, nothing changes. We will resist,” Cude said. It was a uniform refrain.

“No one asked [the Americans] to come, no one will ask them to stay,” she said, adding, “I don’t know who to trust less, Trump or Erdogan or Putin.”

Asked if she was prepared to fight the Turkish Army or the Syrian regime, she hesitated. “I don’t know. If it’s necessary? Yeah.”

She was hopeful that a deal with Damascus would secure the north’s autonomy.

“You cannot make war all the time. You must make compromises sometimes,” she said.

Without the Americans, “it’s going to be harder, [but] we will fight until the end.”

“If we lose, we will lose fighting. There can be no surrender.”

SDF fighters in eastern SyriaSDF fighters near Baghuz, Syria in March 2019. Image: Jared Szuba for The Defense Post

Around midnight, back at al-Omar oilfield, some 50 miles north across the desert from Baghuz, I hunched over the embers of a dying campfire.

Two SDF fighters emerged from the darkness and sat next to me. One placed a tin pot on the coals to boil coffee, and offered me some.

The pair chatted in Kurdish for a while. Then one stood up from his chair, walked to a nearby pickup truck, and plugged his smartphone into the audio system.

A haunting Kurdish song played, one I had heard before on the road to Deir Ezzor. I asked what the words meant.

He was silent for nearly a minute, then said in Arabic, “Bombing of villages in Qandil. Turkey, about 15 years ago,” he said.

“For no reason,” he added.

We sat for several minutes in silence. One fighter rose, said goodnight, and walked away.

After some time I asked the other if he thought the Americans would stay. ”They’ll stay. They reversed the decision,” he said.

“But if you go to Efrin, won’t that make the Americans’ diplomatic efforts harder?”

He let out a long drag of his cigarette with a sigh. “God, I don’t know.” He extended his legs and planted the heels of his combat boots at the edge of the fire.

The song ended, and the officer tossed back the last of his coffee. He stood up, and took his phone from the truck.

“Sleep well. Hope to see you again.”

“Inshahallah,” I answered.

He took several paces towards the barracks then stopped. “Inshahallah after Efrin.”

American artillery thudded flatly in the distance.

JARED SZUBA

ISIS’s ‘caliphate’ was crushed. Now Syria’s Kurd-led alliance faces bigger battles

Özgürlüğe yakışıklı girmek istedim

DAİŞ’in köle olarak alıkoyduğu Êzîdî çocukları bir bir kurtarılıp ailelerine teslim ediliyor. Ednan, Kînan, Walîd kurtarılan çocuklardan sadece üçü. Kînan, özgürlüğe takım elbise ve kravatla adım atarken, Ednan QSD’nin DAİŞ’ten kurtardığı annesiyle buluşacağı günü iple çekiyor.

Babası Şengal Katliamı’nda katledilen Kînan, annesi ile birlikte DAİŞ çetelerince köle olarak kaçırıldı. Ancak annesi bir patlamada yaşamını yitirdi. Ebû Saed isimli DAİŞ çetesinin İdlib’e kadar kaçırıp 30 bin dolar karşılığı amcasına teslim ettiği Kînan, gazetecilerin karşısına takım elbise ve kravatla çıkıyor ve ekliyor: “Özgürlüğümün ilk günlerinde yakışıklı görünmek istedim.”

DAİŞ çetelerinin kıstırıldığı son toprak parçası Baxoz’da, 3 Ağustos 2014’teki Şengal Katliamı tekrar gündeme getiren gelişmeler yaşanıyor. Kaçırılan Êzîdî kadınlar ve köleleştirilen çocukların trajik öyküleri çıkıyor karşımıza.

Ednan, Kînan, Walîd… Üç çocuğun da babası katledilmiş ve anneleriyle kaçırılmış. Kînan ve Walîd’in anneleri ise DAİŞ’in kontrolündeki bölgelerde yaşanan patlamalarda hayatını kaybetmiş.

Ednan onlara göre biraz daha şanslı, bir süre önce annesi de QSD savaşçıları tarafından özgürleştirilmiş ve şimdi bir birlerine kavuşacakları anı sabırsızlıkla bekliyorlar.

Ednan annesine kavuşuyor

Gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu önceki gün Twitter hesabından DAİŞ tarafından kaçırılan ve QSD savaşçılarınca kurtarılan Êzîdî bir çocuğun görüntülerini paylaşarak, söz çocuğun ailesine bir an önce kavuşmasını umduğunu söyledi.

Aynı gün akşam saatlerinde Êzîdîlere ait Ezidipress internet sitesi DAİŞ’in elinden kurtarılan çocuğun annesine kavuştuğunu duyurdu.

Çiviroğlu paylaştığı görüntüde çocuğun ismini sorması üzerine, “Benim adım Ednan” diyor. Ezidipress yetkilileri de çocuğun annesine ulaşarak oğlunun kurtarıldığının haberini veriyor. Haberi duyan anne mutluluk gözyaşları döküyor. Ezidipress Ednan’ın annesinin, QSD savaşçıları ile Mutlu Çiviroğlu’na teşekkür ettiğine de yer verdi.

DAİŞ çeteleri 3 Ağustos 2014 Şengal’de Êzîdî Kürtlere yönelik gerçekleştirdikleri soykırım saldırısında Ednan’ın babasını katletti. Çeteler, annesi ve kendisini de köle olarak götürdü. Annesinin de bir süre önce DAİŞ’ten kurtarıldığı belirtiliyor.

DAİŞ’in köle olarak kaçırdığı Êzîdî çocuğu Kînan, “Çok ölü gördüm, katledilen çok insan gördüm” diyor.

Kînan ömrünün tam yarısını DAİŞ’in zorbalığının altında geçirmiş. Bir süre önce QSD savaşçılarınca kurtarılmış. Fransız radyo kanalı France İnfo’nun haberine göre, Ebû Sead isimli DAİŞ çetesi sivillerin arasında küçük Kînan’i de yanına alarak Baxoz’dan kaçarak İdlib’e gitmiş.  Şengal Katliamı’nda Kînan’ın babası da katledilenler arasında. DAİŞ’in yanında yaşadığı kabusu ise Kînan, “Ben çok ölü gördüm, DAİŞ’lilerin eliyle katledilen insanlar… Bizi çok dövüyorlardı. Babamı haksız yere öldürdüler” şeklinde bir çırpıda özetliyor.

Şık bir şekilde radyo muhabirleriyle görüşmesi, dikkat çekmiş.

Bir iki boy büyük de olsa takım elbise giymiş ve kravat takmış. Şık giyinmeyi de “Özgürlüğümün ilk günlerinde yakışıklı görünmek istedim” sözleriyle ifade ediyor.

Büyük ablasını DAİŞ’liler tarafından satılmış. Annesi ise Baxoz’da yaşanan bir patlamada yaşamanı yitirmiş. Küçük Kînan annesinin ölümünden sonra Ebû Saed’in kendisini, hiç bir sebep yokken de dövmeye başladığını söylüyor.

DAİŞ çeteleri Kürtçeyi yasakladıkları için Kînan da bir çok Êzîdî çocuğu gibi 5 yıl içerisinde ana dilini tamamen unutmuş.

Baxoz, QSD savaşçılarınca kuşatmaya alındığı süreçte Ebû Saed İd lib’e kaçmaya karar vermiş. Kînan’ın amcası Ebû Saed’e ulaşarak Kînan’i almaya çalışmış. Ebû Saed amcasından aldığı 30 bin dolar karşılığı Kînan’ı bırakıyor, O da 5 gün sonra Güney Kürdistan’daki amcasına ulaşıyor.

Walid de kurtarıldı

France İnfo muhaberleri göre Kînan ve amcası ile görüşürken, amcasının telefonuna bir mesaj ile fotoğraf düşüyor. QSD savaşçıları 9 yaşında bir çocuğu kurtarmış. Adı Walid ancak DAİŞ çeteleri ona Ebdul Haman ismini vermiş.

Onun da babası DAİŞ çetelerince katledilmiş ve onun da annesi Kînan’ın annesi gibi bir patlamada ölmüş. Şimdi Walid de kurtarılan ve annesine kavuşma anını iple çeken Ednan gibi emin ellerde ve özgür…   

DÊRAZOR/PARİS


Baxoz’da 6’sı çocuk 8 Êzîdî kurtarıldı

Demokratik Suriye Güçleri (QSD), DAİŞ çetelerine karşı final savaşının yürütüldüğü Baxoz’da 6’sı çocuk olmak üzere 8 Êzîdî’yi daha kurtardı. Alınan bilgilere göre, QSD savaşçıları Baxoz’daki operasyon sırasında 8 Êzîdî’yi daha kurtararak güvenli alanlara ulaştırdı. Kurtarılanlar 6 çocuk ve 2 kadından oluşuyor. Operasyonda kurtarılan kadınların, T. S. ve E. M. olduğu öğrenilirken, çocukların isimleri ise şöyle: Eymen Xelil Heci, Dilbirîn Celer, Xeyri Şeref, Musa Hadi, Ayşe, İbrahim.

ANF/BAXOZ

 

Özgürlüğe yakışıklı girmek istedim

İnsanlığın güvenliği için siyasi çözümde olmalıyız

ABD Başkanı Donald Trump’ın Suriye’den asker çekme kararının adından Kürtlerle ilişkiler ve Türk devletinin işgal saldırısı yönündeki tehditleri halen tartışma olurken, Suriye Demokratik Meclisi (MSD) Yürütme Konseyi Eşbaşkanı İlham Ehmed’in Washington’daki temasları da sürüyor.

10 günden fazla bir zamandır ABD’li yetkililer, Kongre ve Senato üyeleriyle görüşen Ehmed, önceki gün katıldığı panelde  Türkiye’nin Kuzey Suriye’de tümüyle teröre yöneldiğini, kendilerinin ise insanlığın güvenliğini sağladığını söyledi.

Amerika-Rojava Demokrasi Merkezi’nin (American Rojava Center for Democracy‏) organizesiyle Washington’da ‘DAİŞ’ten sonra Kuzey Suriye’de yol ayrımı adlı bir panel düzenlendi. Gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu’nun moderatörlüğünü yaptığı panele  Ehmed’in yanı sıra Colombia Üniversitesi’nden Prof. David L. Phillips, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) analisti Nocholas A. Heras ve ‘Social Unrest and American Military Bases in Turkey and Germany since 1945- 1945’ten bu yana Toplumsal İstikrarsızlık ve ABD’nin Almanya ve Türkiye’deki Üsleri’ kurumundan Amy Austin Holmes, konuşmacı olarak katıldı.

İlk sözü alan Ehmed “Suriye’de bir kriz var ve bu kriz daha da derinleşti. Biz merkezi olmayan bir Suriye için yeni bir proje sunuyoruz. Bu projenin tüm ülkede hayata geçmesini istiyoruz” dedi.

‘Siyasi çözümde yerimizi almalıyız’

Türk devletinin Suriye’ye yönelik saldırıları hakkında da MSD Eşbaşkanı İlham Ehmed şunları belirtti: “Türk devleti Suriye’de kötü bir rol oynadı. Efrîn’de katliam yaptı. Efrîn halkının çoğu saldırılar karşısında göç etmek zorunda kaldı. Efrîn’e yerleştirdikleri çete ve ailelerle kentin demografik yapısını değiştirdi. Halkın malını çaldılar, kadınlara tecavüz ettiler. Türk devletinin bu yaptığı terörizmdir. Bugün bizim istediğimiz bölgemizin güvenliği ve istikrarının korunmasıdır. DAİŞ’e karşı biz dünyanın güvenliğini sağladık. Kendimizi insanlığın güvenliği için sorumlu görüyoruz. Koruduğumuz ülkelerin desteğine ihtiyacımız var. Siyasi projemizin geliştirilmesi için desteğe ihtiyacımız var. Siyasi çözümde biz de yerimizi almalıyız. Cenevre görüşmelerine katılımımızın engellenmesi, krizin daha da büyümesi ve savaşın daha da derinleştirilmesi anlamına geliyor.”

Sadece DAİŞ’i QSD yenebilir

Nicholas A. Heras de panelde yaptığı konuşmada “Burada söz konusu olan halkın ihtiyaçlarına cevap olmaya çalışan bir hareket. Demokratik toplum idaali ile hareket ediyor. QSD dışında hiç bir güç bölgeyi DAİŞ’e karşı koruyamaz. QSD’nin dışında DAİŞ’nin tekrar hortlamasını hiç bir güç engelleyemez” dedi.

Amy Austin Holmes de DAİŞ’nin tamamen ortadan kaldırılmasının önemine değindi ve şu ifadeyi kullandı: “DAİŞ’nin tamamen ortadan kaldırılması ancak İslam adına yapılan şiddet iddolojisinin ortadan kaldırılmasıyla mümkündür.”

Öte yandan HDP’nin ABD Temsilcisi Giran Özcan önceki akşam telefonla Medya TV’de Heval Aslan’ın sorularını yanıtladı.

Özcan Ehmed’in temasları ve ABD’deki tartışmalar hakkında şunları söyledi: “İlham Ehmed, temasları kapsamında hem yetkililer, hem de Kongre ve Senato üyeleriyle görüştü. Trump ile kısa bir görüşmesi oldu. Trump’ın Suriye’den asker çekme kararına Kongre ve Sanato üyeleri karşı çıkmıştı. Bu konuda şu anda bir yasa tasarısı var. Kürtlerin askeri olarak korunmasını içeren bir yasa tasarısı sunuldu. İlham Ehmed aynı zamanda buradaki toplum ile de görüşüyor. Geçmişle kıyasladığımızda basının çok büyük ilgisi var. İlham Ehmed’in yürüttüğü temaslar bir şekilde basına da yansıyor. Trump’ın çıkışı her ne kadar hem iktidar hem de farklı çevrelerde bir şaşkınlık yaratsa da bu kararın üzerinden geçen bir buçuk ayda Beyaz Saray dışında Amerika’daki atmosfer, ABD’nin Kürt halkına ihanet etmemesi yönündedir. Bu konuda herkes hem fikirdir. Bu olay Savunma Bakanı Jim Mattis ve bazı yöneticilerin adeta kafasını aldı.”

Trump’ın asker çekme kararının ardından, Türk devleti özellikle Kürtlerin bulunduğu Kuzey Suriye’de ‘güvenli bölge’ adı altında kendi askerleri ve çetelerinin işgal edeceği bir ‘güvenli bölge’ yaratmak istiyor. Erdoğan’ın “güvenli bölge konusunda Amerika ile anlaştık” sözü de Özcan’a soruldu.

Özcan soruyu şu sözlerle yanıtladı: “Şu anda ABD’de hem Türkler hem de Suriye’deki Kürtlerin uzlaştırılması noktasında bir arayış da var. ABD, ilk defa iki taraftan da üzerinde anlaşabilecekleri bir plana imza atmak istiyor. İki tarafı da buna ikna etmeye çalışıyor. James Jeffrey bölgedeydi. Bugünlerde buraya geri dönecek ve bu konuda her hangi bir ilerleme kaydedip, kaydetmediğini buradaki yönetime aktaracak. Suriye Kürtlerinin ve Türk devletinin bunu kabul edip etmeyeceği  burada tartışılıyor. Tabii Kürtler, Türk devletinin denetiminde olan ve Türk askerlerinin içinde olacağı bir tampon bölgeyi kabul etmiyor. Bu onaylanması zor bir plan olarak görülüyor. Ancak yönetim ve Dışişleri Bakanlığı umutlu görünüyor. Kuzey Suriye’de böyle bir anlaşmaya varılabilirse bunun Türkiye ve PKK arasında yeniden bir uzlaşmanın olabileceğini dair umutlu olan bir kesim var. Ancak şimdi bu ne kadar gerçekçi? Mevcut Erdoğan iktidarı bir siyasi parti olan HDP’yi bile bu kadar hedef noktasına getirirken, HDP’yi ‘terörle’ suçladığı bir ortamda bu ne kadar gerçekçi olabilir? Bu da ayrı bir tartışma konusu.”

Pentagon: DAİŞ yeniden dirilebilir

Trump 19 Aralık 2018’de Suriye’den asker çekme kararını gündeme getirdiğinde buna en fazla karşı çıkan ABD Savunma Bakanlığı (Pentagon) olmuştu. Savunma Bakanlığı ana gövdesini YPG/YPJ’nin oluşturduğu QSD güçlerinin gerçekleştirdiği özgürleştirme operasyonlarıyla DAİŞ’in ağır bir yenilgi aldığını ancak asker çekilmesiyle birlikte oluşacak bir boşluk durumunda DAİŞ çetelerinin yeniden canlanacağını belirtiyordu.

Pentagon son olarak önceki gün yeni bir rapor yayınladı. Pengagon raporunda DAİŞ’in 6 ila 12 ay içinde yeniden güçlenebileceği ve sınırlı toprağı yeniden kontrol altına alabileceğini vurguladı. Suriye’de batı ve kuzeyinde otorite boşluğunun yaşandığı bölgelere saklanan DAİŞ’lilerin ABD askerlerinin çekilmesinin ardından yeniden örgütlenebileceği uyarısında bulunuldu. Pentagon raporunda ayrıca Irak ve Suriye’de DAİŞ’in yeniden güçlenmemesi için Sünnilerin sosyo-ekonomik, siyasi ve mezhepsel kaygılarının giderilmesini de önerdi.

HABER MERKEZİ

 

İnsanlığın güvenliği için siyasi çözümde olmalıyız

 

The distant dream of a secure safe zone in northern Syria

On January 13, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed, in an ambiguous tweet, the creation of a 20-mile safe zone in northern Syria.

Almost 10 days later there is still considerable confusion over what exactly it means and how it might be implemented. The Turkish government wants the area cleared of Syrian Kurdish forces, for instance, while Syrian Kurds oppose any Turkish role. And will it be primarily a Turkish venture, or might the United States spearhead its creation?

Ankara’s preferred safe zone is one that is free of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syrian Kurdish fighters that make up the bulk of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that with U.S. help have largely defeated Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. The Turkish government says the YPG is as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule inside Turkey since 1984.

“The leaks about the buffer zone are unworkable,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East programme at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Ahval News. “This is going to be fraught and tenuous.”

“I have a hard time accepting why the SDF would choose the U.S. proposal over the [Syrian] regime alternative, and how Moscow could then blow all this up,” he said, referring to talks the Syrian Kurds began with Damascus following Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement he was pulling the U.S.’ 2,000 troops from Syria. The Kurds hope that by ceding their border regions with Turkey to Damascus they can prevent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threatened offensive.

Syrian Kurdish authorities have affirmed they will support the creation of a buffer zone if established and run by the United Nations or the U.S.-led coalition. But UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the UN had no plans to participate in the creation of such a safe zone.

The Kurds adamantly oppose any Turkish involvement in the safe zone.

“We really need a safe zone, but without Turkish fingers,” Salih Muslim, former co-leader of the political wing of the YPG, told Kurdistan 24. “We want a safe area with an air embargo. There must be no role for Turkey.”

Any safe zone that is 20-miles deep along the northern Syrian border would include all the major Kurdish cities in Syria.

“The problem with the buffer zone is that there is little information on how the U.S. expects to keep Turkey from attacking and destroying the SDF,” said Nicholas Heras, Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “This is the heart of the matter because Turkey’s vision for the buffer zone is for the Turkish military to control the major Kurdish population centres in northeast Syria.”

“A large component of the SDF comes from these Kurdish areas, and it is to be expected that the SDF would fight Turkey, rather than be dismantled by it,” he said. “The buffer zone concept was supposed to achieve a deal between Turkey and the SDF that allows for power sharing in northeast Syria, as a way to prevent disastrous conflict between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds. Any plan to allow Turkey to control the Kurdish areas of northeast Syria will force the SDF into conflict with Turkey because the SDF is existentially threatened by Turkey.”

Heras said the SDF was trying to reach an agreement with Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad to prevent Turkey seizing land in Syria.

Yaşar Yakış, a Turkish former foreign minister, believes the terms buffer/safe zone are vague.

“A safe zone as it is conceived by Turkey is difficult to set up in northeast Syria. Russia, Iran, the U.S. and many members of the international community will have to be persuaded for it,” Yakış said.

He said Turkey had no means of persuading the SDF to peacefully leave the area.

“However, it may dare to achieve it by using its military power, without persuasion,” Yakış suggested. “If Turkey succeeds in persuading the U.S., Washington has the means to force the YPG to establish a safe zone. But if this is going to be a safe zone with international legitimacy, it has to be sanctioned by a U.N. Security Council resolution, which means that the permanent members of the Security Council – Russia, China, France and the UK – also have to be persuaded.”

Turkey fears the creation of a safe zone similar to the one in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, which led to Iraqi Kurds achieving autonomy, he said.

“This will be considered a nightmare by Turkey, as it is vehemently opposed to the emergence of any type of Kurdish entity in the north of Syria,” Yakış said.

Mutlu Civiroglu, a Syria and Kurdish affairs analyst, said Trump’s tweet suggested a preference for protecting Syrian Kurds before mentioning the 20-mile safe zone.

“It’s not clear what it really means,” he said. “Assuming the buffer zone is something the U.S. is going to initiate to protect Kurds, that would be positive and would be accepted by Kurds and their allies.”

Russia could stymie the creation of such a zone though, Civiroglu said.

“Moscow can certainly undermine not only this safe zone, but also any development in Syria since it has the power,” he said. “Its move will depend on the details. Russia has the power and capability of preventing or shaping the steps taken by Turkey, the Syrian government and any other player.”

Mustafa Gurbuz, a non-resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the United States had engaged in dual discourse by promising Turkey a safe zone along its southern border on the one hand and promising Syrian Kurds protection from any potential Turkish attack on the other.

“YPG leaders will not retreat in a silent matter,” he said. “The YPG will exploit U.S.-Russia competition to prevent the Turkish safe zone and, in the case of Turkey-Russia agreement, may use its ties with the Assad regime. Thus, it’s a troubling case for Turkey.”

Paul Iddon

https://ahvalnews.com/buffer-zone/distant-dream-secure-safe-zone-northern-syria

ISIL-claimed suicide attack in Syria kills 18, including 4 U.S. troops

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.

‘Security zone’

This image grab taken from a video published by Hawar News Agency (ANHA) shows the scene of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, January 16, 2019. /VCG Photo

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’

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters participating in a training maneuver, near the town of Tal Hajar in Syria’s Aleppo province, January 16, 2019. /VCG Photo

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)

Turkey will attack Kurdish fighters in Syria regardless of US withdrawal, foreign minister says

KEY POİNTS
  • Turkey will go ahead with its planned offensive against Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria whether or not the U.S. withdraws its troops from the country, its foreign minister said Thursday.
  • 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.
  • Ankara, which views the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias in Syria as terrorists, has already amassed thousands of Turkish troops along its border with Syria.
GI: Turkish FM Cavusoglu 
Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) holds a press conference in Washington, United States on November 20, 2018.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Turkey will go ahead with its planned offensive against Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria whether or not the U.S. withdraws its troops from the country, its foreign minister said Thursday.

“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.

VIDEO09:12
Watch CNBC’s full interview with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

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.

A policy that would ‘invite massacres’

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.

WATCH NOW
VIDEO04:54
ISIS not the only terrorist organization: Turkish foreign minister

“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.”

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/10/turkey-will-attack-kurd-fighters-in-syria-regardless-of-us-withdrawal.html

GAZETECİ/ANALİST ÇİVİROĞLU YORUMLADI “Erdoğan’ın Bolton’ı Kabul Etmemesi İki Taraf Arasındaki Sorunların Derinliğini Gösteriyor”

Washington’da yaşayan gazeteci/analist Mutlu Çiviroğlu, ABD Ulusal Güvenlik Danışmanı Bolton’ın Ankara ziyaretini ve ABD’de Trump’ın çekilme kararı sonrası yaşanan istifaları bianet’e yorumladı.

 

Washington’da yaşayan gazeteci/analist Mutlu Çiviroğlu, Trump’un ABD askerlerini Suriye’den çekme kararının ardından yaşananları, Beyaz Saray Ulusal Güvenlik Danışmanı John Bolton’ın İsrail sonrası Türkiye ziyareti öncesi yaptığı açıklamaları yorumladı.

Çiviroğlu, Erdoğan’ın Bolton’ı kabul etmemesi ve Bolton’ın Türkiye’den ayrılması üzerine röportajdan bir gün sonra bize ilettiği ek görüşte ise bunun “ABD-Türkiye arasındaki sorunların derinliğini gösterdiğini” söyledi.

Çiviroğlu, Trump’ın çekilme kararının ABD’nin kutuplaşmış ortamında tüm taraflardan tepki aldığını söylerken, ABD Genelkurmay Başkanı General Joseph Dunford ve Bolton’ın Türkiye ziyaretinde öncelikli olarak Kürtlerin konuşulacağını vurguladı. Çiviroğlu’na göre ABD ile Türkiye arasındaki ilişkiler, görünenden derin sorunlar barındırıyor.

Rusya ise Kürtlerin statüsüyle ilgili Suriye yönetimini ikna etme aşamasında.

Bolton’ın Türkiye ziyaretini nasıl değerlendiriyorsunuz? Ziyaret öncesi İsrail’de Kürtlerle ilgili uyarıda bulunacağını söyledi. ABD benzeri yönde başka söylemlerde de bulundu, bunlar mı görüşülüyor şu anda?

Bolton’ın Türkiye ziyareti, İsrail’den Türkiye’ye geçmesi önemli. Trump’ın üç hafta önce aniden aldığı Suriye’den çekilme kararının takip edilmesi, görüşülmesi açısından önemli öncelikle.

Çünkü o kararın yankıları hala sürüyor, hem ABD kamuoyunda, hem Trump yönetimi içerisinde, hem kongrede, hem senatoda, think tank’lerde yarattığı tartışma süregeliyor.

Trump’ın Erdoğan ile yaptığı telefon görüşmesinde bir bakıma IŞİD ile savaşı Türkiye’ye havale etme niyetiyle bu kararı almış olabileceği ABD basınında sıkça dile getirildi.

Bolton’ın ziyareti bu telefon görüşmesinde tartışılan konuların daha somut bir şekilde tartışılması hem de Türkiye’nin olası rolünün, rolü olursa nasıl olacağının konuşulması bakımından önemli.

“ABD’deki tüm kutuplar çekilme kararını eleştiriyor”

Ama en önemli konu Kürtler’e bakış açısı. Amerikan kamuoyunda çok büyük bir rahatsızlık var. Trump’ın kararının askerlere danışılmadan aldığı, Kürtler’i yüz üstü bıraktığı, Kürtlerin ABD’nin müttefiki olduğu, kimsenin ortaya çıkmadığı bir dönemde IŞİD ile savaştıkları hem Demokratlar hem Cumhuriyetçiler tarafından dile getiriliyor.

ABD gibi kutuplu bir toplumda her iki kesim de bu eleştirileri getiriyor.

Özellikle Trump’a getirilen eleştiri Kürtler üzerinden yoğunlaşmakta. Cumhuriyetçi Senatör Marco Rubio’nun “Bu karar yeni yetişmekte oluşan Kürt gençleri ABD’ye karşı nefretle dolduracaktır. Bizim yaptığımız Kürtler’e ihanettir” gibi bir açıklama yaptı.

Senatör Lindsey Graham’ın başını çektiği grup, Demokratlar da var içinde, genel olarak kamuoyu bu ani çekilme kararının Kürtler’i Erdoğan’a karşı çok savunmasız bırakacağını düşünüyor.

Türkiye’nin operasyonuyla karşı karşıya bırakmanın savunulamaz olduğu düşünülüyor.

Geçenlerde John Kirby (Pentagon Eski Sözcüsü) CNN’e yaptığı açıklamada, Türkiye’nin Afrin’deki insan hakları ihlallerine vurgu yaparak aynısının olabileceğini ifade etmişti.

ABD’deki bu hassasiyetle ilgili konuşulması, Türkiye’nin Kürtler’e, Kürtler’in kontrolündeki bölgelere karşı herhangi bir operasyon yapmaması gerektiği vurgulanabilir bu buluşmada.

Pompeo da geçenlerde “Kürtlerin katledilmesinin önüne geçilmeli” gibi güçlü bir kelime kullandı. Pompeo ve Bolton hükümet içerisinde İran karşıtı, Türkiye’ye karşı sert tutumları olan isimler.

Bolton’ın asıl amacı Kürtler konusunda ABD’nin hassasiyetini göstermek. ABD hükümetine dayatılan, bu çekilme kararının yaratacağı olası sonuçların iletilmesi konusunda önemli.

Bolton’dan önce de Graham gibi TRump’a yakın isimler bu çekilmenin zamana yayılacağı konusunda ipucu vermekteler.

O nedenle ABD’nin bu konuda ısrarcı olacağını söylemek pek de hayalci olmaz.

“Çekilme konusu bulanık”

Çekilme konusu giderek bulanıklaşmaya başladı, ya da öyle mi yansıtılıyor? Çekilme kararı sonrası inisiyatif Türkiye’ye ne kadar kalır? Bugün Trump’ın “Türkiye bizim kadar olmasa da IŞİD’den nefret ediyor” şeklinde bir başka ‘tuhaf’ açıklaması da oldu?

Çekilme konusu tabii bulanık. Trump kamuoyunda her aklına geleni söylemesiyle tanınan bir başkan. Kendi muhalifleri bunu “Refleksle hareket eden bir başkan” olarak isimlendirip, tepki gösteriyorlar.

Zaten Mattis’in, McGurk ve Sweney’in istifaları bu kararın hükümetin kararı olmadığını, bireysel bir karar olduğunu ortaya koyuyor. Üç haftalık süreç içerisinde bu daha iyi görüldü.

Trump’ın etrafında politikayı belirleyen isimlerin ağırlıklarını koymasıyla beraber Trump da bu noktada sinyaller verdi, “Ben takvim vermemiştim” şeklinde açıklamaları oldu. Yani bu çekilme açıklamasıyla ilgili “damage control” (hasar kontrol) çalışmaları sürmekte ama çekilme Trump’ın seçim kampanyasında da belirttiği bir konuydu. Danışılmadan yapılması tepki yarattı. Ama bu siyasetten dönülüyor, çekilinse bile bazı birliklerin daha uzun süre kalacağı da konuşuluyor. Böyle bir opsiyon muhtemel.

Öte yandan Türkiye’nin Suriye’de IŞİD’e karşı rol oynayacağını, konunun uzmanları dahil hiç kimse anlayabilmiş değil. Çünkü IŞİD’in şu anda bulunduğu nokta ile Türkiye arasındaki sınır yüzlerce kilometre.

“IŞİD ile mücadelenin Türkiye’ye bırakılması gerçekçi değil”

Buradan geçmesi için Suriye Demokratik Güçleri’nin (SDG) kontrol ettiği yerlerden geçmesi lazım ki bu ne pratik ne de gerçekçi.

Ayrıca zaten YPG’nin başını çektiği SDG, IŞİD’e karşı çok yoğun bir savaş sürdürmekte. En son Cumartesi günkü çatışmada iki İngiliz askeri yaralandı. Yani İngiliz askeri ve SDG yan yana savaşıyor IŞİD’e karşı, bu da önemli bir ayrıntı.

Yani böyle bir şey varken Türkiye’nin IŞİD’e karşı rol almasını beklemek gerçekçi değil, zaten Washington’da da bunun pek karşılığı yok. ABD basınında da birkaç gündür Türkiye’nin maddi ve manevi taleplerle böyle bir hava yaratması eleştiriliyor.

“Kürtlerin talepleri rol sahibi olmak”

Kürtler ve Esad’ın yaz aylarından beri gündeme gelen anlaşma iddialarını nasıl değerlendiriyorsunuz? Bölgede kartlar yeniden karılıyor klişesi şu an için geçerli mi?

Kürtler Suriye’nin bir parçasılar, Suriye’deki en büyük etnik azınlıklar. Suriye’nin en güçsüz olduğu zamanda bile hiç Suriye’yi terk etmeyi düşünmediler.

Kendi projeleri hep Suriye dahilinde kendi federasyonlarının olması, yani yerel yönetimlerinin güçlendirilmesi. Şam’daki demir yumruğun kaldırılması, insanların kendi kimliği, kendi renkleriyle yaşamasına izin verilmesi.

O nedenle de mümkün olduğu kadar Suriye hükümetiyle çatışmadan çekinildi, yeri geldi Halep gibi bazı bölgelerde destek de sunuldu.

Gelinen noktada Suriye hükümeti, Suriye’nin meşru yönetimi, o sebeple Kürtler her zaman Suriye hükümetiyle anlaşmadan yana, ama benim Rojava’daki siyasiler, askeri temsilciler ve sıradan insanlarla yaptığım görüşmelerde rejimden bir değişim beklendiği, rejimin Kürtler’in Suriye’nin toprak bütünlüğüne katkılarının takdir edilmesi gerektiği, IŞİD, El Nusra ve benzeri cihatçı örgütlere karşı savaşının görülmesi, Kürtler ve müttefiklerinin taleplerine saygı gösterilmesi, yerine getirilmesi gibi talepler var.

Ancak hükümette geçen sekiz yıllık savaşa, yıkıma rağmen fazla olumlu değişiklik görülmüyor. Kürtlerin istemlerine olumlu yaklaşılmamakla birlikte sert tepkiler veriliyor.

Kürtlerin istediği Suriye’nin geleceğinde rol sahibi olmak. Malumunuz Kürtler onlarca yıldır ülkenin en büyük azınlığı olarak her türlü haktan mahrum olarak yaşadılar.

Kürtler artık bunu kabul etmek istemiyor, bunun böyle olmaması gerektiğini söylüyor. Kürtlerin on bine yakın kadın ve erkek kayıpları var, özellikle bu cihatçılara karşı.

Kürtlerin istediği kendi dillerinin, varlıklarının anayasal güvence altına alınması, kendi bölgelerini kendilerinin yönetmesi. Kürtlerin, Süryanilerin, bölgedeki Arapların, Ezidi Kürtlerin istemi bu.

“Rusya Suriye yönetimini ikna ediyor”

Eğer Suriye hükümeti biraz geçmişten ders çıkarırsa, Suriye’nin çok renkli, kültürlü yapısına bağlı olarak Kürtlerin isteklerine önem verirse sorunlar çözülmeyecek gibi değil. Benim gördüğüm hükümet bugüne kadar buna yanaşmamaktaydı. Ama son dönemlerde bu tür görüşmeler devam ediyor.

Rusya’nın da ara bulucu olduğu konusunda görüşler var. Rusya’nın kendisi de federasyon yönetimi. Suriye yönetimini ikna etmeye yakın olduğu yorumları yapılmakta. O nedenle Kürtler ve Esad’ın oturup konuşması sürpriz değil. Bu da olumlu bir şey. Suriye sekiz yıldan beri çok büyük bir yıkım yaşadı. Binlerce insan öldü, milyonlarcası evinden barkından oldu.

“ABD-Türkiye ilişkileri iyileşmedi”

Brunson krizinin ardından yaşanan iki ülke açısından tamamen ‘iyileşen’ ilişkiler dönemi mi, bu İran ile ne kadar bağlantılı?

Tamamen iyileşen ilişkiler olduğuna katılmıyorum. Amerika ve Türkiye arasında çok ciddi sorunlar var. Bu sorunlar da kolay kolay çözülecek sorunlar değil. Çünkü ciddi.

İran bunun sadece bir bağlamı. Kürtler konusu, Suriye konusu, İran, Halkbank, S-400 füzeleri, pek çok sorun var. Bu kolay kolay çözülmez ama Trump’ın Brunson’dan sonra baskıyı hafiflettiği görülüyor.

Bu çekilme konusunda Trump’ın Erdoğan ile yaptığı konuşma sonrası ABD medyası bu konuda hem fikir. ABD kamuoyu da çekilme kararında Erdoğan’ın rolü olduğuna inanıyor. Ama öte yandan Bolton’ın Türkiye’ye olumsuz bir bakış açısı da, Pompeo’nun bakan olmadan önce yaptığı açıklamalar da biliniyor.

Hükümet içerisinde Trump gibi düşünmeyen insanlar olduğu da biliniyor. Türkiye’nin cihatçılara karşı yeterince çaba göstermediği, Türkiye’nin Kürtlere karşı sert politikalar yürüttüğü, şu anda da asıl amacının IŞİD ile savaş olmadığı, Kürtler’i ezmek olduğu dile getiriliyor. Böyle bakıldığında temiz bir sayfa açılmış değil.

İran önemli, Bolton ve Pompeo’nun başını çektiği grup İran’a politikaların sertleşmesi gerektiğine inanıyorlar. Türkiye’nin de İran ilişkileri biliniyor. Orta vadede ben ilişkilerin iyi olacağı ya da şu anda iyileştiği fikrine katılmıyorum. (PT)

http://bianet.org/bianet/siyaset/204231-erdogan-in-bolton-i-kabul-etmemesi-iki-taraf-arasindaki-sorunlarin-derinligini-gosteriyor

Syrian Kurds deny Trump’s claim they sell oil to Iran

Syrian Kurds deny Trump’s claim they sell oil to IranSyrian workers fix pipes from an oil well at an oil field controlled by a US-backed Kurdish group in Rmeilan, March, 27, 2018. (Photo: Associated Press)

 

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.

Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

 

https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/0b078a0a-836e-4564-aaaf-c0d30add8307