In what can be described as a turning point in the Syrian political situation amidst the Turkish military incursion following the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, loyal US allies- the Kurds have announced a deal with the Syrian government brokered by Russia effectively aligning themselves with the Russian geopolitical interest after the ‘betrayal’ by US.
In a statement, the Kurdish administration said, “In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).”
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As per latest reports, Assad’s forces have started entering North-east Syria that has come under the Turkish invasion, for the first time in years following this deal. This is a major political development that would most likely bring Kurdish autonomy in North-east Syria to an end. The Kurdish call this region “Rojava” and have been ruling it independently of the Syrian government since 2012.
With this political development, Syria and Russia come out looking like the saviors, while it makes the US seems to look like the country that initiated this war in the first place and then left when it was indeed required to selflessly establish peace in the region. The fact remains that the Kurdish fighters were the most capable allies for the US in the fight against ISIS. They were instrumental in dismantling the ISIS “Caliphate”. 11,000 Kurds gave up their lives in the fight against ISIS. However, when it came to establishing peace in the region the US abandoned the Kurds, who rightly manifest a sense of betrayal.
As for the Kurds, they were compelled into choosing between Turkey and Syria, following the withdrawal of the US forces. While aligning with Syria has resulted in giving up control of the areas that the Kurds were holding independently since 2012, going solo against Turkey would have meant accepting displacement and ethnic cleansing since Turkey seeks to create a “safe zone” for resettling Syrian refugees in North-east Syria.
Moreover, the Turkish brand the Kurds as terrorists and therefore allowing Assad’s forces to take control of what were Kurdish held areas till now in order to ward off the Turkish invasion was the only practical option for the Kurds. This is effectively articulated by SDF chief Mazlum Abdi’s statement. He wrote, “If we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people.” By choosing to enter a deal with Syria, Kurdish fighters have sought “life” for its people. More than 1,30,000 people have been displaced since the violent incursion, in less than a week.
The Kurdish fighters were precariously outgunned by the Turkish and as such the threat of an ISIS resurgence was also looming large upon Syria after the withdrawal of US forces. It must be noted that while the ISIS “Caliphate” was brought down by the Kurdish fighters, ISIS had not been annihilated. What made matters worse was reports of hundreds of women and children affiliated to the ISIS escaping from a depleted detention camp amidst depleted Kurdish security given the Turkish invasion.
The power vacuum that would be created within Syria if Turkey is successful in violently displacing the Kurds and invading into North-east Syria, coupled with an imminent risk of ISIS fighters escaping SDF detention facilities, would drag Syria back to the days of ISIS dominance. In such circumstances, the Kurds had no option but to align their fate with the Assad regime and Russia, and this signifies the sheer travesty of a failed US foreign policy.
How Turkey has resorted to blatant excesses against the civilian population during this military invasion warrant stringent action against the NATO member country. The Turkish-backed forces are modestly reported to have executed nine civilians, including a female politician, Hevrin Khalaf, during this military invasion in North-east Syria. As per Kurdish forces, Hevrin Khalaf, the Future Syria Party’s secretary-general was ambushed along with her driver and shot dead.
The SDF has said Khalaf was “taken out of her car during a Turkish-backed attack and executed by Turkish-backed mercenary factions”. Some accounts say that she was raped and stoned to death. Either way, the execution of Khalaf and other civilians is a war crime above all. This shows how the Turkish forces have resorted to brutal murders and executions in the course of its military action in North-east Syria that threatens to trigger a resurgence of the ISIS terrorists in the region all over again. Turkey’s belligerence is enough reason that NATO should move towards dropping Turkey from the intergovernmental military alliance consisting of 29 North American and European countries.
The biggest beneficiary of the withdrawal of the US forces from Syria was Russia, which became the ultimate power broker in the region after the withdrawal of the US forces and it has made full use of its position by brokering a deal between the Assad regime and the Kurds. The Russia-backed Assad regime is now comfortably placed to reclaim the North-eastern territory of Syria. Russia had been for long urging the Kurdish fighters, who were seen as capable and loyal US allies, to come back to the fold of Damascus.