By Georges Malbrunot
Kurdish fighters put up a brave resistance to the Turkish military offensive in Afrin, launched on 20 January. Yet, they will have to choose between two grim alternatives; either to bow to Turkish military might or to hand control of Afrin province over to the Turkish regime.
In response to the support given by Washington that promised the Kurds to create a new American – backed, Kurdish-led border force of 30,000 men, Russia played a game of chess that was impossible to hold a check. Moscow gave Ankara a blank check and in the meantime, it did her best to push the Turks away from their American allies. At the same time, Moscow used the Turkish military pressure on her old allies, the Kurds, who will have no choice left but to accept Russian protection and, eventually, the rule of Bashar Assad. The Syrian ruler is not in a hurry to save the Kurds. Damascus wants them to pay the price of their alliance with the Americans and of their misreading of Wahington’s policies.
As for the Kurds, the real danger lies in that they may have to ask Syria and Russia for help, and the price they will have to pay is giving up their dreams of autonomous rule. Contacts have been already going on, with Damascus and the Kurds ready to let the Syrian regime raise its banners all over the region, to protect it from Turkish invasion. But the Kurds do not want to throw away everything they won over the last five years. To put it more clearly, they do not want to go back to where they stood before 2012. So, will there be a margin for negotiations over these issues?
It seems that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a decision to put an end to Kurdish ambitions, not only in the besieged province of Afrin, the Kurdish stronghold were battles are now raging. He even wants to move on towards the Eastern borders of Iraq, with the aim of crushing Kurds in Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) and al-Jazira, where many Arabs live.
Will Erdogan change his mind about conquering Manbij, a deployment area for American forces, which lies 100 kilometers away from the East of Afrin? Not necessarily. But all messages sent by the Turks indicate sinister intensions. Around 200 American troops are deployed around Manbij. According to an expert, recently back from Manbij and playing down the possibility of frictions” the Turks may march into Manbij and American troops will just turn their backs on them, without any confrontation taking place between the two sides”.
With the heavy bombardment of the military barracks of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party- a terrorist organization for the Turks- Erdogan wants to break the back of the Kurdish enterprise in Northern Syria. No doubt Islamist Insurgents are marching side by side with the Turkish forces there.
Once again, the Turkish double game is clear; they benefited from the passivity of Jihadists- the old armed branch of al-Qaeda- when they accompanied Turkish forces deployed in south Afrin, as a part of the de-escalation zones agreement signed by Ankara, Moscow, Tehran and other parties to the conflict in Syria.
With a lot of embarrassment, the West turns a blind eye to all this. France, for instance, needs Turkish assistance in preventing Jihadists from going back to French territories. This was asserted by French President Emmanuel Macron on receiving Erdogan in Paris, lately. Macron said that cooperation with Ankara in combatting terrorism was “ideal”.
In view of all this, we have to measure and assess our criticisms of the Turkish military operation against Syrian Kurds, who are, at the same time, our allies in the war against Daesh (ISIS). Ankara, no doubt, is benefiting from these constraints and is going ahead with its strategic plans. Meanwhile, we have no choice but to be deeply immersed in the Syrian chaos. This may be, for the time being, the least of all evils for the Kurds.