Tragedy: Rojava Kurds close ranks with Assad

This is a political tragedy, and bodes more poorly than ever for any eventual return of peace to Syria. This week, Assad regime forces joined the Kurdish militia defending the northern enclave of Afrin from Turkish aggression. The People's Protection Units (YPG), military force of the Kurds' Rojava autonomous region, confirmed in a Feb. 20 statement that after days of negotiations the "Syrian government" and allied forces had entered Afrin. "After more than a month of the legendary resistance of our forces against the Turkish invasion army and the terrorist groups aligned with it from Jabhat al-Nusra, Da'esh and others, and causing severe losses for the invaders... our units considered to call the Syrian govt and its army to undertake its duties in participating in defending Afrin and protecting the Syrian borders against this evil invasion," YPG spokesperson Nouri Mahmoud said. "The Syrian government has thus heeded the call...and sent military concentrate on the borders and participate in defending the unity of Syrian lands and its borders." (The Region)

This was also confirmed by the regime. "Popular forces will arrive in Afrin within a few hours to support its people's stand against the Turkish regime's attack on the area and its people," said state news agency SANA. (AFP)

There are some obvious problems with the YPG statement. Daesh is the popular Arabic pejorative for ISIS, and while Turkey has been accused of recruiting ex-ISIS fighters for the assault on Afrin, it is an overstatement (at best) to say that ISIS is participating in the offensive. And the Assad regime has been similarly accused of conniving with ISIS to weaken the defenders of the rebel-held province of Idlib. As for the Nusra Front, it has technically been disbanded, although its successor organizations may be participating in the Afrin offensive. But the greater point is that the YPG's new allies in the Assad dictatorship are no less odious—indeed, genocidal—than these jihadists.

Of course it is the Turkish aggression that has driven the YPG, which has long been accused of collaborating with the Assad regime, into an open alliance with the despot. This obviously heightens the threat of Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. And with the entry of regime forces into Afrin, there is now risk of NATO member Turkey directly engaging Assad's troops, with obvious threat of international escalation. Of course, with Orwellian irony, Ankara is calling the offensive Operation "Olive Branch." (Middle East Eye)

"Olive Branch" forces are accused of chemical warfare in Afrin. Both the YPG and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that following Turkish shelling of Aranda village outside the town of Afrin on Feb. 16, six residents were treated for breathing difficulties and other symptoms of chemical attack. (Funker530)

Turkey's fears of a Kurdish autonomous zone on its southern border leading to militant attacks within Turkish territory are predictably becoming self-fulfilling. In response to the Afrin offensive, armed left factions within Turkey have over the past week carried out numerous attacks—mostly fire-bombings of industrial, military and ruling-party targets. The attacks were claimed by the Revolutionary Youth Movement (DGH) and the Revolutionary Young Women's Movement (DGKH). (Insurrection News)

In another sign of Washington's betrayal of its Kurdish allies in Syria, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in Ankara with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Feb. 16. Sad Tillerson: "We are not going to act alone any longer. It will not be the US doing one thing and Turkey doing another. We will work together... We have good mechanisms on how we can achieve this and there is a lot of work to be done." (Hurriyet)

In the prelude to the Tillerson meet, Erdogan, with outrageous cynicism, even threatened to renege on the controversial EU-Turkey deal for containing Syrian refugees within Turkish territory and unleash them on Europe—in an overt play to xenophobia. He said in one speech: "We do not have the word 'idiot' written on our foreheads. We will be patient, but we will do what we have to. Don't think that the planes and the buses are there for nothing." Making explicit what he meant, Erdogan told EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at the G20 summit in Antalya: "We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria any time and put the refugees on buses." (EU Observer)

The Syrian Kurds meanwhile lectured their imperial sponsors. Co-chair of the autonomous zone's ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD), Salih Muslim, criticized Western leaders for their indifference on the Turkish assault against Afrin. "Turkey sheds our blood with the weapons you supply," he said. (BasNews)

But the Kurds' pact with Assad compromises their moral position—no matter what pressures have driven them to it. As Turkey prosecutes its offensive on Afrin, the regime and its Russian allies continue their savage bombardment of Idlib and Eastern Ghouta. Hundreds have been killed in air-strikes on Eastern Ghouta over the past week. Aid groups warn that conditions in the enclave surpass even those seen during the 2016 Aleppo crisis. Over 350,000 civilians are trapped in the area, over 4,000 now living in underground basements and shelters, spending most of their days hiding from the unrelenting aerial terror. (The New Arab)