Syria: a No-Fly Zone for Rojava?

Following last week's Turkish air-strikes on Kurdish forces in northern Syria, the autonomous administration in the region is said to have issued a call for a "no-fly zone." Tev-Dem, the self-governance structure for Syria's Kurdish autonomous zone, reportedly issued the call after Turkish raids killed at least 20 fighters of its militia force, the People's Protection Units (YPG). Because US-backed Kurdish forces are basically calling for international protection from US ally Turkey, this development further heightens the contradictions that Washington faces in northern Syria. It is telling that the Tev-Dem statement is aggressively touted by Kremlin mouthpiece Sputnik. It has also been reported by Syria Deeply and UPI.

The Kurdish-led YPG is the central pillar of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition that the US is backing against ISIS. In the latest clash, SDF fighters repulsed an ISIS attack on a displaced persons camp at Rajm al-Salibi, near the town of Shaddadi in Hassakeh governorate. At least 30 displaced persons and SDF fighters were killed. (BBC News, May 2)

Last week's Turkish air-strikes in Iraq, ostensibly aimed at forces of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), reportedly hit the only clinic serving the Yazidi people in the Sinjar area (also rendered Shingal). "The Yazidis of Mountain Shingal are terrified. They feel threatened and unsafe. They thought ISIS days were almost done and they can return to their villages and towns, but now they face a bigger problem," Yakhi Hamza, Iraq country director of the 1st New Allied Expeditionary Force, a humanitarian nonprofit delivering medical aid to the Yazidis, told Fox News after inspecting the damage at the clinic. "Turkey is a more dangerous threat than ISIS and attacking Yazidis from above."

If these reports are accurate, it is certainly a perverse irony. The Yazidis have been targeted for genocide by ISIS, and now also find themselves targeted by US ally Turkey. Sooner or later, something is going to have to give in the fundamentally contradictory US strategy against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

  1. Syria: ‘safe zones’ or kill zones?

    At the latest round of talks in Kazakhstan's capital, Russia, Iran and Turkey signed a memorandum supporting the creation of Moscow-backed "safe zones" in Syria. The Assad regime issued a statement in support of the idea, but not the rebels—probably due to the condition that US-led coalition planes will be barred from the zones. (Reuters, AFP)

    Al Jazeera makes clear that ISIS and Qaeda-linked factions will still be liable to get bombed even within the 'safe zones." Given the Putin-Assad propaganda trick of simply conflating all rebel forces with ISIS, this could be a very significant loophole—to say the least.

    We again question whether these will be "safe zones" or kill zones, where Russia and Assad will be able to bomb with (even greater) impunity.