Syria: Turkey invades —against ISIS or Kurds?

Turkey launched a major military intervention in Syria on Aug. 24, dispatching tanks and warplanes to assist rebel forces in taking the city of Jarabulus from ISIS. But it is assumed that their next target will be the Kurdish forces also fighting ISIS—and establishment of the long-anticipated Turkish "buffer zone" in northern Syria. It is telling that this happened one day after Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Turkey to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Seemingly in coordnation with the Turkish intervention, Biden warned the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—the most effective anti-ISIS force on the ground—that they must retreat east of the Euphrates River if they want to continue receiving US aid. "We have made it absolutely clear…that they must go back across the river," he said. "They cannot, will not, and under no circumstances, get American support if they do not keep that commitment." (The Guardian, BBC News, Bloomberg, Aug. 24; Reuters, Aug. 23)

Redur Xelil, representative of the People's Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia that is the core the SDF, responded that his force not retreat across the Euphrates. "We are in our own country and not withdrawing on the request of Turkey or someone else," Xelil told a reporter. Kurdish media cited claims that ISIS voluntarily withdrew from Jarabulus as Turkish and FSA forces moved in, pointing to a deal with the jihadists. (Kurdish Question, Aug. 24)

Meanwhile, clashes between the SDF and Syrian regime forces continue in Hasakah. The clashes have left at least two dozen civilians dead. Residents are fleeing into the surrounding countryside as the regime uses planes and artillery to attack the city. (The Guardian, Aug. 22)

And as all this was going on, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Geneva to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov—and discuss Syria cooperation with the Assad regime's biggest foreign backer. (AP, Aug. 26)

In other words, the Kurds are now up against everyone. It is no surprise that they are being sold down the river in the new spirit of Great Power cooperation

  1. Turkey attacks Syrian Kurds… of course

    Turkish jets and artillery have targeted Kurdish forces south of Jarablus. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air-strikes and shelling hit the village of Amarneh, which was captured recently by the Kurdish-led SDF. Turkey says its air-strikes have killed 25 Kurdish "terrorists" in what is beng dubbed Operation Euphrates Shield. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the victims number 35 and were mostly civilians. (Al Jazeera, AP)