The brief overview based on an analysis of Amberin Zaman, a public policy fellow, Middle East Program, Global Europe Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center. The original article is entitled “From Stalemate to Checkmate: What the siege of Aleppo means for Turkey.” To read full text follow a link.
Turkey suffers from a new wave of Syrian refugees due to the battle for Aleppo. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that the Syrians would be allowed in “only if necessary.”
The author writes that the one of Ankara’s steps may be an attempt to exert moral pressure (some would call it blackmail) on the United States to create a safe-haven for opposition rebels and refugees. Turkey and its Gulf allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been clamoring for one since the start of the Syrian conflict, saying it’s the only way to eject Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. The Obama administration hasn’t budged, nor will it.
SF: We are considering the most part of todays “opposition rebels” in the Aleppo Province as “moderate terrorists”, put in other words as terrorists.
On top of the usual arguments about not wanting to replicate the mess, U.S. officials warn of a real risk of confrontation with Russia whose Su-34 tactical bombers command the skies west of Aleppo. None of this cuts any ice with Ankara, which is already in a lather over U.S. support for the People’s Protections Units (YPG), the Syrian Kurdish militia which is ISIS’s most formidable foe on the ground.
Turkey calls the YPG “terrorists” because of their close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the armed group that is fighting for self-rule inside Turkey.
On February 2, the Syrian army and its allies cut off the critical supply route between the city of Aleppo and Turkey known as the Azaz corridor. On February 8, they recaptured the village of Kfeen bringing them to within 18 miles of the Turkish border. Fabrice Balanche, research director at the University of Lyon and a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues that this may be a turning point in the conflict. “The development could put the entire Turkey-Syria border under the control of pro-Assad forces within a matter of months, or spur Kurdish forces there to choose co-existence with Assad,” Balanche observed in a recent piece.
Pick Your Poison: Assad or the Kurds
The catch is that the return of the regime may prove a less bitter pill for Turkey to swallow. Indeed, it is perfectly plausible that maneuvering Turkey into just such a choice—to either ditch its support for the rebels or digest the emergence of a PKK-dominated Kurdish statelet—was just what Assad intended when he ceded control of large chunks of the border to the Kurds in 2012.
YPG officials say they are ready to help the rebels—and Turkey—to fend off further Russian-backed advances and preserve their links to Aleppo. They claim they could do so by pushing eastwards from the areas they control in and around the town of Afrin or by closing in from the Tishreen dam to the west. In both cases, ISIS would get rolled back as well. The payback for the YPG would be to achieve its strategic goal of linking up the Kurdish run zones to the west of the Euphrates with that of Afrin. But should Assad’s forces continue their advance, the Kurds stand to lose everything. This, in turn, means that they will be open to compromises, not only with Turkey, but with the rebels as well. In short, circumstances have never been this ripe for a Turkish-Kurdish deal. Will Turkey muster the courage to seize it?
SF: We don’t have information on this so-called YPG officials statement. Per contra, an NGO representative office for Syrian Kurdistan has recently opened in Moscow. “It was created to represent the interests of Syrian Kurds and develop bilateral relations with Russia”, the mission’s head, a member of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Abd Salam Muhammad Ali, said.
Moreover, “The PYD party has supported and welcomed Russian campaign in Syria from its very first days. We will stand by any country that will help the Syrian people fight terrorists, radical groups, and bandits such as never seen before,” Abd Salam Muhammad Ali said. Furthermore, the fight against Islamic State, Al Nusra, and other radical groups should intensify in Syria, the mission head added, asserting that the Kurds are ready to cooperate with Russia on that.
The PYD is the political wing of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).