The United Arab Emirates has allegedly had intelligence agents in northern Syria and Iraq working with YPG/PKK Kurdish militias over the past few years. Turkey and the UAE are also involved in bitter proxy wars in Libya, with reports over the last few months indicating that Turkey is also seeking to extend their destructive proxy war to Yemen.
Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency has received information from multiple sources to the effect that after holding secret talks with Kurdish militants affiliated with the ‘People’s Protection Units’ (YPG) in 2017, the UAE has been sending intelligence teams to areas under their control since 2018.
Their missions include training the YPG militant groups in espionage, counter-espionage, sabotage, targeted assassinations, signals intelligence, information security and operating encrypted communication networks. According to the information, intelligence teams have been operating in Qamishli, Hasaka and Deir ez-Zor. LINK
The YPG – the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – is also receiving US support in an effort to encourage the group to declare autonomy and prevent them from reaching an accord with the Syrian Government. The Kurdish militants seized considerable swathes of land in the northern and eastern parts of Syria from the Takfiri Daesh terror group in 2017.
Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
The UAE has long been accused of sponsoring the Kurdish-denominated militant groups, which have been operating across Syria since 2011 and in Iraq since the armed insurgency of the PKK against the Turkish government began in the 1980s.
In June last year, an unspecified security source at the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) told the London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper that the UAE had provided financial aid to PKK militants in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous region. There are many other reports of the UAE sending weapons and other assistance to Kurdish groups in northern Iraq. LINK
The proxy war between Turkey and the UAE has intensified and spread to new areas over the last year, the massive influx of weapons, armed fighters and also large numbers of Turkish military forces having a dramatic impact on the course of the ‘civil war’ in Syria and Libya in particular.
In Libya, following the influx of Turkish weapons and fighters late last year and early this year, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord launched major offensives which definitively ended the siege of Tripoli and pushed the Benghazi-based Libyan National Army back from most of the territory they captured during their offensives last year.
Early in October of 2019, Turkish armed forces and proxy militant groups launched a massive cross-border invasion of north eastern Syria in an attempt to push YPG militants away from border areas.
Two weeks after the invasion began, Turkey and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding demanding that YPG militants withdraw from a ‘safe zone’ declared by Turkey in north eastern Syria. Turkey has also had substantial ongoing military operations in northern Iraq for many years.
In addition to the participation of UAE, US and other NATO military and intelligence forces, the Saudis have also been heavily involved in the war in Syria for many years. In 2016 the Saudis sent troops and aircraft to Turkey, prompting speculation that the two countries were preparing for a possible ground mission in Syria.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu subsequently confirmed the deployment declaring that it demonstrated a calibrated policy by the two states. Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have “always emphasised the need for an extensive result-oriented strategy in the fight against the Daesh (Isis) terrorist group…. Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch an operation from the land.”
A report by The Independent commented at the time:
“But this is less to do with Isis and much more with the fact that Sunni rebels, backed by Saudis and the Turks, are rapidly losing ground to the forces of Bashar al-Assad, supported by a ferocious Russian air onslaught, Iranian ‘volunteers’ and fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah. There is added exasperation, from the Turkish point of view, that some of this territory is being taken over by Kurdish forces.
The Saudi defence minister and heir apparent to the throne, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, presented his country’s military plans in Syria to a summit of the US-led anti-Isis coalition at the Nato headquarters in Brussels last Thursday. He did not, according to diplomatic sources, mention sending troops and aircraft to Turkey to the US defence secretary Ash Carter and his fellow Western ministers…
The force led by the Saudis, with likely contributions from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, will, in Syria, find themselves in the same battlespace for the first time as the Iranians and Shia militias.” LINK
Although the Saudi participation in the ‘civil war’ in Syria hasn’t generally included the overt deployment of military personnel, late last week it was reported that around twenty Saudi soldiers had arrived at the US military base close to the oilfields in north eastern Syria.
At the end of last year, the Saudis also deployed ‘dozens’ of soldiers to Syria’s largest oilfield located in the eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor to protect a group of Saudi and Egyptian Aramco experts who arrived in the area the previous week. According to the Arabic service of the Anadolu Agency, local sources said that the Saudi soldiers that arrived last year at Al-Omar oil field travelled aboard helicopters, and that their arrival coincided with the arrival of around 30 trucks carrying drilling and digging machinery.
After announcing that the US was going to pull its remaining troops out of Syria in October last year, President Donald Trump was forced by the Pentagon and others to retract his decision and he subsequently said that some US troops would remain, supposedly to protect Syrian oil fields from ISIS but also to exploit them.
It is understood that the illegal exploitation of Syria’s oilfields will be arranged through contracts signed between Aramco and the US government, whose armed forces have steadily been increasing their military presence around the oil fields. LINK
The US military remains in control of the oil and gas fields in the Deir Ezzor region, with approximately 500 heavily armed troops in several bases scattered throughout north eastern Syria. LINK
Several days ago, the arrival of another large US military convoy to the northeast of Syria from neighbouring Iraq was reported:
“SOHR activists have monitored nearly 50 trucks affiliated to the International Coalition crossing into Syria today, via Al-Walid border crossing with Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The trucks, carrying military and logistical supplies, headed to Tal Baydar military base in the north-western countryside of Al-Hasakah.
On August 22, Observatory activists monitored a US military convoy crossing into Syria, via Al-Walid border crossing with Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The convoy, comprised several military armoured vehicles and 40 trucks carrying tanks, military and logistical supplies, headed to Al-Shaddadi base and other military bases in Al-Hasakah province.” LINK
The Syrian government, which has not authorised the US military presence within its territory, has repeatedly accused the US of plundering the country’s oil resources and has registered a formal complaint with the UN Security Council, however the latter is powerless to investigate or take any action on the matter given the US veto on all decisions.
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