In early October, the US government announced the withdrawal of its armed forces from northern Syria. This movement, said President Donald Trump, was aimed at the direct protagonists of the conflict taking on the task of resolving the situation in the region. However, this maneuver left American allies in the war against Daesh, the Kurds of northern Syria (YPG).
Turkey considers the YPG Kurdish militia as a terrorist group as it links them with the Kurdish separatists in their own country grouped in the PKK. Thus, the US withdrawal from the area left the way open for Turkey to initiate a military operation against the Kurds. Thus, on October 9, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan initiated Operation Peace Source against the Kurds in Syria. Turkey seeks to create a safe zone on the 440 km border with Syria, currently controlled by the YPG.
Given the international claims against the actions of both the US and Turkey, and the voices that were raised within the US Congress, on Thursday, October 17, Vice President Mike Pence agreed with President Erdogan to cease fire for 120 hours.
To this is added that under the pretext of patrolling the areas left by both the US and the YPG, Russia has been occupying positions, filling power gaps left by the US armed forces and the Kurds. With this, Russia is increasingly playing a more prominent role in the Syrian conflict. Recall that Moscow is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and that these actions are framed in the agreements between both countries to recover territory in favor of the Syrian government.
Given this, Presidents Erdogan and Putin will meet in Sochi since the actions of Ankara and Moscow have the risk of generating disagreements between the two countries in northern Syria. In addition, it remains to be seen if the ceasefire agreed between Turkey and Washington continues or if Ankara decides to resume military operations against the YPG. This depends on whether the YPG completely leaves the Syrian-Turkish border, that is, they must move at least 30 kilometers from the border.
However, this game of realpolitik in Syria shows that the US has intentionally lost influence in the region, giving it to Moscow. For his part, Putin has the opportunity to bring Ankara closer to his area of influence. Take into account that Turkey is part of NATO but that, in the face of its actions against the Kurds, countries such as Spain and Germany stopped the sale of weapons. This can cause Erdogan to end up aligned with Russian interests and even reach agreements that overlook the interests of the other countries involved: Iran, Saudi Arabia and the EU. Meanwhile, the fate of the Kurds who helped defeat Daesh remains in the air.
Ricardo Solano Olivera, MSc.
Column originally published at https://laopinion.de/2019/10/23/que-esta-pasando-en-siria/