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Syria: Turkey’s Erdoğan v. Assad, Kurds, & ISIS — Ready for Raqqa Operation “If Allies Sincere”

Syria: Turkey’s Erdoğan v. Assad, Kurds, & ISIS — Ready for Raqqa Operation “If Allies Sincere”
March 01
11:40 2017

Maneuvering against both the Assad regime and the leading Kurdish political-military faction — as well as pressing the US and Russia — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that Ankara is ready for operations against Raqqa, the Islamic State’s center in Syria, if others work with the Turks.

“If our allies are really sincere, we tell them: We will act with you so long as we cleanse Raqqa from Daesh and give it back to its original owners,” Erdoğan said before leaving for Pakistan on Tuesday.

But he again rejected any involvement by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG militia, the leading group in the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces.

A Turkish-rebel offensive has pushed back the Islamic State in northern Syria since Turkey sent in airstrikes, armor, and troops last August. Last week, the offensive captured the city of al-Bab, ISIS’s main position in Aleppo Province.

However, the advance raised the prospect of confrontation with both a pro-Assad force advancing from the south and the YPG to the east. Earlier this week, the Turkish-rebel units clashed with the pro-Assad elements in Tadaf, just to the south of al-Bab. Meanwhile, the Syrian military and its allies made contact for the first time with SDF-held territory, enhancing a possible alliance.

Conflict is possible around the city of Manbij in Aleppo Province, taken by the SDF from ISIS last June. Turkey has urged the US to prompt an SDF withdrawal to the east, but so far there is no sign of compliance by the PYD and YPG, whom Turkey considers to be linked to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.

“It is certainly not possible for us to agree with or act together with the PYD or YPG,” Erdoğan said on Tuesday. “One cannot say there are good terrorists and bad terrorists, and we will never try to use one terrorist group against another.”

The head of the US Central Command, General Joseph Votel, has been in both Ankara and inside Syria meeting the SDF in the past week, hoping to bridge the gap between the two sides for anti-ISIS operations. CIA Director Mike Pompeo was also in the Turkish capital for discussions.

Turkey’s Daily Sabah, close to Erdoğan, piled on pressure on Wednesday morning with an article criticizing the US Central Command:

The US has been providing strong backing to the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) since the Barack Obama administration, and it will continue to promote YPG terrorism and its child soldiers according to a recent tweet by the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

CENTCOM shared a tweet on its official Twitter account yesterday showing the YPG’s child soldiers, saying that they are “ready for the fight.” The tweet drew harsh criticism from certain quarters in Turkey, slamming CENTCOM for its support to terrorists and its whitewashing of the recruitment of child soldiers. It also shared a similar photo on Twitter on Monday showing the YPG child soldiers.

On Tuesday, Daily Sabah claimed that the US military had stood back from protection of the SDF in Manbij. It quoted CENTCOM spokesman Colonel John J. Thomas:

We’ve met Manbij City Council members in a venue close to the city. Gen. Votel did not give any assurances over the city of Manbij, nothing of the sort was raised during the conversation.

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About Author

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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13 Comments

  1. Les Evenchick
    Les Evenchick March 01, 14:23

    The Turkish Govt of Erdogan are terrorists like Assad only their target is Kurds rather than Syrian arabs. M anjib is run by its own town council but it does have a minority Kurdish population. Raqqa also has a sizeable minority Kurdish population. Erdogans objective is ethnic cleansing/subjugation of Kurds in Northern Syria

    Reply to this comment
    • Barbar
      Barbar March 01, 15:27

      Assad is a Syrian Arab, so much so that the country his old man built is officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic … so why would he have anything against loyal Syrian Arabs?

      Reply to this comment
    • K9
      K9 March 01, 21:44

      Erdogan is elected in a free election, he didn’t win it at gun-point, YPG on the other hand like their change to be enforced at gun-point good commies they are.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Amir in Tel Aviv
    Amir in Tel Aviv March 01, 14:48

    This Erdogan suit needs courage

    Reply to this comment
  3. caligola
    caligola March 01, 14:52

    Erdogan seems serious. ES clashes and takes villages from SDF close to Arima whilst TAF pounds Menagh airbase.
    https://twitter.com/QalaatAlMudiq/status/836934730276831232
    https://twitter.com/QalaatAlMudiq/status/836913050007580677

    Reply to this comment
  4. Amir in Tel Aviv
    Amir in Tel Aviv March 01, 15:15

    Thank you Russia, we definitely need more strong Haftars to lead the Arabs
    https://warisboring.com/it-looks-like-russia-gave-a-fighter-jet-to-libyas-warlord-1a564098b223#.6zg6kmif3

    Reply to this comment
  5. Barbar
    Barbar March 01, 15:20

    LOL, but of course your NATO ‘allies’ are all very sincere, Tayyip, me old fruit, about aiming to see you hanged like the donkey Morsi.
    .
    For you they are organising a special trip to Valhalla, not Raqqa.

    Reply to this comment
  6. K9
    K9 March 01, 22:17

    #Aleppo: “FSA Hawar Kilis Operations Room report capture of 2 regime Desert Hawk militia ” – badly_xeroxed
    .
    Use them as bait – tie to a lamp-post surrounded with buried land-mines or on the roof of a booby-trapped building with a concealed rebel sniper nearby then leak news of that location to nearby regime militias so when the first member of that militia group comes to rescue them and accidentally triggers that land-mine/booby-trap the rebel sniper can pick-off the rest of their rescuing militia group.
    .
    #Observation: Arimah is going to fall to the rebels and just like I predicted a few days ago that regardless how clever the SAA/IRGC thinks their stunt was to connect with YPG Manbij the city of Manbij is too close to the Turkish for Erdogan to fall into non-Turkish control and too close to the Turkish military bases near the Syrian border for the Turkish army to not attempt to capture this. The Turkish General Staff is likely to have war-gamed (which means they/Turkish army is fully prepared for all eventualities unlike the SAA/IRGC) the capture of Manbij the moment rebels &Turkish army captured Jarablus. The US DoD might plead to the Turks all they like about not going after Manbij but when it comes to the YPG/PKK the Turkish military and Erdogan don’t give a damn and worse still the Turkish public are even more hard-line then either the Turkish military or the Turkish president.

    Reply to this comment
    • Bill Anderson
      Bill Anderson March 01, 22:38

      Re: Use them as bait – tie to a lamp-post surrounded with buried land-mines or on the roof of a booby-trapped building with a concealed rebel sniper nearby then leak news of that location to nearby regime militias so when the first member of that militia group comes to rescue them and accidentally triggers that land-mine/booby-trap the rebel sniper can pick-off the rest of their rescuing militia group.”
      .
      Dude, don’t you realize that using prisoners of war in this way is murder and a war crime?

      Reply to this comment
      • Mikey3d
        Mikey3d March 02, 02:35

        Bill, I like your input. But, I do beleive that Syria and Iraq have not signed onto protocals II & III of the Geneva convention. Consequently, most acts/atrocities commited during civil wars in their territories may not be prosecuted, or would be very difficult. Much like most civil wars, they are very brutal and personal where the victor writes the “history” of events.

        Reply to this comment
      • Barbar
        Barbar March 03, 19:25

        Yes, he does but as far as some are concerned there is no wrong way of winning.

        Reply to this comment

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