Confirming that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend”, YPG Kurdish fighters in north-western Syria – who as a reminder are backed by the US, the country which for 7 years has waged a proxy war to overthrow president Bashar al Assad – have struck a deal with the Russia-backed Assad regime for Syrian forces to enter the Afrin region and repel a Turkish offensive which began last month.
Badran Jia Kurd, an advisor to the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria told Reuters that Syrian troops will deploy along several border positions and could enter the region within the next two days: “we can cooperate with any side that lends us a helping hand in light of the barbaric crimes and the international silence,” Jia Kurd said.
Meanwhile, a conflicting report from a senior Kurdish official comes from YPG representative Brusk Hasake in Afrin, who told Sputnik News “We have repeatedly said that Syrian Army has not entered [and] will not enter Afrin. If there is an agreement we will make a statement [on it].”
As we reported at the time, Turkish ground forces crossed the Syrian border and pushed into northern Syria’s Afrin province on January 20, after Ankara launched artillery and air strikes on a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia it aims to sweep from its border as part of “Operation Olive Branch.”
This an image through the lens of YPG and it is the headquarters for the so called ‘Olive Branch Operation’ inside Kirikhan district of #Hatay that was targeted by Kurdish Forces yesterday. pic.twitter.com/4h8l8Qozdi
— Afarin Mamosta (@Afarin_Mamosta_) February 18, 2018
Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters from the YPG – which receives funding from the United States to fight the Islamic State, to be terrorists.
Senior Kurdish official Badran Jia Kurd told Reuters that Syrian government forces could enter the Afrin region within days to repel the Turks, while Syrian state TV reports that Regime forces will enter “within hours.”
— Guy Elster (@guyelster) February 19, 2018
— Guy Elster (@guyelster) February 19, 2018
Assuming the deal has been reached between the YPG and Assad, Turkish forces will have quite the fight on their hands as they will now be fighting forces backed by both the US and Russia at the same time. Furthermore, the return of Syrian forces to the region would mark the first time Syrian President Bashar as-Assad’s troops have set foot in Kurdish territory since a 2012 withdrawal.
Shortly after the retreat, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) quickly took charger, backed by its militia – the People’s Protection Units (YPG) currently threatened by Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch. The YPG is responsible for clearing ISIS fighters from large portions of Syria.
Turkey claims that the YPG is an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has battled the Turkish government for three decades over Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. The YPG denies any political or military links with the PKK.
The Syrian military and the YPG have largely avoided direct conflict in the Syrian war thus far but have had sporadic clashes.
“We can co-operate with any side that lends us a helping hand in light of the barbaric crimes and the international silence,” Mr Jia Kurd said.
However, he added that the alleged agreement – which he said did not include any political arrangements – could fall through.
“We don’t know to what extent these understandings will last because there are sides that are not satisfied and want to make [it] fail,” he said. –BBC
US has to go says Russia
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a Moscow audience at the Valdai Club conference on the Middle East that US troops must immediately cease operations in the Southern Syria area of Al-Tanf, and that the United States must “stop playing with fire.”
“I once again call on our American colleagues not to play with fire and measure their steps proceeding not from immediate needs of today’s political environment, but rather from long-term interests of the Syrian people and of all peoples of this region, including the Kurds, of course,” the Russian top diplomat was quoted as saying by TASS News Agency.
Syria’s border with Jordan has been designated by the U.S. as a “de-confliction” zone under its protection hosts the Rukban refugee camp, said Lavrov. Russia believes the camp to be a recruiting ground for militant groups and blames the United States for restricting humanitarian access to the region.
“This zone must be shut down immediately. And deliveries of humanitarian aid must be allowed into the camp,” said Lavrov, adding that efforts to reduce violence in Southwestern Syria – which has been designated a “de-escalation zone” near Israel’s border – must now focus on forcing all non-Syrian troops from the area.
“We negotiated the creation of this zone with Jordan and the US and it’s not a secret that our Israeli colleagues were informed about what we discussed,” said Lavrov.
Israel has accused Iran of operating in Syria through proxy forces to seize control of areas in southern Syria, and has threatened to use military force to drive them out.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend while holding up a piece of an alleged downed Iranian drone, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran is the “greatest threat to the world,” and that while Iran has supported proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza, however “nowhere are [its] belligerent ambitions clearer than in Syria.” The Israeli Prime Minister said Iran was trying to “colonize” Syria with the establishment of military bases and ambitions for a naval base in the Mediterranean.
While Israel has “so far refrained from entering the Syrian conflict,” said Netanyahu, “if Mr. Assad invites Iran in militarily, that changes our position.” “We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves and we will act, if necessary, not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but also against Iran itself,” said Netanyahu.