Erdogan does not object to Damascus’s control over al-Hasaka: the Kurds choose between loyalty to Syria or defeat by Turkey

Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

Following President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from occupied northeast Syria, the Kurds of al-Hasaka have for the last two days been negotiating with the government of Damascus on how to spare the province from a possible Turkish invasion. Syrian General Ali Mamlouk, the Syrian president’s special security advisor, says that “he is talking with the Kurdish delegation to find a way for the Syrian army to deploy its forces along the borders with Turkey and, in consequence, stop a possible Turkish invasion of Northeast Syria”, confirmed a decision-maker source in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

According to the Source, at the start of the negotiation the Kurdish delegation repeated their familiar mantra—asking for the Syrian Arab Army to protect Syrian borders from the Turks, while allowing the Kurdish YPG to maintain their separate military organization inside the province of al-Hasaka. Damascus rejected this proposal and instead proposed a special status for the Kurdish administration within Syria, opening the road for members of the YPG to join the Syrian Army in a special Kurdish and Arab contingent. 

“There will be no other army on the Syrian territory but the national Syrian Arab Army”, were the instructions of President Bashar al-Assad to the Syrian delegation engaged in dialogue with the Kurds, according to this source.

On the possibility of Turkish forces advancing into Manbij and their massive deployment on the bordering province, the source confirmed that “Russia informed President Erdogan that it will not accept any crossing into the province, and that it will be up to the Syrian army to move in if the US withdraws its troops from the occupied area”.

It is clear that Erdogan, while gathering his own forces and his Syrian allies (Euphrates ShieldSultan Murad, Noureddine Zinki, Jaish al-Islam et al.), is keeping his options open. If the US fails to withdraw, Turkey will move into Manbij. Otherwise, the Turkish President seems in harmony with the Russian decision, unwilling to spoil the strong bond and strategic relationship he has constructed with both Iran and Russia in the last year. The Turkish President had agreed with Russia to wait a few months before acting against the Kurds. He made no objection to a Syrian army move into al-Hasaka, provided the Kurds be disarmed. 

For some time now, the Kurds in al-Hasaka have been protecting the US forces- no more than 4000/5000 men in a region of some 5000 square km- from attacks by ISIS, Arab tribes, and allies of the Syrian state. The same Kurds now seem willing to allow the local Syrian army contingent to take over al-Hasaka and for their militants to become Damascus’s “loyal subjects”. They may have finally learned the lesson, that the US establishment is neither a reliable nor trustworthy strategic partner. Up to now the Kurds had been prepared to rely on any foreign country, including Israel, to provide them with independence, rather than remaining loyal to Syria, the country that has hosted them for decades. The Kurds have no friends but the mountains- and no loyalty to Syria.

Notwithstanding, the Syrian Army will definitely collaborate with the Kurds to quash ISIS –  the remnants of the US forces spread along the east side of the Euphrates – between two fires on each side of the Euphrates. There is little doubt that the Pentagon has deliberately pushed ISIS along the river to face the Syrian Army and its allies. The aim was to create an ISIS protective “buffer zone” between the US forces and the Syrian army. Moreover, the presence of ISIS along the Euphrates, on the east side, is itself an invitation to insurgency against any Syrian attempt to open the commercial land route between Syria and Iraq through Albu Kamal.

Today, the Kurds are weaker than ever and may well have lost the privileged position they had under US protection. If this US withdrawal is implemented, they will either fall into the hands of Turkey – their defeat in the Afrin enclave is still vivid in their memory – or they will have to accept the terms proposed by Damascus. The US establishment is once more confirming to its partners its golden rule: faced with US interests, all partnerships and alliances are dispensable.

Proofread by:  C.B. AND Maurice Brasher.

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33 thoughts on “Erdogan does not object to Damascus’s control over al-Hasaka: the Kurds choose between loyalty to Syria or defeat by Turkey

  1. What this article failed to take in to consideration is if not Erdogan will flip and invade once he has received the S-400’s and their crews have become operable.

    EJ should also always explicitly state “if” the USA pulls which judging from decades of history is a slim chance.

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  3. Hahaha! The Kurds know from bitter experience what sort of ‘kindness’ they can expect from the psychopath of Ankara.

  4. The Kurds in Syria welcomed Israel on many occasion. They have the same approach towards Israel as the Peshmerga in Iraq.

  5. Thank you for your multiple scenario’ article. very interesting. The US is not withdrawing yet from occupied Northeast Syria. If US forces are staying for at least another 100 days, they need supply. Moreover, they won’t leave the Kurds without ammo if ISIS is still present after the US departure. ASll these assumptions are based on one important point: IF the US withdraw. There is no clear answer to this question today.

  6. Very good analysis, no doubt.
    I would only point a possible gap: If all this is true, and I am clearly read to believe it is true, can you please explain why, incoherently, does the US continue, right now, to bring trucks loaded with weaponry into SDF-held areas?
    Or is not a incoherence, and all these US/NATO trucks would be bringing weapons not to the Kurds, but to the ISIS strip along the Euphrates River you mentioned? What do you think ELIJAH? Or am I missing something here?

    By the way, please read my article about this very same subject:

  7. I have often wondered what Elijah J Magnier’s views on the war in the former Yugoslavia were but whenever I;ve tried Googling them all I’ve found are a couple of mentions on Twitter.

    Are his reports from the Balkans not available in English?!

  8. “For some time now, the Kurds in al-Hasaka have been protecting the US forces- no more than 4000/5000 men in a region of some 5000 square km- from attacks by ISIS, Arab tribes, and allies of the Syrian state.”

    Is this a different area from where US forces boasted of wiping out Russian contractors sent in to deal with ISIS hiding (protected?) in a US held area?

    Either way, I don’t understand why the Kurds are protecting US forces but the US forces are fighting Russian contractors sent in to avoid a superpower confrontation!

  9. Good article. The “Kurds” have been cooperating with Assad in Hasakah city–policed by Syrian regular police, and the Qamishli area for many years. the Kurds only kicked oyut the NDF thugs and the Syrian Arab Army (yes, “Arab”) of the Syrian Arab Republic have always been free to control the Qamishili plain.

    The YPG and Assad jointly man Iraqi border posts, and for a few years or so have jointly manned military posts against Erdogan’s jihadis near Manbij and Azaz. Syrian NDF forces rushed to support YPG in Afrin against the Turk invasion, which only worked for Erdogan because Putin (not Assad) gave the Turkish air force the ok. Putin doesn’t control the airspace of the rest of the Turkish border and if he does in the future it looks like he won’t give Erdogan and “OK.”

    Erdogan lost here, he needs the Syrian Army to garrison the hold border so he can save face because he can’t invade without air cover. He’ll claim his friend Assad will hold back the “PKK” which is very funny, almost as funny as his claims his Syrian actions “fight” ISIS. For a normal Turk politician it’s a win.

    What’s with the Israeli flag and the Iraqi Peshmerga soldier? They have nothing to do with Syria.

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