US denies involvement in Turkey’s campaign against Syrian Kurds

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Flags of the Kurdish forces are seen in central Sheikh Maqsoud district in Aleppo, northern Syria. File photo

ARA News 

Aleppo – The US government has denied any involvement in last week’s clashes between Turkey-backed rebels and the pro-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). American officials have also expressed concern about the number of civilian fatalities, being caused by Turkish air strikes in northern Syria.

“We do not support nor condone any maneuvers in this area, which can only give new oxygen to Daesh,” said US State Department spokesman John Kirby, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) had accused the US of backing their antagonists in northern Aleppo Governorate. However, the US has now explicitly denied their involvement. “Contrary to reports, the US has nothing to do with reported clashes west of Marea [in Aleppo Governorate],” Kirby said.

Most Kurdish political parties and Moscow have condemned Turkey’s attacks on SDF Positions. However, Kirby’s comments are the first time the US has publicly condemned the fighting.

“[We are] concerned about reports of civilian casualties in recent air and artillery strikes [by Turkey and its allies] in northern Syria,” he said. “[We] call on all sides to stand down and focus on greater threats.”

Senator McCain’s Call 

US Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Thursday called on Turkey to stop its attacks on Syrian Kurds. His committee will review the participation of US forces in the battle for Raqqa.

“The United States has a longstanding relationship with Turkey, but a series of recent events have raised concerns about the fundamentals of our relations,” McCain said. “I have long argued that the Obama administration’s feckless approach to Syria has contributed to a strategic disaster on Turkey’s doorstep.”

McCain condemned the recent attacks by Turkey-backed militias on the pro-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). “The Turkish government’s continued attacks on Syrian Kurds are destabilizing and troubling,” he said. “These Kurdish fighters have shown themselves to be willing and capable partners in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, and our continued cooperation serves the national security interests of both the United States and other countries in the region, including Turkey,” the US senator said.

McCain urged Tukey to rein its allies in, and focus on the shared objective of defeating the Islamic State (ISIS). “I urge the Turkish government to refrain from further attacks against Kurdish groups in Syria,” he stated.

Rattled by SDF Advances

Last week, the Turkish Army began a campaign against the SDF, by shelling their positions, north of Aleppo city. More than 20 SDF fighters were killed as well as dozens of civilians. Turkish-backed rebels also threatened to expel Kurdish forces from the town of Tel Rifaat.

Turkey and its allies were purportedly rattled by recent advances made by the Revolutionary Army, a SDF affiliated group also known as Jaish al-Thuwar. Their recent push into Islamic State (ISIS) territory placed them 18 km from al-Bab city.

On October 19, SDF and the Turkey-backed rebels exchanged small arms fire. These clashes rapidly escalated and Turkish forces, on October 21, used heavy artillery and missile launchers to bombard the villages of Samouqa, Hasiya, Om Hosh, Harbel and Sheikh Issa.

The Revolutionary Army’s General Command on Saturday said that they had repelled all of the incursions and killed 19 Turkey-aligned fighters.

Two Sides, Diametrically Opposed

The immediate goal of the Turkey-backed rebels is to preempt Kurdish territorial ambitious by capturing the ISIS-held areas between Efrin and Manbij. Their latter goal is to open a new front against the Syrian Army and the Shia militias currently laying siege to eastern Aleppo city.

“The Euphrates Shield Operation will drive the YPG out of Tal Rifaat and the surrounding area before moving eastwards towards al-Bab,” Abdurahman Harkoush, a former spokesperson for the Army of Islam, said.

These goals are irreconcilable with the widely shared Kurdish desire to establish territorial contiguity in the NSR. Kurds across Turkey condemned Thursday’s airstrikes and Friday’s incursion.

“While Turkey can and should have a crucial role in fighting ISIS, the attacks of the Turkish Army and its local [Islamic fundamentalist] allies on the SDF are providing ISIS with fresh air,” Hisyar Ozsoy, Vice Co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), told ARA News.

“Turkey has been carrying out aggressive policies to undermine [the SDF],” Ozsoy stated. “By sacrificing the peace process with the Kurds [in Turkey] and initiating militarist policies against the Kurds in Syria, who constitute the backbone of the SDF, Turkey is foreclosing the possibilities of a peaceful future and political stability.”

According to Michael Stephens, the head of the Royal United Services Institute – Qatar, the US did not cooperate in Turkey’s attacks on the SDF.

“Basically [this is] a warning sign to the YPG; If you try to join the cantons we’ll make you pay,” Stephens told ARA News. “The two sides, [Turkey-backed rebels and the pro-Kurdish SDF], have no interest in talking. Ultimately it’s a disagreement between two sides that are diametrically opposed.”

Turkey’s Target is the Self-Administration

Tensions in Northern Aleppo Governorate have reached a fever pitch. According to Stephens, the SDF and Turkey’s rebel factions “are only able to talk through military means. What you’re seeing is the geopolitics playing out in the micro.”

Nawaf Khalil, a former PYD spokesman and head of the Rojava Centre for Strategic Studies, told ARA News that Turkey views all Kurds as enemies, regardless of their relations with Iraqi Kurdistan.

Khalil shares a widespread belief that Ankara and Moscow have been cooperating to cripple Syrian Kurdish forces. “There has been a deal between Russia and Turkey to hit the Kurds, and destroy the insurgency in Aleppo,” he said.

Khalil told ARA News: “Turkey says it openly; their target is the [NSR] Self-Administration, and [their aim] is to prevent the unification of Efrin and Kobani.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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