Reasons for failure of establishing a safe zone north Syria

Displaced Syrians stranded at Turkish border. File photo

ARA News

Qamishli, Syria – U.S and Turkey reached an agreement last June, allowing U.S. aircrafts to use Turkish air bases to strike strongholds of the Islamic State group (IS/ISIL). The agreement also paves the way for establishing a safe zone in northern Syria. 

“Access to Turkish air bases, such as Incirlik, will increase the coalition’s operational efficiency against ISIL,” said Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

U.S. officials said that Obama administration confirmed a Turkish demand to set up a coalition-protected “safe zone” in Syria’s north.

The planned safe zone project aims to clear areas stretching from Jarablus city to Maree town in the northern countryside of Aleppo from IS militants. 

Experts believe that the establishment of such a safe zone in northern Syria encounters three major challenges. 

Such a zone is supposed to be run by Syrian rebel forces with support from the U.S.-led coalition. However, several rebel groups fighting in Syria are listed by the U.S. as terrorist organizations.

Activists suspect the accuracy of the U.S.-led coalition in selecting reliable rebel factions to run this safe zone, as most of opposition-linked armed groups are led by strict Islamists. 

Another hindrance facing the proposed safe zone is that Turkey has openly declared it would not only target IS group, but also Syrian Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) for their alleged affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

However, Washington seems conservative about attacking Syrian Kurds, as the Kurdish YPG forces have so far played an effective role in the war on IS in northern Syria. 

Furthermore, the U.S.-Turkey project of creating a safe zone north Syria has no clear strategy for protecting such a zone from pro-Assad air forces. 

A main objective of a Syrian safe zone is to ease the burden on Turkey regarding the mounting numbers of refugees and the continuous influx of Syrians into Turkey. 

“Pro-Assad warplanes are the greatest threat to civilians. If Assad’s aggression towards Syrians won’t stop, all talks about a safe zone would remain worthless,” a Syrian opposition activist told ARA News. 

On the other hand, Moscow and Tehran won’t turn a blind eye towards threats to their ally, Assad, and the regional power balance. For them, any interference into Syria’s north is a territorial partition, which they consider a redline. 

Reporting by: Egid Yousef

Source: ARA News

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