Syria has not responded to a Kurdish YPG call for an alliance, although many are speculating on such a prospect. An “official” YPG source has called on the Syrian Arab Army to fight the Turkish Army and Turkish proxy militias in Afrin and in so doing, push back Turkey’s anti-YPG Operation Olive Branch. This is of course the same YPG whose members in nearby regions form the core of the US proxy militia SDF which has frequently fired upon the Syrian Arab Army and put Russian lives in danger during the SAA/Russian liberation of Deir ez-Zor just months ago. The SDF also stands accused by Russia, of helping facilitate the safe movement of Daesh (ISIS) terrorists to the front lines of the Syrian Arab Army’s battle against the Takfiri terrorist group.
The YPG’s open letter to Damascus is one part opportunistic, one part cynical and totally delusional. There are no offers to disarm or to remove the YPG’s secessionist flag for the flag of the Syrian Arab Republic, nor are there any guarantees that such a pact would result in the formal abandonment of the illegal Kurdish autonomous regime known by its supporters as “Rojava”. In essence, the YPG simply wants Syrian their to shed their blood for a parochial and unconstitutional Kurdish cause–one which has been cynically refashioned as a patriotic cause.
Turkey’s legitimate concerns about Kurdish terrorism
Syria has previously stated that Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch is an illegal invasion of Syria. While Turkey’s pro-Takfiri Operation Euphrates Shield of 2016 was certainly illegal, Operation Olive Branch is far more legally complex. Turkey’s formerly wholly illegal presence in Syria has been partly normalised through the Astana Memoranda which has set up so-called de-escalation zones throughout Syria, some of which are patrolled by Turkey. Crucially, the Syrian Government has approved all of the Astana Memoranda after close consultation with both Russia and Iran on the points of each Memorandum. While Afrin is outside of these zones, there is an implied fluidity in the zones created by Astana. More importantly though, there is an element of international law which is recognised by the United Nations called the Caroline Test which addresses the legal concerns implicit in Operation Olive Branch.
Article 51 of the UN charter permits self-defence in the face of aggression, but when this Article is insufficient in respect of justifying a military action, the UN considers the Caroline Test as a justification for a small military action in a foreign state, if an attack is reasonably feared to be imminent and the response is proportional. Before it was known that Iraq had Syria’s permission to conduct anti-Daesh airstrikes over Syria in 2017, it was the Caroline Test which absolved Iraq of any wrongdoing. Likewise, before it was known that the closet thing Libya has to a military, the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar gave the Egyptian Air Force permission to strike terrorist targets in 2017, it was the Caroline Test which was used to demonstrate the legality of Egypt’s anti-terrorist strikes over Libya.
Contrary to what Kurdish propaganda states, Operation Olive Branch has thus far been a relatively tame operation in terms of military logistics–ergo, it is proportional. As for an imminent threat, it would appear that many people are totally unaware of just how brutal the YPG aligned PKK has been in its terrorist attacks on civilians in Turkey. Since 1984, the PKK has led numerous attacks on Turkish civilian targets including beaches, hotels, clubs, trains, supermarkets, shopping centres and other areas populated by masses of locals and tourists. These attacks have claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Turks and also the lives of many foreign visitors to Turkey, including Russians and Europeans.
Now that the US clearly intends to use its YPG proxies to form an illegal Kurdish statelet on Syrian soil, Turkey is naturally worried about such a rogue entity on its borders, just as Serbia has protested the US led occupation of its Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija. Today, NATO occupied Kosovo and Metohija is home to many anti-Serb terrorist groups ranging from the KLA to Daesh affiliates. To put it even more bluntly, imagine if Mexico’s Baja California was made into a statelet controlled by a militia known for killing Americans. Would any US President state for this? The answer is self-evident.
For Syria, the YPG is considered a dangerous secessionist militia. While limited cooperation took place between Syria and some YPG officials during the very early states of the Syrian conflict after 2011, this rapidly ceased and was never significant in any respect. Furthermore, because the majority of YPG units are now under the control of the United States, the YPG is seen not only as an illegal secessionist militia, but one that is actively working with the most dangerous illegal occupying force in Syria.
In areas where the YPG and its political wing, PYD have taken over Syrian towns, Kurdish extremists have proceeded to ethnically cleanse areas of their indigenous Arab population while also implementing discriminatory policies against Armenian and Assyrian minorities. With the help of the US military, Kurdish militants have chased locals out of their homes and even when some try to return, it is the Kurdish militias, rather than Daesh who refuse to allow them to do so. Kurds are openly and illegally changing the names of Arab villages and towns to Kurdish names, while schools in such areas refuse to acknowledge the Arabist Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic. Some have even expunged the Arabic langue. Kurdish merchants have also been known to vastly overcharge non-Kurds for basic household goods and even food in a calculated move to make Arabs feel unwelcome in an Arab country.
The Syrian government is well aware of the YPG–PYD–PKK’s anti Arab policies, but thinking strategically, Damascus knows that it would be national suicide to link-up with the YPG to fight Turkey. Turkey has gone out of its way to assure Syria that Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch is not aimed at the Syrian Arab Army and that Turkey will not fire upon any Syria targets (not that there are any in the areas where the Turks currently operate). Turkey’s Foreign Minister also stated,
“Damascus knows that the YPG militias (People’s Protection Units) want to divide Syria. Whereas Turkey and Damascus as well as the opposition forces are all support the territorial integrity of Syria within its current borders. We believe that the Syrian regime will not cooperate with terrorists”.
Thus, Turkey is consciously linking a Turkish case with a Syrian cause–hence the “olive branch” in question. Were Syria to fight Turkey in Afrin, the entire system of balancing interests among the warring parties that Russia has worked diligently to create, would collapse. Syria would not only once again name Syria as an enemy, but would name Syria as an enemy actively aiding the PKK terrorist group which Turkey rightly links to the YPG. At such a point, Turkey would seek to wage a total war upon Syria, one which due to the hated nature of the PKK in Turkey, would be supported even by elements of the secular Kemalist opposition in Turkey who have no love for President Erodgan’s pro-Takfiri tendencies, but who rightly see Kurdish extremists as a threat to Turkish security. Such a war would endanger Russia’s important partnership with Turkey and play directly into US hands.
An enraged Turkey could mobilise its own Army and its proxies to foment the long dead US/”Israeli” dream of regime change in Damascus, all the while taking pressure off the US which is currently faced with the prospect of seeing hostile Turkish troops move close to the contact line of the US occupation in Syria.
One would have to be effervescently stupid to think that such a suicide mission would be a good idea and luckily neither the leaders of Syria, nor Russia, nor Turkey, nor Iran are stupid. The events on the ground, as well as recent statements from Turkish officials, indicate that Operation Olive Branch was green-lighted by Russia and that Turkey has done all it can to assure both Russia and Iran that any concerns will be respectfully addressed. Some unverified sources even indicate that low levels of communication between Ankara and Damascus have taken place. While this is still questionable, it is certain that both Russia and Iran communicate Turkey’s messages to Syria and that Russia and Iran are able to deliver any Syrian messages back to Ankara.
At the moment, the US is boxed into a corner as it is faced with a fellow NATO member competing for the last parcels of Syrian land that are up for grabs to an illegal occupier. Turkey of course has no right to indefinitely occupy Syria, but Ankara claims it does not have such ambitions. The US by contrast, is openly flaunting the fact that it seeks to remain in Syria for the foreseeable future.
While Turkey’s statements regarding a future occupation may not be wholly sincere, Turkey is a partner of both Russia and Iran and can therefore be more easily dealt with from Syria’s perspective than a United States which loathes Iran, is a de-facto enemy of Russia and a rival of its erstwhile Turkish ally. If ever ‘picking a poison’ was easy, this is just one such instance. A Turkish occupation which could be gradually ended through the diplomatic intervention of Russia and Iran, is far preferable to an indefinite US intervention designed to frighten Iran, contain Russia and intimidate Turkey.
While many fanatics and ill informed individuals in the so-called journalistic community want Syria to support Kurdish militias as currently only “Israel”, the US-EU axis and a host of anti-Ba’athist/anti-Resistance Trotskyist and Anarchist groups do, fortunately, cooler and wiser heads have prevailed in Damascus, Moscow and Tehran. There will be no Syria-YPG alliance, for such an “alliance” would undo every singe gain that Syria has made in its war against terrorism.