In hoping to play the “lesser evil” of the “federalist” Kurds off against the “greater evil” of the invading Turks, Damascus might have inadvertently committed a grave mistake by opening the Afrin gates to the most radical members of the YPG who stand to reverse any “pragmatic” agreements that the government thought they had achieved with their local counterparts, thus setting the stage for the Kurds to more easily push Syria and Turkey to the brink of the conventional state-on-state conflict that they’ve been conspiring with the US and “Israel” to unleash.
“The Master Plan”
There’s a lot of controversy swirling around Damascus’ decision to aid the Afrin Kurds, especially its role in passively facilitating their eastern YPG allies’ transit through liberated territory en route to this battlefield to fight the Turks, but instead of being the “game-changing” “masterstroke” of “genius” that some sources are presenting it as, this move could just as easily become the gravest mistake that Syria might soon come to regret. The argument that proponents of this policy put forth is that Damascus apparently “killed two birds with one stone” by disarming the PYD-YPG Kurdish “federalists” and thus simultaneously nullifying the reason why Turkey had launched its anti-terrorist “Operation Olive Branch” there in the first place. This sounds plausible on paper and is attractive to sympathetic audiences who come across this narrative, but it’s not exactly a convincing assessment of the true state of the situation.
It wasn’t Damascus that played the Kurds and Turks, but the Kurds that played Damascus and are getting ready to set them up for a state-on-state clash with the Turks, as the author explained in his latest analysis about how “The Kurds Have Backed Damascus Into A Corner”. The government thought that it could exploit the “lesser evil” of the “federalist” Kurds against what they deemed to be the “greater evil” of the invading Turks, which is why they allowed the YPG’s eastern Kurdish forces from Manbij and beyond to pass through Syrian Arab Army (SAA)-controlled areas of Aleppo Governorate (of which Afrin is constitutionally a part) in order to complicate the situation for their northern nemesis. Right when the Turks seemed to be on the brink of launching an all-out assault on Afrin and crushing these anti-constitutional “federalist” forces, Damascus intervened and reportedly got the Kurds to concede that they’ll disarm in exchange for the state’s protection.
“So far, so good”, except it’s not, at all.
“Letting The Fox Into The Henhouse”
What Damascus was unaware of is that the YPG Kurds have built an extensive network of underground tunnels all throughout the Afrin region and will likely stockpile secret arms supplies there in order to avoid having to genuinely surrender all of their weapons to the SAA. After all, the YPG proudly announced its intent to carry out a “federalist” regime change in the country and isn’t by any means on friendly terms with national military. It would be completely out of character for the wily Kurds to all of a sudden trust the SAA with their security to the point where they’d give up every means of “defending” themselves to Damascus and thus place their fate in the hands of their hated foe, President Assad, and whatever “goodwill” he may extend towards them in spite of their unilateral declaration of de-facto separatism. The supportive narrative goes that the Afrin YPG has always been more “pragmatic” in working with the SAA, but that observation is fatally flawed in light of recent events.
Advocates of that argument ignore the fact that their much more dogmatic and Amero-Zionist eastern YPG allies have entered Afrin as part of Damascus’ “master plan” and are poised to take full control of the ideological agenda of their brethren there, just as they did with their compatriots beyond the Euphrates in suppressing all dissident voices speaking out against “federalism”. The Kurdish National Council (KNC) was chased out of “Rojava” and into Northern Iraq because of its opposition to the PYD-YPG, proving that the latter are truly behaving in a dictatorial fashion reminiscent more of 1980s Latin American death squads than the “socialist freedom fighters” that they portray themselves as. Like the saying goes, “the fox is now in the henhouse”, and this ultra-extremist majority faction of the YPG has been willingly let into Afrin by the SAA due to the shortsighted designs that Damascus had in trying to temporarily exploit them as proxies against the “greater evil” of Turkey. The consequences that this might engender could be utterly devastating for Syria.
Blowback And Blackmail
The theory that the SAA could work with the more “pragmatic” Afrin YPG is in danger of being discredited since those same forces might no longer be in charge of the region like they assumedly (key word) were just a few weeks ago prior to the intervention of their eastern allies that Damascus passively enabled. If the trans-Euphrates YPG continue their pattern of violently repressing all dissident Kurdish voices against their rule, then there’s a high probability that the foundations on which Damascus built its latest Kurdish deal might collapse, horrifyingly putting the state in the position of being blackmailed by this militia under the pane of them provoking a devastating state-on-state war between Syria and Turkey if the government doesn’t give in to their “federalist” demands. One should remember that there’s no realistic way that the YPG would ever surrender all of their arms to the SAA, especially not if the eastern Kurdish “reinforcements” succeed in wrestling control of the region from their reportedly more “pragmatic” local counterparts.
It’s impossible to know for sure how many weapons they may hide in their far-reaching tunnel network, but the exact number isn’t important in this context – all that matters is that they keep some of their underground routes hidden from the SAA in order to secretly store their weapons there. If Damascus becomes officially responsible for ensuring security in this region, then it might pay the price if the extremist trans-Euphrates Kurds suddenly launch guerrilla attacks against Turkish forces or their “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) Arab and “Turkomen” proxy allies. It’s unlikely that President Erdogan would tolerate what he would perceive as being the SAA’s sheltering of Kurdish terrorists, even if Damascus isn’t at all complicit in this and is taken just as off guard by that development as Ankara may be. Unlike its campaign against scattered Kurdish terrorists, any Turkish attack against conventional SAA troops could see Ankara carry out a “shock and awe” campaign of coordinated air, missile, and artillery attacks against these much more easily targetable forces in response.
The full wrath of the Turkish military could be brought down to bear upon the SAA forces that assumed responsibility for Afrin’s security, and it’s unlikely that Damascus could adequately defend itself in the event that such long-range precision munitions are used against it. Soldier-to-soldier and tank-to-tank battles might be another story since the defending Syrians would have the benefit of hiding out in the mountainous terrain, but they’ll essentially be “sitting ducks” for airstrikes and other related attacks. Given his personal temperament, it can be expected that President Erdogan would want to “set an example” if this happens, so the scale and scope of his military’s response might be overwhelming in order to deter future provocations by the YPG, even if the SAA had no hand in assisting them. Russia seems to have presciently forecast that this is what might happen, hence why Foreign Minister Lavrov recently took the step of directly calling on Damascus to enter into talks with the Kurds as soon as possible, probably hoping that this could offset the disastrous scenario that his country’s strategists predicted.
“The Resistance Mentality”
In all actuality, however, there’s no certainty that Syria will do this, whether now or even after what might prove to be a disproportionate conventional state-on-state strike by the Turkish Armed Forces in reaction to any YPG provocations carried out against them or their allies in the areas of Afrin whose security might soon be formally guaranteed by the SAA. The reason for this pessimistic assessment is that the Syrian leadership and its people are strongly influenced by what can only be described as a “Resistance Mentality” that places morals, ethics, and principles at the forefront of decision-making processes. This is honorable in all regards and truly represents what many people believe to be the ideal way of handling government decisions, but it might have regrettably become irrelevant in the current circumstances where the Neo-Realist interests of all the other players have made it all but impossible for Syria to depend on a values-based policy, no matter how morally right it may be to do so in standing up for it sovereign beliefs.
Its Russian wartime partner, for example, is operating according to the “19th-Century Great Power Chessboard” paradigm that prioritizes the Eurasian state’s relations with its similarly sized Great Power peers at the perceived (key word) expense of its smaller- and medium-sized partners (whether countries or their leaders) for the “greater good” of “easing the transition” to the emerging Multipolar World Order of international systemic “reform”. Bearing in mind how dramatically Russia has changed its policy towards Libya lately in reversing its previous position of principled opposition to Gaddafi’s overthrow, it’s very likely that it could “flexibly adapt” its stance towards Syria and even President Assad in response to “changing circumstances” such as those that might be catalyzed by the SAA “bearing responsibility” for any anti-Turkish provocations that the YPG carries out from the Afrin territories under Damascus’ formal control. This means that any “Resistance Mentality”-influenced expectation that Russia would intervene to “save Syria from the Turks” in this terribly realistic scenario would be a grave miscalculation by the country’s leadership.
All in all, the celebrations coming from some corners of the Alt-Media Community in pertinence to the SAA’s reported “masterful” plan to take control of Afrin’s security from the “pragmatic” YPG Kurds there might end up being premature because they overlook the high probability that the initial on-the-ground factors on which Damascus was depending have suddenly changed, ironically as blowback from the government’s policies themselves. If the SAA doesn’t prevent the dogmatic trans-Euphrates YPG Kurds that it allowed to enter into Afrin from carrying out a potentially bloody “intra-organizational coup” against their reportedly much more “pragmatic” local counterparts, as well as succeed in the near-impossible task of fully disarming each and every militant Kurd in the area and uncovering all of their secret weapons caches, then Damascus might end up being played like a fiddle by the exact same forces that it had attempted to exploit itself.
The ultra-extreme YPG Kurds from east of the Euphrates want to embroil Turkey and Syria in a conventional state-on-state war per the orders of their Amero-Zionist handlers, and to this end they could easily stage various provocations against the former and its proxy allies in the areas of Afrin that the latter would officially be responsible for, thereby forcing the temperamental Turkish President into carrying out a massive “shock and awe” retributive strike against the SAA, one which would see Russia watching from the sidelines as it declines any “rescue requests” to get involved in saving its “wayward partner” that refused to heed its “advice” in the first place. Damascus isn’t just backed into a corner, but is about to walk straight into a trap, with the tragedy being that its leadership truly believes that it’s doing the right thing in operating according to its “Resistance Mentality” of unwaveringly advancing the policies that align with its deeply held morals, ethics, and principles.
It’s understandable from the Syrian perspective why Damascus would do everything that it can to defend the state’s sovereignty and attempt to exploit what it believes to be the “lesser evil” of the “federalist” Kurds against the “greater evil” of the invading Turks, but this approach isn’t taking into consideration the Neo-Realist motivations of raw self-interest that all other players are pursuing per the “19th-Century Great Power Chessboard” paradigm, especially in the cases where external interests overlap as they do between Russia and Turkey in Afrin. Damascus is therefore walking into a disaster somewhat of its own making after having fallen for the Kurdish trap of taking responsibility for Afrin’s security and trusting that the dogmatic trans-Euphrates YPG Kurds that it let into the region won’t try to provoke a Turkish-Syrian war. Every passing day increases the probability that this “dark scenario” will materialize, hence Russia’s repeated efforts to “encourage” Damascus to sit down at the negotiating table with the Kurds before it’s ultimately too late.
It may come off as “selling out”, and from the Syrian perspective of their “Resistance Mentality”, accepting the “decentralization” clauses included in the Russian-written “draft constitution” would essentially amount to that in their eyes, but it’s also the only remaining “pragmatic solution” to de-escalate the current crisis and offset the potential of a larger regional war transpiring. Tough decisions are undoubtedly ahead for Damascus and Ankara, while Moscow increasingly realizes that the influence that it had presumed to wield over the Syrian leadership has all but evaporated as evidenced by the latest events that President Assad must have signed off on, making this latest turn of events the most dangerous thus far in the country’s 7-year-long war and posing serious questions about the Arab Republic’s survivability in the future if something goes horribly wrong in its risky high-stakes calculations with the Afrin Kurds.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.