The crisis in the northern Syrian city of Manbij is reaching a breaking point as the YPG/PKK occupation of the city is causing deep consternation among the majority Arab population. A report in The New Arab reveals the supreme discontent among indigenous Arab residents of Manbij for whom daily commodities are now scarce and expensive while YPG/PKK terrorists hoard resources for themselves. All the while, schools in the region are now teaching YPG/PKK approved propaganda designed to undermine the Arab culture of the Arab town. All the while, there remains a danger that more young Arab men will be forcibly conscripted into radical Kurdish terrorist organisations.
Turkey has been adamant in its desire to pursue its anti-YPG/PKK Operation Olive Branch further east along the Syria-Turkey border. However, because of the large presence of US troops around Manbij and other areas in the north up to the Iraqi border, Ankara has attempted to reach an agreement with Washington regarding a de-escalation process that would see the YPG/PKK disarmed while preventing a direct confrontation between the two largest armies in NATO, that of the US and Turkey respectively.
Today, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that a preliminary agreement to remove the YPG/PKK from Manbij has been reached with the US. He further stated that the US and Turkey would cooperate in terms of governing the city until a final settlement could be reached. Cavusoglu told reporters,
“The roadmap for Manbij has specific steps, they are tied to the calendar. A concrete step: YPG will leave. Turkey, along with the US, will decide who will take part in the leadership instead of YPG, and who will participate in the security forces, perhaps on a parity basis.
This is a region where the Arabs account for more than 90 percent of the local population, Kurds only two percent, and it is impossible for them to be represented at more than two percent in the leadership. After successful implementation in Manbij, it will become a model for entire northern Syria, in particular, Raqqa, Ayn al-Arab, but where the majority of the population is Kurds, it is natural that the leadership is Kurdish”.
Cavusoglu further stated that it is crucial that the YPG/PKK in the region is fully disarmed so that they do not regroup elsewhere. He continued, stating:
“Where will they (YPG/PKK) go? To the desert? Who will be able to return to peaceful life after laying down their arms? These details are very important, and we are discussing them with the military, with the intelligence, at the meetings of our delegations”.
In this sense, it would appear that Turkey and Russia are converging evermore in their desire to settle the conflict in northern Syria in a way that distances the official peace process from pro-US terrorist groups like the YPG and instead focuses on moderate Kurdish factions including the Kurdish National Council (ENKS), whose leadership recently met with officials from Moscow and maintains generally good relations with Ankara.
Thus, the biggest question mark is how the US will act upon the agreement that Ankara has stated has been partly reached. Shortly after Cavusoglu made his statements, the US denied having reached any agreement with Turkey regarding removing the YPG/PKK from Manbij. According to US State Department Spokeswoman and former Fox News employee Heather Nauert,
“We don’t have any agreements yet with the government of Turkey. We announced previously that the United States and the Turkish working group met…in Ankara on Friday of last week”.
Clearly the US is dragging its feet as Washington realises that ultimately by abandoning its favoured Kurdish terrorist proxies in the Syria conflict, it will be difficult to recruit even a semi-reliable proxy force to give cover to the illegal US occupation of Syria’s most oil rich regions. YPG officials from Manbij have further denied any evacuation in line with the agreement that Turkey has indicated will shortly be in place.
The realities on the ground in Manbij will likely become clear in the coming days, but what is already obvious is that while the US appears to share Turkey’s position in terms of avoiding a direct conflict, Washington remains ill-prepared to acknowledge and compromise on Turkey’s legitimate security concerns regarding YPG/PKK bases in northern Syria on its on southern border.
The confusion over the matter is a further sign that when it comes to a cohesive policy on Syria, the US has no unified position. Turkey has made its position clear and it is one that is largely shared by Russia. Russia, like Turkey have never had any problems with moderate Kurdish parties participating in the negotiated political process to bring the Syrian conflict to an end. Now that Turkey has made it clear that it will not tolerate any radical Kurdish terrorist factions having a seat at the peace table, Russia has largely joined Ankara in this respect, not least because it is widely acknowledged that Russia green-lighted Ankara’s anti-YPG/PKK Operation Olive Branch earlier this year.
The US will have to eventually compromise over Manbij as the balance of regional power is stacked against the YPG/PKK and by extrapolation, against the United States. If the US continues to exercise an irresponsible unilateral policy of arming and abetting dangerous terrorist groups, Washington will find itself even more isolated in the Syria conflict than it already is.