Interview With İlham Ehmed

Turkey may attack Efrîn


Syria is heading towards an uncertainty which is widening the divide between the US and Russia. The relationship between the two powers on Syria has reached a stalemate.

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces advance in Aleppo and Homs amidst an expansion of Turkey’s invasion of Syria.

Syrian Democratic Council (MSD) Co-chair İlham Ehmed spoke to ANF on current developments, the efforts underway in the Northern Syria and Rojava Federation and the dangers ahead. Ehmed said the conflict between Russia and the US on the ground violates principles of dialog. Ehmed stated that Erdoğan’s actual goal in Syria is the establishment of the Aleppo-Mosul line and that Rojava’s Efrîn Canton is facing grave danger. Ehmed pointed out that there may be an attack on Efrîn any time now and called for awareness and vigillance. does the current situation in Syria show? Where are the developments in Syria headed?

The US is on its way to a presidential election. A ceasefire was declared recently but in truth, one can’t say there was a ceasefire, but it also wouldn’t be right to say that nothing happened.

One can say, what was it that started and ended? Why wasn’t there anything resembling a ceasefire?

The forces clashing on the field implemented it to some extent. But the ceasefire was violated due to externally intervening powers.

Russia launched a new maneuver in Aleppo after the ceasefire was broken. Russia, the Syrian government and Iran also collaborated on this.  Government forces have advanced in Aleppo as they aim to regain full control.

Turkey wants to advance from the Bab side into Aleppo. It was impossible for Turkey to invade Jarablus and Rai without receiving the green light from international powers. Russia, the Syrian government and Iran gave Turkey the green light on this. This invasion was carried out with the full support of the coalition forces, and it continues.

Turkey is exacerbating the conflict so that the war in Aleppo will not end. Turkey’s true goal is to control all of Aleppo. And there is this: When they can’t reach their goal, they will resort to destabilization strategies. Turkey hopes  to eventually control all of Northern Syria along with Aleppo. They want to tear down the system developed in Rojava. From here they would advance to take over all of Syria.

Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria continues. What do they aim for with this invasion?

Russia, Iran and the Syrian government know of  Turkey’s plan.  The coalition forces  approved Turkey’s invasion for this reason. But Turkey now supposedly fights ISIS, while actually continuing their invasion. Turkey’s plan is to attack the Kurdish regions after clearing ISIS off their current positions.  Then the coalition forces will be in danger as well. The international forces and the coalition forces are aware of this.

There is a reflection that Russia and the US are headed towards war, the conflict between them getting deeper. Some circles assess that we are on the brink of a world war. On the field, we are of the opinion that this is not the case. There is an attempt to make it look like Russia is the only party that wants the Syrian government to control Aleppo. The US remains silent on this matter as their relationship being tested until the point of rupture.

Erdoğan said Sevres and Lausanne treaties took from them what they already had. He also has issues with the treaty of Sykes-Picot. He doesn’t accept any of these treaties. Erdoğan wishes to return to the period before these treaties, to have the position and status before these treaties. Erdoğan’s aims in Syria go further than declaring a Turkmen state. Yes, he wants to change the demographics of the region and Turkmenify it. Actually, most those he calls “Turkmens” have nothing to do with Turkmens. They don’t represent Turkmens. They are a group that he has formed arbitrarily. There are respectable Turkmens who are part of our system. They have talked about this matter in this sense. They say Erdoğan wants to create his own Turkmen and they are disturbed that he is speaking for the Turkmens.

Erdoğan’s goal is not confined to Syria either. He wants the whole region between Aleppo and Mosul, and Mosul itself.

He is after this grand and imaginary goal. This is why they say everyday in statements that they will take part in the Mosul operation, even though they are not wanted. They can be seen making statements every day like “We are ready to join in for the liberation of Mosul”, “We are ready to join for Raqqa if the Kurds aren’t part of it”. They make statements saying the Kurds shouldn’t be a part of these operations. In truth, such statements from Erdoğan and AKP officials give away the extent of their goals.

The international powers aren’t entirely positive with turning a blind eye to Turkey invading Syria. There are reaction and concerns over this matter. If it was seen as a positive thing, Turkey would be in Aleppo by now. Turkey has been allowed to advance in Syrian territory in a controlled manner. They are closely monitored in every step they take. The massacres committed, the looting and other such undesirable actions may put Turkey on trial in the future. But it is not clear up to where and towards where Turkey’s controlled advance will continue. And therein lies the danger. Turkey takes advantage of this situation by abusing a gap before the US presidential elections.

How does Efrîn factor into Turkey’s plan?

The Turkish state have plans to attack Efrîn. They are most probably considering an attack. We have received information that a meeting was held in Reyhanlı for an attack on Efrîn recently. So, Efrîn is in danger. There are more than a million people living in Efrîn. All these people are in danger. Efrîn should raise itself out of this situation. They need to get out of this dangerous situation. Efrîn can do that by opening the roads and widening its surroundings.

Do you think these goals and aims of Turkey and their relationship to ISIS won’t face any sanctions?

Two years ago, I said Turkey would be added to the list of terror-supporting countries. The data for this is increasingly solidifying. Several concrete documents have emerged that show Turkey has founded ISIS, let alone supporting it. And these are enough evidence for a trial. A decision passed in the US recently, despite Turkey’s protests. That was the decision to put such countries on trial. Then people started filing lawsuits against Saudi Arabia. But the international powers have not decided to start this trial process for Turkey just yet. Or, if they have, they haven’t declared it yet. There is a good chance Turkey will come after Saudi Arabia. I think Turkey’s situation will be discussed after the US presidential election.

Turkey an obstacle in the liberation of Mosul

What kind of a Syria do the powers with influence over Syria and the region want?

The map of which power wants what in Syria isn’t totally clear yet. Even if it is, it hasn’t been announced to the Syrian people, the peoples of the region or the world. So, it isn’t clear whether the US wants a fragmented Syria, united Syria, federal Syria, or a central Syria. It isn’t clear yet what kind of a Syria Russia wants. In their statements occasionally they say the rights of the Kurdish people must be guaranteed, but I don’t think they are entirely clear on which model they want. Maybe they are, but they haven’t announced it to the public yet.

The developments show that the war and the crisis in Syria will continue. A solution will probably be sought after the presidential elections in the US are completed and the new administration takes over. So, for now, it doesn’t look like there will be a clear path to a solution and it will be adhered to very soon.

What is the path the Kurds and the peoples of Northern Syria take in this chaos and crisis?

The Kurds have parties and powers they are facing in this deep crisis and chaos. On the one hand there is ISIS, and the other there is the attacks of the Turkish state. These two are the parties the Kurds face frequently. And occasionally they face the regime.

The Kurds and the peoples of the region have to defend themselves against these forces. In order to avoid a return to a central system, they need to insist on democracy and a decentralized system. And they need to take practical steps so they are part of the political solution. They need to be insistent in the steps they take. Whether these steps lead to Raqqa, to Bab or Aleppo, there needs to be steps for them to take in order to guarantee their inclusion in the political solution. There are powers that don’t want this to be so, first of all Turkey. That is why they are trying to prevent these steps. In the scope of two, three months there doesn’t seem to be much in the name of a solution, but in six months or so, some details of the solution will emerge.

We are in diplomatic and political efforts to have our Northern Syria Federation project accepted. We explain it to parties we meet with and tell them it should be accepted and officially recognized. Even if they don’t accept it, we expect them to make statements that the project is good. These efforts continue with the US, Russia and the regime. So we meet with all powers with influence in the region and especially in Syria. We have discussions in this matter with these powers. We continue our officialization efforts. The problem is not just the Northern Syria model, it transcends that. It’s the whole of Syria. We are looking for a solution to the complete issue of Syria. That is the effort we continue, because we are the owners of such a project. Our efforts are to solve the issue in this direction. In a way, we are offering a road map for a solution. There are powers that have positive returns to our initiatives. For example, Russia has a positive approach, and they respond positively. There are other countries and powers that see this as positive. Because it’s not a system to refuse. Those who don’t want to say no state that it’s the Syrian peoples’ decision to make.

The agenda changed into Turkey’s forces in Iraq and Mosul suddenly, why?

The liberation of Mosul, pushing ISIS out is on the agenda. The US wants Mosul to be liberated in this period. It will be good for morale before the election in the US and it will affect the outcome. Turkey is an obstacle in the liberation of Mosul with their practices. It’s almost like they don’t want Mosul to be cleared off ISIS. Turkey’s forces in Iraq are an obstacle in liberating Mosul from ISIS. All their practices prove this point. But despite all that, they still insist on taking part in the Mosul operation. Actually this is a situation that can be read in different ways. And there have been some statements. There have been analyses that Turkey is in the region to protect ISIS and their emirs. Several parties don’t accept Turkey’s insistence on taking part in the Mosul operation. For example, the Shiites don’t accept this. The rest of the peoples in Iraq don’t either. Until now, Turkey continuously claimed they should be involved in the operation if the PKK is going to be. They used PKK as an excuse. Lately, PKK’s involvement in the operation is not on the table. Iraqi representatives assembly issued the decree on Turkey’s forces, with the approval from the US.

What was the defensive statement from Turkey in the face of that? They said their forces were stationed there with approval from Southern Kurdistan authorities. They said they were expecting a call from the Southern Kurdistani authorities to join the operation. Southern authorities haven’t made a substantial statement yet. They haven’t made any statement on whether what Turkey claims is right or wrong. We think this decree by the Iraqi representatives assembly is positive. The decree states that they will file complaints in international courts for whoever accepts Turkey’s forces staying in Iraq and taking part in the Mosul liberation operation. And there is an emphasis that those people will be considered traitors.

Among all the chaos and crisis, there are the remnants of the ENKS. They are also trying to do something. What are they trying to do, with all the dust in the air?

Some remnants of the ENKS have made up their minds, as far as we’re concerned. They have decided to stay in the line of the Syrian National Coalition, who constantly attacks Sheikh Maqsoud and massacres civilians there. They insist on seeing themselves, their existence within that. There is nowhere else that they can be a part of. This is why they object to and work against the Rojava Autonomous Administration, the Federation and every project for solution developed in Rojava and Northern Syria. They slander and accuse. They are playing a bad game. And they continue to play the bad games they can. For example, they continue their effort to put the Rojava Autonomous Administration in the same basket as ISIS. These are bad efforts. They are destructive. I am of the opinion that they are experiencing political blindness. Because all international powers consider the Rojava Autonomous Administration as a democratic force. They see it as a will that is the most serious fighter against ISIS.

They also see it as a force for solution. But these people experience such blindness that they can’t see this. They knock on every door and tell everybody that the autonomous administration is like ISIS. Worldwide developments are on the basis of an anti-ISIS stance. This administration and its defense forces are the force and will that have fought ISIS the most and most effectively. The whole world has seen and appreciated this. In such a period, there is nothing more idiotic than claiming it is the same as ISIS. They are trying to complain about us to the international powers. They are trying to have influence over their opinions and decisions. It has never been seen until today that individuals affect decisions for countries. Maybe they will look like they are listening, but behind their backs they are mocking them.

I want to say that they are carrying themselves into annihilation by insisting on this counter line. They are consuming themselves. The insistence to not see the reality of Rojava and Northern Syria, the developments that emerge in this reality, the solution, unity and the democratic will is a great danger for them. Because we are experiencing a period when every player is looking to put a name on the region according to their own interests. Not seeing these developments and the change, and continuing with the known, classical policies, is to self-destruct. That is what they are experiencing now. And therefore Turkey and only Turkey enjoy what they have to say. And that provides them with some money. Beyond that, it won’t get them anything, they shouldn’t fool themselves. The only thing they have left to do is to go back from this path and focus on the nationalisation efforts. Other than that, they have no way out left. But still, it is their own decision to make.