Damascus | Elijah J. Magnier | @ejmalrai
Negotiations between the Syrian state and the central administration in the Syrian-Kurdish city of Afrin have entered their final stages. One issue remains pending and should soon be resolved. If so, it will prevent the destruction of the canton under the blows of the Turkish army and its Syrian allies. Will the Kurds accept total compliance with Damascus’s demands before it is too late, or prefer a total loss?
On January 20, Turkey unleashed “Operation Olive Branch” in order to occupy the Syrian-Kurdish city of Afrin, with the announced objective of “removing the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) threat to its (Turkey’s) national security”. Ankara was able to launch its operation only after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the city following the failure of negotiations between the Syrian leadership in Damascus, the Russian mediators at the center of Hameimim, and the Kurdish administration in Afrin. The Kurds refused to hand over the city and deliver their weapons and financial assets and management. Commanders in Afrin wanted the Syrian army to be deployed only on the border with Turkey (acting as a border patrol) and for the reactivation of police stations inside Afrin city.
About 27 days after the start of the battle, the Turkish forces, backed by different Syrian parties and organizations including Turkoman Jihadist, managed to destroy several of the few hundred villages scattered in the Kurdish canton and made some progress on the northern, western and eastern fronts of Afrin, which is still resisting to date.
However, this week’s negotiations between the Syrian army and the Kurds, backed by the Russian superpower (acting as ‘observers’), have solved almost all impediments except one, which the Afrin Kurds are still consulting for. The most prominent points agreed by the Kurdish central administration are:
– Delivery of the central administration to the Syrian state.
– Delivery of all 52 military control bases inside and outside the city to the Syrian army with no Kurdish appearance of arms in the city.
– Delivery of all heavy machinery and weapons to the Syrian army and with them total access to all the warehouse storage in the city and in its surroundings and villages.
But the Kurdish administration is still negotiating on a crucial remaining point. For the Syrians, “The Kurds of Afrin shall hand over all light weapons and all individual weapons, so that none whatsoever remain in the hands of the people. The power now belongs to the Syrian army. Also, therefore, all young men will be required to serve in the military to carry out their national duty. ”
The leadership in Damascus expects the Kurds of Afrin to accept the entire bouquet of conditions any day now, and allow the state and its organs to regain control of the canton exactly as it was in 2011. In the case of rejection, another option for Afrin is to remain at the mercy of the Turkish bombs and the pro-Ankara forces in the region. But that would only cause loss of life and the destruction of houses and property.
Damascus is therefore confident that things will be resolved, thanks to the intervention of Russia who will put an end to Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” and coordinate the ceasefire and withdrawal of all Turkish troops.
The United States supports Turkey in this war against the Kurds of Afrin for an “obvious” reason. The US approach requires Turkey to remain in Syria and occupy part of its territory. America must not remain alone in the Levant whilst occupying a large part of Syrian territory in the north-east (about 24% of the surface area) with its rich energy reserves (oil and gas).
Thus, if Turkey is asked to leave, the US has no choice but to declare its official occupation of the Syrian territories, whereas the presence of more than one country occupying part of Syria justifies the prolongation of America’s presence on Syrian territory, the pretext being the combat against terrorism and the fight with ISIS, who can be found inside the northern Syrian occupied area controlled by US forces.
In anticipation of the declaration of the Kurds of Afrin to agree on the final touches to the agreement, we can say that Syria will remain a country where superpowers and other neighboring countries are fighting with their own soldiers and proxies. These don’t hesitate to impose a political, military or geographical sharing of the Levant. But Damascus, which is becoming stronger every day, can still have its say and will not give up the legitimate claim on its territory, the entire territory of Syria.
By delivering Afrin to the Syrian state’s authority, the Kurds of al-Hasaka would remain the only compact group under US control. Even if the US is using north-east Syria to remain in the Levant and put pressure on Iraq with the excuse of “fighting ISIS” and because of “the fear that ISIS will return” (who in fact are already in the US controlled area today), it will not be long before Washington understands that it is no longer in control of a very friendly area but rather of an area that is slowly but surely destined to become a hostile. This will happen when the Kurds of al-Hasaka also understand that their only security and refuge will be the safe return to the authority of the Syrian state rather than with forces ready to abandon them the moment their interests compel them to end the occupation of north-east Syria.
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