Turkey’s Syria offensive may play into Assad’s hands - columnist

Turkey’s military offensive against the Kurdish-held northwestern Syrian enclave of Afrin will not only weaken the Kurds’ position, but may also sow the seeds of suspicion between Kurdish forces and their ally the United States, veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote for liberal British news site The Independent.

“The U.S. has said that it has never had forces in Afrin and what happens there is a Russian responsibility as there have been Russian military observers in the enclave. Nevertheless, the fall of Afrin will be taken as a sign that the U.S. does not want or is not able to defend its Kurdish allies,” Cockburn said.

Syrian President Bashar Assad “will not like Turkish military units entering Syrian territory, but there are advantages for him if the Turkish offensive shows the Kurds that they cannot rely on the U.S. to protect them,” he said.

U.S. attempts to maintain an alliance with the majority-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) by promising to train a 30,000-soldier border force led to a crisis with Turkey, Cockburn said, and this was reignited again when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it would keep its 2,000 military and logistical advisors in YPG-held territory.

“Whatever Mr Tillerson intended, the consequence of his words was to give a long-term military guarantee to the Syrian Kurdish enclave,” he said.

“This pledge of a permanent U.S. military presence in Syria infuriated Mr. Erdoğan and alienated Russia, Syria and Iran – countries that believed that the new U.S. policy in Syria was a sign that Syrian Kurdish leaders had plumped wholeheartedly for an alliance with the U.S.”