Stratfor: Turkey and Russia wage “full-blown proxy war” in Syria

Turkey and Russia’s starkly diverging aims have led the pair to engage in a “full-blown proxy war” in Syria, even as they attend negotiations aimed at winding down the conflict, according to the U.S. geopolitical intelligence publisher, Stratfor.

The fate of the rebel forces in Idlib, and the unwavering Russian support for the armed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), are two major points of contention that have led Turkey to prepare for a “full-out military assault” on the YPG in the northwestern Syrian town Afrin, said Stratfor.

Turkey’s ambitions in Syria had been “crowded out” by the Russian and U.S. presence, but the Turkish leadership has changed tack to ensure that YPG-controlled cantons in northern Syria remain isolated from one another.

Turkey had originally intended to wait for a U.S. withdrawal from Syria before negotiating with Russia for the green light to attack the YPG. However, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies fight Turkish-backed rebel militias in Idlib, the Turks have lost patience and are pressing ahead with the assault, Stratfor said.

The decision was also influenced by the Kremlin’s insistence that the YPG’s political wing have a place at the table at the Syrian peace talks in Astana.

However, the critical factor motivating Turkey’s mobilisation came from the U.S.A’s decision to create a 30,000 strong Syrian-border force, including YPG elements, despite the defeat of ISIS, said the U.S. intelligence firm.

As a result, Turkey is poised to strike Afrin, in spite of the Russian forces standing between Turkish and YPG forces. Stratfor reports that, as a result, “concerns are rising that an errant Turkish strike could cause Russian or American casualties and lead to a dangerous escalation of the conflict.”