Jun 02 2018

Northern Syria’s Kurds unmoved by Turkish threats to the region - analysis

The Turkish elections next month arrive at a time when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed a takeover of Northern Syria; however, Kurds living in the region are not concerned, says Kenneth R. Rossen in an article he penned for Pacific Standard magazine.

After Erdoğan in May announced snap elections slated for June 24, he promised to expand Turkey’s ongoing operation aiming to oust the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), an armed group which has been at war in Turkey for over three decades.

Analysts are of the opinion that Turkey's military campaign to disband the Kurds from Rojava is motivated primarily by politics, Rossen says, noting that the Turkish president is looking to rouse his political base at home while strengthening his nationalist agenda and supporters who dislike the U.S. presence in Syria.

After Turkey took over the Kurdish city of Afrin earlier this year, fighters and residents in Manbij and Kobani, the two front-line cities in Syria have regularly been suffer shellings and sniper fire from across the border with Turkey. They may have experienced a brief moment of panic, but that is no longer the case.

"I don't fear. The American forces trained us on how to use our weapons and work with discipline. But they couldn't teach us how to not fear, because that depends on one's courage," the article quotes Syrian soldier  Khalid Husain as saying.

United States and French troops occupy Manbij, ignoring requests by Turkey to vacate the city Turkey believes is home to Kurdish terrorists. Life continues normally in the city of at least 300,000 despite everything, Rossen says.

"If the Turkish army tries to attack us, this city will fall into chaos," Khamis Mohammed, 42, a shop owner near one of the confectionary stalls, says. "As a fact, as long as America is here, Turkey cannot do anything."

For the people of Manbij, the Turkish rhetoric is seen as all talk and no action.

Despite statements from Turkey, the U.S. has denied that an agreement has been reached with Ankara on the Syrian city of Manbij. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will be in the U.S. this week to discuss the issue that has been an going source of tension between Washington and Ankara.