Feb 21 2018

Syrian civil war gets even more complicated

Syria’s move on Tuesday to send pro-government militias to reinforce Kurdish forces under siege in northwestern Syria by Turkish troops has made the civil war even more complicated than it was and has deeply angered Ankara, writes Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post.

The fighting in the enclave of Afrin began last month when Turkey invaded with an aim to dislodge Kurdish fighters of the People’s Defence Forces (YPG). Ankara claims the YPG are directly linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been fighting for autonomy for Kurds in southeast Turkey since 1984.

The United States has backed the YPG whose fighters have been very successful in taking on the Islamic State (ISIS). It has, however, stood on the sidelines and decided not to help YPG units in Afrin.  

“Washington's complicated role in the war — as well as its decision to avoid becoming deeply involved in the clashes in Afrin— compelled the Syrian Kurdish militias to turn to President Bashar al-Assad for help,” Tharoor writes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday described the Syrian government’s action as the work of “terrorists” and has vowed to continue the siege of Afrin town.

There are also claims that the pro-Assad militias that have come to help the YPG are from pro-Iran backed units.

“If that is the case, we are seeing Turkey and its rebel allies potentially squaring off against pro-Assad militias that are linked to Iran and are operating in tandem with Syrian Kurdish units friendly with the United States — which opposes both the Assad government and Iran's presence in Syria,” Tharoor writes.

There are few easy options for Turkey. Rising anti-American sentiment linked to the U.S. support for the YPG has pushed the government away from Washington. At the same time neither Russia nor Iran look eager to help Turkey out.

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