Euphrates Shield : Problems And Prospects For The US

Alexandr Bovdunov

The Turkish operation in northern Syria came to a decisive point. The US Defense Department has expressed concerns that under fire from the Turkish army were Kurds from YPG units, trained and supported by US special units. The United States had previously used the Kurds as its main striking force. The Wall Street Journal even declared that the “Turkish push south of its border endangers the US forces “. Brett McGurk, the special envoy of the US president expressed his concerns over the Turkish operation:

“We want to make clear that we find these clashes – in areas where ISIL is not located – unacceptable and a source of deep concern … We call on all armed actors to stand down … the US is actively engaged to facilitate such deconfliction and unity of focus on ISIL, which remains a lethal and common threat. “

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the United States insists on an immediate cessation of fighting between the Turkish army and the Kurds in the Syrian town of Jarablus area in the north of Syria.

Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs Ömer Çelik reacted strongly to the comment by the United States authorities about the fighting between the Turkish army and the Syrian opposition in the north of Syria, which they consider to be unacceptable. According to officials, no one has the right to tell Turkey, where and against whom to fight.

“No one has the right to tell us if we can fight against a terrorist organization, and some of them do not pay attention”, said Minister of Turkey, the European Union Affairs Omer Celik.

This statement is clearly against the United States and shows a rift between former allies. Turkey has forced the United States to support its action against ISIS, but all support immediately disappeared when there was a question about the Turkish operations against Kurdish separatists. As we expected previously, the Turkish operation in the Northern Syria is a challenge for the United States.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations involved in the information war in Syria on the side of the United States were quick to take a critical stance towards Turkey’s actions. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in London, said 20 more people were wounded in the air raid targeting a farm near the village of al-Amarna and 15 near Jub al Cousa.

The US clearly wanted to avoid clashes between Syrian Kurds and Turkey, however, but both actors seem to not be fully controlled, thus showing the weak position of the US . Kurds despite the declaration of withdrawal to the west of the Euphrates control the strategically important town of Manbij, which earlier the US insisted that they take. Turks continue to move to the south and strike at the Kurds. The developing situation for the United States is severe. They would like to have both forces as allies, however the escalation makes it impossible.

From a tactical point of view, the US difficulties create an additional window of opportunity for Damascus, Moscow, and Tehran. If the US is bogged down in the decision of insoluble Turkish-Kurdish contradictions, it can be less involved in other processes, including the key to the fate of the country – battle for Aleppo. Turkey distracts the US from the Aleppo battle by also switching to a confrontation with the Kurds, and bringing to the war with them a large part of its militants.

Moreover, the exchange of Turkish presence in Aleppo for Kurds may be part of the Russian-Turkish agreement. The discovery of a new front allows Ankara to withdraw their proxies from Aleppo without losing face and solves the problem of their further use and utilization by those who do not want to see them in Turkey.

Russia and Iran have more room to maneuver and negotiate with Turkey on the fate of the Syrian Kurds, Moscow was not able to redirect them to itself, and Tehran perceives their position on the federalization of Syria as a threat in fighting with its own Kurdish separatists.

But the US is losing significantly. As a further escalation of the conflict will put to question the Control over Manbij, which means direct and open clashes of Kurds supported by the US with Turkish forces. However, the US still has several options out of the situation:

1. Continue to balance between Turks and Kurds. This is the least advantageous variant, although the least risky. This balancing act is no longer able to stop the conflict. Distrust in the US grows from both sides.

2. To support the Kurds against Turks. This means a conflict with Turkey and its possible withdrawal from NATO. This is too high a price for the control over a part of fractured Kurdish movement.

3. Understanding the importance of Turkey, the US will try to shift to Ankara. US will be in danger of losing control over the Kurds, however, but may try to support Turkish troops and Islamists controlled by Turkish forces to fight against Damascus. In the event of the capture of the city of Al-Bab they will move directly against the Syrian troops that encircled Aleppo. In this scenario Russia, Iran, and Syria will face a serious problem.

Turkey has concentrated a serious military force on the Syrian border, which has a force of 55,000 and consists of 3 armored brigades, 3 infantry brigades, 2 brigades of special operation artillery units, and an aviation brigade with 110 helicopters. In the event that the US cannot prevent Turkey from its anti-Kurdish operation, it may try to guide this force against Damascus, using their agents of influence in Turkish leadership and armed forces. The desire to help ‘besieged’ Aleppo will be exploited.

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