Growing crisis surrounds US-backed offensive in Syria

Jayden Sanders
Jayden Sanders

wsws.org/en/articles/2016/11/11/raqq-n11.html

By Bill Van Auken
11 November 2016

A US-backed offensive to seize control of Raqqa, the Syrian stronghold of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), has become enmeshed in bitter conflicts between Washington’s main allies on the ground.

The opening of the drive south toward the city was first announced last Sunday by President Barack Obama’s counter-ISIS envoy, Brett McGurk, who proclaimed that the “initial phase” of the operation to liberate Raqqa, dubbed “Euphrates Wrath”, had begun.

What has followed, however, has been a series of recriminations between Turkey, Washington’s main NATO ally in the region, and the Syrian Kurdish forces of the Popular Protection Units (YPG) militia, which constitutes the principal proxy force in the drive against Raqqa. The YPG has been armed and funded by the Pentagon and accompanied into battle by US special forces units.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan initiated its own intervention into Syria, “Euphrates Shield,” beginning last August. Ostensibly launched in support of US-led operations against ISIS, the main thrust of the Turkish offensive has been directed at consolidating its own buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border and preventing Kurdish forces from joining together the territory they control in the same area.

With the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish YPG, pushing further south toward Raqqa and seizing control of villages on the way, the Erdogan government has grown increasingly agitated, fearing that a successful offensive will strengthen the Kurdish enclave on Turkey’s border.

Ankara considers the YPG a branch of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) in Turkey, regarding both as “terrorist” groups.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was dispatched to Turkey on Monday for talks with his counterpart, General Hulusi Akar, on the offensive against Raqqa.

In his discussions with the Turkish general staff, General Dunford attempted to assuage Ankara’s hostility to the role being played by the Kurdish militia and made promises that the YPG-led SDF would not take Raqqa. According to the Pentagon’s web site, Dunford told Ankara that the Kurdish militia was moving south “to isolate the enemy that’s in the vicinity of Raqqa and in Raqqa,” in an operation that would take months.

“We always knew the SDF wasn’t the solution for holding and governing Raqqa. What we are working on right now is to find the right mix of forces for the operation,” the top US commander said. He claimed that the Pentagon would rely upon “the moderate Syrian opposition, the vetted Syrian forces and the Free Syrian Army forces.” “Moderate,” “vetted” and “Free Syrian Army” forces all refer to the same fiction of a viable secular, US-backed opposition capable of mounting a major military operation. Such forces simply do not exist. US officials have acknowledged that the main forces that have benefited from the vast amounts of money and weapons poured into Syria by Washington and its regional allies have been the Al Qaeda-linked militias such as ISIS and the Al Nusra Front.

In addition to the issue of the Kurdish advance on Raqqa, Turkish officials pressed Dunford on the continued YPG occupation of Manbij, a city in northern Syria west of the Euphrates River. Washington had previously told the Turkish government that the YPG, which seized Manbij from ISIS last June, would withdraw from the town, which Ankara sees as linking up Syrian Kurdish “cantons” in the east and west of northern Syria.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu charged on Tuesday that some 200 YPG fighters are still in Manbij, warning that unless Washington saw to their withdrawal, Turkey would take “necessary actions.”

Other urls found in this thread:

bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-37779478

Jaxson Nelson
Jaxson Nelson

Speaking before a parliamentary committee, Çavuşoğlu also touched upon Dunford’s promises regarding Raqqa. “The YPG will only serve in seizing, as operations in the city will be conducted by special forces along with local forces. This is the agreement we have reached with the US, but we are still walking on thin ice as to whether they keep their promise or not, as we have experienced with Manbij.”

The Associated Press quoted a Pentagon official as saying that Dunford had not guaranteed that the Syrian Kurdish fighters would not go into Raqqa, only that the US would “work with” Turkey on organizing the final offensive against the city.

For its part, the YPG and SDF leadership have insisted that they will continue their offensive into Raqqa itself and have categorically rejected any Turkish role in the offensive.

Further complicating the situation, the minority of Syrian Arab fighters affiliated with the SDF have pulled out of the offensive, claiming that they have been double-crossed by the Kurdish militia and its American advisors.

According to a statement quoted by the web site Middle East Eye, the Syrian Arab brigade charged that the US was attempting to “sideline” its participation, while relying exclusively on Kurdish forces. It claimed this violated an agreement that the YPG “would only provide logistical support for the operation” and that the Syrian Arab fighters “would be in charge of the administrative and security management of the city afterwards.”

The charges appeared to echo concerns expressed by Ankara that a Kurdish invasion of Raqqa could lead to a form of ethnic cleansing of what has long been an overwhelmingly Arab city.

There is also the possibility that an attempt to seize the city with the Kurdish militia could provoke a response from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, again raising the threat of a wider war.

Meanwhile, the Erdogan government appears to be hopeful that it can achieve a more favorable agreement with an incoming Donald Trump administration regarding Syria and the Kurds. While Erdogan had earlier condemned candidate Trump’s call for a ban on all Muslims entering the US, he delivered one of the earliest and most effusive messages of congratulation to the new president-elect.

An indication that the desire for rapprochement may be mutual came in the form an article published this week by The Hill, by Trump’s senior national security advisor, retired General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Flynn criticized the Obama administration for “keeping Erdogan’s government at arm’s length—an unwise policy that threatens our long-standing alliance.”

Flynn went on to strongly suggest that the US should agree to Ankara’s demand for the extradition of exiled Islamic leader Fethullah Gulen, who resides under US government protection in Pennsylvania. The Erdogan government has blamed Gulen for the abortive July 15 military coup against his government and has carried out a massive purge of his suspected followers.

“It is time we take a fresh look at the importance of Turkey and place our priorities in proper perspective,” Flynn writes. “It is unconscionable to militate against Turkey, our NATO ally, as Washington is hoodwinked by this masked source of terror and instability nestled comfortably in our own backyard in Pennsylvania… We should not provide him safe haven. In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.”

Jackson Morgan
Jackson Morgan

Flynn criticized the Obama administration for “keeping Erdogan’s government at arm’s length—an unwise policy that threatens our long-standing alliance.”
Flynn went on to strongly suggest that the US should agree to Ankara’s demand for the extradition of exiled Islamic leader Fethullah Gulen, who resides under US government protection in Pennsylvania. The Erdogan government has blamed Gulen for the abortive July 15 military coup against his government and has carried out a massive purge of his suspected followers.
“It is time we take a fresh look at the importance of Turkey and place our priorities in proper perspective,” Flynn writes. “It is unconscionable to militate against Turkey, our NATO ally, as Washington is hoodwinked by this masked source of terror and instability nestled comfortably in our own backyard in Pennsylvania… We should not provide him safe haven. In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.”
This is why we can't have nice things.

Lucas Anderson
Lucas Anderson

all this Erdogan pandering
Christ, I'd hoped that at least one good thing to come out of a Trump presidency would be to widen the split between US and Turkey. I wouldn't be surprised if he'd get all buddy buddy with Islam McHitler now that he's actually in power and doesn't need to appeal to retards. At least /pol/ would get cucked in the process.

I also really don't want to be killed by Turk or slippery backstabbing Americans.

Adam Walker
Adam Walker

Turk here after the """"coup""" attemp he got strong, now he tries to install presidental system, if he can't he'll lose power.AKP is one man party, if erdoğan goes down whole party will.

Also he interrupts MHP candidate election, there were oppositiion from mhp and they were quite popular but now all those opposition from mho are shadowbanned.There were polls about opposition, if the curent party leader changes their vote was going up around %5 to %10.WHich mean CHP-MHP could make coalition and get rid of AKP but it couldn't happened.

Just like DSP,ANAP,DYP etc

Thomas Campbell
Thomas Campbell

Turkish comrade, what the fuck is with the delirious nationalism in your country.

Whilst following Rojava and the Syrian Civil War I've come to see how absurdly nationalist and obsessed with the past Turks are. I can understand hostility to Rojava and the YPG but the shit I've seen goes far beyond that.

Jose Mitchell
Jose Mitchell

CHP and HDP will never cooperate because CHP are spooked nerds

John Lee
John Lee

Nationalism?No, I would call it partisanism, fanatism.Before AKP kurds were barely represented in Turkey, AKP used kurds and liberals to challange kemalism,nationalism.

Right now there is no use for kurds and liberals for him that's why he's opposing them not because of nationalist.

Also he once openly said we have crushed nationalism together.

My point is he's gonna use eurasianist and nationalist just like he used kurds and liberals.

I'm not a communist, but of course I'm not deluded to believe his lies.

Calling kurdish suicide bombers not terrorism won't make you popular in Turkey

William Evans
William Evans

CHP is the party of Ataturk right? How have they not capitalised on the godlike reverence the Turkish people have for Ataturk with votes?

Brody Morales
Brody Morales

CHP is the party of Ataturk right?
Yes

How have they not capitalised on the godlike reverence the Turkish people have for Ataturk with votes?
Reasons are, they saw elitism as cultism, also they're social democrat and barely oppose AKP effectively.

Also conservatism was always popular in Turkey and chp is not conservative.

Christopher Powell
Christopher Powell

Raqqa is about last toss of the coin for the US in Syria. If they can't take and hold a city with their special forces embedded among the 'moderates' then they don't have a leg to stand on. Given Trump will commit no more resources to the moderates, I think we are approaching the beginning of the end of this whole fucked up tale.

Samuel Peterson
Samuel Peterson

the SDF aren't moderate beheaders bro. FSA have no place in the Raqqa conversation. It's SDF with US help v ISIS.

Cooper Martin
Cooper Martin

SDF aren't moderate beheaders

True. Nor are they hardline anti-assad. The US hopes to still have a base of operations for the 'moderates' at large but the SDF taking Raqqa does not guarantee them this. The SDF will probably not be poked into advancing against the SAA and will likely when all is said and done partake in the democratic process in Syria. Given Trump's victory the US pre-condition of 'Assad must go' will be dropped.

Camden Reyes
Camden Reyes

“We always knew the SDF wasn’t the solution for holding and governing Raqqa. What we are working on right now is to find the right mix of forces for the operation,” the top US commander said. He claimed that the Pentagon would rely upon “the moderate Syrian opposition, the vetted Syrian forces and the Free Syrian Army forces.”
Unfortunately, it is not the poster you are replying to who is an idiot, but rather the US military's commanders.

Colton Williams
Colton Williams

Didn't real, lol.

Parker King
Parker King

Yeah, this ain't sustainable for the US. Rebels and SDF hate each other. Their whole policy in Syria has been retarded, backing contrary groups at the same time.

the US played a big part in the SDF's creation but recently they've become increasingly alienated from the US and are starting to move into Russia's sphere of influence. It's for the best I think.

I'm also questioning the decision to move for Raqqa, but we'll see how it goes I guess. Seems pointless when it won't be part of Rojava.

Thomas Lee
Thomas Lee

Essentially, they want anti-assad rebels in Raqqa so the glorious revolution can continue.

LONG LIVE BLESSED ASSAD. MAY HE DRINK THE BLOOD OF EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD ASSOCIATED WITH THE TERRORIST SCUM

Jeremiah Thomas
Jeremiah Thomas

I'm also questioning the decision to move for Raqqa, but we'll see how it goes I guess. Seems pointless when it won't be part of Rojava.

I'd suggest this was an idea that started with the US. In fact no I am stating unequivocally that it was at the will of the US. Ostensibly it was about wiping ISIS out once and for all in both Iraq and Syria, hence the timing to coincide with Mosul offensive. I suspect in reality they hoped to drive ISIS to Aleppo so their games their could continue, 'ebil assad, ebil Russia targeting civilians'. Civilians who have obviously chosen to stay there and totally aren't being held as human shields by the brave 'moderate' rebels.

C..can this be something of a /Syria General/? Just somewhere to document the closing acts of this farce?

Daniel Allen
Daniel Allen

this or
we are in need of a space for syria either way

Colton Diaz
Colton Diaz

The US has to be offering something in return for Raqqa. If indeed SDF are serious about taking the whole city and not just fortifying the outskirts it will be a fight on the scale of Manbij or Kobani, with many lives lost. And at the end of the all this they would hand it off to a separate entity?

They were gaining on Al Bab at a very decent pace and their progress seems to have halted once this Raqqa campaign kicked off. Al Bab and connecting the cantons makes far more sense.

The Turkish rebels are pretty close to Al Bab now but they will not take it if ISIS put up a fight, which they should

Jonathan Evans
Jonathan Evans

BBC propaganda piece anyone?

Why are people still living in east Aleppo?

bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-37779478

funny, not one of them mentions the rebels holding them there, despite footage of the rebels firing on people who tried to leave during the last Russian ceasefire.

The reasoning for staying is fucking pushing creative license to the limits.

Why haven't people fled east Aleppo?

The main reason why people have not left is that they have become trapped, they told us.

"The regime lied about making humanitarian corridors," says Abdulkafi, who teaches English at the university.

"I was accused and ran away to Aleppo. Assad's regime considers us all terrorists. We are going to die defending ourselves. I am not a fighter but I will fight to the death."

"Aleppo is my life and my country. How could I leave it?" asks Fatemah.

And perhaps most disturbingly,

We interviewed Abdulkafi while he was teaching English to children. He asked Hamad, a boy in his class if he would leave.

"No, of course I will not leave," Hamad replied. "I have lived here and I will stay. This is my land."

Essentially the reasoning for not leaving is

1) We're trapped

BTFO by the humanitarian corridors

2)Don't trust the government

Assad and co have offered concessions and immunity to anyone who hasn't lifted a weapon dozens of times now. Only those who have committed crime have anything to fear from the government if they choose to leave Aleppo

3)My home, I refuse to leave

This one just seems kinda dumb.

I wonder how many interviews the BBC chose not to publish here?

It did however have this map. Sure, dated 3rd Oct but it is more up to date than most as it shows the east of Aleppo entirely encircled

Benjamin Sanchez
Benjamin Sanchez

I suspect the offer was fire support from the air. Remember, the SDF aren't exclusively Kurdish. Some will be out for ISIS blood for its own sake.

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