By Panayiotis Alimisis*
The Syrian army and the Kurdish forces agreed to join forces in Afrin to counter the ongoing and problematic Turkish offensive. Both sides want to contain the Turkish army which has already many casualties and its irreconcilable objectives have not been achieved so far. The Kurdish population suffocates primarily under the pressure form the Turkish forces and their allies in the north and secondary from the ISIS, which is still alive although weakened in the north east. There are even reports claiming that many former ISIS fighters have joined the Syrian rebels and indirectly help the Turkish troops.
It’ s almost clear that the Turks don’t want the Kurds to achieve independence or any kind of autonomy based on the «Iraqi model» because they believe that the next rebellion will take place in southeastern Turkey, where the Kurdish population is 24 million people. Therefore, believes that its presence in Syria is vital in order to secure a place in the future peace talks. Erdogan’s regime wants to have significant influence in the peace process -if and when it comes- to block any Kurdish desire for full independence in the long term. The Kurds on the other hand, wait patiently for a dynamic American response to the turkish aggression, hoping that their troops will make a buffer zone between them and the Turks.
A few days ago, the US government called urgently Ankara to show some restrain and avoid any clash with the American forces and their allies (the Kurds) east of Afrin. But, it seems that the neo-ottoman ideology is dominating the decision making policy in Turkey. The Turkish President is willing to go to the end, even if he risks a dangerous clash with Washington which is going to have serious consequences for the NATO alliance.
Is a peace plan possible?
At this point, is not easy – neither realistic to many respects- for all sides to put down the weapons and agree on a temporary peace settlement. The alliances and the conflicting interest of the basic players are so complicated, and each of them provides different approaches for the future of Syria. This is how the «battlefield» looks like so far:
1) Turkey allies with Russia, but the Russians support Assad regime and Turkey doesn’t.
2) The US forces support the Kurds and they are against the Russians and the Turks.
3) Some fractions of the Syrian rebels are against the Russians but they get support from the US…
4) Iran supports Assad regime, sympathies with Russia and Turkey but turns its back to the Kurds.
5) Israel (recently lost a fighter plane in Syria) supports the Kurds and the Americans but it’s against the Turkish and Iranian intervention.
At the same time, there are divisions among the Kurds themselves, providing often different views on the future of their territories. It seems that any agreement complicates the conflict in Northern Syria even greater, as rivalries and alliances among Kurdish forces, the Syrian government, rebel factions, Turkey, the United States, Iran and Russia becomes more and more entangled.
*Panayiotis Alimisis is journalist. He studied Modern History and International Relations at London Metropolitan University