Choosing Between Afrin and Raqqa

Manbij, liberated by the SDF

Manbij, liberated by the SDF

By Dr Jan Best de Vries:

Analyzing the political situation after the capture of Manbij by the SDF and the Americans, the latter will be requested by Mr Erdogan to force the SDF to withdraw behind his red line of the Euphrates in the hope that the Americans and SDF may decide to direct their attention now upon the conquest of Raqqa. However, it is in the interest of the population of Rojava that its district Afrin will finally be connected with Kobane and Jazira. The Turkish argument, that the predominantly Kurdish presence along the whole border with Turkey will cut off the rebels in Aleppo from reinforcements from Turkey so that the army of Assad and the Russians may reconquer it, is not valid for two reasons. The first is that it is in the interest of the Russians that the emirate of ex-Al Nusra will be debilitated by the SDF and that their own air and naval bases at Latakia will no longer be threatened by ex-Al Nusra militants. The second is that even IS-members can just as easily pour into Syria from the Turkish province of Hatay as they did all along the border between Turkey and Syrian Rojava over the last four years. It is therefore more probable that this time the Russians will, as they did before, offer their air support to the SDF in the reconquest of Rojava’s area between Manbij and Afrin.

Of course, the Syrian regime will not be happy with the occupation of more land by the SDF, but the latter is not at war with Syria, but with the allies of Turkey and without the help of the Russians the Syrian regime itself would not exist anymore. So it is to be expected that the still-veiled animosity between the American and Turkish NATO partners will grow when the PYD decides to go for Afrin. Only an understanding between Mr Putin and Mr Obama of the mutual interests of their two countries in Syria and Iraq and, above all, the construction of an American air base next to the international airport of Erbil may bring the end of the civil war in Syria closer; the Ottoman Empire is just history.

Dr. Jan Best de Vries is an archaeologist and historian, decipherer of the so-called Byblos Script from Aleppo and Alalakh (‘How to Decipher the Byblos Script’, Aspekt Publishers 2014, ISBN978-946-153-420-0)

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