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Turkey vs Syrian Kurds: Round Two?

Turkey vs Syrian Kurds: Round Two?
Roughly a month after concluding “Operation: Euphrates Shield”, Turkey seems primed to launch another anti-Kurdish campaign in northern Syria.

President Erdogan has hinted as much in multiple speeches over the past month, but it wasn’t until recently that his words began to turn from a threatening boast to a signal of intent. Turkey undertook a bombing attack against the Syrian YPG militia last week which was heavily publicized in the international media, and this in turn drew universal condemnation and even prompted Ankara’s American ally to immediately dispatch troops to the borderland region in a desperate attempt to keep the peace. The US fears that Turkey will reinvade Syria, except this time east of the Euphrates and with the goal of crushing the heartland of “Rojava”, the name that Syrian Kurdish fighters have given to the territories under their control. It’s thought that this move could in turn cripple the pro-American offensive on Raqqa, which is being led by the YPG.

Turkey, however, sees things very differently. Far from lauding the Syrian Kurds as the anti-terrorist heroes that they’re presented as in Western media, Turkish authorities condemn them as a terrorist group inseparable from the PKK. They believe that the YPG is presiding over a region-wide safe haven for anti-Ankara terrorists, and President Erdogan previously pledged to do whatever is necessary in order to stop them from unifying all of their conquered territory.

This was one of the reasons for “Operation: Euphrates Shield”, which stopped the Kurds from connecting Afrin in northwestern Syria with Manbij, among its other stated objective in fighting Daesh. If Turkey does in fact launch a successor operation east of the Euphrates, it would probably be for similarly stated purposes – to crush the YPG Kurdish militia and defeat Daesh, albeit this time going all the way to Raqqa.

While this plan might sound feasible in principle, it’s been severely jeopardized by the US’ latest deployments along the Syrian-Turkish border, which have complicated relations between the two nominal NATO allies. The state of affairs is such that the US is now guarding a group which Turkey officially designates as a terrorist organization, and it’s unknown how American troops will respond if Ankara decides to launch a sustained anti-terrorist operation against Washington’s Kurdish proxies. All the while, the ‘Race for Raqqa’ remains in limbo as this tense standoff continues.

Andrew Korybko is joined by Patrick Henningsen, writer, investigative journalist, filmmaker and founder of the news website 21stCentury Also on the line with us is Afraa Dagher, Syrian political activist.

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