While the United States has been focused on Trump’s tongue, some serious things have been occurring in Syria. Turkey’s “president” Tayyip Erdogan has accused the US of building a “terror army” on its Southern border. Russia and the US appear to be engaging in a “base race” in an attempt to counter the presence of the other in the country. Why all the drama? Let’s look:
Turkey hates the Kurds and views them as terrorists. The US stated they will build a security force of 30,000 fighters at Turkey’s southern border, many of which will be Kurdish fighters because they will draw from the SDF- Syrian Democratic Forces, which is predominantly Kurds.
Syria hates the idea of the 30,000 member security force, which is going to be sandwiched between the two because they say it violates their “sovereignty.” All of which puts US advisers in serious harm’s way.
As soon as the plan was announced, Turkish forces attacked the Kurdish forces with artillery fire, according to Al Jazeera.
The Institute for the Study of War noted,
“Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to attack America’s local partner in northern Syria on two fronts along the Turkish border. Russia and the Bashar al Assad regime support his planned operation, which could constrain the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River and possibly neutralize American plans to build an SDF-linked “border security force.” Erdogan’s escalation is consistent with the Institute for the Study of War’s September 2017 forecast that Turkey will conduct new military operations against U.S.-backed forces.”
The US has armed and backed the YPG – Peshmerga. Turkey has fought a decades long battle with the PKK, and has listed them as terrorists. They are two different groups, but both are ethnically Kurds. The YPG has been extremely effective in fighting ISIS. Which doesn’t seem to matter to the players.
“Syria strongly condemns the US announcement on the creation of militias in the country’s northeast, which represents a blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity and unity of Syria, and a flagrant violation of international law. Syria considers any Syrian who participates in these militias sponsored by the Americans as a traitor to their people and nation, and will deal with them on this basis.” SANA Syrian State media
Russia has established itself as a permanent presence in Syria at two bases: “an air base in Hmeimim and a naval base in Tartous,” according to Defense News. An agreement was signed with the Assad government back in July allowing the Russians to keep their bases for 50 years.
Meanwhile, US bases are being established at Al Tabaqah, where Kurdish troops are trained, and Al-Tanf, where the US can prevent opposition forces from crossing alng the Jordan/Syria/Iraq border. There is also a US presence at Deir Ezzour. The purpose is to prevent Iran from making what is referred to by Defense News as a “bridge” to connect Iran to the Mediterranean.
Russia has been steadily increasing it presence and influence in the Middle East. Numerous US military voices and analysts have been sounding the alarm regarding that issue, as well as the Iranian/Hezbollah presence.
A drone attack at the Russian base at Hmeimim on January 6 caused them to accuse the United States, because they didn’t believe ISIS had the capability to do that without connection to GPS satellites.
From the blame game to the base race, it appears Syria is once again at the center of Middle East difficulties.
Featured photo: screenshot via RUSI.org