The rivalry of external forces in Syria, both acting on the side of President B. Assad and those hostile to him, has long been reduced to a struggle for control over borders or key areas, including oil fields, highways and waterways. Today, the dominance of government troops supported by Iran and its allies in most of the territory, as well as Russia's videoconferencing is a fact that all regional opponents of Assad (KSA, Qatar and Turkey) and Western countries and organizations supporting them (USA, France, Great Britain) have to reckon with. , NATO and the EU).
The civil war in the SAR did not end with the defeat of the Islamic State (IG) banned in the Russian Federation. Only a new stage has emerged with the participation of pro-Saud and pro-Turkish groups in Idlib and Eastern Guta, and now the Armed Forces of Turkey in Afrin. The overthrow of Assad remains for the Syrian Islamists and their sponsors primarily the subject of the diplomatic war they are waging against Damascus in Geneva with the support of the Western bloc and the UN officials guided by it.
Turkey is the most vulnerable of the regional opponents of Assad due to the long border between the states, most of the areas along which the Kurds inhabit the Syrian side (except for the corridor controlled by the Turkomans). The war with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which the Turkish Armed Forces have waged for several decades, until recently went on the territory of Turkey and in Iraq. At the same time, Ankara, not without reason, believes the political and military structures of Syrian Kurds are its rear base, and disrupting the unification of Kurdish enclaves in northern Syria into a single quasi-state entity is as important as torpedoing the Erbil referendum on independence and denying Turkish Kurds autonomy.
To what extent Turkey is ready to resist the Kurdish or Kurdish-American initiatives, demonstrates the military operation in Afrin. Whether the United States announced the beginning of the armament of Syrian Kurds with MANPADS systems and the preparation of the 30-thousandth border corps, half of which will be made by the Kurds, played the role of a straw that broke the camel's back, or other contradictions that have accumulated between Ankara and Washington. In any case, the NATO member state is conducting a military operation contrary to the interests of the superpower at the head of this bloc. That, however, is not the first time. Suffice it to recall the occupation by Turkish troops of Northern Cyprus and the numerous conflicts with another member of the alliance - Greece.
Doubts of political scientists, including domestic ones, about Erdogan’s determination to strike the Syrian territory were dispelled when hostilities began in Afrin. By the time these lines are written, they continue, despite the fact that the Kurds are retreating, allowing the Turkish troops to suffer losses on their territory without much damage to their own troops. Russia has withdrawn observers from Afrin, because the situation there is optimal for disrupting Washington’s plans in Syria. Fortunately, since the Kurds rely on the Americans, the responsibility for what is happening lies with the White House ... This article is about the situation in Syrian Afrin with an analysis of relations between the United States, Kurds, Turkey and Russia in Syria (little depends on Damascus) based on materials prepared by an expert IBI Y. Shcheglovin.
NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg, in a telephone conversation prior to the start of operations in Afrin, with Turkish President R. Erdogan said that the North Atlantic Alliance understands Ankara’s concern over the US decision to train Kurds in Syria to protect the borders. Erdogan also noted that the actions of the United States will affect the stability in the region as a whole. This means, among other things, that in the EU they have disclaimed responsibility for US policy in the SAR and have taken a neutral position, not hiding: the Americans do not hold consultations with NATO regarding actions in Syria. Ankara made it clear that the decision of the issue in the competence of the United States and Turkey.
Turkish intelligence has been monitoring Afrin and Kurdish-controlled territories since October 2017, using UAVs and operational intelligence from loyal forces. The goals for which the first strike was planned were identified. As announced before the outbreak of hostilities, the first phase of the operation should last up to six days. As well as aviation artillery deployed at the border is deployed. Army Special Forces will be sent to Afrin for final stripping. Tanks. The Kurds, in order to force the enemy to conduct positional battles, erected fortifications and dug trenches in nine regions of Afrin. Turkey threw a large amount of armored vehicles and artillery to the borders of the SAR.
Afrin is surrounded by the Turkish border from the east, west and north. The Kurds can retreat south and southeast to the territory controlled by Damascus. The General Staff of the Republic of Turkey is ready to attack Kurdish positions following an airstrike of armored vehicles. To protect against bombs with a remote fuse, equipment will be advanced with “jammers” - devices that silence most radio signals. At the same time, a significant part of Afrin is occupied by mountains, the use of tanks there is limited, and the Turkish Air Force does not have bombs to destroy underground tunnels and bunkers. As for the "gemmers", there are land mines, which are actuated by wire. They are easy to use in Afrin.
The overwhelming advantage of the Turks in the air requires the Kurds to disperse and actively use mine ambush measures, costly for the upcoming losses. What does it mean to participate in the operation of pro-Turkish opposition units, which will be supported by aviation and artillery? The movement of the pro-Turkish forces from the Turks-controlled zone between Jarablus and Aazaz is one of the directions of impact. The deployment of troops from Turkey itself will not be so active. At the same time, Ankara is trying to get Moscow’s approval for the cleansing of Afrin, citing the need to combat the pro-Saud “Dzhebhat an-Nusroy”.
Note that the United States was planning an offensive in Idlib with the use of detachments of the Forces of Democratic Syria (SDS). Their instructors began training in the military training camps of the VTS fighters who will serve on the border with Turkey and Iraq, as well as on the contact line with government troops in the Euphrates River basin. It is alleged that 400 is allocated for millions of dollars. The main motive for the Americans is to overtake the offensive of the Syrian troops and Iranians there with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces. At the same time, the VTS combat potential is weak, as shown by the capture of Raqqa.
Idlib is a radical Sunni Arab territory. Kurdish offensive will be viewed from the point of view of traditional ethnic hostility. All Arab groups will fight against them, regardless of ideology and submission to the sponsors. If the US chooses this option, it will slow down the consolidation under its auspices of the Arab Sunni tribes east of the Euphrates. The Arabs already suspect that the Americans want to create an analogue of the Iraqi Kurdish parastatal enclave in Syria, thereby heating the mood of the Kurds in favor of the "Great Kurdistan".
Keeping Kurdish troops east of the Euphrates while attacking Idlib at the risk of Turkish aggression in Afrin is a losing scenario in advance. Moreover, the Americans are not in a hurry to neutralize Dzhebhat an-Nusru, not being interested in leaving the stage of the armed part of the opposition, and they want to influence the Islamists through KSA. In this case, the intervention of the Turks in Afrinne changes everything. Their diversionary attacks in the direction of Manbij, in order to distract the Kurds Afrin, are not excluded. But there are few forces in Turkey to act in both directions, and the start of the operation means for them not only a further divergence from the United States, but also a long-lasting conflict with significant losses.
In reality, the PKK and the Democratic Union (DS) in Syria are branches of the same organization. DS detachments entered Rakka under the portraits of the founder of the PKK, A. Odzhalan, and they still hang on the streets of this Arab Sunni city. Erdogan is offended by the fact that the United States does not recognize the connection between the PKK and the DS, exposing the Turkish leader as a fool. But this does not cancel Ankara’s dependence on Washington. Despite disagreements, the US Air Force continues to use the base at Incirlik. Erdogan in Afrin tries to blackmail the United States, as he did with the EU, receiving from Europeans three billion euros of compensation for preventing migrants to Europe. Moreover, domestic experts believe that in Afrin, he most likely wants to imitate a war than to fight seriously, although the opposite can happen.
The Americans took preventive measures by transferring to the compounds of the Kurdish militia in the SAR a party of MANPADS, and in Afrin. Fighters of the YPG people's self-defense detachments from the military wing of the Forces of Democratic Syria received the complexes. Transfer of MANPADS is useless to combat the remnants of the IG, since the Islamists of the Air Force did not have, and the drones are neutralized by large-caliber machine guns. At one time, the Americans did not transfer the Iraqi army to MANPADS, citing the danger of their falling into the hands of the Islamists, since arms trade between the warring parties in Iraq and Syria is a standard situation.
Over the past few months, the Syrian army, with the support of Russia and Iran, has begun attacking militant positions in the northwestern provinces of Aleppo, Ham and Idlib. Those, including pro-Turkish groups, put up fierce resistance (including in the area of the Abu ad-Dukhur airport). Moreover, the Prosaudian Dzhebhat an-Nusru Turks are not directly supported, but its defeat threatens the existence of pro-Turkish Ahrar al-Sham groups affiliated with it. A short-term alliance of Turkey and Saudi Arabia in this regard exists. And it is not for nothing that the US military claims that the mortar shelling and attack by the drones of the Russian Khmeimim base were organized by pro-Turkish groups and encouraged by MIT. The usual tactic for Erdogan ...
Washington clearly expected that the position of Moscow on Afrin, in which the Russian monitoring group was located, and Manbidzhu, on the outskirts of which Syrian government forces stand, will remain uncompromising and this will become an obstacle for the Turks. But Moscow benefits from a local conflict in Afrin. And as a result of strained relations between Washington and Ankara, and in connection with the breakdown of plans to build the military structure and autonomy of the Sunnis controlled by the Americans east of the Euphrates. Yes, and another injection of US confidence in their global domination also does not hurt. Moreover, it seems that the impulsive Erdogan, fighting with the Kurds, greatly complicates his position.
As for great diplomacy, the United States wants Russia's pressure on the SAR government to reach a new level, so that Damascus takes a more active part in the Geneva talks. This was stated by US Secretary of State R. Tillerson at Stanford University. That is, Moscow is invited to convince Assad to negotiate with the opposition about the terms and conditions of his capitulation, after which forces will come to power in Syria that will nullify the Russian and Iranian presence there. Why is it Moscow, the head of the State Department did not say. The current US administration believes in its exclusivity and dominance in world affairs, which allows Russia to beat Americans with a slight strain of economic and military resources. Washington has forgotten about constructiveness in international politics, which implies unions and counter-unions, a willingness to compromise and adequately assess the balance of power. That is, to conduct hard work that proceeds from real possibilities.
The first year of President Trump was marked by the most devastating crisis of US foreign policy for the newest history. The Americans managed to make any political and diplomatic progress in the Far, Near and Middle East as difficult as possible for them, complicating relations with all the world players except Israel to the limit. And without any effort on the part of Moscow. As for the Geneva talks, their significance for Russia is to ensure the presence of the UN in the Syrian settlement, eliminating the West’s monopoly on it, and also have a mechanism to influence the “partners” in the information war.
In addition, the role of the Geneva format is that the surrender of the Syrian opposition, and not of Assad, should be fixed there. For this, it is necessary to inflict maximum military damage on implacable (pro-Saudi “Dzhebhat an-Nusra” and associated pro-Turkish groups) and bring to mind the local truces. It is possible to talk about progress in Geneva after the э er-Riad group ’loses effective military support“ on the ground ”in Syria. At the same time, it is advisable to maximally complicate the US attempts to create an alternative to the regime in Damascus east of the Euphrates. The role of the Kurds in the Syrian conflict is ideally limited to their stay in the areas where they live, where they are the “sanitary cordon” and irritant for Ankara. And since they are also trying to act as guides for the interests of the United States in the SAR, the adjustment of this with the hands of the Turks in Afrin is logical.
Even if they succeed in occupying the main cities in the canton of Afrin, they are guaranteed to receive a guerrilla war, to which the main flow of material and technical resources will be redirected. For the time being, they are marching to pro-Turkish groups in Idlib and Eastern Guta, which allows Ankara to express a special position regarding the initiatives put forward by Moscow, including the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue. The threat that the Turks will clear Afrin and create there a foothold of their influence and a logistical base for irreconcilable opposition is minimal. And the fact that such an intervention will divert the forces of the DS to this direction is a fact. This hotbed of confrontation will delay all possibilities (or their maximum part) of the Turks and Kurds, while Ankara will not have the resources to expand to other Kurdish territories in the north of Syria.
Washington should clearly state its position that in any case it hits its interests: in one case it complicates relations with Ankara, in the other it undermines the alliance with the Kurds, complicating the creation of an independent Sunni enclave in the north of Syria alternative to Damascus. Sunnis will wait. Their suspicions about the sincerity of the Americans and their ability to guarantee their allies security will increase. Moscow, among other things, turns out to be an arbitrator: all parties to the confrontation will turn to it.
The units of the Turkish Armed Forces and detachments of the Syrian Free Army (FSA) coordinated the sweeping tactics of Afrin from the militant groups of the Kurdish National Self-Defense Forces (SNS). The military identified seven major corridors to enter the city from the east. The armored units of the Turkish army and the SSA fighters will advance along them. These forces, divided into four major battle groups, took up positions near the Turkish border, awaiting orders to move to Afrin.
The sections of the concrete wall on the Turkish-Syrian border at 12 points were dismantled to advance armored vehicles to Afrin. Along the border line in seven tactically important areas, the Turkish General Headquarters deployed garrisons and howitzers batteries, self-propelled guns and multiple rocket systems to suppress SNA firing points and strongholds in Afrin and to cover the subsequent stages of ground forces advancement to the city. In parallel with the preparations on the Afrin-Azaz-Jarablus line, the Turks are negotiating with two opposition groups operating on the Afrin-Idlib line. They agree to contribute to the assault on Afrin, but insist on coordinating efforts.
It should be noted that attracting the Sunnis to their side simultaneously with the support of the Kurds is almost impossible. The first is not only difficult, but it also requires funding, for which Washington is not ready, what 75 is talking about millions of dollars that Americans allocate for the restoration of Raqqi. As for the second, according to Erdogan, the United States sent 4900 trucks to Syria for Kurds and about 2000 aircraft with weapons. The Pentagon’s public statements about plans to form a new armed force based on Kurds from supporters of the DS party made it impossible to compromise between Washington and Ankara.
The Turks have a very limited field of maneuver. They should either agree to liquidate Dzhebhat an-Nusra in Idlib, on which Russia and Iran insist, and take part in the peace process proposed by Moscow at the negotiations in Astana and the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, or be in opposition to Moscow and Washington at the same time, which is absolutely unpromising to save influence in Syria and what Erdogan always tried to avoid, maneuvering from one pole of power to another. The US has even less leverage. They will not risk fighting with Russia, Iran or Turkey - a NATO country. As a result, the program of training the new armed Syrian opposition, announced by the Pentagon, was in jeopardy.