On Sunday, the Kurds in control of the northeastern region in Syria have said that they have come to an agreement with the Syrian government to help stave off the bloody Turkish invasion that has, so far, lasted for almost a week. It comes as a shocking shift in alliances in the wake of President Trump’s order for all US troops to be removed from the northern border.
New Kurdish-Syrian Agreement
In a statement on the Kurdish Facebook page, the group said: “In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).”
The agreement, brokered by Russia, also says that Kurdish fighters would relinquish the border towns of Manbij and Kobane to Damascus. The deal signifies the end of five semi-autonomous years for Kurds in the northeast parts of Syria
Ismat Sheikh Hassan, the leader of the military council in Kobane, said on television: “After everything, it seems that the fate of the Kurdish people [is to be abandoned]. We did everything that we could, we called upon the international community… but it did not result in a solution. We urged all Kurdish [groups] to show solidarity, but no one listened.”
Turkey Invasion Continues
Just hours after the new Kurdish agreement was made, Syria’s army was deployed to the north of the country to assist in the fight against Turkey, who has been trying to oust the Kurds from the region.
Over the weekend, Turkey gained more traction in the important border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad, with Turkish President Erdogan saying that his troops had seized 109 sq km (42 square miles) of land.
Reports by the BBC, stated that at least 50 civilians have been killed inside Syria and 18 over the border in southern Turkey. Kurdish forces confirmed the deaths of 56 of their fighters while Turkey said four of its soldiers and 16 pro-Turkish Syrian fighters have been killed in Syria.
Up to 160,000 civilians have been displaced, according to UN humanitarian agency OCHA, with the figure expected to increase in the coming days. It is also believed that around 800 individuals with links to ISIS have escaped from a detention camp in the region. Turkey has claimed that it will take responsibility for any ISIS prisoners it finds.
In a tweet, President Trump implied that the Kurds may have had a hand in the matter, saying, “…Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved. Easily recaptured by Turkey or European Nations from where many came, but they should move quickly. Big sanctions on Turkey are coming. Do people think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never-ending wars will end.”
The region’s Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was founded in 2015, and funded and trained by the US to help fight ISIS. Trump’s decision to forsake the SDF has drawn international criticism and has been regarded as an act of betrayal, since the SDF was the US’s main allies in the coalition to defeat ISIS. Furthermore, the Kurds were vital to the US in managing the weight of Russia and Iran, and other US rivals. Concerns have mounted that President Trump’s new move could potentially resurrect ISIS, create a major humanitarian crisis, and cause further political unrest.
The US’s abandonment paved the way for the Turkish invasion. Historically, Turkey has regarded Syrian Kurds as an affiliate to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party that had fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for decades.
In a tweet on Sunday, President Trump said, “Very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change. Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight. They have no idea what a bad decision they have made. Why are they not asking for a Declaration of War?.”
President Trump later issued an official statement, announcing that the US intends to castigate Turkey for the growing conflict in Syria by withdrawing a $100 billion trade agreement, and increasing import tariffs on Turkish steel back up to 50 per cent. The order also stated that the US will “impose powerful additional sanctions on those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home, forcibly repatriating refugees, or threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria.”