Dramatic changes and landmark achievements have marked the Syrian scene over the past 48 hours, with the Syrian army retaking control of northeastern cities, towns and strategic oil, gas and water projects. This comes following a Russian mediated deal between Kurds and the Syrian government in the wake of the Turkish operation in the country. Sensing the grave dangers and consequences of the Turkish offensive, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other Kurdish local authority officials struck a deal that involved handing over to the Syrian government key cities, towns and strategic installations including a military airport and the Euphrates Dam in al Tabqa.
This is the top such dam in the country, its smaller brother the Tishreen Dam was handed over as well as the main oilfield of al Omar and gas complex of Konica, which has been under US and Kurdish militias full control for years. Local Kurds and the Arab population of the cities of Qamishli, Hassakah and Raqqa have welcomed the Syrian army units quickly dispatched up north all the way to border lines with Turkey. Overwhelming scenes of joy and relief prevailed among locals who welcomed the advancing Syrian army units, with the national flag being raised for the first time in many years over schools, plants and other government building in the region.
Turning point deal with SDF
Although Kurds and Turkey seem to be the biggest losers in the deal between SDF and Syria’s government, the Russians have succeeded in preventing the Turkish onslaught, now in its sixth day, from developing into a major destructive war. A war that could have completely demolished the infrastructure for hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Arabs in the region under attack, with a humongous humanitarian disaster and a new refugee crisis of huge proportions. Saying that, the deployment of Syrian army units over thousands of kilometers including all main cities, towns and strategic installations marks an end to the project of establishing an independent homeland for separatist Kurds in northeastern Syria, once and for all.
The mere size, scale, intensity and vigor of the Turkish offensive has left Syrian Kurds, feeling abandoned and betrayed by their US ally, with very little choice but to resort to the Syrian State and its national army, the only national force that can protect the borders with Turkey spanning some 930 kilometers. After a series of shuttle missions and difficult talks with SDF and other Kurdish leading factions, Russian mediators brought the two sides together at the main Russian base of Hmeimeem, Latakia for the final touches on the strategic deal that has rendered massive political and economic gains to the Syrian government.
Turkey’s “Peace Spring” runs out of political water
Despite repeated Turkish statements before and after the launch of their military operation “Peace Spring”, reiterating Ankara’s intention to set up a 32 kilometer deep “safe zone” inside Syria along the border line, the fact that the Syrian army units are now only four kilometers away from the borders with Turkey in certain areas, puts Erdogan‘s ploy to some serious doubts and many more complications. Voices are getting louder both in Ankara and Washington that they might have well fallen into a carefully planned and meticulously executed joint Syrian-Russian trap. Given the widespread international condemnation of the Turkish aggression and punitive sanctions and economic measures threatened or even instantly implement against Ankara following its offensive against Kurds in northeastern Syria, Erdogan’s so-called Peace Spring appears to be quickly depleted of the badly-needed political water.
The fact that Turkey has approximately 18 million Kurds among its population, many with blood ties to those under attack in Syria, and previously in Iraq, poses yet another major challenge for Erdogan’s plans in Syria. Should the Turkish operation last for much longer, inflicting more damage and bloodshed among their Syrian relatives and ethnic brothers, Turkish Kurds could easily make life much more difficult for the Turkish president and his AK party, already with enough economic and political problems on their plate. The exceptionally harsh criticism, even outright threats recently voiced by a Kurdish MP of Erdogan and his government which rocked the Turkish parliament, are just a small specimen of a Kurdish tempest that is gaining momentum and could erupt any minute in Erdogan’s face both inside and outside Turkey as a result of his domestic, regional and international reckless policies and badly-calculated adventures.
With the US and other Western nations pulling out even more troops today from northeastern Syria – a freight aeroplane today transferred some 150 American and EU soldiers and vehicles from the area’s illegally established US airfield of Rheba into Iraq, the Syrian scene seems to be even more set for a total American and foreign withdrawal that leaves it up to Russia, Syria, Iran and the Kurds to sort things out, and for Erdogan to pluck his thorns with only his “bare” hands to use.