Borysfen Intel

Afrin: The Haggling Continues

January 28, 2018
<p>Afrin: The Haggling Continues</p>

Vadym Volokhov

The “Olive Branch” Operation has entered the state of a “pause”. According to reports from the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, the ground operation is suspended in order to concentrate reserves, capture the positions taken from the YPG units and rearrange the forces before the “decisive throw” to the center of the Afrin enclave.

Yeni Safak also reports on the successful offensive of the Turkish troops and the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) units on five directions: the settlement Bulbul (the North of Afrin), Rajo (North-West), Shaykh al-Hadid (West), the city of Jandairis (South-West) and the A’zaz area (North-East). The Turkish command further deployed to the canton armored vehicles through Atimah border point in the north of the province of Idlib, to the south of Afrin.

Air and artillery strikes continue despite the stop of ground troops.

The day before, the Turkish command reported that 25,000 FSA fighters were involved in the operation against 20 to 25 thousand Kurdish militants. Foreign experts also estimate the number of regular troops in Turkey involved in the operation of 7–8 thousand servicemen. At this, Turkey is all over the Kurds in heavy machinery and aviation.

But, as of January 26 this year, the results are close to zero, which is completely unclear. And it's not the matter of the amount of the troops, but of the very slow implementation of the plans of the operation. The analysis of the current situation shows that the Turkish troops are moving in synchrony with the Syrian troops in the north of Idlib, which speaks in favor of the existence of an agreement between Ankara and Moscow. Turkey bought Russia's consent to the aggression against Syria at the cost of the territories that have to become Russia's and Iran's, according to the agreements in Astana on the “zones of de-escalation”.

Today Syrian troops are moving in the Russian zone between the two highways: the Aleppo-Hama highway and the Aleppo-Hama railroad, and it's hard to say how much time will it take them to occupy the entire territory in their “zone”.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson January 23 offered Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to form a 30-kilometer security zone, which would eliminate Turkey's national security concerns. Actually, this is exactly what R. Erdogan had been trying to do lately, and this can be regarded as his diplomatic victory.

In case of the implementation of this plan, R. Erdogan will receive a significant advantage and will no longer be interested in an alliance with either Iran, or with Russia to counterbalance US plans in Syria. He will also reaffirm his image of a “strong leader” and make the Syrian Kurds more loyal when he proves that there is no sense in relying on the help of external forces in the conflict with Ankara.

Washington is now interested in destroying the alliance between Turkey, Russia and Iran and thus is trying to achieve its goal:

1. Preservation of its military presence in Syria.

2. To overthrow B. Assad's regime.

3. Termination of supply of arms from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.

Washington has “surrendered” the Syrian Kurds to Afrin in exchange for an agreement not to touch the main Kurdish territories where US military units are stationed. Washington's true intentions in Syria were clearly voiced by US Vice President Mike Pence during his meeting on January 21 with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman: “The United States made clear, we remain committed to a presence in Syria, not only to defeat ISIS, but to restrain the malign influence of Iran and other efforts in the region that would add to further destabilization”.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu US Vice President Mike Pence with King Abdullah II of Jordan
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu US Vice President Mike Pence with
King Abdullah II of Jordan

At the same time, Moscow's main goal remains the preservation of B. Assad's regime and Russian military bases. Therefore, Moscow will support Ankara's actions in Syria as long as they do not threaten B. Assad's interests. The “Olive Branch” Operation can make PYD/YPG fighters get out of Washington's control and take a step toward Moscow.

Thus, all players in the Syrian field are trying, first of all, to achieve their goals at the expense of the Syrian Kurds.

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