Jerusalem Post: "safe zone" should not become platform for ethnic cleansing of Kurdish people

An analysis of the Israeli Jerusalem Post says that the "safe zone" to be established as a result of a US-Turkish agreement in Syria could lead to the return of ISIS and the clearance of Syrian Kurds from the proposed "safe zone"

The analysis points out that Washington's main objective in Syria is to defeat ISIS, and its ally in this effort is the SDF.

Jerusalem Post said, "But at the beginning of the reduction of its forces and the agreement with Turkey on the establishment of a "safe zone", Washington has put its allies at risk and its main objective."

The main stumbling block in US-Turkey relations, apart from the delivery of the Russian S-400s, is the close and successful cooperation between US Special Forces and SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). However, to declare ISIS defeated after the fall of Raqqa and Baghouz is premature, as the US Defense Department makes clear in its latest quarterly report.

After the loss of its territorial caliphate ISIS has, with an estimated 14,000 -18,000 followers in Syria and Iraq, turned to hit-and-run tactics: assassinations, ambushes, suicide bombings and burning fields and crops. Furthermore, the drawdown has decreased the resources and support needed for counter-insurgency operations. 

In addition, some 10,000 ISIS fighters are held by the SDF in detention centers in northeastern Syria, but the SDF does not have the capability to hold them indefinitely.

Russia, Iran, the Syrian regime and ISIS have also sought to foment Arab discontent with SDF administration in the oil-rich Deir ez-Zor Province.

Turkey invaded northern Syria in 2016 and occupied an area between the Euphrates and the Kurdish province of Afrin in the northwest, ostensibly to liberate the area from ISIS. The process was repeated in 2018 in Afrin, where an estimated 167,000 of the population were displaced

A clash with the US was averted by an agreement on joint US-Turkish patrols in the Manbij area, but matters have come to a head over a planned Turkish incursion into the Kurdish areas east of the Euphrates. Once again, to avoid a collision the US and Turkey have agreed on “a peace corridor,” which will lead the establishment of a safe zone in these areas, but not on its extent.   

Turkey insists on a 20-mile-deep zone controlled by Turkey, which would displace more than 90% of the Kurdish population. The US has proposed a zone nine miles deep under American control, which Turkey has rejected. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has even invoked a phone call between President Trump and President Erdogan in support of Turkey’s proposal. Akar also made it clear that if an agreement could not be reached, Turkey would take unilateral action.  

The Turkish government also plans to relocate 700,000 Syrian refugees to the projected safe zone in Syria.

Jerusalem Post said, "Because of the backlash against Syrian refugees in Turkey, the US State Department has stated that it is opposed to the forced return of refugees and internally displaced persons to Syria. Nevertheless, if the US agrees to Turkey’s plans for “a peace corridor”, it will not only betray its Kurdish allies but also be a party to ethnic cleansing."


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