Political Observation - Establishing the Safe Zone in Northern Syria

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation - Establishing the Safe Zone in Northern Syria

Five days ahead of the deadline set for the pullout of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the borders of the safe zone the US administration and Turkey agreed upon, the Russo-Turkish agreement was announced stipulating the end of the Turkish military Operation dubbed Peace Spring and extending the deadline to allow for the withdrawal of the SDF from the remainder of the 440 kilometres-long and 32 kilometres deep border strip targeted by Operation Peace Spring. Operation Peace Spring resulted in the Turkish army and their allies, the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), officially known as the Syrian National Army, dominating an area of around 130 kilometres-long and 32 kilometres-deep.


The US administration announced, ahead of the meeting between the Turkish and Russian presidents, the withdrawal of its forces from Syria apart from the al-Tanf military base and another base to protect Syrian oil wells. Hence, was the decision to withdraw the US forces at that specific time innocently coincidental? And was the withdrawal of the US forces from the border strip between Syria and Turkey just before the start of the Turkish military operation, the suggestion that America had forsaken her Kurdish allies and that her role in one of the strategic areas of the Middle East had shrunk, thus leading to an extension in the Russian role, was all this happening without any gains reaped by the US administration, especially after it had announced the withdrawal of its forces from Syria?  

If we were to scrutinise the agreement concluded between Turkey and the US pertaining to the withdrawal of the Kurds from the border strip, we would conclude that it is boobytrapped and prone to explode at any moment. America endeavoured to win time when she sensed that Erdoğan had perceived her standpoint towards him and her deception and determination to establish the Kurdish entity. Hence, she armed the SDF to give them the ability to defend themselves against Bashar Assad’s forces in case they were forced to retreat to avert facing the Turkish military machine, and to make sure the price of the Turkish military operation would be heavy on the popularity of Erdoğan should he continue to pursue them. And with Erdoğan’s attempt to frustrate the US and launch his military operation, Washington circumvented his endeavour to rescue the YPG – the main constituent of the SDF – and save face domestically and overseas. Hence, she concluded a booby-trapped agreement with Erdoğan confining the safe zone to the areas the Turkish army had brought under control, i.e. about 130 kilometres-long and 32 kilometres-deep instead of the 440 kilometres, and allowing the SDF the keep the other areas outside the border strip targeted by the operation through a host of understandings with Russia and the Syrian regime, thus placing Erdoğan on a collision course with Russia and the Syrian regime. This was corroborated by JamesJeffrey, the US Special Envoy for Syria, who said the agreement that pauses Turkey’s military operation will be focused on “those areas where the Turks had penetrated into northeast Syria,” and the Turks “are now holding private talks with the Russians and the Syrians in other areas of northern Syria and in Manbij to the West of the Euphrates.”

It seems the approaches that dominate the standpoints of Turkey, America, Russia and Bashar Assad were devoid of any strategic dimension and geared toward achieving the immediate interests of all the stakeholders. It seems Erdoğan was satisfied with controlling the area that would impede the rise of a viable Kurdish entity while keeping the military option open. America for her part rescued the SDF, saved the face of the Trump administration and gained more time to keep the file of the Kurdish entity alive. As for Russia, the agreement has increased everyone’s need for her presence as she accepted to temporarily babysit the SDF and offered the Syrian regime a trump card that may increase its presence on the scene and may break the ice between it and Turkey and the Arab states.  

It seems the Russian and Turkish sides realised that they had been placed in a confrontation they could not avoid unless some concessions were made from both sides of the conflict; nonetheless, the agreement was satisfactory to both sides. However, the American devil that may surface is in the detail of the complex Syrian scene. Keeping and backing the SDF, attending the Idlib crisis, amplifying the possibility of a Daesh resurrection and proposing the internationalisation of the safe zone by deploying European troops to monitor it, all this among other hidden political traps could erupt the situation in Syria at any moment.

What is required from the Turkish side is to be wary of all the sides having a link to the Syrian file and to focus on protecting itself from the traps of America and the Kufr states. Turkey should rely on the support of the Ummah with which she threatened the European sides before by warning them against the genie coming out of the bottle, meaning Islam. The plane of the battle is Kufr and Islam; and the Turkish leadership is aware that America and West are terrified of the return of the Ummah to her Islam and resuming her life on its basis.

24 Safar 1441h
23 October 2019