[Marxism] Russia, Turkey's new best friend, prevents Assad-YPG deal on Afrin
mkaradjis at gmail.com
Tue Feb 20 07:29:52 MST 2018
Louis reported earlier that the YPG now denies there was any deal to
allow Assad troops into Afrin to end the Turkish offensive. Lots of
claims and counter-claims, clearly negotiations behind the scenes and
everyone trying to save face.
Yet what now seems clear is that it was not Assad, or the YPG, that
prevented the deal - it was Russia, at the behest of its ally Turkey.
The pro-Rojava twittersphere is now furious with its former ally
"There was an agreement largely concluded between YPG and SAA but it
failed due to fierce Russian opposition. There are no more talks.
Russia is all in for Turkey"
"Russia is responsible for the failure to reach a deal with the
government up until now. Russia wants us to lay down our weapons. The
government wants to fight alongside us."
While that might not seem to even make sense, it is indicative of how
far several geopolitical factors have changed.
As I reported yesterday, Turkey seemed to favour the deployment of
Assad forces into Afrin, and it had been a long-standing demand of
Russia on the YPG to accept the regime into Afrin, if Russia were to
prevent the Turkish attack. The Turkish FM made clear Turkey has "no
problem" with Assad taking control of Afrin as long as the regime
effectively sidelines the YPG (eg, disarming them etc), but would not
accept it if Assad helped the YPG.
While accepting any Assad presence at all was already a big compromise
from the YPG, and while it was planned to be mainly low-key and
symbolic, no doubt Assad aimed to use this presence to more gradually
re-take Afrin from the YPG, it seems that for Turkey this was not
enough - Turkey, however ironic it may sound, wants a more forceful
Assadist presence in Afrin! In other words, the neo-AKP regime
(essentially now an AKP/MHP Turko-nationalist regime) only sees the
YPG as an enemy, no longer even pretending that Assad was a problem
(when in opposition to the AKP till 2015, the MHP opposed both the
AKP's half-hearted peace process with the PKK, and opposed Turkey's
support for the anti-Assad cause).
For Assad, agreeing to have a symbolic presence in Afrin was just a
beginning, but a shrewd one - why go in and have to confront a Kurdish
insurgency when the YPG has never been in revolt against the regime,
and Turkey is doing the job of weakening them anyway? Better to go in
an deal with a weakened YPG and have the upper hand in bargaining,
while reducing its power later. It also gave Assad the opportunity to
pose as a defender of Syria's borders, offering to aid "resistance" to
Turkey. Assad probably also bargained that offfering to "help" the YPG
in its hour of need might enable his regime to press the YPG/SDF on
its US-backed control of oilfields in the east, in Deir Ezzor, where
Assadist and US/SDF forces have been in open armed conflict recently.
Yet neither Iran nor Russia - Assad's two key allies, who are however
also Turkey's two partners in the Astana "peace" process - saw things
quite the same way. For its part, Iran, despite being at odds with
Turkey's overall Syria policy, sees the Kurdish issue the same way
Turkey does; and since the US has offered up its presence in Rojava in
alliance with the SDF in the east as the alleged cornerstone of its
alleged "anti-Iranian" policy in Syria (which, in terms of geography,
makes no sense, but it is about rhetoric and face, nothing else), Iran
sees the weakening of the SDF and a conflict between US-backed SDF and
NATO state Turkey as a good thing.
More crucially, Russia has seemingly decided that its new alliance
with Turkey is more important than its alliance with Assad, and put a
stop to the Assad-YPG deal on Turkey's behalf, at least until Turkey
gets a better deal. That really is full circle - two years ago, the
YPG formed an alliance with Russian imperialism to help them conquer
rebel-held, Arab-majority northern Aleppo; today the same Russia
stands solidly with Turkey (and even anti-Assad ex-rebels) against the
YPG, even if it conflicts with Assad.
But in fact, this is not only about Turkey being "bigger" than Syria,
or about the advantages of pulling Turkey away from the US and NATO,
or about large-scale Russia-Turkey economic cooperation, with gas
pipelines etc. While all relevant, the fact is Putin knows that he and
Assad owe one to Erdogan, and sees Assad acting recklessly. A week or
so ago, Turkey deployed its forces into Idlib, not to help the rebels
it backs fight Assad's horrific offensive there, but rather to
consolidate the dividing lines - Assad gets east Idlib, the rebels get
the west, for now. Once Turkish forces were deployed, the most recent
surge of rebel resistance ended, and Turkey guarantees this as part of
the Astana "de-escalation" process.
So, with his back now covered by Erdogan in Turkey, Assad, heavily
backed by the Russian airforce, has pulled out all stops to launch the
most massive attack on East Ghouta, the sprawling rebel-held outer
"suburbs" of Damascus, to date. Assad has moved, in the last few days,
awesome numbers of troops and quantities of advanced weaponry and
military vehicles out of Idlib, and elsewhere in Syria, to concentrate
entirely on this new offensive, already more horrific, if possible,
than the offensive begun early this year. As we read, hundreds of
people are being slaughtered daily, and a very large part of the
aerial slaughter is being carried out by Erdogan's new best friend,
Putin sees that by not giving Erdogan everything he wants, or even
worse, by demagogically claiming to want to "resist' Turkey as Assad
is doing, Erdogan could decide to "cause trouble" in Idlib. This
should be as much a concern to Assad as to Putin, but at present he
thinks he can play a demagogic game, which in any case may lead to the
YPG, under further Turkish pressure, agreeing to even worse terms (for
itself) in the case of an Assadist deployment into Idlib. The public
disagreement between Putin and Assad, in that sense, may well be
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