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S-400 helped Erdogan drive US out of northern Syria

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The United States left the Kurds to the mercy of fate of their long-standing allies in the Syrian war. President Recep Erdogan, following talks with Donald Trump, announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syrian Kurdistan, which allows Turkey to launch a large-scale “anti-terrorist” operation.

Why did Washington yield in bargaining with Ankara and how should Russia respond to military escalation in the region?

“Donald Trump is paving the way for the Turkish operation in Syria,” the Financial Times interpreted the outcome of the conversation between the US president and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan after the conversation said that the United States had begun to withdraw its military from the northern regions of Syria. Thus, the Americans gave the Turks carte blanche for actions in the so-called security zone, which Ankara intends to create in northeast Syria.

Trump himself said that the US needs to end the “ridiculous endless wars” in Syria and send troops home. “The United States had to spend only 30 days in Syria. That was many years ago. But we stayed (in Syria), continuing to go deeper and deeper into the war without a goal,” Trump wrote on his Twitter.

Moscow expects that Turkey will adhere to the postulate of the territorial integrity of Syria, said spokesman for Russian President Dmitry Peskov. He also added that Vladimir Putin did not discuss plans for a military operation in Syria with his Turkish counterpart. “But you know that, on the whole, the contacts between the military and the special services are very saturated and are regular – meaning, between Russia and Turkey,” Peskov said.

Turkey, with all the neo-Ottoman aspirations of Erdogan, does not really declare its intentions to annex any part of the north of Syria. But “security”, which is spoken of in Ankara, implies an offensive by Turkish troops and taking control of border territories – Erdogan had previously stated that the army was ready to advance at any moment.

“We will come (to the north of Syria) because the terrorist threat is unacceptable for us,” Erdogan announced. Turkey considers not only ISIS, but also the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which advocates the secession of southeast Turkey – and which, according to Ankara, is supported by Syrian Kurds. And they, in turn, were supported by the United States, interested in Syrian Kurdistan as a counterweight to the “Bashar al-Assad regime.” If Washington really curbs its presence in this area, then this “casts doubt on the fate of the Kurdish allies” of the Americans, Al-Jazeera notes .

A Reuters source said: On Monday, a US spokesman told the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDS) Kurdish-Alliance command that US forces would no longer protect Kurds from Turkish attacks. Confirmation of this can be considered a statement by the leadership of the SDS: “Despite efforts on our part, in order to avoid military escalation with Turkey … the United States withdrew its troops from territories bordering Turkey.” Finally, written confirmation came from the White House.

“Turkey will soon move forward with its long-planned operation in northern Syria. The US armed forces will not support or take part in the operation, and the United States forces will no longer be in close proximity, ” TASS quoted the spokesman for the Trump administration Stephanie Grisham. All this will put the Syrian Kurds in a situation of direct clash with the Turks, stated the representative of the SDS Mustafa Bali.

This was the result of many years of bickering Erdogan with the American leadership. Erdogan began to make claims in 2016 to the previous US president Barack Obama. Finally, on October 1 of this year, the Turkish leader announced that Turkey intends to act independently on the issue of creating a security zone east of the Euphrates River in Syria, since it failed to achieve the desired result in negotiations with the American side.

Earlier, the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat informed that Washington and Ankara seem to have reached an agreement on creating a security zone on the Syrian-Turkish border between the cities of Ras al Ain and Tell Abyad. However, it was assumed that this border territory would be patrolled jointly by US and Turkish forces.

The option of a joint Turkish-American presence clearly did not suit Ankara. Erdogan, as usual, made rather tough statements. “Ideas for conducting joint ground and air patrols with the US in Syria are delaying the implementation of the plan to create a security zone”; Turkey “is fed up with promises and endured for a long time” – quoted the Turkish president RT . Earlier, Erdogan directly stated that

“Ankara does not intend to turn a blind eye to the support of the United States terrorists”

from the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan and the YPG (Syrian-Kurdish “People’s Self-Defense Units”, which make up the backbone of the SDS). The Americans really do not just do not consider the YPG a terrorist organization – starting in 2015, American instructors have been training Kurdish formations, the United States has been supplying weapons to People’s Self-Defense and other factions that are part of the SDS.

Largely thanks to the support of the Americans, the Kurds and their allies from the “secular” Arab armed opposition managed to take control of almost all the territories east of the Euphrates: from Manbij in the province of Aleppo to the border with Iraq. We add that the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, located on the other side of the border, is also a long-standing partner of the United States.

“I personally spoke with the Kurds, including the leader of the northern Kurds in Syria, Salih Muslim. The Kurds are now, of course, in a difficult situation, offended by America and are trying to seek new partners. Recently we visited Russia, too, ”said Georgy Asatryan, an expert on the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, an Orientalist, told the newspaper VZGLYAD.

“From the American side, this is a good move. Like, do what you want, especially since you are so friendly with the Russians now, buy weapons from them, so let’s get out, ”the head of scientific research at the Dialogue of Civilizations Institute Alexey Malashenko noted in a commentary to the newspaper VZGLYAD. In his opinion, the United States supported the Kurds for some time, but at some point they stopped doing it and washed their hands.

Georgy Asatryan believes that the move towards the Kurds made by their traditional patrons, the Americans, cannot be interpreted as losing to Trump to Erdogan. “Inside the American administration, there are two groups of elites who look at the situation in the region differently,” the expert points out. – Apparently, Erdogan managed to agree with Trump and his entourage about the start of the operation, large-scale or not very, against the Kurds. And, apparently, Trump is not opposed to Erdogan dealing with his opponents in northern Syria. ”

The second group within the American administration, in the CIA, in the State Department and, naturally, in the Pentagon, adheres to more traditional views, the interlocutor continued. “They see the Kurds as allies, for example, in the Iraqi direction, as non-religious, secular forces. These people with the Kurds have a very long history of cooperation – in the Syrian direction they see the Kurds as a balance against Damascus, ”Asatryan explained.

“There is a constant struggle between the two lobbies. Apparently, now the scales are leaning on the side of Erdogan, Trump and that part of the American elite that supports them, ”Asatryan believes.

An additional argument that tipped the scales in favor of Erdogan could very well be the strengthening of Turkey militarily. The role of Turkey in international affairs and in the Middle East region increased with the acquisition of Russian S-400 systems, Vladimir Putin stated in early September. At the end of the same month, Ankara announced the timing of the deployment of the first stage of the air defense systems purchased from Russia – this will happen in December.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry allowed the purchase of an additional batch of Russian air defense systems. “Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems played into the hands of Erdogan in negotiations with Trump,” said Konstantin Sivkov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, to the newspaper VZGLYAD. – It is precisely the sale by Russia to Erdogan of S-400 and the fact that the Turkish leader defended his position on creating a security zone in northern Syria by military methods,

Erdogan forced Trump to do this through the purchase of the S-400, with which he now “bent” the Americans.”

After the purchase of the S-400 and the deteriorating relations between Washington and Ankara that accompanied it, Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO cannot be ruled out, Thomas Eger, professor of political science at the University of Cologne , noted in an article on the Focus portal in July.

n turn, Alexei Malashenko urged to pay attention to the fact, which, in his opinion, is indirectly related to these events – this is the signing by the Americans of an agreement with Greece on transferring bases for infinitely long use and the remark that Turkey is today a weak link of NATO.

However, some experts believe that the fact that the Americans gave Erdogan the possibility of independent action in Syria may be a trap for the “Sultan.” “If he enters there and there will be a really Kurdish-Turkish war, then Erdogan is unlikely to be able to get a quick and anemic victory, because the Kurds will react quite harshly,” Malashenko predicts.

“I think it will not do without terrorist attacks in Turkey, which Erdogan is clearly not with a hand. Now he has a very difficult situation inside – a crisis within the party, competition. And if his Kurdish undertaking is very expensive, then he will only lose on this.”

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