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Syrian opposition: Russian-Turkish agreement is a disaster

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Disagreements arose between the various factions of the Syrian opposition over the terms of the Russian-Turkish agreement, as well as the sudden termination of the military operation “Source of Peace”, which did not achieve its goals.

The opposition requires the Ministry of Defense of the “interim government” and the leadership of the “national army” to indicate the reason for the adoption of a catastrophic, in their opinion, agreement. The latter guarantees a wide control zone to Russian forces and government forces, which destroys the hope of the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees and other displaced persons to their areas – Manbij, Tell Rifaat, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Al-Hasaku on the east coast of the Euphrates.

The silence of the “national army”

The leaders of the “national army” made several statements regarding the Russian-Turkish accords, and most of them call on the opposition not to rush to condemn the agreement, to stop calling it its “huge defeat” and to consider that its adoption is fully in the interests of the Syrian authorities.

However, neither the various factions nor the Ministry of Defense of the “interim government” gave clear explanations regarding certain points of the document and prefer to remain silent. They refrain from making official statements and, apparently, cannot reassure their angry supporters, waiting for the 150-hour period set by the agreement to expire before talking about the conditions and prospects for its implementation.

Opposition: “Militiamen are responsible”

Syrian activists organized protests in Aleppo province on Thursday and Friday, in which refugees from Manbij and Tel Rifaat took part. People demanded that Turkey clarify the terms of the agreement, the cessation of the military operation, as well as the fate of the border areas east and west of the strip between Tell Abyad and Ras al Ain and the territories where Operation Source of Peace was to take place.

The opposition, apparently, is the main loser in this deal, and was shocked by its conditions: it did not expect that it would lose the last hope for the return of Tell Rifaat and Manbij, since the agreement would provide control there for the Russian military and the Syrian army. With the capture of Ain al-Arab, it is no longer possible to connect Aleppo with the areas on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, where the Turkish operation is underway.

According to Syrian opposition, the armed forces participating in Operation Source of Peace bear great responsibility for the current situation, since they allowed the regime to achieve such successes.

According to the opposition, these groups have not learned from past experience. They were supposed to open the front of operations along with fronts from the south of Turkey, since the sudden withdrawal of the United States and the regime’s bid on this event were expected. There was an opportunity to prevent the Syrian army.

The militia fell into the same trap during Operation Shield of the Euphrates, when, under the onslaught of the forces of the regime, the militants of the Islamic State (organization banned in the Russian Federation – Ed.) Left the industrial zone in the east of the city and reached the outskirts of El Bab, blocking the path for the opposition and not allowing it to go south.

Will “self-government” remain?

The agreement is supposed to guarantee Turkey the withdrawal of Kurdish Self-Defense Forces from Aleppo, one of their most important strongholds south of Afrin and southeast of Azaz, as well as from Mari to the western outskirts of Al-Bab. Under the agreement, the Kurds will be forced to withdraw all their weapons from at least 30 villages, cities and farms, the largest of which is Tell Rifaat.

Self-defense units must completely leave the line of contact with the opposition, which will be controlled by Russian forces and the Syrian army. The Kurds will still retain their weapons in small areas near the Shahba camp – in Tell Karah, Tell al-Shair, Tell Jidjan and on the outskirts of the infantry college.

The Kurds demand that self-government bodies in cities be left untouched, where their armed formations will leave in accordance with a military agreement between the military regime and the Self-Defense Forces, which covers Kurdish-controlled areas on both banks of the Euphrates.

Now they refuse to leave the fronts in the south of Afrin and Aleppo, demanding that this region be excluded from the Turkish-Russian agreement so that the agreements reached in early October regarding Sheikh Maksud and Al-Ashrafiya in Aleppo continue to apply.

Since the signing of the agreement, Kurdish forces have stepped up their operations against the opposition, including attacks and shelling aimed at enemy posts in the Aleppo countryside. They killed four members of the “national army” on the line between Marie and Aazaz in the west. In response, Turkish artillery attacked the positions of the Kurds.

The withdrawal of Kurdish forces is to take place in Manbij on the western bank of the Euphrates and Ain al-Arab in the east, as well as in the areas of Operation Source of Peace in Tell Abyad and in the east of Ras al Ain at a depth of 32 kilometers.

Self-defense units demand that this not affect Manbij for fear that the city will be transferred to the “national army” at a later stage.

In accordance with a military agreement between regime forces and Kurdish units, the former should not create military headquarters in cities and towns where Kurdish self-government bodies operate. This is a zone within 32 kilometers, as well as Raqqa, Et-Tabka and other areas south and east of the Euphrates.
The text of the Russian-Turkish agreement does not mention who should control the 32-kilometer zone of the withdrawal of Kurdish forces, neither in Manbij nor in Tell Rifaat. Turkey will not allow the region to remain in the power of self-government bodies, but at the same time does not want to recognize the regime’s power. However, the Kurds will not depart from their demand and may refuse to abide by the agreement. The opposition sees this as a way to survive a catastrophic agreement that benefits the regime.

The Kurds ’refusal to comply with the terms of the agreement in a manner that would suit Turkey may contribute to the resumption of hostilities, but this time towards the cities of Manbij, Ain al-Arab and Tell Rifaat, and control over them will reach the areas of Operation Source of Peace . Most likely, Russia will support this development in exchange for benefits on other issues.

Idlib and the Russian-Turkish agreement

Despite Moscow’s conflicting statements about the terms of the agreement, they do not reflect a common Russian-Turkish vision. It seems that its implementation between the two sides will be phased.

The most important step at the first stage is the removal of Kurdish weapons from a strip 32 kilometers deep, and in the future – the dissolution of self-government bodies, the creation of joint councils, and then the withdrawal of regime forces from the cities of Manbij, Ain al-Arab, Tell Rifaat and Kurdish regions to Afrin.

Instead, the Russian military and the Syrian army will be able to advance to the de-escalation zone in Idlib, as well as establish control over the remaining section of the international route between Aleppo and Khan Sheikhun.

The theory of barter seems realistic after the visit of President Bashar al-Assad to the city of Hubate in southern Idlib, which coincided with a meeting of the leaders of Turkey and Russia. During the visit, Assad heard a detailed report by military commanders about the operation to seize the de-escalation zone, which could begin at any time. It is mentioned that the goal is the zone controlled by “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham”.

Zones at greater depths, according to regime maps, are under the control of the Ministry of Defense and the “national army.” The final stage in the implementation of the Russian-Turkish agreements is likely to be the conduct of a military operation in Idlib, aimed at the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group.

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