Tag Archives: SDF

Turkey’s Syria Policy and the Elections

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 June 2018

Turkish soldiers and their rebel dependencies in Efrin, 18 March 2018 // AFP

On June 24, for the first time in 15 years, there seems a possibility, however faint, that elections in Turkey will end in defeat for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

It is an uphill battle, not least because of the ongoing state of emergency after the 2016 attempted coup, which has exacerbated the systemic biases against Erdoğan’s political opponents. But the Turkish opposition has managed to overcome its own fractiousness and has a strategic game-plan that makes sense. One card Erdoğan still has to play is foreign policy, and there are signs in Syria and Iraq of advantageous news to come. Continue reading

The Use of Sieges and Deportations in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 June 2018

The green buses that have become a symbol of the Syrian regime’s siege and deportation policy (picture source)

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2011, released a report on 29 May 2018, “Sieges as a Weapon of War: Encircle, Starve, Surrender, Evacuate”. The report examined the effects of the sieges and “evacuation agreements”—deportations—between November 2012 and April 2018.

The Commission notes that the report is based on “over 400 interviews”, though the Commission continues to struggle in gathering information because it is banned from Syria by Bashar al-Asad’s regime and because of the threat the regime poses to potential interviewees. Continue reading

The Strikes in Syria and America’s Path Forward

A version of this article was published in CapX

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) and James Snell on 8 May 2018

The Barzeh chemical weapons facility in Damascus, Syria, demolished by U.S. cruise missiles on 14 April 2018 (image source)

The United States and its allies, Britain and France, launched over 100 missiles at the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in the early hours of 14 April. This was retaliation for the regime’s use of poison gas in the town of Douma, east of the capital, Damascus, exactly a week earlier, which massacred at least 43 people and wounded 500 more. The military strikes were an important signal and will likely be some deterrent against the future use of chemical weapons in Syria, but ultimately this was another missed opportunity by the West to meaningfully affect the course of the war. Continue reading

Who is Trying to Destabilise Rojava?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 May 2018

Logo of Harakat al-Qiyam from its first video, 15 October 2017

A campaign is underway to destabilise the “Rojava” area of north-eastern Syria, ruled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a composite force wholly dominated by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an internally-designated terrorist organisation whose operatives use the banner of the People’s Protection Forces (YPG) in Syria. The SDF/PKK captured a lot of Arab-majority areas as a side-effect of the American-led war against the Islamic State (IS), which deputised the SDF as its ground force in Syria. It was always clear that these inhabitants did not wish to be ruled by an authoritarian Kurdish nationalist party with Marxist inflections and a cult around its leader, Abdullah Ocalan. There was, however, a chance that the goodwill of that comes with liberation could be converted, with the right adjustments, the SDF model could become a durable settlement. It appears the trendline is now running the other way, toward a disintegration of this structure. Continue reading

What Is Trump Thinking About Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 April 2018

Egyptian ruler Abdelfattah al-Sisi, Saudi King Salman, and President Donald Trump in Riyadh on 22 May 2017 (image source)

Two days ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that President Donald Trump has been exploring plans to replace American troops in the areas of Syria held by the Coalition partner force, the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), with troops from the Arab states. The problems with this proposal, even in the rudimentary form it is presented, are manifold. It also feeds into the broader problem of Trump’s inconsistent messaging about Syria—or, more precisely, his failed efforts to balance domestic messaging, which calls for what was once referred to as “nation building … at home”, and his foreign messaging that needs to emphasise U.S. constancy to see through the mission to defeat the Islamic State (IS) by, among other things, stabilising and reconstructing Syria. Continue reading

The “Syrian Kurds” and Religious Liberty

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 March 2018

Among the artefacts found in Efrin after the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which uses the names Democratic Union Party (PYD) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, was pushed out by Turkey and its Arab dependencies in the OLIVE BRANCH operation, is the above document, which sheds some light on how the PKK treated religious institutions in the province. Continue reading

Turkey’s Afrin Operation and an American Opening in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) and Oved Lobel on 20 March 2018

Turkey and Syrian rebel allies captured Afrin city in north-western Syria from the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG) this weekend. The YPG has gained notice as the partner force of the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State. But, as Pentagon spokesman Robert Manning acknowledged on March 6, the YPG has been diverting its troops from the fight against IS in eastern Syria to the war with Turkey on the other side of the country. Manning presented this as a temporary setback, but the shifting dynamics might prove to be the undoing of the Coalition’s mission in Syria. Continue reading