Tag Archives: SDF

The State of Play in Syria and Iraq on the Eve of the Idlib Offensive

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 August 2018

Two ideas that have become quite prevalent are that the Islamic State is defeated or on its way to defeat and that the Syrian war is winding down. Both are gravely mistaken. Continue reading

Australia’s No-Nonsense Approach to the PKK

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 17 August 2018

Funeral for the victims of the TAK/PKK terrorist attack on the Besiktas football stadium in Istanbul, December 2016. Photograph: Sedat Suna/EPA

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the separatist group in Turkey that is a designated terrorist organisation across much of the West, has always used a vast array of front-groups in the West to raise funds and recruit. After 9/11, with the advent of the War on Terror, the PKK switched tactics in the region to try to conceal its operations and avoid the “terrorism” label. This involved rebranding its operations in Iraq, Syria, and Iran, and setting up a special forces-style urban terrorism wing, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), to deniably carry out its most atrocious activities. The PKK’s rebranding has not been without success. In Australia, however, the government has refused to accept the PKK’s propaganda about TAK and lists it, quite correctly, as simply an alias for the PKK. Continue reading

The Secular Foreign Fighters of the West in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 July 2018

Foreign fighters with the YPG/PKK on the outskirts of Tal Tamr in northwestern Syria, 16 April 2015. UYGAR ÖNDER ŞİMŞEK / AFP / Getty Images

ABSTRACT: The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) operates under the names of the Democratic Union Party and the People’s Protection Units in Syria. The PKK is registered as a terrorist group by most Western governments, the European Union and Turkey, where it originated as a separatist organization. Nonetheless, the YPG has been the partner of the United States-led coalition in Syria against the ISIS. The strengthening of the YPG/PKK and its political messaging has brought in a flow of western foreign fighters. Some of these fighters are now returning to their homelands with indications that they are bringing security problems with them.

Article published in Insight Turkey.

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