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News / Brèves

Syria Reestablishing Its Sovereignty over Its Northeast, Thanks to Trump and Putin

14 October 2019

EIRNS—It seems that a paradigm shift—one to which the Russians have been pointing for months—is finally occurring in northern Syria. Syrian government troops are on the move towards the Syrian border with Turkey, and Syrian national flags are popping up all over Raqqa and Hasakah provinces. Syrian troops have entered Manbij and Ayn Issa and are heading for Kobani, on the Turkey border in the west of the region, and are in Tal Tamr in the east. Syrian troops have entered Raqqa city and have taken over the Taqba airbase a few kilometers to the west.

The official news agency, SANA, reported that celebrations broke out in Hasakah city and other locations upon the announcement of the agreement between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the Damascus government. The Syrian national flag went up over schools and other institutions, and Syrian troops, when they arrived in Hasakah, were welcomed by the population. The prospect is that the Syrian army has come into these areas to do what it should be doing—securing the border with Turkey and defending all Syrians, regardless of ethnic or sectarian identity.

At the end of the day, what’s clear is that Syrian sovereignty is now being re-established over the northeastern third of the country, which now makes possible the resolution of the unstable situation there. This was made possible by the recent actions of both President Donald Trump, in pulling back U.S. troops, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As previously reported, the withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria was announced by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper during an appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” yesterday, just before the deal between the Damascus government and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces was announced. Where those troops are going is not yet clear, and Esper would not give a time line as to how quickly they would leave, but it appears that it’s only going to take a few days. Esper, unlike former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, defended the withdrawal.

A top Kurdish official, Badran Jia Kurd, told Reuters that a “preliminary military” deal with Damascus had been reached for government forces to enter border areas from the town of Manbij in the west to Derik, 400 km away in the northeast. The deal, he said, is limited to the army’s deployment along the border, and the two sides will discuss political issues later. The deal will also allow the recapture of areas such as Afrin, which are currently controlled by Turkish-backed militant groups, says Reuters.

According to UPI, the deal was the product of three days of negotiating between Damascus and the SDF, mediated by the Russians. Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed this morning that Moscow is also continuing to talk to the Turks.

“The Russian and Turkish authorities have maintained contacts [on the issue],” he said, reported TASS. He recalled that Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the two countries’ top diplomats had held phone calls recently. Later in the day, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar spoke by phone with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

“We discussed what needs to be done [in Syria] to coordinate activities and develop them appropriately,” Akar said afterwards, but he otherwise did not mention the Turkish operation, reported Anadolu Agency.

Turkish forces are continuing their offensive and have taken control of a section of the east-west M4 highway extending about 60 km west of Ras al Ayn. However, Al Masdar News, citing Sputnik Arabic, quotes Erdogan saying that he saw no problem with Syrian army forces entering Kobani. Erdogan also said his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in northern Syria were “positive.” Despite some wailing in the Western corporate media, a clash is not expected between Syrian forces and the Turkish army, though Syrian army units are fighting against Turkish-backed militant groups in the Manbij area. These are part of the Free Syrian Army, originally armed and trained by the CIA, actions stopped by President Trump soon after he became President.