Will the Syrian Kurds Ally With Iran and Russia Against Turkey?

Matthew Petti

The Turkish military has begun bombing northern Syria, empowered by Donald Trump’s public announcement that he had green-lighted a Turkish operation into territory occupied by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, essentially exposing a key ally in America’s fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) to new dangers.

Trump announced that the Turks had his blessing on Sunday. By Tuesday night, Turkish shells began flying across the border and opportunistic suicide bombers launched an attack on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the former ISIS capital of Raqqa. The following day, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the beginning of Operation Peace Spring. By nighttime, Turkish tanks were rolling over the border.

The operation will include an army of Islamist rebels opposed to the government of Bashar al-Assad, Erdoğan claimed.

Kurdish leaders are now scrambling to prepare for the worst. Gen. Mazloum Kobani, the top SDF general, announced amid the haze of strategic surprises, diplomatic miscommunication, and public backpedaling, that an alliance with Assad against Turkey is “on the table.” The SDF is “ready” for talks with Assad, SDF-affiliated diplomat Sinam Mohamad told the National Interest. But Assad’s two main backers—Russia and Iran—are towing a careful line.

The Rojava Information Center, a media organization based in northeast Syria, confirmed to the National Interest that pro-Assad forces are massing near Manbij and Deir ez-Zour, but it’s not clear whether they will help or hinder the Turkish campaign. David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, claimed that Assad was mobilizing his forces for an invasion of his own.

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