Can the US or Russia Protect YPG?

With our eyes focused on the recent hot tensions with Europe and the upcoming April 16 referendum, some significant developments are taking place in two of Turkey's neighboring countries that are experiencing civil wars; Iraq and Syria. U.

Can the US or Russia Protect YPG

With our eyes focused on the recent hot tensions with Europe and the upcoming April 16 referendum, some significant developments are taking place in two of Turkey's neighboring countries that are experiencing civil wars; Iraq and Syria. U.S. warplanes, which seem to no longer care about civilians while bombing Daesh targets upon the orders of President Donald Trump, have killed hundreds of civilians in Aleppo, Raqqa and Mosul in the last week.

The U.S. and Russia have shown that they are protecting the areas held by the PKK's Syrian branches, the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party, with soldiers and flags.

After Manbij, Russian soldiers placed YPG terrorists under protection in Afrin, too. This protection aims to remove the possibility of Turkey - a country that has no border with Daesh - hitting the YPG. This protection also paves the way for the two superpowers to compete to get the PKK and its Syrian offshoots under their control.

Let's first analyze the U.S. front.

Although the Trump administration has yet to decide how to shape its Syrian policy, the Pentagon's determination to support the "secular" PKK and YPG forces in the fight against Daesh still remains on the ground.

Following the heavy weapons aid, parachuting the YPG militants near the Raqqa region shows that the U.S. will cooperate with them in the Raqqa operation. The U.S. support to the YPG seems to transform it from a militia group to a terrorist army. Additionally, no one cares that the YPG is forcefully removing the Sunni Arabs and even Kurds from their areas.

Meanwhile, Russia is trying to pull the YPG in its corner by promising the terror group cultural autonomy under Bashar Assad's regime. This is the related reason lying behind Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's effort to somehow include the YPG in the Astana or Geneva talks.

The goal of this effort to woo the YPG is to reach a formula to ease Assad's situation in Syria. Assad does not have powerful enough troops to preserve the Syrian territories that he gained, even if he gets rid of the moderate opposition groups.

Russia, which does not want Iran's Shiite militias to get more power in Syria, wants to make the YPG terrorists Assad's militias. Russia previously tried the same method against the moderate Syrian opposition.

Moscow saw the Aleppo cease-fire and the Astana process as an opportunity to persuade the opposition to come under the rule of the Assad regime. However, when the Astana process came to a deadlock, it turned to the YPG; first in Manbij, then in Afrin, and the guardianship of Russian soldiers appeared.

Indeed, the U.S. and Russia are repeating a similar failed policy with the same actor in Syria. Not to use their own land forces in the country, the two superpowers hope to achieve a result through supporting a terrorist group that actually has a very limited demographic presence in the region.

By insisting on cooperating with the YPG in the fight against Daesh, Washington is not making plans for the post-Daesh situation and is ignoring the representatives of Sunni Arabs. It is obvious that the Arab tribes under the YPG's control are not enough for such a representation.

Moscow is aiming to control the post-Daesh Assad via its present cooperation with the YPG terrorists. The YPG, which serves more than one master, is currently not hesitating to sacrifice Kurdish youths for such a purpose. The terror group thinks that when the fight against Daesh finishes, they will gain at least an autonomous area in northern Syria. For that to come true, first the U.S. and Russia must come to an agreement on the future of Syria. And, to create a formula that the regional powers involved in the crisis such as Iran Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will reconcile on, this agreement must have a long-term grounding.

Contrary to this, it is impossible for a permanent peace to appear in Syria. Since, the plan ignores the moderate opposition that have fought for over six years, it will not work.

The recent operations in Damascus and Hama by the opposition, that changed its tactics from land control to guerilla tactics, are concrete examples of this argument.

More importantly, the U.S. and Russia's periodic and partial support to the YPG cannot protect the terror group from the Turkish forces. Turkey, which liberated the Azaz-Jarablus and al-Bab areas from Daesh terrorists as part of Operation Euphrates Shield, will not move out from the region until the Syrian equation is determined.

It would be a great mistake to underestimate Ankara's capacity to work with regional actors in Syria and Iraq and its capability to effect the fronts in the region. Meanwhile, Turkey has to be ready for a hard and long struggle with the YPG terrorist group.


Burhanettin Duran
Burhanettin Duran received his B.A. in Political Science and International Relations from Bogazici University in 1993 and obtained his Ph.D in Political Science from Bilkent University in 2001. Currently, Dr. Duran is a Professor at Ibn Haldun University and the General Coordinator of SETA Foundation.