While Afrin and Manbij are being left to the regime, the real fight is to the east of Euphrates - KEMAL ÖZTÜRK

While Afrin and Manbij are being left to the regime, the real fight is to the east of Euphrates

The entry of regime troops into Afrin has caused a great deal of excitement. In the words of the Syrian official authorities, "The people's forces" entered. In other words, these are a militia power consisting of Hezbollah, Hashdi Shabi, Shabiha, and foreign Shiite militants. I think it is trying to be presented as a regular army.

According to blurry and complicated information, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)’s Syrian branch, the PYD will deliver the control of Afrin to these forces. They will also pull back their armed forces here to Manbij and fortify the fronts there.

They will hand over Manbij to Assad

After a while, when Turkey carries out an operation on Manbij, I think we will experience the same scenario. First, the organization will resist as long as it can. They will try to give the maximum harm possible to Turkey. When they see that they cannot hold on, they will hand over the city to Assad forces. This is my prediction.

Russia was only too glad about this scenario. Before the operation, it tried hard to ensure the organization delivered Afrin to Assad. Because the U.S. did not want it, they didn’t accept this offer. Now, after more than 1500 of its terrorists has died, the organization has comprehended that they cannot resist the Turkish Armed Forces. The U.S. has said: "It’s not my problem, let Russia think about it" about Afrin. Yet in the meantime, they worked to test Turkey’s power, break its resistance to some extent and stop it there.

It is now clear that the U.S. and the PKK have understood that there is nothing more to do for Afrin. Once they saw that Turkey was moving determinedly and in a planned manner, then they decided to position Assad against Turkey and stop it there.

So, will Turkey stop?

Turkey will not clash with Assad forces

When I was writing these lines, only the statement of the Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu had been released in this regard: "There is nothing to say if Assad enters Afrin with the aim of clearing the PKK. But if it will protect them, nobody can stop us."

Until today, Assad hasn’t had a serious conflict with the PKK / PYD. Therefore we cannot say that he intends to wipe out the organization in Afrin. Will he protect them? I guess that they will declare that the Damascus regime has taken over the administration, like in Aleppo, saying that “all PKK / PYD forces have departed from Afrin.” Then there is nothing much that Turkey can do.

It is pretty unlikely to enter into a conflict saying “militia forces.” The official representatives of the Damascus government will administer it.

If we are to be realistic, we should not expect Turkey to clash with Assad forces unless there is an attack on Turkey from Afrin.

Such a conflict will pit Turkey, firstly against the Damascus regime and then against Iran and Russia. Furthermore, after the Astana and Sochi processes and the aggressive attitude of the U.S., it is quite unlikely that the Sochi line will break.

Turkey already has declared in Sochi that if there isn’t a structure of a terror organization and cross border attack coming from there, it respects the right to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. Besides, considering that the case has changed according to which international agreement will we carry out a cross-border operation?

A mechanism is necessary in northern Syria

We have two problems:

One: It is possible that the agreement between the PKK and Damascus administration will allow room for that territory to be centers of terrorism and militant training, as it used to be.

Two: Will those who migrated to Turkey while living in Afrin agree to return after Assad forces take over there?

For these two issues, there is a need for a mechanism. An international mechanism ensuring the control of Turkey. In the whole of northern Syria, no less!

The United States has put a lot of emphasis on it, however, Manbij will soon end up in the same way. That is, Assad will take over the management of it as well. In the meantime, the regime is constantly gaining ground without shooting a single bullet or losing a single man. And this is a different issue.

By leaving Afrin and Manbij to the Damascus administration, the United States will have made, so to say, a gesture to Turkey. Because they will say “See? Everyone passed to the east of the Euphrates. Now, withdraw your forces," to Turkey who previously stated that “The west of the Euphrates is our red line.” But they will not get the response they want.

Our main problem with the US is to the east of Euphrates

I observe a very strong stance in Ankara. I do not think it will retreat so easily. An army and government with the support of the 90 percent of the people will not be so afraid of threats. They won’t buy any empty promises either. We cannot retreat until we get what we want from the field. If we retreat, we lose.

I think Afrin and Manbij are our easiest operations.

Turkey will experience the real difficulty to the east of the Euphrates because that is the region where U.S. bases are mostly located. That is a field actually managed by U.S. troops. Actually, we have to make plans and prepare for what we will do here.

Who is going to control our borders:

PKK/PYD? The Assad forces? Or the U.S.?

Now, do you understand how we’ve got our work cut out for us?

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