Kurds in Syria call for U.S. help as Turkey threatens ground assault

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BAGHDAD – The US-backed Syrian community braced for a Turkish military offensive as the region’s leader called on Washington to do more to prevent a ground attack.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s forces launched airstrikes, drones and airstrikes on towns and cities in southeastern Syria for a fourth day Wednesday. About 18 civilians and three soldiers have been killed, according to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed military in the region.

The attack has caused panic from the area which is not a threat from its neighbours. The Turkish government has fought Kurdish forces at home for decades, and it views the Kurdish-led SDF as a threat to its national security. The Turkish military last invaded the compound in 2019, after what appeared to be the Erdogan government’s green light from President Donald Trump.

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Erdogan has threatened to repeat the attack with new ground forces, portraying the attack as retaliation for an attack in central Istanbul that killed six people and injured several others on a busy street last week. past. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Those who criticize the attack in Istanbul with crocodile tears have revealed their true faces and their reaction to our work started immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech to his party gathered in Ankara. “We have the right to take care of ourselves.”

A US-led coalition joined the fight against the Islamic State in 2014 when the group captured 41,000 square kilometers across Iraq and Syria. In Syria, the US quickly chose the Kurdish-led forces as their allies, and three and a half years after the defeat of the forces, hundreds of American soldiers are still in the territory now in fear of invasion.

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It is the policy of America in 2019 to redraw the map of northeastern Syria again, opening the way for Turkey to attack where the US has released its troops and the Syrian army is supporting the Turkish people and other places to the Syrian army . and the Russians support it.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Gen. Mazloum Kobane Abdi, the head of the SDF and a staunch supporter of Washington in Syria, urged Western allies to oppose further Turkish attacks, arguing that Western pressure could hinder ground operations.

“It is not news to anyone that Erdogan has been threatening the land project for months, but he can start this project now,” Abdi said. “This war, if it happens, will not benefit anyone. It will affect many lives, there will be a huge wave of housing, and social problems. “

On Wednesday night, the SDF said it would temporarily suspend operations with ISIS to focus on fighting the Turkish offensive.

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Violence puts the United States in chains. His decision to support the Kurdish militia fighting the Islamic State put him in NATO-backed Turkey, and he has been struggling ever since to balance the two commitments. The war in Ukraine complicates matters further, analysts say, as Washington looks to Ankara for support from Sweden and Finland to join NATO, isolate Russia economically, and negotiate a deal allow the export of Ukrainian grain to import world food.

“Ukraine being a priority means looking for ways to keep Ankara on the sidelines, as US-Turkey relations are getting worse over time,” said Jonathan Lord, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American. Security and ex said. who works on the House Armed Services Committee.

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“There may be little appetite for Erdogan’s effective intervention in Syria, which often leads to an emotional reaction from the Turkish side, especially if it puts Washington’s goals in Europe in serious danger.”

So far, the Biden administration has carefully avoided being seen as taking sides. “What we’ve said publicly is that these attacks, from all sides, are putting us at risk in our mission, which is to defeat ISIS,” Sabrina Singh, the Pentagon’s deputy press secretary, told reporters. Tuesday news.

“We are flexible on this,” he replied, when asked if the US was thinking about expanding military operations in Syria. “We oppose all the attacks that are happening now from all sides.”

Turkey began threatening new incursions into Syria earlier this year, but did not follow through, instead resorting to fighting in northern Syria. Analysts have seen the threat as part of election-year politics, as Erdogan faces a tough election campaign early next year and hopes to rally voters interested in the country.

On Wednesday morning, the SDF said that at least 45 places had been destroyed three days – among them, many hospitals and schools. In the border town of Derik, a journalist with the Kurdish Hawar News Agency, Essam Abdullah, was killed in a Turkish airstrike while reporting on the first attack on the same area, the agency said.

In a post on Twitter, SDF spokesman Farhad Shami repeated a message from Biden in 2019, accusing Trump of abandoning US-backed forces. “Today under your leadership, the same thing is happening,” Shami wrote. “Our people and our soldiers have the right to know your position regarding the Turkish attack against our people.”

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In the town of Kobane near the Turkish border, some residents sleep on the streets as bells rattle through their windows. Others dragged their mattresses to sleep in a nearby orchard hoping they would feel better there.

Nesrin Salim, 32, said she had run home at night to grab a blanket and let her children run to a clump of trees where other families in the area were gathering.

“We are in fear; we are confused. We don’t know when we will be hit,” said Salim, recalling the attack as he hung his children’s clothes to dry on Wednesday morning. “My only concern is my children. I can’t think anything else.”

Fears that Washington’s interest in northeastern Syria is waning has left the SDF increasingly dependent on the Syrian government and its Russian allies for protection against Turkey. Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia’s special envoy to Syria, said on Wednesday that Moscow’s “close cooperation” with Turkish security forces could prevent an escalation.

As the Turkish offensive continues, there have also been salvos from Syria into Turkey. A child and a teacher were killed and six people, including a 5-month pregnant woman, were injured on Monday when a missile struck a border area in Turkey’s Gaziantep province.

Mazloum did not believe that the SDF were responsible for the attack, saying that the force only wanted to make the situation worse. But in other social media, the SDF has vowed revenge. “They have killed many of our people, we will take revenge,” Shami tweeted on Monday.

Mustafa al-Ali in Kobane, Syria, Karoun Demirjian in Washington and Kareem Fahim in Doha contributed to this report.

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