Creating a Safe Zone in Northern Syria: A Trap for the Kurds?

Strategic Council Online: An analyst on regional issues pointing to a new US-Turkish plan to create a safe zone in northern Syria said the turn by Turkey towards Iran and Russia is a source of security concern for the White House and the Europeans. Washington is trying, by giving renewed promises, to prevent further Turkish alliance with Iran and Russia and shift the region's crisis management from Astana Process to Brussels and Washington.

Dr. Davoud Ahmadzadeh said that the plan to create a safe zone in northern Syria is not a new one and has already been pursued by the US and Turkey, adding: “There have always been differences between the United States and Turkey as two strategic allies over how to create this zone which has caused negotiations held in previous rounds to yield no results.

He added: “It is important to note how Ankara and Washington have assessed the situation in the region that they were both convinced to place the issue on their agenda and hold serious discussions about it.”

Commenting on the dispute between Turkey and the US in this respect, the analyst of regional issues said Turkey has a security attitude towards the Kurds and considers the three Syrian provinces – Aleppo, Raqqa and Hasaka – to be security zones and somehow seeks to delegate security to the so-called Liberation Front who receive orders directly from Turkey and are supported by Ankara.

He added: “We should keep in mind that Erdogan, the Turkish president, is sensitive to Kurdish security issues, and given what has happened in northern Iraq, he believes he can take this as a model for Syrian Kurds.  However, Syria’s disintegration could affect Kurdish areas inside Turkey, as well as exacerbate security issues for Turkish leaders. If a more serious discussion on the safe zone is raised, Turkey wants the so-called Liberation Front forces and the nationalist forces opposed to the Syrian government, who are directly guided and supported by Ankara be in charge of security in these regions.

Ahmadzadeh said that the US has not yet accepted to send troops to the region and take care of their management and opposition to the plan has faced it with hesitation and uncertainty.

On the current situation of the Syrian government in the fight against terrorists, the analyst said: “The Syrian government has the upper hand after the defeat of ISIS inside Syria and Iraq and has taken an offensive position. The remaining regions currently occupied by ISIS terrorists and Takfiri groups are about to be retaken by the Syrian government forces. Therefore, Syria strongly opposes any intervention, whether by Turkey or by the Americans.”

In the meantime, he said: “On the other hand, we should keep in mind that the Americans may betray the Syrian Kurds so that after being used by Washington they may be left alone and exposed to the direct invasion of Turkish forces. This concern makes the Syrian Kurds change their attitudes towards the government of Bashar al-Assad and the military and to boost their approach towards reconciliation and peace aimed at preserving the unity of this Syrian region more than ever before. Syria’s integration is possible through the unification of various ethnic groups within Syria, and if any agreement is reached, the Syrian Kurds will be more likely to approach Bashar al-Assad’s government to forge national unity against any secure zone than before.”

On an appropriate response by the Astana Process to this scheme, Ahmadzadeh explained: “If we review the process of past Astana meetings and take a look at previous understandings between Turkey, Iran, and Russia, we will see these efforts have been very effective in reducing tensions in the Syrian conflict areas. It was the management of the three countries that prevented the escalation of tensions and more acts of terrorist groups in various areas of Syria.”

He added: “A turn by Turkey towards Iran and Russia is a source of security concerns for the White House and the Europeans. Washington is trying, by giving renewed promises, to prevent further Turkish alliance with Iran and Russia and shift the region’s crisis management from Astana Process to Brussels and Washington.”

He said the influence of the US and the European Union on the crisis in Syria and the Middle East has declined very much, adding that the future of Syria and the whole region will be ensured by continuing constructive talks with Iran, Turkey, Russia and the parties involved in the crisis.

About the dangers of the US-Turkey project and its security implications for Syria, he said: “The presence of foreign troops from Turkey or any other country violates the national sovereignty of Syria, and without the Syrian government’s permission, the presence of foreign forces can pose security risks. Creating this safe zone may not only fail to reduce tension and provide security but can also lead to more conflicts. The Kurds by keeping away from the US and the European Union also appear to be able to engage in constructive negotiations with the Syrian government and other political groups, helping to forge national unity and prevent this scheme from being implemented.

Ahmadzadeh added: “Iran has repeatedly stated that the safe zone plan is a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and cannot be accepted, but instead of such ideas, Syria-Syria talks and deployment of the army in crisis-stricken regions of Syria to provide conditions for national reconciliation and speeding up the national elections and establishing an inclusive government is the solution to Syria’s problems.

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