New front in Syria as Turks rout Kurds with Putin’s blessing

Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in northern Syria claim they are being 'sacrificed by the Kremlin' as Turkey assails their positions in Russian sphere of influence

By Sami Moubayed July 7, 2017

Kurdish fighters from the YPG run across a street in Raqqa, Syria July 3, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Goran Tomasevic

The powerful commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed Kurdish quasi-army currently engaged in the final battle for al-Raqqa, believes that the fall of ISIS in its self-proclaimed “capital” might be delayed because of a looming confrontation between his troops and invading Turkish forces west of the Euphrates River. On July, he said: “Our position is clear. We will fight with all our ability.

The last thing Syria needs is yet another front opening – once again between Kurds and Turks but this time in territory generally believed to be part of Russia’s fiefdom in the war-torn country.

The trigger for the latest confrontation was repeated Turkish shelling on the Kurdish city of Afrin, west of the Euphrates River, which has been neatly positioned in Russia’s sphere of influence since last April. That month, Russian troops were deployed to the once sleepy and forgotten city. They were said to be helping the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia branded a “terrorist” organization by Ankara, due to its affiliation with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Photographs of tanks carrying Russian flags rumbling through the streets of the city went viral on social media networks. Here were the Russians putting on a show and wanting to be seen by top Turkish officials and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. More pictures followed from Afrin, of Russian officers wearing YPG insignia on their uniforms, posing casually with Kurdish militiamen while waving the YPG’s red-starred flag.

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