SDF readiness to ally with Syrian regime raises concerns in eastern Euphrates

A woman cries as she looks at her house in Raqqa after a Kurdish-led force expelled the Islamic State group from the northern Syrian city - 20 October 2017 (AFP via Getty Images)

A woman cries as she looks at her house in Raqqa after a Kurdish-led force expelled the Islamic State group from the northern Syrian city - 20 October 2017 (AFP via Getty Images)

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Enab Baladi – Hussam al-Omar

Khaled al-Gharbi, 30, has been closely following the news pages on social media for days, sensing the upcoming danger to his city of Raqqa and the entire region, according to what he told Enab Baladi.

Al-Gharbi explained that most residents of the areas run by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) are afraid of the Syrian regime’s return to control after the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the possibility of coordinating with the regime forces, to repel a possible Turkish attack on its areas of control.

Al-Gharbi pointed out that the areas of Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, and al-Hasakah are now home to perhaps thousands of young men wanted by the regime’s security services, explaining that he was a soldier in the regime forces before he defected in 2013, heading towards his city of Raqqa at the time after it got out of the regime’s control.

On 5 June, the SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Abdi announced the SDF’s openness to coordinating with the Syrian regime, calling for the use of Syrian air defense systems against Turkish aircraft in order to confront Ankara’s threats to launch a military operation in northern Syria.

Abdi told Reuters on 5 June that “his forces were ‘open’ to working with Syrian regime troops to fight off Turkey but said there was no need to send additional forces.

“The essential thing that the Syrian army could do to defend Syrian territory would be to use air defense systems against Turkish planes,” he told Reuters in an interview by telephone from an undisclosed location in northern Syria.

For more than a month, Turkey has pledged to launch a new military incursion against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syria’s PKK branch and the spearhead of the SDF, which controls swathes of the north at the Turkish border,” according to Reuters.

Ankara considers the SDF an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is banned and classified as a terrorist group, which the SDF denies despite its acknowledgment of the presence of thousands of PKK fighters and leaders among the SDF ranks.

Return is not reassuring

Abdullah al-Rubaie, a civil activist from the city of Raqqa, told Enab Baladi that the fears of the Syrian regime’s return to the area are justified since everyone knows that if the regime returns, it will commit dozens of massacres against the residents and it will not come carrying roses as some imagine.

Al-Rubaie considered that the position of the SDF raises suspicion and astonishment, as it prevented those wishing to conduct “reconciliation settlements” from going to regime-controlled areas early this year.

Only months later, it declared its readiness to coordinate with the regime to repel the Turkish attack, knowing very well that any return of the regime forces to the area would terrify civilians, al-Rubaie adds.

Return to “halt threats only”

An official in the AANES (who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons) told Enab Baladi that the SDF’s talk about its willingness to coordinate with the Syrian regime forces “does not include the regime entering villages and cities and ruling it, as some imagine, but the goal of entry is to stop Turkish threats and prevent Turkey from making any progress towards the region,” he said.

The official considered that Turkey announced from the beginning its support for the Syrian revolution, but “today it is contributing to the return of the regime to areas from which it was expelled years ago only because it does not want the SDF and the Autonomous Administration to remain in those areas.”

The Syrian regime forces are still present in the countryside of Raqqa, Aleppo, and al-Hasakah within understandings concluded with a Russian guarantee, after which permanent military points were established for the regime.

The Syrian regime forces control several areas in the countryside of Raqqa governorate, such as al-Rusafa town, 30 kilometers west of the city of Raqqa, and the towns of Maadan, al-Sabkha, and its villages in the southeastern countryside.

 

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