Introduction — July 27, 2015
If you wondered what the U.S. and its allies could possibly gain from supporting Islamic State, as some reports suggest they are, the answer has just come in. Islamic State has conveniently provided the U.S. with pretext for seizing control of Northern Syria.
U.S. military personnel had reportedly trained Syrian rebels at secret camps in Jordan in early 2013. The object had been for them to oust Syria’s President Assad. However that came to nothing after the “Syrian rebels”, many of whom were not even Syrian but multinational Sunni militants, joined Islamic State instead.
Islamic State (otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL) has not just been bankrolled by wealthy Western aligned gulf states though. There have been numerous reports of U.S. helicopters and British planes ferrying arms and supplies to the Sunni militants.
Now the Associated Press report below claims that plans to establish an “IS-free zone” in northern Syria would be accomplished with the help of “Syria’s moderate opposition forces”.
One wonders whether this would be done with Syrian rebels fighters who were trained by U.S. military personnel but who switched sides to join Islamic State? Or whether it would be accomplished using the same “moderate Syrian rebels” who reportedly struck a truce with Islamic State last September?
Either way the U.S. and Turkey are presiding over a dangerous situation that is rapidly turning into a witches brew of double-cross and disinformation.
US, Turkey Aim for IS-Free Zone in Northern Syria
Bassem Mroue and Julie Pace –Associated Press July 27, 2015
The United States and Turkey are finalizing plans for a military campaign to push the Islamic State group out of a strip of Syrian territory along the Turkish border, a move that would further embroil Turkey in Syria’s civil war and set up a potential conflict with U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.
A U.S. official said Monday that the creation of an “Islamic State-free zone” would ensure greater security and stability in the Turkish-Syrian border region. However, the official said any joint military efforts with Turkey would not include the imposition of a no-fly zone. The official insisted on anonymity because this person was not authorized to publicly discuss the talks with Turkey.
The U.S. has long rejected Turkish and other requests for a no-fly zone to halt Syrian government air raids, fearing it would draw U.S. forces further into the civil war.
The discussions come amid a major tactical shift in Turkey’s approach to the Islamic State. After months of reluctance, Turkish warplanes started striking militant targets in Syria last week, following a long-awaited agreement allowing the U.S. to launch its own strikes from Turkey’s strategically located Incirlik Air Base.
On Sunday, Turkey called a meeting of its NATO allies for Tuesday to discuss threats to its security, as well as its airstrikes.
A Turkish-driven military campaign to push IS out of territory along the Turkish border is likely to complicate matters on the ground. Kurdish fighters in Syria control most of the 910 kilometers (565 miles) boundary with Turkey, and have warned Ankara against any military intervention in northern Syria.
In a series of cross border strikes since Friday, Turkey has not only targeted the IS group but also Kurdish fighters affiliated with forces battling the extremists in Syria and Iraq. The Syrian Kurds are among the most effective ground forces battling the IS group and have been aided by U.S.-led airstrikes, but Turkey fears they could revive an insurgency against Ankara in pursuit of an independent state.
Syria’s main Kurdish militia — the YPG or the People’s Protection Units — is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and maintains bases in remote parts of northern Iraq.
It was not immediately clear how an IS-free zone would be established along the Turkish-Syrian border. In comments published Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey and the United States had no plans to send ground troops into Syria but wanted to see Syria’s moderate opposition forces replace IS near the Turkish border.
In a reflection of the complexities involved, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday refused to draw a distinction between the Islamic State group and the PKK.
“There is no difference between PKK and Daesh. You can’t say that PKK is better because it is fighting Daesh,” Cavusoglu said. The PKK is fighting the IS group “for power, not for peace, not for security.”
Cavusoglu, who spoke to reporters during an official visit to Lisbon, Portugal, said he would inform Turkey’s NATO partners about the security threats his country is facing at the Brussels meeting Tuesday. “We expect solidarity and support from our NATO allies,” he said, without elaborating.