Syrian Kurds cooperate with Assad regime to fend off potential Turkish attack

Syrian Kurds cooperate with Assad regime to fend off potential Turkish attack
3 min read
Jordan - Amman
05 July, 2022
Kurdish officials announced renewed cooperation with the Syrian regime to fight against a potential Turkish offensive.
Despite renewed military cooperation, analysts said that disagreements in political objectives would prevent a real partnership between the AANES and the regime. [Getty]

The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) would deepen its military cooperation with the Syrian regime to ward off a potential Turkish offensive, officials announced on Monday.

"We are working in coordination with Syrian [regime] officials to develop a common working formula and draw up a defence plan in the face of any Turkish aggression," Nuri Mahmoud, the spokesperson for the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), the main militia of the AANES’ armed forces, told Sputnik on Monday.

Mahmoud said that while there had been "positive developments" in this cooperation, the regime and the AANES had yet to reach an "appropriate formula for a solution" to a potential Turkish invasion.

On June 1, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would soon "cleanse" two AANES-held areas, Tel Rifaat and Manbij, of "terrorists."

Turkey considers the AANES and its military wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as an extension of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).

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The PKK has been engaged in a decades-long armed struggle with the Turkish state for an autonomous Kurdish territory and is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Top AANES official Saleh Musallem said on Monday that the US and Russia had "stabbed them in the back" by not defending them properly against a potential Turkish invasion.

He said that the AANES would instead "fight [for] themselves," and called on the UN to deploy international peacekeepers along the Syrian-Turkish borders to maintain a buffer zone between Turkey and the AANES.

Despite fierce political disagreements with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, the AANES allow regime forces to deploy in its territory in October 2019. The AANES asked for its assistance in helping fight Turkish forces who launched the “Operation Peace Spring” military offensive then.

"It is the duty of the Syrian government to defend the borders and sovereignty of Syria. [Syrians] must unite to repel any invasion and expel the occupier from its lands," Bazad Amou, a Qamishli-based activist and media figure, told The New Arab.

Amou added that he expected the cooperation between the two parties would follow similar lines as their cooperation against the Turkish offensive in 2019.

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The Turkish military, one of the largest in the world, is "far superior" to regime forces, Nicolas Heras, the Deputy Director of the Human Security Unit at the Newlines Institute, told The New Arab.

Still, "the Assad regime has the advantage of artillery and airpower, which the SDF does not have," Heras noted.

In spite of the occasional military cooperation, the AANES and the regime are generally hostile to one another. On-and-off negotiations between the two to settle on the status of the AANES within the Syrian state have stalled for years.  

The AANES wants to maintain its autonomous political status, while the regime is mostly interested in reimposing control over northeast Syria and absorbing the SDF into its armed forces.

"The regime and the SDF are likely to have an awkward, mostly antagonistic relationship for the foreseeable future. The two sides only share a common interest in preventing Turkey from successfully executing future invasions inside Syria," Heras said.