A Syrian army made up of 30,000 fighters is being built east of Euphrates, bordering Turkey and northern Iraq. Half of this army will consist of Syrian Kurds and the other half will consist of the sons of Arab and other regions. The US is the head of this project, and the new player who has finally decided to fight the Syrian war on the ground with the support of opposition forces, so it can impose its vision of what a political solution will be in Syria.
The Asharq al-Awsat newspaper was the first to notice these fast civil changes, and described the US project as the birth of a new Syria.
It is indeed an important development built on a strong force, but it won’t be a state in the legal sense as the division and establishment of an entirely new state is a complex and dangerous political, legal and military process. In addition, there is almost an international consensus that this should be rejected, which is what happened with the Kurds in Iraq and their dream of establishing their state in a territory that was under their full control.
Turkey’s worry about any armed Kurdish forces on its borders is understandable, but their reluctance to confront Iran in Syria has created a vacuum that prompted an alternative force to take up the task.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The Syrian eastern Euphrates project is a little less than a project that will create a whole state, but it’s also more than just a protective territory. In his statement to the congress, David Satterfield who is in charge of managing the eastern file at the State Department, said that the project will be a new model for Syria. According to him, the project is meant to execute several large goals that will involve diplomats, intelligence and military commanders.
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This time, the US unusually surprised everyone by showing them that it can build new ideas, build a project from zero and protect its secrecy. In the name of fighting ISIS in eastern and southern Syria, it gradually sent its forces and experts that reached around 5,000 people, more than half of which were in the eastern Syrian Euphrates. It was in charge of gathering and training a big force of 30,000 Syrians, whose first victory was the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa.
The first opposing reactions to the US project didn’t come from the Damascus regime or Iran, as was expected, but from Turkey who announced that it will not remain silent about this, and that it will go to war with armed Syrian Kurds, which it considers an extension of the “terrorist separatist” Turkish Kurds.
Turkey’s Kurdish worry
Everyone is awaiting the first Turkish forces battle in Afrin in the next few days. Turkey’s worry about any armed Kurdish forces on its borders is understandable, but their reluctance to confront Iran in Syria has created a vacuum that prompted an alternative force to take up the task. Countries that are involved in the crisis found out Turkey’s weak point and succeeded in taking advantage of the pragmatic approach of Erdogan towards politics which seems ready to cooperate and compromise with any party that would join its feud with the Kurds.
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This is what the Iranians did, and then the Russians, so Ankara was quick to reconcile with them in exchange for their support against the Kurds. Maybe the Americans feel that they need to send the same message to the Turks. But there’s a more important American message directed at the Iranian regime which is that Syria will be Iran’s Vietnam.
The new Syrian power might be the best option for a reasonable peace in Syria, not the Sochi peace that was planned by the Russians and Iranians for them to force a solution favorable to them in Syria. Iran wants a peace that will allow it to occupy Syria and impose its influence on Lebanon and Iraq which will ultimately provide it with a high negotiating power in the region as well as with the west.
Iran’s plans for Syria
Iran is in a race with time. It seeks to control areas previously approved by Russia to be left under the control of the opposition. A member of the opposition delegation, Yasser al-Farhan, spoke about the agreements and how the Iranian’s breached it.
Asharq al-Awsat reported him saying, “The maps were laid out very clearly showing that these areas would not be entered by the regime, and will be run by unarmed local committees while small arms will remain in the hands of security and civil defense forces to protect service institutions for the people.”
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“The agreement states that Iranian militias cannot enter, nor the regimes forces. Only a limited amount of Russian forces are allowed in three checkpoints solely there to supervise that the agreement is being implemented. And that Turkish troops remain stationed behind the dividing line between the two parties,” he added.
As we can see, the Iranian militia have not honored the agreement, nor did Russia force them to respect it, nor did Turkish forces intervene. This Iranian activity is shows that the Sochi talks are not to be trusted, which makes the appearance of a new parallel power a necessity in light of the regional race to control Syria.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.