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09/12/2023

Syria, Russia and Türkiye may unite tribes against the US

Syria, Russia and Türkiye may unite tribes against the US

Clashes between tribal forces and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have been increasing in eastern Syria in recent weeks. İsmail Hakkı Pekin explains the developments. Pekin was also the officer commanding the implementation of the Adana Agreement signed between Türkiye and Syria in 1998.

Recently, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov made a statement and brought up the Adana Agreement again. We understand from the statements of both of them that the issue of Syria was discussed between Putin and Erdoğan. There is a normalization process. What is your prediction here?

Türkiye’s main problem is how to force the United States out there. In other words, Ankara persistently wants the USA to leave and is trying to prevent the USA from establishing a special political structure in the east of Syria. Of course, I don’t know if there is anything we can do about this, but the United States has created a structure there whose backbone are the Kurds. At the center of this structure is PKK/PYD.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has a demand from Türkiye: Türkiye should withdraw from the lands that Syria considers under occupation. Previously, Assad also had demanded that Türkiye stops supporting the opposition, but he gave up on this.

Here, an agreement such as the Adana agreement is needed for Türkiye to meet its own security needs in its 30-kilometer strip without withdrawing from the region. Of course, the agreement needs to be developed in terms of the fight against terrorism.

It predicts hot pursuit. It envisages mutual exchange of information, exchange of evidence, and mutual extradition of terrorists. And if you are going to carry out an operation close to the border, within 10-15 km, this operation will be coordinated with the relevant countries, that is, if it is to be carried out in Syria, it will be coordinated with Syria, if it is to be carried out in Türkiye, it will be coordinated with Türkiye. So we are trying to find a formula for this.

Not possible to achieve peace in the region without Russia

On the other hand, there is the Idlib region. Americans have a great influence in that region, too. Recently, there has been a rapprochement in American-Turkish relations. American warships arrived in Turkey, the 6th Fleet aircraft carrier arrived and anchored. The US ambassador to Turkey invited, Bayraktar company owner Selçuk Bayraktar visited the ship and they posed together. Our TCG Anatolian ship and the American ship did a drill. Americans started to sing our praises.

Regarding Syria, Türkiye has turned part of its face towards Russia. Because it is not possible to achieve peace in this region without meeting with him, without meeting with Assad. Being close to American plans may draw Turkey into a new trap.

How do you evaluate the conflicts that have flared up recently in the east of the Euphrates?

There are tribes on both sides of the Euphrates. Some of them have positioned themselves according to the existing powers. Some of them are now rebelling against the US-backed SDF. Because SDF raided a house there and 20 people were killed. Thereupon, the tribes seized the weapon.

Can these clashes be stopped? Maybe, but they triggered a huge wave, because the ties of these tribes extend to Gaziantep and Maraş in Türkiye.

Finally, the SDF brought the heavy weapons provided by the USA to the south, to the conflict zone. In response, the Russians hit the tribes within the SDF. Americans also responded.

On the other hand, 5000 prisoners escaped from a prison where ISIS members were kept.

Could Russia be thinking of bringing Türkiye and Syria closer on the ground through the rebellion of these tribes?

Even though it is not official and high-level, there can be such cooperation in the field. There are the Americans east of the Euphrates. Such a collaboration may be being formed against them. Türkiye may also be thinking about this. Because Ankara has previously conducted a study on tribes.

Russia also had a corps in that region, then it was disbanded, but elements of it still exist. There is also a military council and civilian councils in the east of the Euphrates. There is also Russia’s influence in civilian councils.

As a result, there are tribes supported by Syria, tribes supported by Turkey and tribes supported by Russia in the region. These could create a formation that could disturb the SDF and the USA behind it.

I don’t think America would go to war directly against them.

Ismail Hakkı Pekin
Retired Lt. Gen. Ismail Hakkı Pekin is the former Head of Turkey’s General Staff Intelligence Agency between 2007-2011. He was born in 1951 in Iznik. He is married and is the father of two children.

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