Intense armed conflict has again escalated in northeastern Syria (called Rojava) after being invaded by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) on October 9. In the name of “Operation Peace Spring,” a so-called counter-terrorism military campaign, the TAF indiscriminately bombed towns situated along the boundary of Turkey and Syria which are currently governed by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party. This resulted in the forcible evacuation of around 300,000 Kurdish residents.
The offensives aim to decimate the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which serves as the official defense force of Rojava. The SDF is militarily led by the People’s Protection Unit (known as YPG), a self-defense force of the Kurdish people. The Kurds established the autonomous government of Rojava in 2012 as a base territory in their struggle for establishing a Kurdish state in the region along the borders of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq where majority of residents are Kurds.
Turkey is insisting that the SDF is a “terrorist” organization as it is purportedly allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party o PKK. The PKK has long been struggling for the establishment of a Kurdish state. Erdogan plans to expel 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey and resettle them in the towns of Rojava. Among the refugees are millions of Syrians who were evicted from the country due to the five-year war created and incited by the US. To actualize this, Erdogan has to evict, if not eliminate, the Kurds in Rojava to grab their territories. Turkey is launching the attacks together with the Free Syrian Army, a militia formed, armed and funded by the US against Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad.
According to Erdogan, Turkey has already controlled up to 1,220 square-kilometers in the said territory.
The Kurdish people’s defense force has a relatively weaker firepower and fewer troops compared to that of Turkey.
To counter Turkish attacks, the SDF was compelled to enter into an alliance with the al-Assad regime recently. The regime was considered an enemy of the SDF for perpetrating several invasion attempts in Rojava territories since 2012. On October 14, Syria and its ally, Russia, started to deploy troops in the region.
In 2015, the US entered into an alliance with the Kurds in the name of combatting ISIS. As part of the alliance agreement, 1,000 US troops were deployed in Rojava. However, the real strategic interest of the US was to overthrow the al-Assad regime in Syria.
In 2017, Russia declared that the ISIS have already been “defeated” after its bases were pulverized in Iraq and Syria. As a result, US presence in Rojava was rendered pointless. By December 2018, Trump announced that he will pull-out 1,000 US troops from Rojava. This was considered by some as the US’ admission of defeat in its attempt to dominate Syria.
Last October 6, after negotiating with Erdogan, Trump finally pulled-out the remaining US troops in Rojava.
Trump’s supposed abandonment of its Kurdish “allies” was met with vehement and widespread condemnation. To save face, the US made a public spectacle wherein it purportedly imposed several economic sanctions against Turkey. However, these sanctions were immediately revoked by Trump on October 17 in exchange for a 120-hour ceasefire. Turkey used the said period to facilitate the withdrawal of Kurdish troops from fortifications along the boundary of the two countries.
On the succeeding days, agreements between US and Turkey, Turkey and Russia, and Russia and Syria on how the Kurdish territory will be subdivided were exposed. It seems that both US and Russia are amenable to the Turkish invasion of Kurdish territories situated along its southern border. The remaining part of Rojava and the whole of northern Syria that was occupied by the ISIS will again be under the government of al-Assad. With these agreements, nothing will be left for the Kurdish people.
Turkey, Syria and imperialist countries are interested in Rojava because of its rich oil reserves, water resources and fertile land. Before declaring its autonomy, Rojava provided almost two-thirds of Syria’s total oil extraction (251,000 out of 387,000 barrels/day). After its separation, it was able to produce an average 15,000 bariles/araw which was used for power generation in the region, and served as its main export to Syria.
The Euphrates river which is the largest and one of the most important rivers in Western Asia was passes through it. It serves as the main source of drinking water and provides irrigation to farmlands in Rojava. There are also major dams and reservoirs in the region which can be used to generate electricity. At present, water is twice as expensive as oil in Rojava due to limited supply.
Rojava also has a agricultural potential. Before its declaration of autonomy, it served as Syria’s food basket. It produced 43% of Syria’s grains such as wheat and rice which are the the staple food in the country. It also produced 80% of its cotton which is used in its textile industry.