Turkey and US Patrol Syria “Safe Zone” Despite Increasing Disagreements

Photo: US troops oversee SDF’s removal of fortifications in northern Syrian “Safe Zone.”

By Jennifer Kelly

This weekend, Turkey and the United States began joint patrols of the recently established “safe zone” within the Kurdish-controlled area in northeastern Syria.

Turkey has made it clear it is not satisfied with the strip of land that has been established as the safe zone. “It seems Turkey’s ally [the US] is after a safe zone in northern Syria not for Turkey but for the terrorist group,” said fascist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, referring to the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) and their ties to the revisionist Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey has insisted on a safe zone at least 30 km deep into Syrian territory, and Erdogan has said if such a safe zone is not formed Turkey will “have no choice but to set out on it’s own.” The Turkish state wishes to drive the Kurdish forces from the area and has also stated its desire to resettle a million Syrian refugees within it.

This would not be the first time Turkey has invaded Syria on the pretext of fighting “terrorism.” In 2018, Turkey invaded northwestern Syria to eliminate the Kurdish presence in Afrin. What followed was an ethnic cleansing, with more than 150,000 Kurds displaced from their historic homes. Property was confiscated and given to those Syrian refugees Turkey brought to resettle the area. Religious and historical sites as well as graves were destroyed and looted, and Turkish forces destroyed olive trees, a cornerstone of the agricultural economy of the Kurds.

For the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), a coalition of Syrian government and Kurdish forces, the presence of Turkish soldiers without US soldiers is unacceptable as is the establishment of Turkish military bases, but it is unlikely the SDF will get their way.

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A Turkish tank in Afrin after Turkish forces took control of the majority-Kurdish city away from the YPG in 2018.

US forces bulldozed fortifications and earthen berms in the safe zone and seem increasingly likely to pivot to Turkey’s desires. Even if the US does not deign to increase the safe zone’s size, Turkey has already said it will act on its own to remove the Kurdish forces from the area, and the US certainly did not intervene during Turkey’s invasion of Afrin. Whether through political deals or open military incursion, Turkey appears to be poised to get what it wants, despite the Syrian government’s condemnation of the safe zone in the “strongest terms,” which it sees as a violation of international law.

The partitioning of Syria continues, against the will of its people, decided by imperialists and those who serve them. While the Turkish state seeks to expand its borders and continue its genocidal campaign against the Kurdish nation, the US hopes to maintain control over the region and oppress the people through whatever means it can.

For the past few years, the US has used the YPG as its proxy force in the conflict in Syria, but it has no loyalty to the Kurdish nation and will abandon it the moment it stands in the way of US imperialism’s domination of the region.