Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mark Townsend - Syria’s Kurds march on to Raqqa and the sea

Syria’s Kurds have revealed plans to redraw the northern part of the country by linking the Kurdish region of Rojava with the Mediterranean Sea, in a move that will infuriate neighbouring Turkey.
In a further sign of growing Kurdish confidence in Syria’s north, officials say that they plan to ask the US for political support in creating a trade corridor to the Mediterranean as part of a deal for their role in liberating Raqqa and other cities from Islamic State (Isis).

US Troops to Patrol Turkish-Syrian Border as Ankara Threatens US Allies
Only one fighting force in Syria is practically speaking taking on Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) on the ground, and that is the Syrian Democratic Forces, the bulk of whose fighters are leftist Kurds of the “People’s Protection Units” (YPG). 

Senior figures have also indicated that the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), a 50,000-strong collection of fighters dominated by the YPJ Kurdish militia and a crucial US partner in its offensive against Isis, is preparing to occupy Raqqa after eradicating Isis before pushing deeper into Arab territory, along the Euphrates valley, and seizing the city of Deir ez–Zor from the extremist group. In another startling development, an official even revealed it was possible that SDF forces might eventually push west to liberate the city of Idlib, 170km west of Raqqa, and currently controlled by a coalition of Islamists and jihadis including the former al-Qaida affiliate Nusra Front.
Hediya Yousef, in charge of the federalism project for the self-declared autonomous “democratic federation of north Syria”, which has expanded from the Kurdish region of Rojava to include considerable Arab territory, told the Observer: “Arriving at the Mediterranean Sea is in our project for northern Syria, it’s a legal right for us to reach the Mediterranean.”

When asked if that meant asking the US for its political backing to achieve a trading route to the sea once they had helped eradicate Isis from north Syria, Yousef said: “Of course.” Speaking in the Syrian city of Malikiyah near to where recent Turkish airstrikes struck Kurdish targets, killing 20 fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPJ), Yousef added: “If we arrive at the Mediterranean it will solve many of the problems of the population in northern Syria, everyone will benefit.”

Opening the region to international trading routes would significantly empower northern Syria, circumventing the existing blockade on Rojava caused by the closed border with Turkey and tensions with Iraq… read more:

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