Syrian Kurds Flaunt Erdogan's 'Red Line', Expand One Euphrates Bridgehead, Create Another

Kurds are sending a message they alone are capable of cutting off ISIS from the Syrian-Turkish border

Wed, Jun 1, 2016
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Just days after ISIS mauls rebels, Kurds advance against ISIS freely -- intended message couldn't be more obvious

After much talk of a Kurdish offensive on Raqqa these past few weeks and days the Kurds finally struck -- across the Euphrates and away from Raqqa.

US has always attempted to channel the Kurdish-dominated SDF coalition towards Raqqa, but its Kurdish component has not displayed a great deal of enthusiasm for the project. Why should Kurds die for an Arab city they don't even want? Or indeed why should the SDF accept a probably very costly battle for ISIS HQ city before ISIS' crucial links to Turkish territory have been severed?

What Kurdish YPG really wanted wasn't a push southwards but one westwards, across the Euphrates that would see ISIS dislodged from the Syrian-Turkish border and ultimately link up the main Kurdish territory in northern and northeastern Syria with the Kurdish-held Afrin enclave in the northwest.

Americans, however, were always attempting to channel the Kurdish YPG militia southwards, and the Turks proclaimed an Euphrates a 'red line' that they could not tolerate the Kurds to cross -- no doubt then American disposition had a lot to do with Turkish wishes.

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None of them seems to matter anymore, at least not to the Kurds. Perhaps a push southwards towards Raqqa is to come soon as advertised, but currently the actually significant gains are being made in the other direction.

YPG has maintained a tiny and vulnerable bridgehead on the right bank of the Euphrates at Tishrin dam since a December 2015. This bridgehead has now been roughly doubled in size. Even more remarkable SDF has crossed the Euphrates at a partially destroyed bridge further upstream (bridge was heavily damaged but could still be traversed by foot) and has carved out another bridgehead there. Their next move will likely be to attempt to link up the two which would pretty much make Kurdish presence west of the Euphrates permanent.

What also really remarkable about the YPG push is how timely it is. Just days ago ISIS ran circles around Syrian rebels in northern Aleppo that Ankara has been trying to sell as a force capable of dislodging ISIS from the Syrian-Turkish border. Yet here is the Kurdish YPG freely taking territory from ISIS that had done so well against the Turkish-backed rebels. The intent is obvious -- it's a message to DC by Kurds and their backers in the US military that only Kurds can close the border with Turkey.

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