MURKY BATTLELINES: The Race to Raqqa Could Cost Trump Turkey.
You can barely keep track of the players even with a scorecard, but here’s the gist:
“The situation has gotten very complicated, and we’re on the verge of a fierce war,” said Ilham Ahmed, the co-chair of the SDF’s [Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes the U.S.-supported YPG Syrian Kurdish fighters] political wing. “We are still getting support from the Americans, but if the Turkish attacks continue, we won’t be able to focus our efforts on Raqqa.”
The Kurdish-led forces’ fight with Turkey has also led them to pursue a tentative rapprochement with Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this month, these groups invited the Syrian government to take control of several villages near the front line with Turkey – apparently seeing the Syrian government presence as a potential buffer against a Turkish advance.
“We believe that the use of terms such as opposition or regime supporters, despite its importance, it has to be put on the back burner,” said Sihanouk Dibo, a senior presidential advisor to the PYD.
On the other side of Syria’s battle lines, Abu Waleed, a commander with the Turkish-backed Sultan Mourad brigades, is preparing for the coming war with the Kurdish forces. He speaks warmly of the “historic stance” Turkey took in favor of the Syrian uprising, saying that it is the “only one that is standing with the Free Syrian Army.”
Got that? Turkey supports one group of rebels which includes terrorists. We support another group of rebels which includes Kurds which the Turks claim, apparently with some justification, includes terrorists. Turkey’s rebels are spoiling for a fight with “our” rebels who are cozying up to the Assad regime they’re rebelling against. Everybody is racing to take Raqqa away from ISIS, but nobody wants anyone else to take it first.
Raqqa isn’t so much a powder keg as it is a whirlpool, filled with knives, sucking everyone in.