Russia has hit back at Turkey by changing the game in Syria.
Moscow’s retaliation was not just about severing economic and diplomatic ties with Turkey and they were not likely to bomb Turkish military facilities, but they have other ways of undermining Ankara’s presence in Syria: Russia is now aiding Kurdish rebels, a group that has been labeled as “terrorists” by Turkey.
Al Jazeera reports:
Ankara never received international backing for a safe zone across its border, but Russia has now ruled that out.
The deployment of S-400 anti-air missiles means Russia has effectively imposed a no-fly zone over Syria.
And now, Moscow seems to be moving closer to a group that has been the US-led coalition’s main ground force in Syria – a group which Turkey, itself a member of that coalition, calls “terrorists”.
The Syrian Kurdish forces (YPG) is a US-backed Kurdish group ( although western cooperation with the group has been limited in order to avoid ruffling Erdogan’s feathers) that has pushed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) back from areas along the border with Turkey.
In an attempt to change the solely “Kurdish face” of anti-ISIL ground troops, it aligned with some Arab brigades to form “the Syria Democratic Forces” (SDF).
No doubt a further strengthened YPG will anger Turkey, which has long feared that Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria would stir up similar sentiments among its own Kurdish population.
The SDF are now engaged in a fierce battle with Turkey-backed opposition factions in what is considered to be an important corner of Syria – the northern countryside of Aleppo.
To be more specific: the area west of the Euphrates River, which Turkey calls a red line.
The SDF captured some opposition-controlled towns close to the Turkish border of Kilis – known in Syria as Bab al-Salameh, an important lifeline for rebel groups.
Russian air strikes have been targeting the area for days now.
So what does this mean in layman’s terms?…according to Russia Insider this new alliance could be a fatal blow to Turkey’s geopolitical aspirations in Syria (along with Russia’s de facto no fly zone):
The YPG has still not pushed west of the Euphrates, but along with its allies, and with the help of Russian strikes, the SDF are threatening Turkey-backed opposition groups in another key border crossing, Kilis, west of Jarablous.
Losing control of the northern countryside of Aleppo would be a setback for the opposition. Turkey, too, would lose influence.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be eyeing an even bigger victory. He called on the Assad government and the political wing of the YPG to unite. This has still not happened – at least not officially.
But Syrian Kurdish officials have said they are ready to work with anyone fighting ISIL, and anyone who works for a united, secular and democratic Syria.
Such an alliance would change the battlefield and the balance of power on the ground.
Turkey is in a heck of a pickle: The legendary Syria-Turkey ISIS oil train is being vaporized by Russian bombers; Ankara can’t support its “moderate” rebels with air strikes because of the ever-looming S-400; And now Russia is giving direct air support to an anti-Turkish group that could actually push Turkish-backed forces out of Syria for good.