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Feb 10 2019

Kurdish no-fly-zone in northern Syria necessary for U.S. national security - analyst

A no-fly-zone for the Kurds of northern Syria, similar the one created by the United States over Iraq in 1991,  would create a friendly sphere of influence that could pushback on terrorism and Iran, Diliman Abdulkader Diliman, the director of the Kurdistan Project at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), wrote in National Interest magazine.

Since U.S. President Donald Trump’s December declaration that the Islamic State (ISIS) was defeated and U.S. forces would be pulling out, Diliman wrote, ISIS has demonstrated that it is alive and kicking, with an estimated twenty to thirty thousand fighters in Syria and Iraq.

‘’If the United States intends to remain a key figure in Middle East, it must be visible in Syria, if not on the ground, then from the air,’’ the analyst noted,  stressing that the mostly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have led the fight against ISIS on the ground, at the request of the United States, and are now at risk of being slaughtered by Turkey.

The SDF is comprised mostly of the Syrian Kurdish forces of the People's Protection Units (YPG), designated a terrorist organisation by Ankara.

Stressing that Ankara has vowed to dismantle the SDF, Diliman highlighted that the civilian population in SDF territories numbers around 4 million. 

‘’The SDF has sixty thousand fighters, both men and women, all indigenous Syrians. Among the ethnic and religious groups represented in the SDF are the Kurds, Arabs, Yazidis, Muslims, and Christians. It is the responsibility of the United States to not only guarantee the safety of the Kurds and their partners for years to come but to also allow them to govern themselves. They fought ISIS for us, now we have to protect them,’’ he added.

For Trump, there are several viable options, if he wishes for the United States to maintain its influence in Syria, the analyst noted. Washington can either reverse the decision to withdraw American forces from Syria - a move that is highly unlikely. Its second option is to support willing European states to create a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria  as part of an initiative to avoid Turkish aggression against the SDF. The third viable option, Diliman wrote, is to enforce a no-fly zone (NFZ) in north-east Syria to prevent a Turkish “slaughter” of the SDF.

Underlining that U.S. President Trump has an opportunity to create another region in the Middle East, which is friendly not just with the United States but also towards the rest of the West.

The NFZ implementation would require countries such as France to keep their troops on the ground to discourage Turkey from invading, he wrote, adding that the United States could then gradually withdraw its troops, maybe ‘’transferring them to neighboring Iraq, where there are already over 5,000 troops and where the United States has an airbase, Al Asad.’’

Ignoring the plight of the SDF in the region will force the group to cut a deal with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, he stressed, a move which would undermine U.S. national security.