Kurds near Turkey border dread fresh offensive

People attend the funeral of a fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces in the northern Syrian town of Kobani. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Kurds near Turkey border dread fresh offensive

  • Villagers in northeastern Syria seek protection from bombardment
  • The village of Ashma is nestled in olive groves in the region of Kobani and directly looks out onto the Turkish flags and wire fencing that mark the demarcation line

ASHMA: Chimo Osman’s children stopped going to school after Turkish shelling struck his home in northeastern Syria, where Kurdish residents fear another military onslaught is imminent.

In recent days, cross-border Turkish artillery fire has targeted positions held by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main Kurdish militia in Syria.

Ankara sees the de-facto autonomous rule set up by Syrian Kurds as an encouragement to the separatists of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has close ties to the YPG.

The village of Ashma is nestled in olive groves in the region of Kobani and directly looks out onto the Turkish flags and wire fencing that mark the demarcation line.

The streets of this village and others along the border are empty: “We can’t even venture on the roof anymore,” said Osman.

“We don’t leave the house, the kids are scared,” said the 38-year-old, standing on the steps leading to his front door, with his five children huddled around him.

Nobody can predict when the Turkish forces stationed on the other side of the border will open fire, he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Oct. 30 that plans for an assault were complete and vowed to “destroy” the YPG, which he considers a terrorist organization.

One salvo punched a large hole in the second floor of Osman’s house and several other homes in the village were damaged by Turkish fire.

Five YPG fighters and a child have been killed in Turkish shelling that has in recent days mostly targeted Kurdish positions in the Kobani and Tal Abyad areas, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

The YPG is the backbone of an outfit known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is the US-led coalition’s main local ally in its battle against Daesh.

To protest against the Turkish attacks, SDF forces late last month announced they were suspending their involvement in military operations against one of the very last terrorist pockets in eastern Syria.

The move was aimed at obtaining guarantees from their US sponsors that Turkey would not seek to move in across the border as they did in the Kurdish-dominated enclave of Afrin earlier this year.

According to the Britain-based Observatory, more than 330 Kurdish fighters have already perished in the course of the latest offensive against Daesh.

Many fighters waging this deadly battle on terrorists in their remote desert hideouts feel they would rather die protecting their ancestral land from Turkey.

In Kobani cemetery, hundreds of people attended the funeral on Tuesday of an SDF fighter who became the latest casualty of the terrorists' bloody last stand in the Hajjin region.

Women wept over the coffin as patriotic songs were blared on speakers and local officials gave speeches condemning the Turkish bombardment.

“The Turkish state is hostile to the Kurds and we have the right to respond to any attack,” Esmat Sheikh Hassan, a Kobani military official, said at the funeral.

“They don’t differentiate between soldiers and civilians. They strike inhabited villages,” he said, replying to Ankara’s claims its forces only strike military targets.

Hamo Masibkeradi, one of the residents who came to attend the funeral, points to the rows of marble tombstones that mark the graves of fighters who died fighting against Daesh.

“These martyrs fell for humanity. The international community should help us,” he said.

“Erdogan wants to wipe us out. The US cannot allow this injustice.”


Iraq offers to mediate in crisis between US and Iran

Updated 27 May 2019
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Iraq offers to mediate in crisis between US and Iran

  • ‘We are trying to help and to be mediators’
  • The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers

BAGHDAD: Iraq offered to mediate in the crisis between its two key allies, the United States and Iran, amid escalating Middle East tensions and as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.
Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammed Al-Hakim, made the offer Sunday during a joint news conference in Baghdad with visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We are trying to help and to be mediators,” said Al-Hakim, adding that Baghdad “will work to reach a satisfactory solution” while stressing that Iraq stands against unilateral steps taken by Washington.
In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Tehran soared over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Arabian Gulf over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran.
The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that capped Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in return to lifting sanctions. Washington subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
Trump has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the US says destabilize the region, as well as address the issue of Tehran’s missiles, which can reach both US regional bases and Israel.
Zarif, who was been on a whirlwind diplomatic offensive to preserve the rest of the accord, insisted that Iran “did not violate the nuclear deal” and urged European nations to exert efforts to preserve the deal following the US pullout.
Speaking about the rising tensions with the US, Zarif said Iran will be able to “face the war, whether it is economic or military through steadfastness and its forces.” He also urged for a non-aggression agreement between Iran and Arab countries in the Gulf.
The mediation offer by Al-Hakim, Iraq’s foreign minister, echoed one made Saturday by Mohamad Al-Halbousi, the Iraqi parliament speaker. Al-Hakim also expressed concern for Iran’s spiraling economy.
“The sanctions against sisterly Iran are ineffective and we stand by its side,” Al-Hakim said.