TThe only road that left Ras al-Ayn was empty, with the exception of an overloaded truck that was slowly traveling one kilometer deadly between the war zone and exile. Shells hit buildings in the distance, while Kurdish forces in vans were preparing to run and shoot, trying to get to a battle that almost everyone had left.
Those who remained in the border town at the front of the war for northeastern Syria were there to fight; the Kurds gather to defend it and the Arabs are preparing to take it from them. Early Saturday, the Arab force, driven by Turkey, moved. At the end of the day, proxy representatives claimed to have taken over part of Ras al-Ayn, exacerbating Ankara's threats to repel Kurdish forces from one of their main enclaves.
At the same time, American troops, who once formed the same Arabs before fighting more recently alongside the Kurds against the Islamic State (ISIS), were preparing to leave Syria definitively, ending their five-year war. years against the terrorist group. It was the same with their relationship with their hosts.
The staggering events of the past week may have seemed a failure for some: thoughtful maneuvers were taken to realize the consequences. For others, including European leaders who are now struggling to search for coins and Kurds in search of a lifeguard, Donald Trump's decision to abandon an ally on the eve of the Invasion was an impulsive act likely to alter the course of the region.
In the heart of the Syrian Kurds, the old alliances are quickly trampled by new realities that look nothing like the last five years of war. From that moment, the Kurds who took part in the fight against the global threat of Isis will have to fend for themselves. the United States, which has always played a leading role in the way things have been going on in the Middle East, has indeed left the scene and Turkey, long shaken by the ascendancy of the Kurds in Syria, intends to reorganize the data. demographics of the border.
What all this will eventually let go, is to worry about London, Paris and other western capitals who, like the Kurds, are struggling to take on the dramatically diminished role of the United States and the void that it creates . What this may mean for ethnic coexistence in the region is now also in question: Arabs fighting the Kurds for land add another dimension to the chaos of the war in Syria, as is a demographic realignment.
Without wasting time, Russia has already intensified its efforts, stating that the only solution for the Kurds was to reach an agreement with the Syrian regime – which Moscow supported throughout the civil war. These seismic changes also continue to affect northeastern Syria, where the post-Isis relative calm of recent months has given way to a new wave of existential fears, perhaps more serious than those that have affected Kurds for centuries. "How can this happen to us?" Said Kawa Otthman, 27. "We fought for them and they gave us their word. We thought it was different this time.
The change was drastic, all the more so to be so sudden. Just a week ago, officials from the province, known locally as Rojava, sought to deepen their relationship with the United States. Now, with the diplomats and Washington troops who have been ordered to leave, the feeling of abandonment is palpable. On Saturday in Qamishli, the regional capital, Syrian government troops kept a neighborhood that remained loyal to Damascus throughout the civil war. "We have to talk to Bashar," said a man of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while he was waiting to buy fruit at the market. "Who else will protect us from the Turks now?"
The Kurds regarded the American presence in Rojava as a buffer between them and Turkey. However, in Ankara, lying in northeastern Syria and associating with the Kurds, the United States had offered to the declared enemy to cover a project that had not occurred. nothing to do with the fight against Isis. Instead, they had given impetus to a four-decade insurgency inside its borders.
The Kurds pay tribute to their dead on billboards placed near the main roads around the cities. Photos of men and women of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), illustrated by the organization's red flag, appear at the top of each of them.
During the Syrian civil war, the PKK consolidated its presence in Northeast affairs and its members dominate high-level administrative and military posts. In 2015, when the US authorities entered into a partnership with Syrian Kurds to fight against Isis, the PKK offered its support and remained so ever since.
The pact, called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), attracted a large number of Kurdish fighters, as well as some Arab units. Together, they acted as ground troops for the US Air Force, evacuating Isis from his remaining lands and killing nearly 11,000 casualties.
Throughout the campaign, Turkey insisted that Kurdish cooperation was a Trojan horse that had strengthened the enemy on its southern perimeter and posed an intolerable threat.
The debate over Washington's Kurdish allies provoked clashes between US military leaders who praised the Kurds' engagement and State Department officials who deplored the consequences of such a pact on relations with a US ally. NATO. "It was always going to be at its worst," said a US official still in office. "Some of us are surprised that it took so much time."
Humanitarian agencies say 100,000 people have now fled the conflict. As the most recent refugees of the war escape, the bases of the Turkish border plan begin to take shape. Both Abyad and Ras al-Ayn are considered as centers in which Syrian Arabs currently in exile in Turkey could be relocated, at the expense of the Kurdish population currently living there.
On Saturday, near the border, artillery fire and machine gun fire regularly shook the air still and hot. On the Turkish side, soldiers lined up in the south, waiting for Süleyman Soylu, the Minister of the Interior, to win the first major victory of the Turkish operation in the operation. His arrival may have been premature: Abu Mukdad, commander of the army of the rebel Syrian National Army, said his men controlled only 15 percent of the city on Saturday afternoon.
"They are going through a difficult period because of the intense resistance of [Kurdish forces], "he said." There are no more civilians, but it may take another day. "
Turkish television channels broadcast images of men from Syrian divisions using their rifles to crush images of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and demolish images of martyred SDF soldiers inside the city. city. Kurdish-led fighters appeared to be in the outskirts of the city as bombing continued.
The capture of Ras al-Ayn would mean that Turkey could attempt to cut the road from Qamishli, the eastern Kurdish city, the de facto capital, to all other Kurdish positions west of the border.
A Kurdish woman from the Turkish border town of Viranşehir, a native of Ras al-Ayn, burst into tears watching the carnage unfold from the television in her living room. "It was my neighborhood and my home," she said. "It was all I had left and gone."
Before the war, the small town was home to a diverse mix of Kurdish, Arab, Circassian and Armenian communities, she said. Now, if Erdoğan sends Arab families from elsewhere to Syria to repopulate the border area as planned, she fears never to return.
"The [Syrian rebels] will never protect the Kurds, "she said. "We all lived together as neighbors and now they are going to put strangers on our premises."
Other reports by Mohammed Rasool and Hussein Akkosh