Tensions are mounting in northern Syria as Damascus started moving its forces to face the Turkish troops that are carrying out an operation against the Kurds in the area, state news agency Sana reports.
The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria said in a statement that an agreement has been reached with Damascus for the Syrian government troops to be deployed along the border with Turkey.
The Syrians will deploy to the strategic Kurdish-held border town of Kobani within 48 hours, Lebanese broadcaster al-Mayadeen reported. RT’s sources in the region also confirmed the reports.
The Syrian army already entered the city of Manbij in the northern province of Aleppo late on Sunday, al-Mayadeen reported. The Kurd militiamen let the government troops pass through their checkpoints unhampered.The distance between Manbij and Kobani is around 60 milometers, a one-hour car drive.
Turkey is going to come under intense pressure now that Syrian troops are heading to the north, believes Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
“The Syrian government is going to try to go across and get the oilfields, the gas fields that are so crucial for Syria’s economic well-being. Also, this is prime agricultural land as the Euphrates River flows down here. The Tabqa Dam that the Americans and the Kurds held, the Syrian government is going to want to take that back as well,” he listed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, would have to show off their best diplomatic skills to avoid an all-out war between their countries, Landis believes.
Earlier this week, the Turkish military entered northern Syria without consent from Damascus in order to fight the Kurdish militia in the Kobani region, whom Ankara regards as terrorists.
Turkey says the aim of the operation is to create a “safe zone” near its border to prevent the Kurdish fighters from making incursions into the country.
Before the start the Turkish operation, the US called back several dozen of its servicemen, who were embedded with the Kurdish forces. On Saturday, Donald Trump authorized a withdrawal of the remaining 1,000 US troops from Kobani so that they don’t get caught up between the warring sides.
The Kurds, who had been Washington’s main allies in fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) before, called the US move a betrayal.