This Week in the Middle East: American airbases, ISIS gains ground, Western tensions, Yemeni airstrikes.
This Week in the Middle East is a bi-weekly column edited by Revan Filiaexdeus and published on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We draw our information from a wide network of citizen reporters who are often the very ones fighting these conflicts. Our reporting aims to be as objective and fact-based as possible. The opinions expressed herein belong solely to the author.
The United States has begun construction of a military base just east of Tall Tamr, Kurdistan. ZFM was able to obtain satellite imagery of the base under construction, shown above as the first image in the gallery.
This follows Turkish President Recep Erdogan's allegations that the United States has been providing arms to the Kurds, which the Turks identify as a "terrorist organisation". The self-governing Kurdish people's military forces are divided between the People's Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) and the Kurdistan Worker's Party. The YPG/YPJ has worked closely with Syrian Democratic Forces, the Iraqi government, and the Western Coalition forces (including Israel) to combat Daesh, Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria, and the Turkish military.
The PKK has been labeled a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the United States and has waged an ongoing war for a united Kurdistan free from foreign control since 1984. They subscribe to a far-left Marxist-Leninist position. The YPG/YPJ have a unique ideology they call Democratic-Confederalism and seek to distance themselves from far-left politics. The United States views the YPG/YPJ as it's allies in the Middle East.
While both the PKK and Daesh are labeled terrorist groups, it must be stressed that the two groups could not be more different. The PKK has fought for the independence of the Kurdish people and maintains freedom of religion among it's forces; Daesh has been the perpetrator of an incredible number of atrocities in the name of it's brand of Islam and under the flag of it's unrecognized Caliphate.
“We cannot buy weapons from the US with our money, but unfortunately, the US and coalition forces give these weapons, this ammunition, to terrorist organizations for free,” Erdogan said. “So where does the threat come from? It comes primarily from strategic partners," Erdogan said.
It must be noted that Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1951. Erdogan was mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998, Turkey's Prime Minister from 2003 to 2014, and the President from 2014 onward. He is affiliated with Turkey's "Justice and Development Party", a moderately conservative party that rejects Islamist labels. Contrary to his party's doctrine, Erdogan called for an "army of Islam" last month composed of all of the major Middle Eastern powers to unite and invade Israel, the only nation in the world whose constitution describes itself as a "Jewish Democracy".
The last time a united Arab effort was the Yom Kippur War in October of 1973 led by Egypt and Syria. The Six Day War in 1967 similarly was led by a coalition of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Israel won both conflicts in decisive victories.
Turkey has been accused of making use of militants from the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) in it's own Istanbul-backed insurgency forces in Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch; the former attacked PKK positions in Western Kurdistan in land officially claimed by the Turkish government, while the latter sought to purge Kurdish control and settlement from the city of Afrin, Syria. Afrin is currently under joint Turkish-Syrian control.
The sudden 2014 rise of the self-proclaimed Caliphate was largely funded by selling oil from captured oil wells at rock-bottom rates to the international community.
In Deir-ez-Zor Governate, the Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian Arab Army have been observed to be peacefully coexisting. The two groups have fought intensely in a series of battles and skirmishes throughout Syria for control of the country. The SAA is loyal to Assad's government, while the SDF has fought for free elections in Syria.
On the 19th, the Iraqi air force participated in a joint airstrike with the Syrian government on Daesh positions just south of Deir-ez-Zor along the Euphrates river, one of the few geographic strongholds left under Islamic State control.
On the 20th, Daesh forces engaged Syrian rebel forces just west of the Israeli-Syrian border near Ash Shayh Sad, Syria. The area has fallen to IS control. The Turkish military entered the rebel-controlled Sarmin region in Syria and delivered weapons to the Jaysh al-Islam rebel coalition of Islamist fighters.
Heavy fighting continues this week in Damascus as large parts of the city towards the south remain under Islamic State control. Daesh engages both rebel and government forces.
The United Nations continues to monitor the ongoing conflicts. Monitors were spotted visiting Chadder village in Quneitra, Syria, above.
President Trump appears to be using the violence in Syria to his advantage as part of ongoing talks with Iran over it's nuclear program. Trump says that American forces will leave Syria "relatively soon" in contradiction to last weeks statement by the Commander in Chief and his advisors that American forces will remain in Syria "until the job is done." Iranian and American involvement in the Syrian Civil War should "be part of a new Iran nuclear deal."
The Yemeni Civil War continues to rage in three straight days of airstrikes by Saudi forces. At least eighteen people were killed and thirteen injured.
Revan Filiaexdeus is a freelance journalist and social activist who has been following the Syrian Civil War since it's origins in the Arab Spring of 2010. He is passionately dedicated to an objective covering of these events and works with organizations such as syriancivilwarmap.com and southfront.org