Russia, Turkey Infuriated by New US-Backed Border Force in Syria

The strongest denunciation came from Erdogan who said that “a country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders. Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born”
A US fighter stands near a military vehicle in the Syrian city of Raqqa on November 2, 2016.A US fighter stands near a military vehicle in the Syrian city of Raqqa on November 2, 2016.

Syria, Turkey and Russia responded vehemently on Monday to new US-backed plans to set up a 30,000-strong “border force” inside Syria to protect territory held by Washington’s mainly Kurdish allies.

The United States announced its support on Sunday for plans to create the force to defend territory held by Kurdish-led fighters along the Syrian border with Iraq and Turkey, Reuters reported.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the announcement that this area may fall under the remit of the US-led forces triggers serious concerns that there may be a “partition of Syria,” according RT.

“In fact, that means separation of a huge territory along the border with Turkey and Iraq,” Lavrov said on Monday. “The actions we currently see indicate that the United States does not want to keep the territorial integrity of Syria.”

“We see not the desire to help to extinguish the conflict as soon as possible, but rather the desire to assist those who want to take practical steps for regime change in the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.

The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad responded on Monday by vowing to crush the new force and drive US troops from the country.

***Turkey Will Strangle It

But the strongest denunciation came from Erdogan, who has presided as relations between the United States and its biggest Muslim ally within NATO have stretched to the breaking point.

“A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders,” Erdogan said of the United States in a speech in Ankara. “What can that terror army target but Turkey?”

“Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.”

Erdogan said Turkey had completed preparations for an operation in Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria.

The United States has led an international coalition using airstrikes and special forces troops to aid fighters on the ground battling the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Syria since 2014. It has about 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria.

The US intervention has taken place on the periphery of a near seven-year civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes.

Meanwhile, the Assad government, backed by Russia and Iran, has made great strides over the past two years in defeating a range of opponents, restoring control over nearly all of Syria’s main cities. It considers the continued US presence a threat to restore full control over the entire country.

Turkey views the Kurdish forces supported by the United States as a national security threat. It says the Syrian Kurdish PYD movement and the affiliated YPG militia, the backbone of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria, are allies of the PKK, a banned Kurdish group waging an insurgency in southern Turkey.

“This is what we have to say to all our allies: don’t get in between us and terrorist organizations, or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences,” Erdogan said.

“Either you take off your flags on those terrorist organizations, or we will have to hand those flags over to you, Don’t force us to bury in the ground those who are with terrorists,” he said.

“Our operations will continue until not a single terrorist remains along our borders, let alone 30,000 of them.”

***Blatant Assault

Damascus denounced the new border force as a “blatant assault” on its sovereignty, Syrian state media said. It said any Syrian who joined the force would be deemed “a traitor”.

“What the American administration has done comes in the context of its destructive policy in the region to fragment countries ... and impede any solutions to the crises,” state news agency SANA cited a foreign ministry source as saying.

In an apparent reference to the force, senior Iranian official Ali Shamkhani said it was “doomed to failure”, Fars news agency reported.

The coalition said the border security force would operate under SDF command, and about 230 individuals were currently undergoing training in its inaugural class.

Its ethnic composition will reflect the areas in which the force serves. More Arabs would serve along the Euphrates River Valley and the Iraqi border, and more Kurds would serve in areas of northern Syria, the coalition said.

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