Operation Claw-Sword

By, Issam Khoury
The Czech-Slovak Institute of Oriental Studies

Dec 08, 2022

Four armored vehicles flying the American flag, accompanied by combat units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, headed on December 2, 2022, to the vicinity of the Al-Malikiyah “Derik” area in northeastern Syria, with the aim of monitoring the Turkish-Syrian border, and a similar patrol went to monitor the Syrian-Iraqi border.

This security activity comes after reducing the work of the American patrols from 20 patrols per week to 5-6 patrols after November 20, 2022, that is, after the air strikes that Turkey carried out in the Syrian territories.

The enemies of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria

Turkey accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of carrying out the terrorist attack on November 13, 2022, as Turkish investigations showed that the perpetrator of the terrorist attack, “Ahlam al-Bashir[1]“, was of Syrian origin and had received training from Kurdish terrorist groups in the city of Kobani[2], to carry out her operation that claimed the lives of six people on a “Taksim: Istiklal” street, which is the vital heart of Istanbul[3].

Turkey classifies the Democratic Union Party[4], “which is the closest Kurdish party in Syria to the PKK” as the Syrian representative of the PKK organization”, which is included in the Turkish and American terrorist list[5], and  Turkey relies on its information on pictures showing leaders of the Autonomous Administration who had played a combative role with the PKK in the Qandil Mountains, perhaps the most prominent of them is Elham Ahmad[6], who is the president of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council.

Image showing Elham Ahmed accompanied by two PKK jihadists

The Syrian opposition, represented by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Coalition, believes that the PYD and the PKK are two organizations linked to Syrian intelligence, according to documents that gathered leaders of this party with Syrian intelligence officers. The Syrian government is still active and operating in the areas of Autonomous Administration, just as the management of Qamishli Airport is still in the hands of the Syrian regime, and the Russians have an effective security headquarters inside the airport.

Also, a large part of the Arab tribe’s harbor hostility towards the Kurdish nationalists, and since the Democratic Union Party is the most influential political and military force in the areas of the Autonomous Administration, the Arab hostility towards it was clear.

As the Arab nationalists see that the distant goal of the Democratic Union Party is to form an independent state for the Syrian Kurds, that is based on policies of ethnic cleansing towards the Arab component in northeastern Syria so that this region becomes a natural and political extension to the Iraqi Kurdistan region, in this way, both regions unite as a first step that contributes in the future to creating conditions for the formation of a similar region in Turkey and Iran.

Of course, the fears of the Arab nationalists intersect with the fears of the Turks, and for this reason, we see an increase in the number of fighters of Arab tribal origins in the National Army, “Which is a Syrian opposition military wing, all its decisions are controlled by Turkish intelligence.”

The Syrian regime also, in turn, despite its great support for the PKK during the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan, does not hide its fears of the Kurds monopolizing Syrian oil, cotton, and wheat in northeastern Syria.

The project of Democratic self-administration in northeastern Syria is a project rejected by Damascus, and the authority sees it Syria as a project whose broad goal is to consolidate the American presence in Syria, and of course, Russia is supporting the Syrian regime in that, although, Russia is a mediating party between the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Turks, and thanks to Moscow, the battles between the SDF and the Turks stopped in 2019, and the Russian military police forces and members of the Syrian army were deployed In areas west of the Euphrates, near Manbij and Tell Rifaat.

The responses of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria

Saleh Muslim, who is the most prominent leader of the Democratic Union Party, announced in an interview with the journalist Jazeel Khoury on Sky News[7] on November 27, 2022, that the perpetrator of the attack was of Palestinian origin, not Kurdish, and that three of her brothers were affiliated with ISIS, and were killed in the areas of Manbij, Raqqa, and Iraq at different times. As for her fourth brother, he is one of the fighters of the Turkish-backed opposition factions, which means that ISIS is the one behind the attack.

Saleh Muslim accused Turkey of financing ISIS by virtue of the confessions made by the detainees in the Autonomous Administration prisons (the Syrian Democratic Forces are holding 10,000 fighters affiliated with ISIS, and nearly 50,000 of their families in al-Hawl camp), and this means that Turkey fabricated this terrorist attack. To justify its attack on the Kurds in northern Syria.

Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, announced in a tweet[8] on November 14, 2022, that his forces had nothing to do with the Istanbul bombing, expressing his condolences to the Turkish people. Abdi’s same speech was also repeated by many first-line leaders in the Syrian Democratic Council.

Actually, the Syrian Democratic Forces consist of different ethnic formations such as Syriacs, Assyrians, and some Arab tribal[9] components that declare their hostility to Turkish interventions, but the greatest clarity in the Syrian Democratic Forces is for the Kurds

The Kurds always try to portray Turkey as an enemy whose only goal is to eliminate the Kurds, as well This was stated by the Kurdish writer Hussein Omar on the Round Table[10] program on November 21, 2022, on Al-Yaum TV channel[11].

Russian position

I24 Arabic TV channel[12], announced in its bulletin on November 30, 2022, that Ibrahim Kalin, “the spokesman for the Turkish presidency,” stated that the Syrian government is aware of and approves of the Turkish military operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces, as the same report indicated about Russian-Turkish coordination leading to a withdrawal The Syrian Democratic Forces from some areas, provided that the void is filled by the Fifth Corps forces, affiliated with the Syrian army, which makes this process a continuation of the Sochi agreement (Russian-Iranian-Turkish), from which Russia aims to re-float Assad with the regional parties.

Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov declared at the “Primakov Readings” forum in Moscow on December 8, 2022: “We are interested in Turkey and Syria, on the basis of the Adana agreement between the two countries, which is still in force, to settle specific issues related to ensuring border security.” By resuming the dialogue, for which the prerequisites seem to be ripening.

Lavrov called on the Kurds[13], for the necessity of dialogue with the Syrian government, with the aim of finding a formula for coexistence within the framework of one state, instead of betting on deceptive American promises.

According to private Turkish official sources to the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel, on November 29, 2022, Turkey presented the following demands to Russia[14], in order to pass them to the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces:

  • The first demand: the withdrawal of the armed organizations of the Syrian Democratic Forces from Manbij, Ayn al-Arab “Kobani” and Tall Rifat in northern Syria.
  • The second demand: The return of the institutions of the Syrian regime as an alternative to the “Syrian Democratic Forces”, including the security forces and border guards.

The second demand shows that the Turkish government is prioritizing reconciliation with the Syrian regime, and this new Turkish approach came with Russian efforts aimed at stopping Assad’s international isolation, and Turkey’s adoption as a key to this matter, especially since the latter plays a mediating role between Russia and Ukraine.

As it seems, Turkey agrees to this approach, in order to reduce the cost of the military war against it, as Turkey portrays the Kobani region as a military tunnels area used by the PKK fighters as a starting point for its operations toward threatening the national security of Turkey, and for this reason, the focus of the Turkish military media was on this city, Where Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar[15] stated, “Shelters, caves, tunnels, and warehouses for the armed elements have been successfully dismantled[16]“.

In fact, for the Turkish plan to succeed, Ankara is calling on Russia and the United States to provide an area 30 km deep inside Syrian territory, free of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Possibilities of the ground incursion

The ground incursion into northeastern Syria will not be easy for Turkey without an international “Russian-American” state of agreement. Turkey has always sought to pass the safe zone project south of its borders, but the international powers were not satisfied with this project, because it would annoy the Kurds, the partners of the United States of America. in the anti-terrorism project.

Now Turkey, due to the need of both Washington and Moscow for it, has found in reviving the project of a demilitarized zone 30 km deep inside Syrian territory a good opportunity, especially since the terrorist organization ISIS does not have the effective power to threaten the US national security, which makes the Americans less strict in supporting the Kurds. As in past years.

For Turkey to consolidate the chances of imposing its project, it carried out intensive air operations extending from the west of the Euphrates to the Iraqi-Syrian border and announced through its war flags its ground combat readiness for the battle, awaiting the decision of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

At the same time, the Syrian opposition units affiliated with the Syrian National Army have prepared the “opposition” to be Ankara’s ground arm in the battle, and with this approach, the losses of the Turkish army will be limited, because it will depend on Turkish military experts to manage the movement of the Syrian National Army on the ground, with intensive air support through aircraft war, and Turkish Unmanned aerial vehicle

Turkey seeks, through its intensive air strikes on the villages and military sites in which the Syrian Democratic Forces are present, to create gaps that enable the National Army forces to achieve quick victories, when the ground attack that Ankara promotes takes place.

Since the Kurds do not possess air defense systems, their only dependence is on the tunnels, and this will certainly increase the cost of the ground battle for the national army. Hence, the Turkish government sought, through its Arab media channels, to broadcast a mobilizing discourse showing that the battles of Tal Rifaat, Manbij, and Ayn al-Arab, are battles in the interest of the Syrian Arabs, whom the “Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria” government does not want them, and the access of the Syrian Arabs to these areas will mean the provision of housing havens and wide job opportunities for the displaced Syrians residing in Turkey.

Quiet American rejection

John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, announced on December 8, 2022, that his country was clear with Turkey about the dangers of its military operations in northwestern Syria, even as Washington supports Ankara’s right to defend itself.

It seems that Kirby’s statement came after the White House confirmed that one of the Turkish missiles hit an area a quarter of a mile from one of the American bases, according to an article by Barak Ravid from Tel Aviv on AXIOS[17], CIA Director Bill Burns has sent his Turkish counterpart a stern message opposing Turkey’s recent artillery and airstrikes against the Kurds in northern Syria, warning that they endanger the US forces[18].

From here we understand that the Americans are mainly interested in not exposing any of their soldiers or positions to any security or military threat, and they prefer peaceful behavior between the Kurds and the Turks, as they are not ready to rearrange the area northwest of the Euphrates again, considering, their great involvement in the files of the Ukrainian-Russian war. And the conflict in Taiwan, and the new updates in NATO forces.

The conclusion

The Russians, who dominate the area east of the Euphrates, are interested in the Syrian regime forces recapturing the areas of Manbij and Tall Rifat from the Kurds, and they do not mind at all that the Turks obtain the Kobani region “Ayn al-Arab” to connect the areas of Tal Abyad and Jarabulus, which are under the control of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army. Or to hand over all those areas to the Syrian army, through a consensus between Turkey and Syria based on the Adana agreement, provided that the fruit of this project is a guarantee of Turkey’s security.

And at the same time, marginalizes the role of the Kurds from those border areas, as the Kurds are partners of the United States of America, the adversary who supports Ukrainians with arms and money against Moscow’s expansionist projects.

Erdogan is on the Russian side, but he is maneuvering to obtain the approval of the American side, as it seems that the Americans are not interested in the areas west of the Euphrates River, and their main interest is in the areas of the “Upper Island” west of the Euphrates, as these are areas rich in oil, cotton, and wheat, and the Syrian regime’s acquisition of them would mean Reproduction of the Bashar al-Assad regime economically again after the West succeeded in applying a set of harsh sanctions against it, so the decision of the “National Army” to dominate the city of Kobani will not be flexible in Washington, and if the attack is carried out, it will not exceed the borders of this region towards the areas of Rumailan and Derik, “Al-Malikiyah” Because the Americans are still the strongest party there, and they are determined to guarantee the security of the areas under their control.


[1] https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/perpetrator-of-istanbul-terror-attack-sent-to-courthouse-178603

[2] Kobanî, )Badh Rajbana( officially Ayn al-Arab, is a Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria, lying immediately south of the Syria–Turkey border.

[3] https://twitter.com/TRTArabi/status/1592102713772322816?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1592102713772322816%7Ctwgr%5E11ab9aa358d29cb35fa3442236bc456fdb011535%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.alquds.co.uk%2FD985D986D981D8B0D8A9-D8AAD981D8ACD98AD8B1-D8A5D8B3D8B7D986D8A8D988D984-D8AAD8B9D8AAD8B1D981-D8A8D8A7D986D8AAD985D8A7D8A6D987D8A7-D984%2F

[4] The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) is a Syrian affiliate of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It is one of the most important Kurdish opposition parties in Syria as well as a charter member of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change. https://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/48526?lang=en

[5] https://www.crisisgroup.org/content/turkeys-pkk-conflict-visual-explainer

[6] Elham Ahmad is president of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council, the governing body of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. She is also a veteran campaigner and widely published advocate for Kurdish democracy and women’s rights. https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/experts/elham-ahmad

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh6sfAyK2Zo

[8] https://twitter.com/MazloumAbdi/status/1592136296981757953

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s9BVoEktxE

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g9KCdXipGE

[11] https://alyaumtv.net/

[12] https://twitter.com/i24NEWS_AR/status/1598001725369188352

[13] https://arabic.rt.com/middle_east/1414949-%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%81-%D9%87%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%83-%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AF%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%B6%D8%AC-%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A6%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7/

[14] https://www.aljazeera.net/news/2022/11/29/%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B7-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%88%D9%85%D9%87%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%B2%D9%85%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%B9-%D8%B9%D9%86

[15] Hulusi Akar is the current Turkish minister of defense and a former four-star Turkish Armed Forces general who served as the 29th chief of the Turkish General Staff.

[16] https://www.alhadath.net/syria/2022/11/20/%D9%88%D8%B2%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A-%D9%81%D9%83%D9%83%D9%86%D8%A7-%D8%A3%D9%86%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%88%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A6%D9%87%D9%85-

[17] https://www.axios.com/2022/12/07/cia-warned-turkey-strikes-syria-kurds-us-troops

[18] https://www.axios.com/2022/12/07/cia-warned-turkey-strikes-syria-kurds-us-troops

You can read this report in Arabic

The report in the Czech-Slovak Institute of Oriental Studies

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s