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Abdulaziz Tammo: U.S. needed for Syria Kurd peace

by Ace Damon
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The United States remains the critical actors in diplomacy to ease mounting tensions between Syria and Turkey following Ankara's foray into a critical border area that has historically been heavily populated by Syrian Kurds, the group's leader said.

Abdulaziz Tammo, president of the Syrian Independent Kurdish Association, said in an interview late last week that "all the Syrian people are looking for the US to not just wait and watch what is happening in Syria."

Areas of Syria's border with Iraq remain essentially no man's land, with 15,000 to 20,000 armed Islamic State militants.

The Turkish military campaign left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced from their homes.

Syrian Kurds, who provided critical aid in the war against ISIS, were surprised by President Trump's announcement last month that the US would withdraw about 2,000 Syrian special operations forces, potentially leaving the Kurds at the mercy of Syrian, Russian forces. and turks. Syrian Kurds, keeping open lines for Washington, reached the Syrian government and Russia in a desperate search for allies.

Since then, the order of withdrawal has been modified and up to 600 US soldiers remain in the Syrian sector still under Kurdish control. The Kurds, the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East and one of the world's most populous stateless people, are divided into Syria, Turkey and Iraq.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said this month that the US will continue to work with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and safeguarding the oil facilities in the region for the SDF.

Despite Ankara's claims that Syrian Kurds are allied with Kurdish militant separatists in Turkey, an SDF axis, Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad could radically change the power structure in the region as Turkey seeks to expand in the north. and in western Syria.

In the interview, Tammo suggested that the US military work with local Kurds to protect oil fields and direct any income to house the large number of Syrian refugees.

"This will result in putting more economic pressure in line with US sanctions on the Syrian regime, and will help pressure Russia and Iran not to try to represent the Syrian regime as an important partner in Syria," he said.

If US forces remain, Tammo said, Russia would face increasing pressure "to come to Geneva to find a peaceful solution rather than the military solution Russia is trying to get out of Syria."

Although the talks do not yet lead to a peaceful settlement, Tammo said, his group believes that "the US can work with our neighboring Turkey … (and) can pressure Assad and Iran to reach the negotiating table."

He acknowledged that violence in the region is unlikely to end soon. The Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been at war with Turkey for 35 years and is a US-designated terrorist group, remains in a deadly struggle with the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Unfortunately, just as the US has not been able to get them out of the area, it seems that the Russians will not be able to."

He said a realistic and successful plan would require "real cooperation and partnership between the US and Turkey, as two partners are within Syria and involved in Syria."

"We Kurds – like all other Syrians – look to the US as an important partner in the area," said Tammo, "and we look to the US to find a solution for all Syrians."

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