Articles > > A Number of Questions

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-10-23
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

Germany's interesting proposal to 'internationalize' the Northern Syria safe zone in collaboration with Russia and Turkey raises a number of questions.
 
Russia found it worth looking into, while both Turkey and Damascus have remained silent on the issue.
The proposal would accord the border strip's inhabitants a sense of security, especially the Kurds, who fear displacement and ethnic cleansing. It may also send a reassuring message to Damascus, as it would prevent unilateral Turkish security and administrative control that is fraught with Ankara's ambitions of annexation, expansion, and sustained hegemony over the area.
 
However, the proposal inevitably raises a number of questions:
What would happen with regard to the PKK [Kurdish Workers' Party] and SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces]? Would they have a role in this area? The proposal did not address this issue, but since it assumes Turkish oversight, it would be logical to conclude that the Kurdish militias would have no place there. More importantly, does the German proposal totally exclude the Syrian government and regime forces from a role in any of the arrangements in the area? Would Damascus agree to being excluded and expelled from its own territories? How would its allies respond in that case?
What is the mandate and timeframe set for making arrangements in the area? How does it relate to resolving the refugee issue? Will Germany and NATO humor the Turks in their quest to resettle the [Turkish-based] Syrian refugees in the border strip so as to close the door to the possibility of receiving new waves of refugees and pull the rug out from under Erdogan's feet?
 
What about the areas that the Syrian army has entered and redeployed to accompany the Russian forces? Will it be asked to withdraw from them? Are they to be excluded from the safe zone? Or will they be part of the new formula that accounts for the Syrian army and governments role?
 
As for involving Turkey in overseeing the safe zone, does that entail resorting to its affiliate Syrian militias under the umbrella of the so-called Syrian National Army [former FSA]? Could Damascus and its allies possibly accept such this, especially since this armed force and its units have spent years fighting among the ranks of the Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham and even alongside the terrorist ISIS? What will be the fate of this 'army' if it no longer has a role in the border strip? Will it be redeployed to Idlib, which the Syrian president visited yesterday, his timing notably coinciding with Putin and Erdogan's Sochi meeting?
If Germany (and Europe in general) has a vested interest in fending off new waves of refugees and sealing the cracks that would allow ISIS to seep back into the area, could it and its NATO allies end up acting as a stabilizing factor in Northern Syria, while at the same time taking a hardline stance against the regime in Damascus and imposing U.S. and European sanctions on Syria?
 
Is this proposal meant to offer a threshold for peace, or a new platform for escalation? And where does Damascus stand amidst all this activity?
Such questions abound, and they (and many more) will undoubtedly be raised at the negotiating table with Russia to discuss the German proposal, as promised.
"It will also be the subject of many discussions and consultations among a number of capitals, especially within the Astana trio, i.e. between Damascus and its allies in Tehran and Moscow.