Imperialist Plans, Diplomatic Games, Revolutionary Resistance – A Snapshot of the Turkish Invasion into Rojava

On 09 October, Turkey began its long-announced war of aggression against the liberated territories of north-eastern Syria. After the United States of America confirmed the occupation plans of the AKP-MHP regime with their hasty troop withdrawal, the first air bombs rained down on the towns and villages of Rojava at 16 o’clock local time. The fascist Turkish occupation army and its Islamist auxiliary troops set themselves in motion under the covering fir of continuously thundering Turkish artillery, and crossed the border the same night. The occupying troops’ advance concentrated mainly on the areas around the two cities of Gire Spi (Tel Abyad) and Serekaniye (Ras-al-Ain).

But the attack was by far not limited to the small strip between the two cities. Villages and towns along the entire border line became the targets of Turkish artillery and air raids. Turkey’s strategy was clear from the first moment of the war. With the first attacks, which took place at the same time on the entire border, the civilian population in particular was to be hit and frightened. Life should be brought to a standstill and people should be forced to flee. Food depots and granaries, bakeries, water treatment plants, pumping stations, hospitals and other critical infrastructure were targeted. But wherever the fascist aggressors dared to enter the free soil of Rojava, their attacks were answered with violent retaliatory strikes. The people of Rojava and the Democratic Forces of Syria stood united against all attacks and offered a historical resistance. The enemy had not expected such fierce resistance, and the determined resistance of the population and its defensive forces brought the advance of the occupying army to a halt.

The regime in Ankara had expected to take Gire Spi and Serekaniye in one sweep and then turn to the remaining areas of Rojava. Confronted with their own defeat and furious with rage at the unbroken will of the peoples of Northeast Syria, they brutally and barbarically attacked the civilian population. Air raids and artillery were used to massacre hundreds of civilians. Dozens burned alive in the white phosphorus fired on Gire Spi and Serekaniye. Countless people were injured and mutilated. But in spite of all the adversity, the tiny Serekaniye offered heroic resistance for 12 days. A small town of just 30,000 inhabitants, fighting the second largest NATO army, with all its advanced war technology and firepower, forced the fascist Erdogan regime to stumble and despair. Cut off from sufficient food and medical supplies, equipped only with light weapons and scarce ammunition, a few hundred courageous women and men withstood the invasion. The defenders of Serekaniye have written an epic of resistance that will never be forgotten.

But the longer the barbaric attacks of the fascist invaders against the Democratic Federation of Northeast Syria lasted, the more world saw their crimes in all clarity. The images of the executions of defenceless civilians, among them the Kurdish-Syrian politician Hevrin Khelef, spread in the international media and caused horror. The cries of the burned children of Serekaniye echoed around the world, exposing the Turkish “Operation Source of Peace” to the eyes of progressive humanity. The international protests began to grow and little by little the nation states of Europe and also the imperialist world powers, under the pressure of their own people, saw themselves forced to position themselves. Russia, too, ultimately had to act in this situation.

For a long time Russia had pursued the policy of preparing the ground for Turkey’s attack in the hope of forcing the revolution of Northeast Syria, weakened by the struggle against the Turkish occupiers, to capitulate to Damascus. While the Russian Federation sabotaged any dialogue between the Baath regime and self-government in the past, it left room for initial talks with the beginning of the Turkish invasion. They hoped to find good negotiating conditions for themselves. Also domestic pressure on Assad’s government to curb the Turkish invasion in the north of the country increased. On the fifth day of the war, a first military agreement was reached between the Syrian central government and the Democratic Federation.

While the Western media were already loudly announcing the end of the revolution and the self-government and desperate journalists, for fear of the allegedly advancing Assad troops, searching the distance, the self-government declared that the agreement should serve the common defence of the country. Before a further political dialogue on the future of Syria can be conducted, the unity of the Syrian territory must first of all be guaranteed. Because such a political dialogue cannot be conducted under the conditions of a foreign invasion of Syria, the destruction of the occupation comes first. For this reason, the military agreement has no impact on the administration or life of the civilian population, despite the now fully completed stationing of Syrian border guards along the entire border with Turkey. A quick relocation of units of the Syrian Arab Army took some time and was limited for a long time only to areas south of the 30km zone.

The European states also began to position themselves and in some cases verbally condemned the Turkish invasion. Ultimately, however, the states of the European Union were unable to take decisive steps such as a common trade or arms embargo against Turkey. The interests of major exporters such as the Federal Republic of Germany stood in the way of this too much.

Although it remained mostly only lip service and empty promises that ultimately served only to appease the critical public, the pressure on Erdogan and Trump nevertheless increased. Even within the American political public, Trump’s position became increasingly isolated, and he found himself confronted with harsh criticism from the republican camp as well. The Erdogan and Bahcelis regimes were responsible for a war of aggression that was contrary to international law. They were in need of explanations and desperately tried to legitimize their own crimes with lies and psychological warfare. In order to free themselves from this tricky situation and bring down public outrage, the Erdogan regime and the Donald Trumps administration developed a new plan and announced a ceasefire on the ninth day of the war.

Here the U.S. imperialists acted as negotiators and patrons of the revolution of Northeast Syria, Turkey showed mercy and proclaimed in its great kindness a withdrawal of the self-defense forces from the 120-km strip of land between Serekaniye and Gire Spi. Donald Trump declared himself to be the greatest Middle East strategist in the history of the United Nations and even claimed to have solved the Kurdish question. What flickered across the screens of the world on the evening of 17 October was nothing more than a cheaply arranged play that had no other purpose than to legitimise the occupation. The occupation zone was recognised as a status quo and the defence forces, which were the only legitimate force in the area, were called upon to withdraw. At the same time Trump and Erdogan were able to get some air in the face of the onslaught of the critical public and the media started to play down the subject. The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the largest umbrella organization of the Kurdish liberation movement, declared that the deal between Trump and Erdogan has neither moral nor political legitimacy and that resistance is the only option that remains in view of the international plot woven against the Rojava Revolution and its achievements.

The defence forces of the Democratic Federation were given 120 hours to withdraw from the contested areas, although data on the area concerned varied widely. While the self-government clearly stated that it could only be the zone between Gire Spi and Serekaniye, the representatives of the Turkish Republic tried to distort public perception and persistently spoke of a 440 km long area. While the fights in Serekaniye and on all fronts continued with undiminished severity Erdogan was full of hatred, and threatened again and again the complete destruction of the Federation, the negotiations between the imperialists continued behind the scenes. Russia took over the steering wheel and was supposed to complete the Americans’ unfinished move.

On 22 October, the Russian President invited the dictator Erdogan to visit the Kremlin. The agenda of the meeting was clear from the beginning and so Erdogan came well prepared and equipped with plenty of maps. The two guarantor powers of the Astana negotiations and thus of the alleged ceasefire in Idlib knew exactly what both expected from the meetings. In the end, they solemnly announced an agreement that was supposed to prevent a further escalation of the conflict. The Russian Federation also de facto recognized the legitimacy of the Turkish presence in Northern Syria and declared the area between Serekaniye and Girespi as another Turkish occupation zone, along with Afrin, Bab and Jarablus west of the Euphrates. According to the agreement, the areas to the west and east were to be placed under the control of the Russian military police and the Syrian border patrol units after the withdrawal of the Democratic Forces of Syria. Russian-Turkish reconnaissance patrols, which can advance up to 10 km inland along the entire border area, are to be coordinated and carried out to ensure and control the complete withdrawal of the defence forces.

In order to prevent further massacres of the civilian population and to stop the ethnic cleansing of the entire region, the General Command of the Democratic Forces of Syria announced the withdrawal from the Syrian-Turkish border area up to 30 km and troops of the Syrian Border Guard began to take their positions. While all regular armed forces were withdrawn, local armed self-protection units of the population as well as the internal security forces to defend the civilian population in the border area remained behind. But despite all this, the Turkish occupiers and their jihadist murder gangs did not stop their offensive for a single day. Since the conclusion of the agreement, despite the fact that the Syrian Democratic Forces have complied with all conditions, the attacks from the air and on the ground have continued unhindered. Especially the fronts in the south and west of Serekaniye, in the direction of the cities Dirbesiye and Til Temir, and near the city Ayn Issa, the capital of the Democratic Federation, are repeatedly hit by violent attacks. The occupying forces trample on every agreement and every ceasefire and leave no opportunity unused to further expand their occupation zone. Where the invaders continue to advance contrary to the agreements or where the civilian population becomes a victim of their attacks, the democratic forces of Syria strike back with determination and within the framework of their right to self-defence. They are supported by times also of federations of the Syrian Arab Army, which became already dozens of times the target of the Turkish attacks.

Anyone who looks at the reality here on the ground and sees the daily sacrifices that are made with their own eyes, only understands what a farce it is when Western politicians waffle about the supposedly so grandiose success of the ceasefire and even praise Turkey for its commitment to the preservation of peace. The ceasefire is and remains nothing more than a bad lie, a dirty game and a false staging of the occupiers and the imperialist powers behind them from the beginning. Of course, a ceasefire and a political and peaceful solution to the conflict is preferable to ever more bloodshed, and so the liberation movement naturally shows the necessary willingness to compromise, but one must never place one’s fate in the hands of one’s own enemies. Therefore, the preparations for the defense and the mobilization of the population for the revolutionary People’s War continue on the ground as well. For it is still true that the actual force on the ground will determine the results of the negotiations.

All in all we can say that with the beginning of the Turkish war of aggression a new phase has begun for the revolutionary process in Northeast Syria. For a long time the freedom movement and its various organizations and organs have been talking about an “international conspiracy” against the Kurdistan freedom movement and especially against the Rojava Revolution. The occupation attempts and targeted attacks in Southern Kurdistan, the ongoing war of annihilation in Northern Kurdistan and Turkey and finally the invasion in Rojava are all parts of one and the same concept and cannot be considered separately from each other. The ground invasion that has now begun represents only the last stage of what the enemies of the revolution have been trying to implement for years, sometimes with embargo, sometimes with political influence and sometimes with direct military force. The war against the revolution of Northeast Syria and the Middle East did not only begin on October 9, 2019, but has continued unabated for decades on economic, social, political and military levels. The phase is defined by what aspect of this war becomes dominant and what methods of resistance are found to respond to it.

Of course, it may be difficult today to understand the situation on the ground here and globally. The chaos we can see in front of us is the concrete expression of what the movement has long been calling and analysing the 3rd World War. Today there is no imperialist power that is not represented in one way or another on Syrian soil and does not participate in the competition for the redivision of the Middle East. If we try today to assess the politico-military situation solely on the basis of the interests and positions of the imperialist powers and the regional regimes, it will be very difficult for us to understand the real situation. In order to really understand the events in their depth and to grasp the meaning of the word “international conspiracy” correctly, it is necessary above all not to ignore the revolution itself, as an independent factor, between the power struggle of the rulers. It is necessary to develop an ideological approach that manages to grasp the strategic dimension of this war and not only tries to explain the steps of the states with short and medium term economic and power political interests. The various capitalist powers may have conflicting interests, but they have a common strategic interest against the revolution.

In the tactical analysis we speak of 3 basic forces on the ground, the imperialist intervention powers, the status quo powers, i.e. the regional regimes and thirdly the democratic forces of the Middle East, the women, the youth, the oppressed peoples and religious groups, the labourers of the region. The revolution of Northeast Syria today represents the forefront of the democratic-revolutionary forces of the entire region. While it was possible to suffocate the revolutionary uprising of 2011 in blood, the revolution here represents the direct continuation of the uprisings of the Spring of the Peoples. So if we analyse tactically we have to make clear distinctions between the individual powers and their interests and use them to the advantage of the revolution. But if we look at the situation strategically, we have to realize that there are no 3 lines that exist but only two. The lines between democratic modernity and capitalist modernity, between socialism and capitalism, between revolution and counterrevolution.

If today we consider the revolution in the Middle East as a whole, the democratic federation in Northeast Syria in particular and of course the medium-term goal of establishing a united, independent and democratically federal republic of Syria as the greatest obstacle of all imperialist policies in the region, then perhaps the supposedly chaotic actions of the Trump government can be explained much better. Perhaps some steps of the USA are currently playing into Russia’s hands, perhaps it will also help the Syrian regime to strengthen itself again, but what counts for it is the weakening of the revolution. No step taken by the USA, Russia and Turkey today is without close coordination between them. There is a broad consensus among them that the political status and weight of the revolution in the negotiations for a political solution to the Syrian question must be weakened. So it is no coincidence that the Turkish war of aggression is taking place exactly at the moment when the so-called constitutional committee appointed by the United Nations is trying to work out a new Syrian constitution over the heads of the people. After eight years of bloody war, the economic destruction and plundering of the country and the expulsion of a large part of the population of Syria, they now want to try again to end the conflict by redividing Syria according to their interests. According to their ideas, the vision of a democratic, sacred and federal Syria must not take a place in these negotiations.

The system of democratic confederalism has the potential to create a unity between peoples that would put an end once and for all to the centuries-old politics of division and domination. It is therefore necessary to destroy the revolution or force it to surrender. Whatever they have tried to impose on the revolution in recent years, the people here have continued to follow their own line. The revolution has strengthened militarily, economic and social construction has been further advanced, and the revolution has developed its own independent diplomacy and foreign policy, which has made it a strong power factor in the region and worldwide. They have not bowed to the imperialist dictates and so they are trying today to bring the revolution to its knees with the help of Turkey. The Turkish fascism is only the hammer with which they try to smash the revolution, but the hands that carry the hammer are different.

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the USA and NATO have always relied on Sunni jihadist groups and supported them diplomatically, financially and militarily. The majority of the Syrian National Army, which today is organized as jihadist groups, have enjoyed training and arming in recent years through the numerous programs of the CIA and Pentagon. The fact that the USA has cleared the way for the Turkish invasion could be a first sign that the USA could possibly return to its old Syria policy of before 2014. Faced with the almost complete smashing of the so-called FSA built up by NATO and the reactionary Gulf regimes, the rise of the out-of-control Islamic state and an ever stronger influence of Iran, the Hezbollah, the Shiite axis, the USA saw itself forced to change tack and began military support for the liberation movement. Their hopes of sooner or later gaining political control over the project, of exploiting Syria’s democratic forces for their own interests or, in case of doubt, of splitting them up again, were bitterly disappointed. The revolution of Northeast Syria continued to follow its independent line of the third way, all attempts of the USA and the International Coalition led by them, the SDF, to lead against the interests of the revolution into a confrontation with the Iranian forces were repulsed and also the efforts of a political solution by a Syrian-Syrian dialogue without external foreign determination continued.

The USA has reached a clear impasse with its policy towards the revolution. But at the same time the USA never gave up its support for the Islamist gangs. When Turkey launched a rescue operation for the weakening so-called “Syrian opposition” in August 2016 with its invasion of Northern Syria under the name of Euphrates Shield, this was also met with great support from the USA. American special forces supported the Turkish troops in taking over the city of Jarablus. Furthermore, the USA also trained Islamist associations in Turkey and supplied them with weapons. The self-proclaimed Syrian interim government, which represents the political arm of the gangs, is still today the only “representation of the Syrian people” recognized by the NATO states. It is quite possible that the USA, against the background of its medium-term intervention plans against Iran, will now again begin to strengthen the Sunni Islamists. It has been discussed for some time whether the USA is not working together with Saudi Arabia and other states to build an anti-Iranian Sunni cross-border army. There were also attempts on the part of the coalition to get the Arab-Sunni parts of the democratic forces of Syria in the south of the liberated areas under control and to split them out of the alliance as independent proxy forces.

We will see what attitude Turkey will take against Iran in the following. The USA is trying to create a new policy from the rubble of the old and it will take some time before a clearer line becomes apparent. The fact is, however, that with the unification of most of the jihadist militias in Syria, the National Army and the advance to the east side of the Euphrates, both Turkey and the USA have succeeded in taking a major step that once again calls into question the existing balance of forces. With the Syrian Interim Government, the National Army, its own police force, various ministries all of which are based in Turkey and even its own embassies, e.g. in Qatar, the aim is to build a state structure that can challenge the Syrian central state not only in its legitimacy but also militarily in the future. When these facts are considered, it also becomes clear that the current negotiations between the so-called opposition and the Syrian government under the auspices of the UN are doomed to failure. The Constitutional Committee is another staged play. The intervention powers are still interested in an escalation and as long as the situation does not correspond to their interests, they will continue their policy of war and destabilization.

The same applies to Russia, no matter how often they stage themselves as preservers of Syrian sovereignty, unity and independence. They too have played a part in this war and are trying to use it to their advantage. Russia’s demands for surrender to the Syrian regime are, of course, unacceptable and cannot be met. Russia plays a double game and uses Turkey, as well as the jihadists, again and again as a means of pressure against the Syrian government to guarantee a permanent relationship of dependence. Russian interference in Syria must not be misunderstood as a service of friendship towards Assad. Russia, too, is in a different league today and sees itself in the conflict of two rather than the third force that stands above everything and will judge the outcome. Russia is now trying to slip into the role that the USA all too often played before. Russia thinks on a global scale and so it is self-explanatory that Turkey’s gradual breakout from the Western power bloc is of greater importance. Al-Bab, Idlib, Afrin and now Gire Spi and Serekaniye, the list of Syrian territories sold by Russia is long. At the same time, the Russian state also aims at the political liquidation of the revolutionary project in Northern Syria. Thus Lavrov speaks of the great importance of the Kurdish question, but reduces it only to a cultural affinity and the right to mother tongue. At the same time Russia calls on the revolutionary forces to speak only on behalf of the Kurds in the negotiations with them and the Syrian government and to exclude the Arab, Assyrian and Turkmen sections of the population. The Kurds are to be fobbed off with small legal reforms and the unity of the peoples broken. The essential issues of local self-government and decentralization of the Syrian state as well as the equitable distribution of the country’s natural resources and wealth are not even addressed.

The attitude of the Syrian central government and Bashar-al-Assad to the current war can be seen as positive. The Kurdish question is recognized as reality, one calls for the common struggle, equal Kurd equal Arab against the occupation and signals also readiness to negotiate. But it still depends on Russia’s attitude where the dialogue between self-government and government will go. So far, it has been mainly external powers that have repeatedly torpedoed and prevented this dialogue. Since 2012, the self-government has made every effort to find a solution together with the Syrian government, to initiate a democratization of Syria and thus to end the war. But of course it is also a question of the balance of power and the position from which Assad negotiates whether it is willing to engage in an honest, open and serious dialogue. Thus the undertone of most statements from Damascus is still the same, that of renewed submission to the regime. A weakening of the revolution by Turkey naturally plays Assad into the cards. The big question is whether the Syrian government will ultimately be able to show foresight and seek a solution in the interest of all Syrian citizens, or whether dazzled by Arab chauvinism it will continue to insist on the status quo before 2011. At some point the Syrian regime will also have to recognise that Turkey is about much more than the alleged fight against terrorism. It is about the long-term occupation and transformation of Syria into a Turkish satellite state.

Nevertheless, the first steps towards a military defence alliance can be interpreted as first positive steps and pave the way for further political dialogue.

The next weeks and months will show how the events will develop further. All in all, the revolution in Northeast Syria today is confronted with extremely great dangers. But every crisis and every chaos that develops brings with it new opportunities. It is clear that different sides are trying to destroy the revolution and nobody is willing to accept the revolution just like that. Since 2011, the Revolution could emerge as the strongest and most victorious force out of the turmoil of the Syrian civil war. With the democratic forces of Syria, a revolutionary army has emerged today that has had no comparison either in its size or in its radiance in the Middle East. For the first time in the history of the Middle East, after the division of the Middle East by the imperialists since the last 100 years, Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmen, all the different population groups of the country, fight side by side against imperialism and fascism. This alone represents a historic step forward. More than 5 million people have now been living under the system of democratic self-government for seven years, and the idea behind this system is spreading in all directions of the Middle East. In other parts of Syria and the Middle East, too, there is growing interest in dealing with the paradigm of democratic modernity. The revolution has become a strong and independent factor in the region and this is a thorn in the side of some forces.

But as in every phase of the crisis, the outcome of the chaos will ultimately be decided by the degree of organization, initiative and determination of the individual forces. The more we manage to expand the resistance both here and globally, to organize ourselves strongly and according to the time and needs we are able to give the right answers, the more we as an international movement will determine the outcome of this war. To this day, we have succeeded and continue to succeed in transforming every defensive into a new advance. As a shining example, Kobane is still in everyone’s best memory. The battle that began in Kobane was completed with the victory in Baghouz and the complete territorial destruction of the Caliphate. In the same way we will be able to turn this threat into another victory. Every revolution moves on the thin line between new victories and total annihilation. It is important not to lose hope and instead seize the opportunities that bring new dangers. The global resistance movement naturally plays a very large part in making the revolution a decisive factor. Perhaps the global resistance movement is not yet in a position to stop, prevent or stop the war, but it is a factor in its own right that today reveals, thwarts and attacks the policies of those in power. The daily resistance in the metropolises of the imperialist countries strengthens the revolution in the negotiations. If we succeed in uniting the struggle of the population here with the resistance in the metropolises to one acting subject, then also the last plan of the rulers will run into emptiness and the revolution will emerge victorious from these days. In this sense, it is important not to let the resistance break down and not to give the special war of the states any place in our heads and hearts.

The war is not over and the revolution will continue. The dirty policies of the imperialist states and their collaboration with Turkish fascism must not go unpunished. Perhaps they are trying to wash the blood from their hands, but we know where to find the culprits of this war. We know who is responsible for these crimes.

From the Democratic Federation of Northeast Syria we greet all those who have been on the streets in recent weeks, who have blocked and disrupted normal operations and who will not stop denouncing the prevailing policy. Even if some would like it this way, this fight is not over yet, but has only just begun.

The revolution in Northeast Syria will triumph, fascism will be smashed.