US commission expresses concern over Turkish threats to Kurdish-led fighters in Syria

Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (UCIRF), Nadine Maenza. (Photo: Social media)
Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (UCIRF), Nadine Maenza. (Photo: Social media)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The official US commission charged with monitoring global religious rights and freedoms has expressed concerns on Saturday over Turkish threats to launch yet another operation against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“USCIRF is deeply concerned over reports of Turkey’s potential further encroachment into northern Syria,” the chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (UCIRF), Nadine Maenza, wrote in a statement posted on social media.

“Turkey’s escalation of military action greatly endangers Christians and other communities already devastated by both Turkey’s and ISIS’ campaigns,” she added.

In the statement, USCIRF urged the US Government “to immediately engage with Turkey to cease all activities negatively impacting religious and ethnic minorities in north and east Syria.”

There are now fears that Turkey will launch another offensive operation against the SDF after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned earlier this month that his nation’s military would eliminate all "threats" in northern Syria after a guided missile attack allegedly from Tel Rifaat killed two Turkish military police officers in Syria's Azaz region.

The president of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), Ilham Ahmed, told the Hawar News Agency (ANHA) on Thursday that the areas around Tel Rifaat, Kobani, or Manbij could be the next targets of a Turkish operation.

Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Turkey deployed hundreds of additional troops in northern Syria for a possible attack on the SDF.

On Oct. 21, the United States called on all parties to respect existing ceasefires after a Turkish drone destroyed a vehicle in the northern Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani. Just two days later in the same city, another Turkish drone targeted a second vehicle.

Ankara has carried out three cross-border military operations in Syria to date. They were Operation Euphrates Shield (August 2016-March 2017) in northern Aleppo, Operation Olive Branch (January 2018-March 2018) in Afrin, and Operation Peace Spring (October 2019) in an area between Tal Abyad and Serekaniye.

It’s unlikely, however, that Turkey will launch a new operation without a Russian or US green light.

The first two Turkish operations were coordinated with Russia, while the Trump administration greenlighted Operation Peace Spring launched in October 2019, following a phone conversation with US President Donald Trump.

After Turkey conducted a cross-border attack into northeastern Syria, Russia and the US reached their separate ceasefire deals with Ankara which allowed Turkish troops to control the area between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain (Serikaniye).

It’s expected that Erdogan will meet US president Biden at the UN COP26 climate conference on Monday in Glasgow, Scotland, the Daily Sabah reported.

It's most likely the two will discuss Ankara’s concerns over the SDF and US concerns over Turkey's 2019 purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system, after which Washington then blocked F-35 jets sales to Turkey.