Kurdish expansion plans putting the group on a collision course with neighbouring Turkey
Syrias Kurds have exposed plans to redraw the northern part of the country by linking the Kurdish region of Rojava with the Mediterranean Sea, in a move that will infuriate neighbouring Turkey.
In a further sign of growing Kurdish confidence in Syrias north, officials say that they plan to ask the US for political supporting in creating a trade hallway to the Mediterranean as part of a deal for their role in liberating Raqqa and other cities from Islamic State( Isis ).
Senior figures have also indicated that the Syria Democratic Armies( SDF ), a 50,000 -strong collection of fighters dominated by the YPJ Kurdish militia and a crucial US partner in its offensive against Isis, is preparing to fill Raqqa after eradicating Isis before pushing deeper into Arab territory, along the Euphrates valley, and confiscating the towns of Deir ezZor from the radical group.
In another startling growing, an official even exposed it was possible that SDF forces-out might eventually push west to liberate the towns of Idlib, 170 km west of Raqqa, and currently controlled by a alliance of Islamists and jihadis including the former al-Qaida affiliateNusra Front. Hediya Yousef, in charge of the federalism programme for the self-declared autonomous democratic federation of northern Syria, which has expanded from the Kurdish region of Rojava to include considerable Arab territory, told the Observer : Arriving at the Mediterranean Sea is in our programme for northern Syria, its a legal right for us to reach the Mediterranean.
When asked if that intended asking the US for its political backing to achieve a trading itinerary to the sea once they had helped eradicate Isis from north Syria, Yousef said: Of course.
Speaking in the Syrian metropoli of Malikiyah near to where recent Turkish airstrikes struck Kurdish targets, killing 20 fighters of the Peoples Protection Units( YPJ ), Yousef added: If we arrive at the Mediterranean it will solve many of the problems of the population in north Syria, everyone will benefit.
Opening the region to international trading routes would significantly empower northern Syria, circumventing the existing blockade on Rojava caused by the closed perimeter with Turkey and tensions with Iraq.
But the plans will outrage Turkey, which has already invaded Syria to prevented the Kurds extending their territory along the entire Turkish border.
Yet following the recent Turkish airstrikes, hundreds of US forces-out moved through Rojava to the Turkish perimeter, a dramatic present of solidarity with the Kurds that has stoked tensions between Washington and Ankara. On Wednesday a senior aide to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoan, recommended American troops could be targeted alongside their Kurdish friends a warns that has done nothing to dilute Washingtons view that the Kurds are an indispensable ally in the imminent combat to liberate the Isis stronghold of Raqqa.
The Mediterranean lies about 100 km from the westernmost side of Kurdish-held land and the programme would require an agreement with the Syrian regime, although the YPJ and Syrias president, Bashar al-Assad, have come to deals on issues such as the airport at Qamishli, which remains under Syrian army control despite being deep inside Kurdish territory. Any deal would require such arrangements of Russia, Assads staunch ally, which recently deployed ground forces to Kurdish-held terriory to work with the YPJ. Russias influence in Syria was again highlighted on Friday when President Vladimir Putin unveiled no-fly regions for Russian, Turkish, Iranian and US militaries in order to protect safe regions for civilians on the ground.
The SDFs liberation of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor along the Euphrates would extend territory controlled by the autonomous federation of northern Syria to almost a third of the two countries, compared with the 16% that was governed by the federation of Rojava.
Yousef said that the population of Raqqa would be given a referendum asking if it wanted the SDF, which contains Arab and Assyrian Christian militia, to form both governments following the defeat of Isis.
The people in Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa crave the SDF to come; in truth the SDF consists of people from these areas, she said. Already it seems that the SDF is being prepared to stay in control of Raqqa. The Observer witnessed Kurdish and Arab police officer being trained in the town of Mabrouka, Syria, specifically to patrol Raqqa after its freeing. Sources also said that SDF fighters were already as close as 10 km from Deir ez-Zor, the most difficult Isis stronghold in Syria once Raqqa is liberated. Considering Idlib, which lies 55 km from the Mediterranean, Yousef said any offensive would depend on events. If we clear all this area[ north-east Syria] from terrorists, then maybe we will go to the other side to also clear that area. Idlib is resided by Jabhat al-Nusra[ Nusra Front ], who are on the listing of terrorists.
A spokesman for the U.s. state department said that Syrias future should be made by the Syrians themselves, reiterating Washingtons stance as not recognising any unilaterally declared self-rule semi-autonomous zone.