President Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria at war, a turning point that is expected to impact the evolution of a complex conflict between a multitude of international and regional actors.
Here are the issues and consequences foreseeable for the main actors involved in this deadly war.
– Turkey –
Washington has warned that the withdrawal of troops, whose date has not been announced, will be “slow” and “coordinated” with Turkey, Syria’s neighbor. Ankara is already very influential in northern Syria, where it has deployed forces and supports local armed factions.
The US decision leaves the field open for Turkey’s ambitions, which has been threatening since mid-December to launch a new offensive against Syria’s main Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The organization is classified as a “terrorist group” by Ankara, although its fighters have been Washington’s valuable allies in the anti-jihadist struggle.
Already, the Turkish army has massed important reinforcements at the border. She dispatched dozens of tanks and tanks in the north of Syria near Minbej. According to experts, this city could be the target of a future offensive, as well as the Tal Abyad locality, located at the border.
– The Kurds –
To avert a Turkish operation, the Kurds could negotiate a return of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in their territories, say experts.
This Syrian minority had taken advantage of the conflict to establish de facto autonomy in its northern and northeastern regions.
“The chances of maintaining a high degree of autonomy have been considerably reduced,” says the Center for Strategic Studies and International Studies (CSIS).
– Damascus and its allies –
Damascus and its main allies, Russia but also Iran, will take advantage of a possible break-up of Kurdish regions.
“There will be a division of the territory of the FDS (Syrian Democratic Forces) between the Turks and the Syrian army,” says the expert Fabrice Balanche.
According to him, the power of Assad could recover the city of Raqa, the former “capital” of the Islamic State group, but also the entire province of Deir Ezzor (east), putting his hand on strategic oil fields.
With the withdrawal of US forces, Iran has little obstacle to establish a land corridor to reach the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Moscow also benefits from the American disengagement. He comes to devote the indispensable role of Russia in the Syrian conflict, on the military and diplomatic level, which has largely overshadowed that of Washington.
– Islamic State group –
The YPGs are the backbone of the FDS, an alliance engaged in the fight against IS alongside the international coalition led by Washington.
While President Trump hailed the “defeat” inflicted on ISIS, in fact the SDF is still on the offensive against a final cut of the ultra-radical organization near the Iraqi border.
In the past, the SDF warned that a Turkish assault would affect operations against ISIS, as combatants would be redeployed to defend their northern region.
Responsible but also experts fear that the IS will take advantage of these circumstances to find a new breath.
– The rebels and jihadists of Idleb –
The Idleb rebel and jihadist groups, the last major insurgent stronghold in northwestern Syria, where Turkey is influential, could see their fief threatened by the games of alliances between great powers.
For Mr. Balanche, Russia would let Turkey “crush the YPG and in return, the Syrian army can advance to Idleb. Residents of the area will be forced to relocate to Kurdish areas conquered by Ankara.
Under these conditions, the rebels remain dependent on Turkey for their survival. Some factions have already announced their participation in a possible offensive against the Kurds.
– Israel –
Israel is considered by the experts as one of the big losers of the American disengagement, which leaves more free space for Iran and its partners to develop their military capabilities in Syria.
Israel, which had so far applauded the Trump administration’s policy in the Middle East, says it will not let neighboring Syria become Tehran’s bridgehead.
Israeli officials and analysts point out that Israel alone manages the long-standing Syrian front, and will continue to do so.