|North Syria Federation|
(credit: Editor abcdef, Wikimedia)
In yellow Afrin Region (canton)
Let's begin stating the obvious (but not so-obvious to many apparently):
1. Turkey has a fascist regime led by Hitler-loving and Islamo-Fascist extremist Tayyip Erdogan.
2. Russia and the USA are both capitalist (and thus imperialist) states: there is no monopolar imperialism, imperialism is by (Lenin's) definition the struggle of the various capitalist powers to control the world's resources and attempt to exert quasi-imperial or at least some relative hegemony over the rest.
3. The SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, organized around the Kurdish YPG/YPJ core) and the legitimate government of Syria (Baath, Assad) get along even if they clearly have different political projects: the former internationalist and Kurdish-centered, radically democratic and decidedly communist, the latter Arab nationalist (pan-Arabist), not so democratic (in spite of the reforms) and not so socialist (rather state-directed national capitalism). In spite of skirmishes and diverging international alliances this has been the case since the beginning, when the YPG coalesced as a Kurdish self-defense force.
Also maybe not-so-obvious to some may be the fact that Turkey has a huge army but that it is made up mainly of recruits, many of whom hate Erdogan (even by rigging the elections the Turkish neo-sultan only managed to get a narrow majority in parliament and needs the backing of the secular-fascists to stay in power). We have already seen in Ukraine how these conscription armies are very inefficient against motivated popular militias, notably when their commander regime is illegitimate and the war they are waging is as well.
It is also important to underline that Syria has allowed massive YPG-SDF reinforcements to arrive to Afrin. And that Turkey is working with Islamist militias (roughly Al Qaeda and DAESH, just recently renamed again for PR reasons) just the same they used them as death squads in the brutal repression of the Bakur (North Kurdistan) uprising in 2014-15.
Both the USA and Russia court Turkey. The former want it to return to its former status of reliable ally (vassal) and thus are not taking active action in Afrin, where they are not present, but still signalling they won't retreat from Manbij or other lands of the Northern Syria Federation where they hold some military presence. The latter have snubbed their Syrian ally in regard to air protection of the canton of Afrin, as determined by truce agreements, because they clearly want Turkey to become yet another ally in the region, along with Iran (also anti-Kurdish) and Syria. The powers do not care about Afrin at all: they are interested mainly in the Bosporus Straits, which are Turkey's main asset, and secondarily in projection in the Fertile Crescent.
What's actually going on?
As of today Turkey has only occupied a hill on the border, hailed as a "great victory" by their propaganda machinery, of course. The initial attempts to take over the southeastern extension of the canton north of Aleppo failed, with many more casualties in the Islamo-Turkish camp than in the Kurdish Communist one.
However, let's face it, it's a David versus Goliath
scenario in which, in spite of their bravery
, the Kurds and allies (including as far as I know some internationalist units) have it very difficult. The same was true in Kobane and they prevailed though... on their own forces alone.
I would expect that, as soon as the Spring arrives, the Kurdish forces north of the railroad (the official Syro-Turkish border is the old Baghdad railroad in most of its length) will initiate some sort of offensive, forcing the Turkish army to spread wide, but right now it is massively concentrated around the small territory of Afrin, the Mountain of Kurds.
Popular forces can win against all odds
But we have seen it before in Donbass and in Kobane: a motivated militia can certainly defeat a poorly motivated conscription army, never mind fascist mercenaries. Why do I "dare" to compare Donbass and Afrin: aren't ones in the side of Russia and the others in the side of the USA? The answer is "no": neither Russia nor the USA care much about their popular "allies", they
fear them in fact, precisely because they are democratic and popular, and only offer them very limited and conditional support at best. They are just forced to cooperate with them because of geostrategical reasons but always with the sight elsewhere: Kiev, the Bosporus, Latakia, etc. Who backs them is not important, what matters is that they are democratic and popular forces.
And I must say that it is most interesting that these great powers are being forced by circumstances, by the inefficiency of other more fascist or authoritarian approaches, to rely on these grassroots militias to some extent. It evidences that Lenin was right when he characterized Imperialism as a clash of oligarchic mafias on which we revolutionaries should not be too interested but rather on the possibility of making some revolutions in the cracks generated by this inter-imperialist struggle.These cracks are every day larger and democratic socialism is arising in them, not without difficulty but with perseverance and admirable toughness.
And that's why we must help as much as we can to defend Afrin and denounce the Turco-Islamist criminal aggression: because it's not just the people of Afrin and the many thousands of refugees installed there, it's not just the right to self rule of the Kurdish and all other peoples, it is global revolution what is being fought there. Afrin is the linchpin of our hope for a better world, we can't just watch or ignore it.