Will 2021 be a year of IS or liberation?
Will 2021 be a year of the IS and its sponsor Turkey or a year of struggle for the liberation of humanity from these enemies?
On October 26 last year, the IS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a joint operation of the U.S. and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a Turkey-controlled area in the immediate vicinity of a military base of Turkish occupation forces in northwestern Idlib. U.S. President Trump coined the killing of the mass murderer into a great propaganda show, proclaimed himself a "liberator" and told the world that the Islamic State (IS) had been defeated.
Trump put IS sponsor Turkey in charge of the anti-IS struggle
The whole world breathed a sigh of relief with the liberation of the last IS-controlled enclave in al-Baghouz, Northeast Syria, and the end of the self-proclaimed "caliphate". The world gladly believed the claim that the IS was at an end. However, circles familiar with the reality on the ground warned that it was too early for such good news. Trump decided to open the money taps and assign the task of destroying the "harmless remains" of the IS to some Arab states and Turkey. This fatal decision put the Kurdish population of northern Syria, who had borne the brunt of the struggle against the IS, in danger of a new genocide.
Military put pressure on Trump not to withdraw troops
Under pressure from the US military wing, however, Trump had to row back and leave troops in Syria. This was based on the ridiculous claim that he wanted to protect the oil wells in Syria from the regime and its allies Iran and Russia. This, however, did not come from Trump, but represented the only scenario that would allow the military wing to create enough fear in Trump to revise his decision to withdraw. Faced with the disgrace of the invasion in Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ain) and Girê Spî (Tal Abyad), the U.S. military leaders on the ground told the SDF that they "could not have done more”.
IS handed over cities to Turkey
The fact that the IS cadres with their structures openly act as part of the militias integrated into the Turkish occupation forces, the so-called Syrian National Army, and thus implement the short-term goals of the IS is hushed up. Even the IS flags, which Turkish-backed militiamen repeatedly show, do not generate alarm signals. The IS stood in the way of the occupation neither in Jarablus nor in al-Bab; it bowed to the economic situation and experienced a new rise in Turkish design.
IS counts on Erdoğan and Trump
I had the opportunity to meet the Turkish IS commander Ilyas Aydın (Abu Ubeyde Turki), who was captured by the SDF in the Deir-ez-Zor operation, only ten days after Baghdadi's death. When I asked him if he knew about the death of Baghdadi, he said in a rather relaxed way: "We know, we have expected it anyway”. The IS was prepared for it. The cadre was not afraid to say that they had their own network for communication and information in prison.
The most interesting answer from Aydın was the one to the question of the motivation of the imprisoned IS people. Aydın (and obviously the IS as well) looked very hopefully at Trump's new policy. Aydın was clear that Turkey would play an important role in this policy. He assumed that the US was looking for a more popular partner than the Kurds to implement an intervention in the region, especially Iran. There was no reason why Obama's idea of “working with the Kurds” would not be transformed through Trump's work with Turkey into at least indirect cooperation with the IS. This idea was also the main motivation of the IS commanders and other IS prisoners like Aydın. It was as if the IS was just waiting to be deployed in new US operations in the context of a new cycle through Turkey.
IS cadres play a decisive role in Turkey's occupied territories
After the operations in Deir ez-Zor and al-Baghouz, an important part of the IS came to the Turkish-occupied territories in northern Syria and was able to restore its power there. Under different group identities and new names, the IS was present in these regions and was able to partially recover militarily. It now established its system of rule under the Turkish flag. In this sense, the cycle was running in its favor. In the meantime, the IS was internationally changed into "Turkish-backed armed forces”. Now this IS was exported from Turkey to the most diverse areas in the world.
11,800 IS jihadists in prison
In prison, some 11,800 of these jihadists are currently waiting for the effects of this new conjunctural situation. These include 8,000 Syrians, 1,800 Iraqis and 2,000 people from other countries. When one considers that a few hundred IS members have been able to take over big cities like Mosul through their cruelty, this is a very significant number, even if they are in prison at the moment.
Internment camps another source of danger
Another source of danger are the IS women in the internment camps and indoctrinated family members. These are 11,000 foreigners and 30,000 family members from Syria and Iraq, who saw the case of al-Baghouz as a "retreat" and many of whom are waiting for "the time to come”.
Mosul: Main Artery of the IS
Another high potential for the IS is the rural environment of Mosul. The hidden IS units there are something like the "main artery" of the IS. They are capable of organizing attacks and are doing so to an increasing extent. It is not at all absurd to say that the current situation is going in their direction.
Jihadists in regime areas experience upswing
Nor should we forget the IS jihadists who are in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime and have begun to make land gains, as well as the tens of thousands of angry followers in Arab regions such as Hol and Deir ez-Zor who are waiting for their time to come.
Trump's election defeat might lead to conjuncture change
It is likely that this conjunctural situation will change with the elections in the US. It is discussed that alliances and relationships are fundamentally will be changing in terms of depth and impact, although not completely overturned. Biden is more familiar with the developments in the Middle East, and his team tends to take the initiative immediately. Although we cannot yet say anything concrete, it is foreseeable that the conjuncture will change.
Will the Kurds trust Biden after Trump's betrayal?
The real questions are: Will Biden take back the initiative that Trump gave to Turkey and other states in the fight against the IS? Will Biden allow the conjunctural situation engineered by Turkey, which is eagerly awaited by the IS? What will happen if the IS wants to create an conjuncture of its own accord? Will the Kurds betrayed by Trump trust Biden in 2021, which the IS wants to make its year?
Year of the IS or liberation?
The dice are rolled again in the region. The international powers are dependent on local actors to tackle the problems in the Middle East. The world is facing an important decision: Will Kurds and with them the PKK, which has distinguished itself worldwide with its democratic solution project based on the model of democratic confederalism and has been described by Trump as "more dangerous than the IS", be accepted as partners or will the joint struggle with the "reasonable IS" be continued under the guise of "armed forces linked to Turkey"? So, perhaps 2021 could become again a year of Kurdish led struggle and victory of humanity against the IS and its sponsor Turkey.