Operation “Sheikh Maqsoud”: Does Damascus provide Ankara with GPS coordinates?


The pace of killings in the ranks of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has accelerated in recent months, as Turkish intelligence services announce almost daily that members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have been “neutralized” in different areas in the north of the country. Syria.

But the most effective operation was announced last week and took place in the Kurdish neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud in the Syrian regime-controlled city of Aleppo. This opened the door to questions about whether the latter could provide Turkey with the locations of SDF fighters.

On September 28, the Turkish intelligence services announced the “neutralization” of Sabah Uğur, a leader of the banned and designated PKK terrorist party, who is on the “red notice” of people wanted by the Turkish Interior Ministry.

The intelligence operation in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, which is under the control of the SDF, came after follow-up by a “special team”, while the operation did not specify whether the “neutralization” had led to the murder, detention or introduction of Sabah Uğur into areas under Turkish control.

Turkish intelligence services generally do not operate inside areas under Syrian regime control, such as the city of Aleppo, while Turkish forces repeatedly target Kurdish people and party leaders they consider as “terrorists” in areas under the control of the SDF in northern Syria and areas of the Syrian National Army (SNA) in northwestern Syria.

What is the role of Syrian intelligence?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on September 28 that negotiations with the Syrian regime were taking place through the Turkish intelligence agency, noting that depending on its results the “road map” will be determined.

Indirectly, Erdogan asked the Syrian regime to root out ‘terrorists’ in Syria, saying: “The fight against terrorism cannot be one-sided, so the other side must also have a positive approach in this regard so that we can achieve good results”.

Intelligence cooperation between Turkey and the Syrian regime has not stopped since 2011, based on the cooperation that “resulted in the surrender of the dissident leader of (the Free Syrian Army) Hussein Harmoush”, said political analyst Ibrahim Kaban. Enab Baladi by electronic correspondence.

Kaban believes that the Syrian regime can provide information to Turkish intelligence services.

“Some of the assassinations that took place by Turkish drones were based on information provided by Syrian intelligence services while noting that there are accusations that Russia also provided information to Turkey,” a- he added.

The Turkish analyst pointed out that the Kurdish (Asayish) internal security forces have information that the Syrian regime could give “coordinates” to Turkey to carry out special operations in the region, which the political analyst said. described as “not surprising”.

On the other hand, academic and political researcher Muhannad Hafızoğlu ruled out any such intelligence cooperation, justifying that the Turkish intelligence services do not need information from the Syrian side because they have mechanisms to know the movements of the leaders and members of the PKK, whether operating in Iraq or Syria.

Previously, SDF members have defected and headed to Turkey with valuable information, such as the defection of former SDF official spokesperson Talal Selo and his statement to the media regarding information regarding the activity of the forces in northern Syria.

Hafizoglu said Enab Baladi intelligence cooperation between the two sides had not reached the point of finding ground for genuine cooperation, as differences exist even in the basics, the most important of which is the definition of “terrorism and the identification terrorists” of the opposition.

He added that there was no trust from the Turkish side in the Syrian regime due to the continued cooperation between the SDF and the regime. Turkey has an “apprehension” backed by the reality that wherever the SDF is there are members of the regime, noting that numerous Turkish targeting of SDF-controlled areas have resulted in deaths and injuries among regime forces. regime.

What is the future of relationships?

Relations between Ankara and Damascus had been strained since August 11, when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu revealed a “short” conversation he had had with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in margin of the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement held in October. 2021 in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

Cavusoglu then stressed the need to achieve “reconciliation” between the opposition and the Syrian regime, believing that there would be no “lasting peace without achieving it”.

These statements were followed by demonstrations in separate areas of northwestern Syria, rejecting “reconciliation” and emphasizing the continuity of the Syrian revolution.

Erdogan also expressed his desire to meet Syrian regime President Bashar al-Assad if he comes to the summit held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, to hold him accountable for what happened in Syria. and the possibility of its division. , during his speech at a closed meeting of the Justice and Development Party.

Erdogan also said on August 19 that Turkey’s concern was not to “defeat al-Assad”, but rather to reach a political solution and reach an agreement between the opposition and the regime.

After the emergence of several of these indicators on the trend of normalization between Turkey and the Syrian regime, recent Syrian and Turkish statements have dismissed the assumptions of rapprochement.

On September 24, Mekdad denied negotiations on the normalization of relations between Damascus and Ankara, saying that Turkey’s failure to honor its promises in the framework of Astana (talks) is the only obstacle to the peace process in Syria. .

This comes a day after statements in the same context by the Turkish presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, who said that contacts with the Syrian regime take place at the level of the intelligence services, stressing that there is no political contact plans with Damascus to present.

Analyst Ibrahim Kaban explained that the rapprochement between the Syrian regime and Turkey is based on mutual interests, as the Syrian regime demands the elimination of the opposition and the extradition of its leaders, while Turkey wants solutions to hit the FDS in cooperation with the regime.

In Kaban’s opinion, there is no prospect of relations between the two sides, because the Syrian regime cannot present any initiative to the Turks to strike the SDF, due to the support of the International Coalition, except for information intelligence, so relationships cannot grow above the level of intelligence.

The co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Saleh Muslim, expected that the rapprochement between Turkey and the Syrian regime would reach an inescapable end, which he likened to a “divorce”.

He also equated, in his statements, published on October 2, the intelligence meetings that took place between the regime and Turkey to a “forced marriage”.

Muslim justified his expectations that the contradictions and disagreements are “big” between Damascus and Ankara and that they are “too deep” to be resolved to fight the “autonomous administration” and “part of the people Syrian”, but he welcomed the rapprochement if it leads to a political solution.

For his part, researcher Muhannad Hafızoğlu believes that the level of relations is measured on the scale of security and political consensus.

“Since intelligence cooperation has not produced a different reality for many years, the entrenchment of the dispute is increasing,” Hafızoğlu said, citing the reasons for the dispute that the political decision in Syria is not not in the hands of the Syrian regime but rather in the hands of Tehran and Moscow.

He stressed that the regime cannot provide real guarantees regarding the refugee case and their return in light of UN reports that the internal situation in Syria is not ready for the return of refugees.

Furthermore, the regime’s foreign ministry’s continued statements that Turkey is an “occupying country” for part of Syria’s geography are “absolutely unacceptable” for Turkey, according to Hafızoğlu.

On September 15, Reuters reported that the head of the Turkish intelligence agency, Hakan Fidan, met with the director of the Syrian regime’s National Security Office, Ali Mamlouk, recently this week in the Syrian capital, Damascus, according to a “regional source loyal to Damascus.

According to the agency’s quote from four unnamed sources, Fidan has held several meetings with Mamluk over the past few weeks, which he sees as an indication of Russian efforts to encourage “breaking the ice” between the opposing countries in the matter. Syrian.

The meeting assessed how the foreign ministers of the two countries could possibly meet, according to whom Reuters presented himself as a senior Turkish official, in addition to a Turkish security source as well.


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