The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and Kurdish militias in the north of the country have agreed to establish a joint defence plan in the face of Turkish threats of a new military operation in northern Syria. In late May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced an incursion into the area with the aim of creating 30-kilometre safe zones to "combat terrorist threats in these regions".
Since 2016, Ankara has launched several operations in the region - Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Spring Shield (2020) - aimed at defeating Kurdish military groups such as the People's Protection Units (YPG) or the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered terrorist organisations by Turkey.
Nouri Mahmoud, spokesman for the YPG, a US-allied militia, said they are "working with Syrian officials to develop a defence plan to deal with any Turkish aggression", reports Asharq Al-Awsat. According to Mahmoud, there have been "positive developments".
The spokesman also assured that they are in "constant contact" with the international coalition against Daesh and Russia. "We expect them to play an effective role in preserving stability and protecting civilians in northeastern Syria," Mahmoud added.
Farhad Shami, head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) media centre, referred to the dialogue with Damascus as a "military agreement to repel any possible Turkish invasion". In remarks reported by the Arabic newspaper, Shami said 550 government troops arrived earlier this week in SDF-held regions, including Ain Issa, north of Raqqa. "The troops will fight alongside the SDF if Turkey continues its threat to invade the area," Shami added.
Near this town, Sharmi has denounced a brutal bombardment by pro-Turkish forces that has claimed the lives of two civilians. "The Turkish occupation and its mercenaries are deliberately and almost daily attacking areas backed by a ceasefire agreement to empty their population," Sharmi wrote on Twitter.
The Syrian army, meanwhile, is reinforcing its military positions in the face of a possible Turkish incursion. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has reported the arrival of dozens of heavy weapons, tanks and a military convoy of more than 50 vehicles in northern areas of the country, such as Manbiy.
Last June, the SDF announced that it would coordinate with Syrian government forces to prevent any Turkish invasion and protect the territory. There have even been suggestions of possible coordination between Iranian-backed Kurdish and Shia militias
As a senior SDF military source revealed to Al Monitor's Mohammed Hardan, 'Iran is seeking to protect the Shia-majority towns of Nubl and Al-Zahraa, which are located near areas controlled by the Turkish-backed opposition'. These towns would be at risk if Turkish troops take control of new areas after Ankara launches its military operation.
"The YPG are forced to cooperate with Damascus and its allies, whether Iran, Russia or Hezbollah. They all believe that a Turkish incursion could become permanent, threatening Syria's territorial integrity and the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds," Joshua Landis, an expert on the Middle East and Syria, tells Al-Monitor. Landis also stresses that the Kurds in northern Syria prefer the Damascus government to Ankara. "Assad cannot rule northern Syria without the Kurds and the Kurds cannot protect themselves without working with Damascus," he adds.
As the different Syrian factions coordinate ahead of the impending Turkish military operation, Ankara-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) forces are continuing their preparations to support Turkish troops "against terrorist groups in northern Syria", reports Turkey's pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper. "There are thousands of fighters ready to join the Turkish army," Abdul Salam Abdul Razak, a Syrian opposition commander, told Reuters.