A series of provocations have taken place in the Middle East since U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from Syria last month. For the first time ever, Daesh carried out a suicide attack against U.S. troops. Certain players, which are unhappy with Washington's imminent departure, seem to be encouraging terror attacks to show Trump that Daesh continues to pose a threat to international security. Agreeing with that assessment and describing the most recent terror attacks in Syria as acts of provocation, Trump remains committed to the withdrawal.
A similar provocation to the one in Manbij took place on Saturday in the city of Dohuk in northern Iraq, where unidentified individuals wearing civilian clothes stormed a Turkish military base and torched several vehicles. Before going into the details of that incident, however, I must stress another point.
In the wake of Trump's decision to pull out of Syria, the PKK terrorist organization and its Syrian branch, the People's Protection Units (YPG), began to look for new sponsors. As part of that effort, the militants reached out to Iran and the Assad regime. Damascus continues to talk to the PKK's Syrian affiliate and demands that the group join the Syrian army's ranks. According to sources, the militants remain on the fence.
At the same time, the group has been busy making preparations against a potential Turkish incursion into northern Syria. They continue to dig tunnels and trenches along the Turkish-Syrian border, levy additional taxes on local residents and forcibly recruit all males over the age of 15 into their ranks. The YPG's policy of forced recruitment fuels tensions between the group and, among others, the Arab community. Just recently, a revolt broke out in al-Mansurah, a town in Raqqa, during which the militants killed a Syrian boy. Arab tribes in the area responded by taking to the streets. In addition to imposing a curfew, the terrorists prevented journalists from entering al-Mansurah. As such, we do not know what is happening on the ground.
In an attempt to prevent Turkey's imminent military incursion into northern Syria, the group has been spreading disinformation about Turkish forces supposedly targeting civilians. That tactic is intended to force Trump to change his mind and distract Ankara from the fight against terrorist groups in the area. To be clear, the PKK's Syrian affiliate made a similar move in Afrin during Operation Olive Branch by claiming that the Turkish Armed Forces targeted civilians. Later on, it became clear that those supposed civilians were armed terrorists wearing civilian clothes to avoid detection. The most striking evidence of the PKK's disinformation was drone footage of three individuals in civilian clothes firing a mortar against Turkish targets. For the record, that mortar shell hit a home in Turkey and killed an 18-year-old girl. The three terrorists, whom an unarmed drone followed back to Afrin, were later killed by a Turkish airstrike.
Let us now go back to the attempted attack against a Turkish military base in Dohuk. On Saturday afternoon, a group of individuals wearing civilian clothes carried out an assault against a Turkish base in northern Iraq. According to sources, the Turkish soldiers did not open fire, assuming that the crowd consisted of civilians. The assailants proceeded to storm the base and torch military vehicles. A crew from NRT, a television channel affiliated with the PKK and sponsored by Iran, happened to be among the attackers and broadcast the attack live.
In retrospect, Turkish authorities identified several PKK/YPG militants in civilian clothes among the assailants. Turkey assesses that the terrorists wanted to cause civilian casualties in order to make it look like the Turks were deliberately targeting civilians. Obviously, it is curious that the group resorted to provocation in northern Iraq against the backdrop of popular backlash against its affiliate in Raqqa.
Simply put, the PKK terrorist organization is begging the United States not to leave it alone with Turkey, its NATO ally, and distract attention from the YPG's relentless pressure on the civilian population in northern Syria.