Erdogan’s dark objectives in Syria include country’s resources

The shortage of water in the Euphrates dam, the country’s largest, has decreased the amount of electric energy needed to provide food for dozens of cities in the north.

Tuesday 07/07/2020
Turkish soldiers patrol along a road past destroyed buildings atop the Arbaeen hill overlooking Ariha in the southern countryside of Syria’s Idlib province. (AFP)
Turkish soldiers patrol along a road past destroyed buildings atop the Arbaeen hill overlooking Ariha in the southern countryside of Syria’s Idlib province. (AFP)

BEIRUT – Turkey on Sunday cut off the drinking water that feeds the Hasakah city in north-eastern Syria, the Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

Turkish forces stopped the pumping of water in the al-Olouk station in the countryside of Hasakah, depriving one million people in the city from drinking water, SANA said.

The report added the Turkish forces prevented the workers in the station from accessing it on Sunday.

A report by Al-Arabiya also revealed that Turkey reduced the flow of water from the Euphrates River into north-eastern Syria’s dam for the second week in a row, depriving hundreds of civilians of access to water that is used to generate electricity and irrigate crops.

The shortage of water in the Euphrates dam, the country’s largest, has decreased the amount of electric energy needed to provide food for dozens of cities in the north.

Farmers, according to Al-Arabiya’s report, have complained that the reduction could threaten the production of summer crops, such as cotton, which Kurdish authorities say could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Turkey controls areas in northern and north-eastern Syria following a campaign against the Kurdish-led militias last October.

The Syrian government has called for the withdrawal of US and Turkish forces from Syria, branding them as forces of occupation.

In March, Human Rights Watch urged Turkey to refrain from cutting off needed water supplies to Kurdish-held areas in north-eastern Syria.

The shortage of water would disrupt humanitarian agencies’ ability to protect vulnerable civilians from the coronavirus outbreak, the organisation warned.

“In the midst of a global pandemic that is overloading sophisticated governance and infrastructure systems, Turkish authorities have been cutting off the water supply to regions most under strain in Syria,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Turkish authorities should do everything they can to immediately resume supply to these communities.”

Local authorities and humanitarian groups in north-eastern Syria have frequently spoken up about immense obstacles to putting a COVID-19 plan in place.

They said they are unable to bring additional supplies into the region because the border with Iraq’s Kurdistan region is closed.

The UN Security Council’s de-authorisation of al-Yarubiyeh crossing for cross-border supply in January, due to the threat of a veto of the entire resolution by Russia, has also affected supplies.

Al-Yarubiyeh was primarily used by the World Health Organisation to provide supplies to north-eastern Syria.

Since the beginning of the Turkish state’s formation, Ankara “has set its sights on the issue of water, and used it as a pressure card on its neighbours,” Dubai-based Kurdish Syrian dissident Walid Haj Abdul Qadir told The Arab Weekly.

Currently, Turkey continues to build and manage dams over the Euphrates River unfairly, causing the Syrians’ share of the river to drop to less than 25%of the internationally agreed rate.

This is happening for the first time since the signing of two international agreements in 1996 and 1997 between Syria and Iraq.

The largest Turkish dams are Ataturk Dam in Urfa and Ilisu Dam in the Tigris River that crosses Syrian territory on its way to Iraq.

The Ilisu Dam has already resulted in a 60% reduction in the water level in Tigris due to the operation of electric turbines.

Turkey’s Forays in Syria

Since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, Turkey has been attempting to meddle in the affairs of the war-torn country, exploiting popular protests that erupted in the country to its favour.

Turkey has worked to infiltrate Syria while opening the borders to displaced Syrians and Syrian opposition, with both its military and civil components, especially the opposition affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist and extremist currents.

Ankara has put all its weight behind extremist militias and supported groups blacklisted as terrorists, such as al-Nusra Front, which was considered a branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.

Al-Nusra Front followed Turkish orders and obtained both material and media support from Turkey to fight on its behalf in Idlib and other Syrian regions.

Turkish authorities worked to empower numerous terrorist groups,  financing them with weapons and facilitating their entry into and out of Syria across the Turkish border. They worked to turn Idlib into a terrorist haven under the supervision of Turkish intelligence.

For years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s intelligence services have sought to transform Idlib into a terrorist hotbed under their control under the pretext of fighting the Kurds.

Turkish intelligence services have also exploited Idlib to maintain Turkey’s influence in Syria, using it as a passageway and a launchpad to threaten the security of other nearby provinces, such as Aleppo, Latakia, Homs and Hama.

In the meantime, Turkey opened its land and air borders to terrorists from all over the world, helping smuggle them into Syria to fight in the name of jihad alongside ISIS and Al-Nusra.

Ankara also robbed Syria of its natural resources, such as oil and water from the Euphrates River, by building dams that risk causing a humanitarian catastrophe for people there.

Erdogan, meanwhile, has insisted he is concerned for the welfare of the Syrian people, saying that his country is the only one that sees people, not oil, when looking at Syria.

However, Erdogan’s revelation last March that he asked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to help manage oil fields in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor in a bid to strip Syrian Kurds of oil revenue, proved otherwise.

“I made the offer to Mr. Putin that if he gives financial support, we can do the construction and through the oil obtained here, we can help destroyed Syria get on its feet,” said Erdogan.

“Instead of terrorists benefiting here, we would have the opportunity to rebuild Syria from the revenues of this [oil field]. This will also show who’s after protecting Syria’s unity and who’s after seizing it,” he added.

Syria’s oil reserves, the largest of which are concentrated in Deir ez-Zor, constitute about two billion barrels. Most of the declared oil fields are located near the borders with Iraq and Turkey.

The Omar field, the country’s largest and most famous oil field is located in Deir ez-Zor’s countryside, along Al Izbah field.

Most of these oil fields are controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is designated by Turkey as a terrorist organisation.

Erdogan was accused of forging a serious economic partnership with ISIS, buying oil from the terrorist organisation while also providing it weapons and logistical assistance.

With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, the Turkish government has also been accused of shipping weapons under the cover of humanitarian aid to terrorists in Idlib and other areas under Turkish control in Syria, such as Afrin and other border areas between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.

Turkey has allegedly committed numerous humanitarian violations and massacres against Syrian civilians in Idlib and Afrin. It systematically worked to empower Turkish militias such as the Sultan Murad Brigade, which has committed vicious crimes, such as kidnapping women and children.

The list of alleged Turkish crimes in Syria is quite long but the objective is one: Looting Syria’s natural resources in areas controlled by pro-Turkish groups, with the aim of funding Erdogan’s expansionist project in the region.