People fleeing areas of conflict ride a vehicle, north of Raqqa city, Syria November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
People fleeing areas of conflict ride a vehicle, north of Raqqa city, Syria November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said



BEIRUT // The US-backed push to oust ISIL from its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa is only days old, but on Tuesday there were already signs that establishing trust among the different forces involved will prove difficult.

The plan, as the United States tells it, involves both a Kurdish-dominated coalition of Syrian factions and Turkish-backed Syrian Arab rebels — two groups that are at war with ISIL, but also at war with one another.

Turkey considers the YPG, the Kurdish group at the centre of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition, to be a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara is at war with at home.

But the SDF and Turkey do not seem to be on the same page.

According to the SDF, the US has guaranteed them that Turkey and its rebel militia proxies will be excluded from the Raqqa offensive, while Ankara, which intervened militarily in Syria in August, says it has been told that the Kurdish-dominated coalition will only fight around the city and not enter or occupy it.

“We hope that this will be the case and we expect that our partners keep their promises,” Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said on Tuesday.

But earning Turkey’s trust — and keeping the SDF’s — will be difficult for Washington.

Speaking on Tuesday to confirm that Turkey would work with the US to retake Raqqa, Mr Cavusoglu also voiced major concerns about Washington’s support for the YPG. He reiterated claims that weapons given to the YPG by the US were ending up in the hands of PKK rebels in Turkey and, in a reference to ISIL and the YPG, warned: “We should not have people make a choice between two devils.”

On Monday, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Gen Joe Dunford, went to Ankara to calm Turkish nerves over the Raqqa offensive. He quickly contradicted claims by the SDF that there would be no Turkish involvement in the operation.

“The coalition and Turkey will work together on the long-term plan for seizing, holding and governing Raqqa,” Gen Dunford said. “We always knew that the SDF wasn’t the solution for holding or governing Raqqa ... what we are working on right now is to find the right mix of forces for the operation.”

This “right mix”, Gen Dunford said, is one that is predominantly Sunni Arab, not Kurdish. Turkey, he added, will help the US identify forces to enter and ultimately occupy Raqqa. He promised that the anti-ISIL coalition will not move to capture Raqqa without incorporating Ankara into its plans.

With ISIL fighting to keep hold of Mosul, over the border in Iraq, the US has been eager to get its allies moving on Raqqa to increase pressure on the extremists. Taking both Mosul and Raqqa would deprive ISIL of its most prized possessions and likely serve a death blow to the group as it exists today. But now that plans are in motion to attack Raqqa, it appears the offensive could take some time if it is to involve Turkey as the US intends.

Turkish-backed Syrian forces are currently positioned far from Raqqa — nearly 200 kilometres away along the Turkish border north of Aleppo. And, given that the Turkish-backed rebels and SDF are enemies, it is unlikely the SDF will allow them to pass through its territory. This means they will have to take a circuitous route to reach Raqqa, which will involve more confrontations with ISIL along the way.

Another potential option for Turkish-backed forces, according to Fabrice Balanche, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is to launch a new incursion from Turkey into Syria, north of Raqqa. This would provide the forces with a more direct route and allow them to attack Raqqa quickly but would also likely put them in direct confrontation with the SDF.

“Given his long-standing desire to prevent a united Kurdish zone in Syria, Erdogan may calculate that a sudden attack is a risk worth taking, especially if America is preoccupied by the post-election transition,” Mr Balanche wrote in an analysis published on the institute’s website on Monday. “In his view, winning Washington’s forgiveness after the fact may be easier than securing US permission beforehand.”

But if the SDF and Turkish-backed rebels end up locked in more fierce battles with one another instead of with ISIL, it could significantly derail plans to retake Raqqa.

The US seems increasingly aware that retaking Raqqa could be a long-term endeavour.

“There is no available force capable of taking Raqqa in the near future,” one US official told Reuters on Monday.

“For us, the linchpin here is for the Turks to exercise enough restraint [and] get them to resist the temptation to do anything that would spark a conflict that might get out of control,” another official added.

“It’s a hand-holding exercise on both sides.”

jwood@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting from Reuters and Associated Press

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Sustainable Development Goals

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its effects

14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

Fifa Club World Cup:

When: December 6-16
Where: Games to take place at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi and Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain
Defending champions: Real Madrid

The Roundup

Director: Lee Sang-yong
Stars: Ma Dong-seok, Sukku Son, Choi Gwi-hwa
Rating: 4/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

THE SPECS
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Transmission: 9-speed automatc
Power: 279hp
Torque: 350Nm
Price: From Dh250,000
On sale: Now

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Where to donate in the UAE

The Emirates Charity Portal

You can donate to several registered charities through a “donation catalogue”. The use of the donation is quite specific, such as buying a fan for a poor family in Niger for Dh130.

The General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments

The site has an e-donation service accepting debit card, credit card or e-Dirham, an electronic payment tool developed by the Ministry of Finance and First Abu Dhabi Bank.

Al Noor Special Needs Centre

You can donate online or order Smiles n’ Stuff products handcrafted by Al Noor students. The centre publishes a wish list of extras needed, starting at Dh500.

Beit Al Khair Society

Beit Al Khair Society has the motto “From – and to – the UAE,” with donations going towards the neediest in the country. Its website has a list of physical donation sites, but people can also contribute money by SMS, bank transfer and through the hotline 800-22554.

Dar Al Ber Society

Dar Al Ber Society, which has charity projects in 39 countries, accept cash payments, money transfers or SMS donations. Its donation hotline is 800-79.

Dubai Cares

Dubai Cares provides several options for individuals and companies to donate, including online, through banks, at retail outlets, via phone and by purchasing Dubai Cares branded merchandise. It is currently running a campaign called Bookings 2030, which allows people to help change the future of six underprivileged children and young people.

Emirates Airline Foundation

Those who travel on Emirates have undoubtedly seen the little donation envelopes in the seat pockets. But the foundation also accepts donations online and in the form of Skywards Miles. Donated miles are used to sponsor travel for doctors, surgeons, engineers and other professionals volunteering on humanitarian missions around the world.

Emirates Red Crescent

On the Emirates Red Crescent website you can choose between 35 different purposes for your donation, such as providing food for fasters, supporting debtors and contributing to a refugee women fund. It also has a list of bank accounts for each donation type.

Gulf for Good

Gulf for Good raises funds for partner charity projects through challenges, like climbing Kilimanjaro and cycling through Thailand. This year’s projects are in partnership with Street Child Nepal, Larchfield Kids, the Foundation for African Empowerment and SOS Children's Villages. Since 2001, the organisation has raised more than $3.5 million (Dh12.8m) in support of over 50 children’s charities.

Noor Dubai Foundation

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the Noor Dubai Foundation a decade ago with the aim of eliminating all forms of preventable blindness globally. You can donate Dh50 to support mobile eye camps by texting the word “Noor” to 4565 (Etisalat) or 4849 (du).

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Mia Man’s tips for fermentation

- Start with a simple recipe such as yogurt or sauerkraut

- Keep your hands and kitchen tools clean. Sanitize knives, cutting boards, tongs and storage jars with boiling water before you start.

- Mold is bad: the colour pink is a sign of mold. If yogurt turns pink as it ferments, you need to discard it and start again. For kraut, if you remove the top leaves and see any sign of mold, you should discard the batch.

- Always use clean, closed, airtight lids and containers such as mason jars when fermenting yogurt and kraut. Keep the lid closed to prevent insects and contaminants from getting in.

 

Top 10 most competitive economies

1. Singapore
2. Switzerland
3. Denmark
4. Ireland
5. Hong Kong
6. Sweden
7. UAE
8. Taiwan
9. Netherlands
10. Norway

Heather, the Totality
Matthew Weiner,
Canongate