Middle East

Turkey-backed rebels in Syria threaten to massacre US troops, calling them infidels

On Friday, 25 US Special Forces operating in Syria were expelled from the town of al-Rai by Turkey-backed Syrian rebels who called them infidels.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have, in contrast, demonstrated their comradery. They recently raised American and British flags on the border with Turkey.

According to the pro-opposition Qasioun Agency, the Ahrar ash-Sharqiya Union is protesting America’s entry into Syria. It has demanded that US troops withdraw.

Video footage showed rebels calling the US Special Forces infidels and dogs, while shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ in Arabic. A rebel on video is heard saying: “We don’t accept US soldiers to fight with us, we are Muslim and not Kuffar [unbelievers].”

Washington-based analyst Charles Lister said it was a mistake by the Syrian rebel group.

“A dispute erupted when FSA fighters accused U.S. SOF of being pro-YPG [Kurdish People’s Protection Units]. American personnel withdrew; some to Turkey, some to Tathamus,” he said.

According to reports, the US Special Forces returned to al-Rai after meditation.

“That’s what happens when you team up with Turkish-backed Islamists at expense of our true allies: YPG and SDF,” Julie Lenarz, the Executive Director of the Human Security Centre, told ARA News.

“The images coming out of Jarablus call into question the narrative that the city has been liberated. In territory cleared by SDF we see burqa-burning women, smoking men and children playing on the streets – people returning to normal life,” she added.

“In Jarablus, however, it appears that ISIS has just been replaced with Turkish-backed Islamist rebels, who maintain a tight grip on the city,” Lenarz told ARA News.

According to Lenarz, the videos, of Turkey-backed rebels chasing US Special Forces, demonstrated that those rebels are not moderate.

“It should serve as a reminder that not being as brutal as ISIS does not necessarily make other rebels ‘moderate’ – a principle often forgotten in Syria. Islamism can take different forms, but it is inherently intolerant,” she said.

“From homogeneous Sunni groups subscribed to that ideology we cannot expect the same levels of tolerance shown by SDF and YPG, who have proven time and again their commitment to religious pluralism, gender equality, and basic human rights,” she added.

“The US and allies have to be clear what values and principles they wish to support in Syria and the long-term implications of sitting on their hands, while Turkish-backed rebels, with a worldview antithetical to ours, are attacking Kurdish and Arab forces, who have shown willingness to work with us towards a more peaceful, inclusive and secular society in Syria,” she concluded.

Also, Americans that fought with the Kurdish YPG forces are outraged that US Special Forces are helping Turkey-backed rebels at all. They believe that the YPG and SDF deserve greater consideration, having fought for two months to liberate the town of Manbij.

“It shows levels of political double talk on how we need to stop ISIS but yet remain with a NATO ally who openly helps ISIS,” said Albert Harrington, a former YPG volunteer. “It was a mistake to work with moderate terrorist rebels.”

“The only true force in the region that can be trusted are the Kurds,” Harrington told ARA News.

“This incident should serve as a reminder, or even a wake-up call, to the Americans. There’s more to Syria than just defeating ISIS,” said David Romano , a Thomas G. Strong Professor of Middle East Politics at Missouri State University.

“Washington should think about who it would prefer controlling large parts of the country — the Turkish-backed ‘moderate’ groups that just threatened to massacre U.S. troops sent to help them, or the Kurds and their multi-ethnic and multi-religious allies in the Kobane, Jezira and Afrin,” Romano told ARA News. “U.S. officials and forces have always been welcome and quite safe in the latter areas.”

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