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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Beyond the Headlines podcast: Turkey's military offensive against Kurdish Syria, explained

Host Naser Al Wasmi is joined by the foreign desk's Sofia Barbarani, who spent several years reporting out of Kurdish-heavy areas of both Syria and Iraq, to discuss Kurdish history in the region, their ultimate goals and the political differences among the several factions spread across the region.

James Mattis has said that the US were aware in advance of Turkey's plans to advance into Syria. AFP/BULENT KILIC
James Mattis has said that the US were aware in advance of Turkey's plans to advance into Syria. AFP/BULENT KILIC

Turkey launched this week a military offensive into Afrin, a heavily Kurdish enclave of Syria. Ankara is calling it an "anti-terror campaign", targeting the US-backed Kurdish group, the People’s Protection Units. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is justifying the offensive as a pre-emptive strike, or Turkey’s right to self-defence.

The war is likely an attempt for the country to hide behind anti-terrorist rhetoric to settle old scores against the Kurds. Kareem Shaheen, a journalist based in Turkey, joins the show to break down why this move shifts Turkey’s political alliances.

The Kurdish people have long been a part of the region and believe they have been severely marginalised. Sofia Barbarani, an editor on the foreign desk, has spent several years reporting out of Kurdish-heavy areas of both Syria and Iraq. She joins the show to discuss Kurdish history in the region, their ultimate goals and the political differences among the several factions spread across the region.

This is an acronym-heavy show so we’ve provided a guide to the initials below:

• Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK: the Kurdish organization that have been involved in an armed conflict with Turkey since 1984 with the aim of creating an independent state. They have more recently demanded equal rights in Turkey.

• Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units, or the YPG: Syrian rebels fighting president Bashar Al Assad. Accused of displacing local Arabs ot expand the areas of northern Syria under Kurdish control. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK.

• Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF: a militia alliance dominated by the Kurdish YPG and backed by the US.

Beyond the Headlines is The National's weekly analysis and insight from the Middle East. Follow, subscribe and rate us at Apple Podcasts, Audioboom, Pocket Cast or your favourite podcasting app.

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Read more:

Syrian Kurdish leaders call on civilians to take up arms against Turkey

CIA’s Pompeo: Trump was briefed on Afrin, US needs Sunni partners in Syria

The battle in Afrin has highlighted divisions even among those opposed to Bashar Al Assad