Iran seeks to stop Turkish operation in northern Syria-Iranian faction leader

ALEPPO, Syria (North Press) – A leader in the Local Defense Forces in northern Aleppo said on Tuesday that Iran’s attempt of the reconciliation between Turkey and Syria is a political step aimed at keeping northern Syria away from a new war.

Hajj Rida, a leader in the Iranian-backed Local Defense Forces in the northern countryside of Aleppo told North Press that “Any new war in northern Syria will further complicate the Syrian scene.”

Iran’s political and diplomatic move based on negotiation and reconciliation does not mean that there is no tension and military escalation in the region, he added.

Rida believes that the builds up that Turkey have sent to the areas of Azaz, southern Afrin and Marea do not hold an olive branch for Iran. These military reinforcements, most of which consist of radical extremist groups, are waiting for the opportunity to attack the areas of Iranian influence, especially the towns of Nubl and Zahraa.

In 2013, the SNA, which seized most of Aleppo northern countryside, imposed a siege on Nubl and Zahraa from three sides for three years.

Food access to these towns, at the time, was delivered from the city of Afrin, which was run by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

“The Local Defense Forces are ready to respond to any attack by Turkey and its affiliated extremist groups,” he added.

Rida sees that any attempt by Turkey to control the town of Tel Rifaat will have an impact on the Nubl and Zahraa regions.

“The areas of the northern countryside of Aleppo are geographically close and closely interconnected. Any presence of hostile forces on the outskirts of Tel Rifaat means that they are subject to targeting and blocking roads through rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns,” he explained.

Haj Rida warned of Turkey’s ambitions, saying that Turkey would not be stopped at controlling the Tel Rifaat area, which is only about ten kilometers away from the locations of their forces’ presence, but it would also advance south towards Nubl and Zahraa.

Rida said that Nubl and Zahraa have been under threat since Turkey and the SNA factions took control of Afrin in 2018, and if they took control of Tel Rifaat, this would be an existential threat to the two regions.

The military leader reiterated their refusal for Turkey to occupy the town of Tel Rifaat and threaten Nubl and Zahraa, adding that the response would be decisive and in a way that the attacking forces have never imagined.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on June 1 that Turkey would attack Syria’s Tel Rifaat and Manbij areas and its planned military operations would gradually continue in other parts of northern Syria.

Reporting by George Sa’ada