Syrian tribal leaders backed by Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia found new army

Around 50 tribal leaders from the regions in Northern Syria came together in Turkey (Photo: DHA).

Around 50 Syrian Arab tribal leaders gathered in Turkey’s southeastern city of Sanliurfa in order to found the “Army of Al-Jazeera and Euphrates” which will according to their statement fight the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Islamic State (IS) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies.

The ‘General Congress of the Clans and Tribes of the Al-Jazeera and Euphrates region’, was held at Harran Hotel on Wednesday and composed of tribe leaders from Syria’s Raqqa, Al-Hasakah and Deir Ezzor regions as well as former officers of the Syrian Arab Army or Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders who will lead the new army.

The leaders thanked Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for their support while making a call to the international community to back their struggle to clear Northern Syria from “the terror of IS, PYD and Assad.”

Tribe leader Sheikh Rafi er-Raco Ukla underlined in the opening speech that there was no difference between the US-backed PYD and IS.

The Euphrates Shield cross-border operation was launched in August 2016 by Turkish military and allied FSA groups opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, IS and PYD-linked Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). However the operation came to a halt after being blocked by Syrian government forces in the south and the Manbij Military Council (MMC), a faction of the Kurdish-Arab-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The move has been viewed as an initiative by Turkey to bolster its affiliated forces in Syria following criticisms that the groups it is backing have no local support and presence in the country.

Commentators have dismissed claims that the group will fight the IS as Euphrates Shield Forces do not have a border with the jihadist group any longer.