ERBIL, Kurdistan Region- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has slammed Turkish President Recep Teyyip Erdogan amid mass looting in northeast Syria.
As Turkish-backed Syrian proxies started looting grain silos in Tel Abyad, Assad took the opportunity to lash out at Erdogan, calling him a “wheat thief”.
“Erdogan is a thief. He has stolen factories, wheat, oil in cooperation with Daesh, and today, he steals territory,” Assad told Syrian troops stationed in Idlib, according to a video provided by Syria’s presidency, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic state (ISIS).
Assad’s insults comes amid the expiration of a ceasefire halting Turkey’s “ Operation Peace Spring” invasion into Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria.
Northern Syria is known for its agriculture, and has been called the ‘breadbasket of Syria‘ for its wheat and other agricultural products.
Turkey’s invasion began on October 9. Since then, over 100 villages and the two critical border towns of Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain) and Gire Spi (Tel Abyad) have fallen into the hands of Turkey and their proxies.
Since then, Turkish-backed Syrian groups have started looting the houses, shops, and businesses of both Kurds and Arabs.
The most recent targets are silos containing both wheat and barley, UK-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Tuesday.
“One of the factions loyal to Turkey embedded in Turkey’s Peace Spring military operation has started opening the silos east of Suluk town in the Tel Abyad countryside, and selling what is inside them,” SOHR reported.
SOHR further claimed that one kilogram of barley is sold for 25 Syrian pounds, while one kilo of wheat is sold for 80 Syrian pounds.
Hawar News, media close to Kurdish ruling authorities of Rojava in Northern Syria, reported the same figures, quoting a source that confirmed that the silos were being looted.
Assad’s tirade against Erdogan did not stop there, however. The Syrian leader went on to refer to Erdogan as an “actor” in a US-orchestrated theater, and a slave to the Americans.
“The latest of the plays is that he says they have decided to enter Syria. Well, for nine years, he has been trying to enter, but he was not allowed,” he said.
“He said he has notified the Americans that he will enter. You mean you told the Americans? You are a slave,” Assad added, referring to the Turkish president.
Assad said that it is “unfortunate” that some Syrians, referring to Kurdish forces and their Arab allies under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), did not cooperate to evict the “thief” Erdogan from Syria.
“What happened, happened. Despite all the bravado [of Kurdish-led forces] that we have heard through the years, that they will fight and whatnot, the Turks have occupied most of the region in just four days, which the Americans have planned,” Assad posited.
He went on to argue that he had warned the Kurds against cooperating with the US.
“We repeated the same thing. Don’t place your bet on the Americans. The Americans will sell you out one day,” Assad added.
Currently, Syrian forces and the SDF have an agreement for Syrian troops to be deployed to border areas and into major towns like Kobani and Manbij, in a bid to fend off Turkish aggression.
There is no time for a game of blame, Assad argued, instead focusing on “gathering efforts” to “minimize” the Turkish invasion.
Assad, however, posited that it is his constitutional duty to support any popular group on the ground fighting Turkey, adding that if he were not to support this, then “we don’t deserve to exist as a state.”
“Thus, currently the priority is to defend against this aggression,” Assad added, arguing that no area in Syria “is more valuable than the other”, but that military priorities rule where the army is stationed.
Assad again added that the jihadi-dominated northwest province of Idlib was the main focus, as wrestling back control of it would end the terrorism and “chaos” ravaging the country.
Header: A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on October 21, 2019 shows Syrian Arab Army units deploying in the northern city of Manbij, near the Turkish border. Photo: AFP/SANA