Turkey preparing for war
Erdogan’s Turkey prepares for war against the Kurds while U.S. and NATO look the other way
Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western Journalism.com in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authored a book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva
After threatening the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG (People’s Protections Units) for years the Turkish autocrat now prepares for a large-scale invasion in the Kurdish canton Afrin in northwest Syria.
The Turkish army is amassing thousands of soldiers along the border in northern Syria and the force will be larger than the coalition of Turkish soldiers and Islamist rebel groups operating under the banner of the Free Syrian Army which launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016.
At the time, Erdogan claimed Operation Euphrates Shield intended to fight ISIS but in reality he wanted to prevent the establishment of a contiguous Kurdish region along the Turkish border in Syria.
The imminent offensive against the Syrian Kurds in Afrin will include the use of tanks and the Turkish air force local observers say. This is done because previous attempts to dislodge the YPG and the Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the area along the Turkish border failed because of a lack of air support.
Erdogan uses last week’s Pentagon announcement the U.S. would assist the SDF in transforming it’s Kurdish-Arab militias into a 30,000 fighters strong border security force as a pretext for invading Afrin which has been under YPG control since 2012.
Afrin forms the most northern part of what the Kurds call Rojava, the three cantons along the Turkish border which form the Kurdish autonomous region in Syria.
Most observers now focus on the implications of a Turkish offensive against the main U.S. ally in the war against ISIS to NATO of which Turkey and the United States are the most prominent members.
The U.S. and NATO, however, haven’t shown much interest in stopping Erdogan from taking-over Afrin because for them it is not part of the effort to eradicate the remaining ISIS hubs in eastern Syria.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert reacted to a question about the imminent Turkish offensive against the Kurds by pointing out that the United States’ presence in Syria is solely to defeat ISIS and emphasized Turkey is a “very important and valued NATO-ally.”
The United States is in Syria to defeat ISIS, that is solely what it is for,” Nauert told reporters.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon later elaborated on the reason the U.S. decided to train the new border security force and said one of the tasks of the new force would be to ensure the “safe return” of displaced Syrians who want to return “to their devastated communities.”
Pahon also said the new force would not be an army and claimed NATO was completely transparent with the Turkish government about the continuing effort to stamp out any ISIS presence in Syria and about the alliance with Turkey.
Erdogan, however was not convinced and vowed to “strangle the new Kurdish force before it’s even born” and called the new border guards a “terror army”.
“A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders,” the Turkish dictator said during a speech in Ankara earlier this week referring to the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later revealed there is much more at stake than securing the Syrian Turkish border and safeguarding the return of Syrian refugees.
Tillerson said during a speech on Jan. 18 the U.S. would work to create conditions which would enable regime change in Syria and vowed to keep U.S. soldiers in the country to confront Iran which is working to transform the Arab Republic into another Iranian client state just like Lebanon.
“U.S. disengagement from Syria would also provide Iran with the opportunity to further strengthen its own position in Syria,” Tillerson said while adding “Iran seeks dominance in the Middle East and the destruction of our ally Israel.”
According to the Secretary of State the removal of the brutal Assad regime must be done through a “UN-led Geneva process” which will “create the conditions for a durable peace within Syria and security along the borders.”
Tillerson didn’t address the imminent threat to the Syrian Kurds in Afrin and that was the first indication the U.S. won’t lift a finger when Erdogan goes through with his latest attempt to broaden Turkey’s influence in the Middle East and to go after the Kurds once again.
The spokesman of the U.S. led coalition in Syria Col. Ryan Dillan later ended all speculation about U.S. intentions in case Turkey would launch an assault on the Kurds in Afrin.
“We don’t support them, we have nothing to do with them” Dillan said.
The Turks, meanwhile, appear to understand they can get away with the intended aggression against the Syrian Kurds and even officially informed NATO about the plans to invade Afrin while at the same time seeking Russian approval for the move.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the U.S. decision to form a Kurdish border security force “provocative” and “unilateral” after which Erdogan dispatched his Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan to Moscow.
The Turkish officials will most likely seek coordination with the Russian military in Syria and tacit approval for the use of airpower during the upcoming attempt to end Kurdish autonomy in Afrin.
The Russians are expected to support Erdogan’s moves in Afrin but will likely demand withdrawal of the Turkish army after the offensive succeeds to finish off the Kurds in Afrin.
That way the pro-Assad coalition would easily retain control of another strategically important region in northwest Syria.
The Syrian army and its Shiite allies recently made progress in the Idlib province just south of Afrin and a Kurdish defeat at Turkish hands in Afrin would be another step in the effort to bring the whole of Syria under the control of the Iranian-Russian led pro-Assad coalition.