Tag Archive | "Turkey-Syria"

BREAKING: Turkey claims Euphrates Shield a ‘success’



Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation of Syria is known by Ankara as Operation Euphrates Shield. It formally commenced on the 24th of August, 2016. According to Turkey, Euphrates Shield was aimed at fighting ISIS as well as Kurdish YPG forces near the Turkish border.

In reality, Turkey has trained, armed and funded members of the jihadist Free Syrian Army in what Syria classifies as a war of aggression. In recent months, the operation became far more about fighting Kurdish forces in Syria than about any of Turkey’s other wider goals such as regime change in Damascus.

Turkey’s operation had no basis in international law.

From seemingly out of the blue, Turkey’s National Security Council today announced that Euphrates Shield has been completed.

This could mean several things.

It could be yet another one of Turkey’s many bluffs on the international stage. Whilst Turkey’s National Security Council claims the operation has ended successfully, there is every possibility that both direct Turkish aggression against Syria as well as aggression from its FSA proxies could continue into the foreseeable future.

But if the statement turns out to actually be backed up by realities on the ground, there are two distinct possibilities behind it.

Although Syria has complained before the UN and other international bodies of the illegal nature of Turkey’s aggressive invasion and occupation of Syrian territory, such expressions of frustration with Turkey have largely fallen on deaf ears.

However, if Russia or America made their private views known to Turkish President Erdogan, this could have impacted Turkish decision making.

For slightly different reasons, both Trump’s United States and Putin’s Russia have desired an end to Turkish meddling in Syria. Russia is privately and to some extent publicly, angry at Turkey’s totally destabilising role in Syria. Russia speaks from the perspective of both an integral ally of the Syrian Arab Army’s campaign against terrorism, but also as a power which has looked favourably to Krudish efforts to fight various jihadist groups including both the Turkish backed FSA and the Saudi/Qatari backed ISIS.

America, even under Trump, has no real time for the legitimate government in Syria but is instead, hellbent on utilising Kurds to both fight the war against militant Salifism. Additionally Washington wants Kurds to form the nexus of a post-war settlement. Because of this, America would not want a putative ally (and fellow NATO member) in Turkey to be fighting against their favourite proxies in the Syrian conflict.

In terms of destabilising Syria, emboldening pro-Turkish terrorists and prolonging conflict, Euphrates Shield has indeed been a success. But in terms of making gains against Kurds, making meaningful gains against the Syrian Arab Army, getting America and Russia to change their thinking and most importantly to help oust President al-Assad, Euphrates Shield has been a colossal failure for Turkey.

In this sense, there is a distinct possibility that Erdogan has proclaimed ‘mission accomplished’ for domestic consumption ahead of his referendum for extra Presidential powers set for the 16th of April. Erdogan is no stranger to using external events in order to bolster his domestic popularity.

The biggest question remains, will Turkey actually now leave Syrian territory, taking their FSA fighters with them? Or inversely, is this yet another meaningless statement from a Turkish regime known for half-truths and downright lies?

Time will tell.

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Turkey is in A Dead End in Syria

Turkey is in A Dead End in Syria: The U.S. Move On Tabqa Will Complicate The Political Situation in Syria
US president Donald Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Turkey is at a dead end in Syria.

Erdogan‘s dream of going on to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor or even Aleppo city has been blocked by an agreement between the U.S. and Russia. His proxy forces are stuck north-east of Aleppo city and have no way to go further south, east or west. They conquered a piece of rural land that gives Erdogan no negotiation leverage but potentially a lot of headaches. A small Russian contingent has moved into the Kurdish enclave in north-west Syria around Afrin blocking any serious Turkish move against that area.

Turkey and its paymasters in Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have lost the fight over Syria. Still tacitly backed by the U.S. they are currently trying a Hail-Mary pass to again achieve some negotiation power for the next round of Geneva talks. This is likely to again fail. Their proxy forces in the north west, including al-Qaeda, moved from the north towards the city of Hama (see map, red=Syrian government). Over the last days they captured 11 small villages which were only lightly defended. The Russian and Syrian airforce are now devastating them and a counter-attack by the Syrian army is prepared and will soon throw them back.

Source: Islamic World News – See bigger picture here

Coordinated with the Hama attack was an attempt to capture ground on the eastern periphery of Damascus and in the south around Deraa. The Damascus attack has run its cause. No ground was taken and held by the Takfiris and the counterattack against them is advancing. The attack in Deraa failed to break the Syrian army defense lines.

The head of the “White Helmet” propaganda gang in south Deraa was killed in an IED attack by al-Qaeda aligned forces. He was no Samaritan. He also commanded the 18 March Division, part of the foreign paid insurgency against the Syrian state.

The large Syrian army move on Idleb governate to liberate it from the Takfiris is still in preparation. No date has been set for its launch.

East of Aleppo city the Syrian army had blocked all Turkish proxy advances. It continued south to retake the country side from the Islamic State and is making good progress. The biggest city in the area, Deir Hafar, was nearly surrounded today by the Syrian army when the Islamic State fighters suddenly moved out. It is now back in government hands. [The sources were wrong on this. Deir Hafar is effectively surrounded but not yet in government hands. – Mar 23 1110 pm] The Syrian army in the area will continue to move south and south-east towards Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.

The U.S. proxy force in north-east Syria, the Kurdish anarcho-marxists of the PKK/YPK, have advanced on Raqqa. Raqqa lies slightly north of the Euphrates. The only way south and west from Raqqa that was left open was across the Tabqa dam that dams up the Euphrates and creates the Assad lake.

Source: Syrian Generation – See bigger picture here

Yesterday the U.S. and its proxy forces started a surprise attack to take the dam (map). Helicopters transported YPG fighters to the south of the Euphrates and improvised ferries (vid) carried their heavy equipment across the lake. Apache helicopters and heavy U.S. artillery covered the move. They blocked the road between Raqqa towards Aleppo in the west and they are now moving towards Tabqa city directly south of the dam. At the same time a YPG/PPK force is moving from the north towards the dam. There is some fear that Islamic State fighters could blow up the dam but the first to drown in the following flood would be all Isis fighters and their families in Raqqa and beyond.

In areas further south and east there is some fighting between the Syrian army and ISIS groups around Palmyra and in Deir Ezzor. The situations there seem mostly stable with slight advances by the Syrian government forces.

Israel recently made some splash by bombing Syrian government forces near Palmyra. This was against certain parameters the Russian and Israeli governments had agreed upon. While Russia will not hinder Israeli attacks on Hizbullah weapon transports going to Lebanon it will interdict should Israel (again) hit any forces in Syria fighting ISIS or other Jihadis. Israel was warned off by a Syrian anti-air missile launch. Loud noise was made thereafter by the Netanyahu government in Tel Aviv. But that is mere domestic grandstanding. Netanyahu is under criminal investigation and is fighting for his political life.

It is still unclear how the Trump administration plans to proceed on Syria.

The move south of the Euphrates may block the Syrian government forces from moving further east towards the enclave in Deir Ezzor which is still under siege by ISIS. But the Euphrates crossing may also be a purely military move without a political intent to simply to enable the taking of the Tabqa dam. As a military move it makes completely sense. If this is a political move it will complicate the already confusing situation.

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Turkey’s Euphrates Shield Military Intervention. Towards the Division of Northern Syria?

Document points to alleged military plot against Turkish government

On February 23, the Turkish Army and a coalition of pro-Turkish militant groups known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) seized control of the key Syrian town of al-Bab. Al-Bab is located in the northern part of the Aleppo Province [about 36km northeast of Aleppo,  about 26km south of border with Turkey], and had been remaining under ISIS control for over 2 years.

At the same day, Chief of the Turkish General Staff Hulusi Akar announced the goals set at the beginning of the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria were achieved. On February 27, Ilnur Cevik, adviser to Turkish President Recep Erdogan made a contrary statement, announcing that Turkey will end its military operation in Syria after the town of Manbij is captured. While there are serious doubts that the Turkish involvement into the Syrian crisis would be limited, the capture of al-Bab became an important victory for Ankara.

Al-Bab’s strategic importance increased after the Syrian Democratic Forces, predominantly the Kurdish YPG, took Manbij which had served as an important ISIS logistical node for 2.5 years, helping transfer jihadists from Turkey to Syria and back, and also facilitating oil and arms shipments.

The Kurds also wanted to take Al-Bab to reassemble the fragmented Shahba canton (with a administrative center of Tal Rifaat and Manbij), consolidate the areas they control, and proclaim a Syrian Kurdistan as an independent country or a broad autonomy nominally within Syria.

In response, Turkey implemented Operation Euphrates Shield, with Turkish Army regular units and the FSA (Ahrar al-Sham, Sultan Murad Division, Jaysh al-Tahrir, al-Mu’tasim Brigade, Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, Descendants of Saladin Brigade, Hamza Division) are advancing on the city from the North with artillery and air support provided by Turkey. The Operation Euphrates Shield was launched on August 24, 2016 and since then Turkey-led forces seized control of the key towns of Jarabulus, Al-Rai and al-Bab, securing the Al-Bab-Azaz-Jarabulus triangle. According to estimates in open sources, the operation involved over 4,000 Turkish troops and some 7,000 members of pro-Turkish militant groups. 71 member of the Turkish Armed Forces and 515 pro-Turkish militants have been killed since the start of the operation. In turn, about 2,300 ISIS militants were killed by Ankara-led forces according to pro-Turkish sources.

From the Turkish perspective, preventing a Kurdish autonomy or an independent state runs to national interest. Any such Kurdish entity at the Syrian-Turkish border would heighten ethnic tensions in Turkey and escalate Turkish Kurds’ armed campaign. Some experts believe that several possible agreement frameworks between Turkey and Syria have already been drafted that would divide northern part of Aleppo province into Turkish and Syrian spheres of influence, while preserving the de jure status quo. Moreover, in spite of its significant military potential and position, Turkey is either ready or forced to negotiate with Damascus as an equal partner. The so-called “Astana Talks” involving Turkey, Iran, Russia, Syria and a pro-Turkish part of the so-called “Syrian opposition” are a clear example of this situation.

The US strategy in the conflict is one of the reasons of the current Ankara attitude. While the US-led coalition clearly supports Kurdish YPG units in Syria, Washington can’t give Turkey ironclad guarantees that the Kurds won’t proclaim a Syrian Kurdistan since it doesn’t fully control the Kurds. The Supreme Kurdish Council (DBK) is split between the Kurdish National Council, which looks to Iraqi Kurds who are pro-US, and the Democratic Union (PYD) which is for broad autonomy within the Syrian state, but against a complete separation. However, the US cannot withdraw its support from the Syrian Kurds because in this case Washington will have no force to rely on the ground in Syria. Especially amid Trump’s promises to deliver a devastating blow to ISIS in Syria which mean the intensification of the campaign in Raqqah.

The most important battle right now is ongoing on the diplomatic level where Turkey, Iran, Syria, the US and Russia are struggling to find a common ground which should allow to defeat ISIS and to solve the crisis. At the first look, it seems that Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance prevails. One must, however, remember Erdogan’s inconstancy, his expansionism, and the general style of Turkey’s foreign policy. Nobody can guarantee that now when Al Bab and much of Aleppo province is taken, the Turkish government will not step up its support of militants in other parts of the province, using the FSA and “moderates” as cover.  On February 26 and February 27, clashes between Turkish-backed militants and the Syrian army already took place near al-Bab. However, the full-scale escalation has not taken place yet. The military situation at the demarcation line between pro-Turkish and Syrian government forces will be a clear indication of the ongoing competition on the diplomatic level.

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