Turkey tells Syrian opposition forces to extend army readiness

IDLIB — Following a spate of rocket assaults in areas of northern Syria below the management of Turkish-backed teams, Ankara is telling its Syrian opposition allies to arrange for a army operation in opposition to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led group Turkey says is behind the strikes. 

On Oct. 11, only a day after a missile assault on a Turkish army patrol killed two Turkish troopers near the city of Marea, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated at a Cabinet assembly his nation is “fed up” with these assaults and “determined to eliminate the threats originating” from northern Syria.

The sentiment was echoed days later by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu, who referred to as out Russia and the United States for what he claimed was their failure to implement agreements to withdraw Kurdish forces from the Turkish-Syrian border. “Since Russia and the US failed to honor their commitments, we must rely on ourselves and do what should be done,” the highest diplomat stated at an Oct. 13 press convention. 

On Oct. 15, Reuters cited two Turkish officers as saying Ankara is prepared for the potential for launching new army motion in opposition to Kurdish fighters within the occasion of the failure in talks Erdogan plans to carry along with his US and Russian counterparts on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Italy on the finish of October. 

In this context, a subject commander within the Syrian National Army (SNA), affiliated with the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), advised Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity, “More than a week ago, Ankara sent us instructions to increase our military readiness. As military formations, we prepared military vehicles and inspected weapons. But Ankara has yet to determine the timing and location of the operation, while it asked Syrian National Army leaders to meet in Ankara soon to discuss the matter.”

He added, “The city of Tell Rifaat is under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and it is the source of the bombing targeting the Turkish forces and civilians in the city of Afrin and its countryside. The next Turkish operation will possibly be [in] Tell Rifaat, but it is not that simple given the presence of the regime forces there as well the presence of Russian forces in Menagh near Tell Rifaat. Turkey could also start a battle in the city of Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) in the northeastern countryside of Aleppo.”

Salih Muslim, chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), stated in press statements to the Kurdish Hawar information company on Oct. 18 that any Turkish army operation in northeastern Syria will probably be met with violent resistance. He accused Turkey of hindering an answer in Syria.

“Turkey desires to eradicate the Kurds and all parts within the area by deploying its affiliated factions throughout the area,” Muslim stated.

Muslim additionally claimed the SDF by no means attacked the Turkish border as a part of their dedication to the settlement reached between Russia and Turkey in October 2019, which requires YPG forces to withdraw 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Turkish border.

Muhammed al-Sukkeri, a researcher on the Jusoor Center for Studies who lives in Turkey, advised Al-Monitor, “It is very likely that Turkey will launch a military operation [in north Syria] in light of the increasing SDF threats to target the depth of Turkish areas. Turkey may launch military action in six areas [in north Syria]. Some of these areas, however, are controlled by Russia and thus may be subject to negotiations.”

“But I believe that Turkey will not give up Manbij, Tell Rifaat and Ain al-Issa, given their strategic importance. [The YPG] losing control of these areas will deal a major blow to Russia. Russia and Turkey may reach an agreement on the areas west of the Euphrates, namely Ain al-Arab,” he added.

Sukkeri stated, “Any military operation requires a bilateral agreement between Moscow and Ankara. Such a consensus requires some sort of Turkish concession, such as removing the opposition factions from the south of the M4 highway connecting Aleppo and Latakia. However, it would be difficult for Turkey to give up on the key highway.”

He continued, “In the event of such a consensus, it would be unlikely for Washington to oppose it knowing that it is currently not interested in the Syrian file unless the Russian-Turkish understandings come to include areas under US influence such as al-Darbasiyah and al-Malikiyah.”

Sukkeri indicated that “it is unlikely that Turkey will launch a military operation without reaching a diplomatic and political agreement [with the players on the ground]. But it remains a possibility, and if it happens, such an operation will largely affect Turkey and the popularity of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of the Turkish general elections next year. Yet still, the AKP believes that such an operation will do it more good than bad, which explains the repeated threats of launching military action in Syria.”

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