Turkish government is determined to make sure that the YPG does not gain control of the Kurdish dominated regions in an unbroken area all along the border. The YPG has recently been successful in attacks against Turkish-backed terrorists in small offensives in this “wedge” between YPG areas of control. These offensives have been backed by Russian air operations and with airdrops of weapons and ammunition in recent weeks.
It is most likely the prospect of greater territorial gains by the Kurds that the Turkish Army will be deployed to prevent. How the Turkish military command plans to carry out such an operation successfully, and how the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russia will respond will determine the course of the conflict and undoubtedly the odds of a wider war.
An initial observation of the forward deployment of Turkish Army units along the border with Syria gives hints as to their tactical employment in a possible invasion. Two armored brigades and two mechanized brigades are positioned just north of the border, adjacent to the area that is currently controlled by various terrorist groups and militias under the umbrella of support of the Turkish regime, and that lies in between the YPG dominated areas.
Their axis of advance would cover, approximately the area between Azaz and Jarabulus, and would probably not extend beyond the depth of 20 to 25 miles (30 to 40 km).
Two armored and two mechanized brigades, representing approximately 15,000 to 20,000 men would be able to mount a fast assault. These units are highly mobile, flexible, and self-sufficient and pack a great deal of offensive power. They would most likely be aided by elements of at least one commando brigade. They could cover the 20-25 mile distance quickly and consolidate the area rapidly, and would be maintaining short lines of communication and supply.
Fixed wing and rotary wing attack aircraft would be assigned to provide air cover to the ground operation. The initial assault would most certainly be followed up by the advance of infantry and border patrol units to establish and provide internal security for the long haul.
The unknown variable for the Turkish military planners is the reaction of the Russian forces deployed within Syria, at the request of the only legitimate government of that country. Will the Russian air forces deployed in Syria react to thwart the incursion of a hostile force that aims to directly undermine the sovereignty of Syria?
Will Russian air defense forces based at Khmeimim airbase or naval vessels positioned offshore fire upon Turkish aircraft that violate the sovereign airspace of Syria engaged in providing air cover for Turkish ground forces, and that could possibly threaten the Russian position in Latakia? There are a number of unknown variables that present immense uncertainties in the Turkish strategic calculus when planning such an undertaking.
The recent Russian snap drills by forces in the Southern Military District, which included the participation of airborne and air transport units, was a clear message to Turkey that Russia was prepared to defend her borders and her national interests in Syria. This is only the latest in a series of clear messages by the Russian leadership that it will not tolerate a Turkish sabotage of its campaign in Syria to restore order and to stabilize the situation in the country.
The question remains, does the Erdogan regime believe that the potential benefits of setting up a de-facto safe haven for its proxies in Syria outweigh the potential of direct military conflict with Russia?
The determination of the Erdogan regime to undermine the sovereignty of Syria by supporting, both logistically, materially and monetarily various factions of Islamic fundamentalist mercenaries and terrorist groups, has only harmed the security of Turkey and strengthened the position of their long time enemy the Kurds.
The past five years have enriched the bank accounts of the Erdogan family and their cronies through the illegal oil trade, human trafficking of refuges, and the smuggling of arms; however, the Turkish people have suffered from a bloody crack-down on the Kurdish minority in the south of the country, terrorist bombings, an assault on civil rights, press censorship and the erosion of Turkish-Russian relations to a level not seen since the darkest days of the Cold War.
This policy of intervention in the affairs of both Syria and Iraq, the support of a multitude of Islamic terrorist groups, and the undermining of neighboring countries to the benefit of a ruling elite in Turkey has been disastrous. It may turn out in the end that Turkey itself has been the most negatively affected by Erdogan’s misguided policies.
NATO and Europe as a whole have been undermined, and it remains to be seen how much longer even they will tolerate the situation. Is NATO ready to be dragged into a war with Russia as a result of Turkey’s aggressive and misguided foreign policy? A pretext for invasion that casts Turkey as the victim will have to be engineered by the Erdogan regime prior to any incursion south in order to maintain NATO support.
By bringing to light, in embarrassing detail, the Erdogan regime’s illegal activities in direct support of internationally recognized terrorist groups and the illegal plunder of the oil resources of Syria and Iraq and the establishment and operation of the logistics network that facilitates the sale of the oil at great profit to the Erdogan family itself, Russia has laid the truth bear to the world.
In so doing, they have also allowed Erdogan a way to back off the stage, so to speak, and abandon his misguided aspirations in Syria. Continued support by NATO and the United States in light of the ugly realities of Turkey’s actions in the conflict, will only undermine both parties’ legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.
Turkey most definitely has the military power in place to successfully carry out a limited invasion to establish a terrorist safe zone and to prohibit the consolidation of the entire northern border under the control of the Kurds; however the costs if this invasion is contested by Russia and Syria nullify any potential benefits. In short, further efforts to salvage a disastrous foreign policy on the part of the Erdogan regime through force of arms will only hasten their political isolation and destruction.
The Turkish people deserve better, and as political opposition continues to grow in the government and on the street, a disastrous invasion just may push the current regime out of power. This would be a positive development; however, the very real possibility of a Turkish incursion developing into a wider war would prove disastrous to the entire world.
Turkish military shells Kurdish targets in northern Syria – Kurds to RT
The Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions has continued for more than three hours almost uninterruptedly, a Kurdish source told RT, adding that the Turkish forces are using mortars and missiles and firing from the Turkish border not far from the city of Azaz in the Aleppo Governorate.
The source also said that that there were casualties, but the exact number is unknown. The Turkish forces fired shells at the villages of Malikiya and Tannab, a source told RT, citing a statement by the Jaysh al-Thuwwar group. A source in the Turkish government confirmed to Reuters that the Turkish military had shelled Kurdish militia targets near Azaz on Saturday.
“The Turkish Armed Forces fired shells at PYD positions in the Azaz area,” the source said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara views as a terrorist group.
A Kurdish official confirmed to Reuters that the shelling had targeted the Menagh air base located south of Azaz. According to the official, the base had been captured by the Jaysh al-Thuwwar rebel group, which is an ally of PYD and a member of the Syria Democratic Forces alliance.
Earlier, the US also called the PYD an “important partner” in the fight against Islamic State, adding that US support of the Kurdish fighters “will continue.”
Saudi Arabia is to deploy military jets and personnel to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base in the south of the country, Ankara said. The base is already used by the US Air Force for their sorties in Syria.
The deployment is part of the US-led effort to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
“At every coalition meeting, we have always emphasized the need for an extensive result-oriented strategy in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group,” he said, referring to IS by an Arabic-language abbreviation.
Cavusoglu spoke to the Yeni Şafak newspaper after addressing a security conference in Munich, Germany, where the Syrian crisis was one of the top issues on the agenda.
“If we have such a strategy, then Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch a ground operation,” he added, fueling concerns that a foreign troop invasion may soon further complicate the already turbulent situation in the war-torn country.
Russian PM warns US, Saudis against starting ‘permanent war’ with ground intervention in Syria
Earlier, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE voiced their readiness to contribute troops for a ground operation in Syria on the condition that the US would lead the intervention. Damascus and its key regional ally, Iran, warned that such a foreign force would face strong resistance.
The US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have shared goals in Syria, as all three want the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to be toppled by rebel forces. On other issues they differ. For example, the US supports Kurdish forces in Syria who scored significant military victories against IS, but Turkey considers them terrorists and is targeting them with airstrikes.
Russia, which supports the government of Bashar Assad, seeing it as the only regional force capable of defeating IS on the ground, has warned against a ground intervention, which, Moscow believes, would only serve to prolong the war in Syria.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev called on his Western counterparts “not to threaten a ground operation” in Syria, stressing that Moscow is doing its utmost to pave the way for a lasting peace in the war-torn country.
Russia and other leading world powers have brought Damascus and a number of rebel groups to negotiations and leveraged them into agreeing to a ceasefire. The agreement, however, remains shaky, as neither side trusts the other, and the unity of the rebel delegation remains questionable. The terrorist groups IS and Al Nusra Front are not part of the talks.
Russian PM warns US, Saudis against starting ‘permanent war’ with ground intervention in Syria
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev told German media that sending foreign troops into Syria could unleash “yet another war on Earth.” The warning follows increasingly aggressive statements made by Saudi Arabia and Turkey amid Bashar Assad’s gains in Aleppo.
“All sides must be compelled to sit at the negotiating table, instead of unleashing yet another war on Earth,” Medvedev told Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper. “Any kinds of land operations, as a rule, lead to a permanent war. Look at what’s happened in Afghanistan and a number of other countries. I am not even going to bring up poor Libya.”
The PM was commenting on recent statements from Saudi Arabia claiming that it was ready to send ground troops to Syria, should Washington lead the way.
“The Americans and our Arab partners must think well: do they want a permanent war? Do they think they can really quickly win it? It is impossible, especially in the Arab world. Everyone is fighting against everyone there,” Medvedev added. The interview was published on the eve of the International Syria Support Group meeting in Munich, where the cessation of hostilities in Syria became a top item on the agenda.
Meanwhile, the situation in Syria has been heating up, as Syrian government troops have been making advances in the northern city of Aleppo, half of which is considered to be under the control of anti-government rebel groups. The same region has also been inundated with terrorist groups, such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Ahrar al-Sham, and Al-Nusra Front, which are all being targeted by Russian as well as US-led air campaigns.
At the same time, the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have recaptured a former military airbase from jihadists near the Turkish-Syrian border, reportedly with the support of Russian air strikes. The base is located near the rebel-held town of Azaz in Aleppo province.
Turkey, meanwhile, continues to insist that the Kurdish militia fighting IS are terrorists just as the Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey. Ankara, which has been criticized for bombing Kurds inside Syria instead of helping to fight IS, has recently fallen out with Washington over America’s support for the Kurdish YPG.
On the Syrian battlefield, Turkey openly supports anti-Assad rebel groups. The latest statement by Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu, who pledged to return a “historical debt” to Turkey’s “Aleppo brothers,”gave new rise to speculations over a looming Turkish ground invasion of Syria.
The situation has prompted fears of a possible military clash between world powers backing different sides of the Syrian conflict, with hopes that the Munich talks could de-escalate the deadlock. While some Western leaders have openly called upon Russia to stop supporting Assad with airstrikes, the communique that was agreed upon after five long hours of discussions does not directly mention any downsizing of strikes. Instead, it calls for a“nationwide cessation of hostilities” over the period of one week, although it exempts terrorist groups from the potential ceasefire.
In the latest alarming episode, Russian and American militaries traded accusations over the bombing of civilian infrastructure in Aleppo. Russia’s Defense Ministry said two US Air Force A-10 warplanes had destroyed nine facilities in the city, with the Americans shifting the blame onto Russia’s air campaign afterwards.
Russian jets, however, had not targeted any civilian areas and were operating 20 kilometers away, according to the ministry. The spat started on Wednesday with the US alleging the destruction of “two main hospitals in Aleppo by Russian and regime attacks.”
From February 4 to 11, the Russian Air Force performed over 500 sorties, eliminating nearly 1,900 terrorist facilities in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Deir ez-Zor, Daraa, Homs, Al-Hasakah and Raqqa, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the US is seeking to boost the anti-Islamic State coalition it is heading in Iraq and Syria by officially drawing in NATO as a member, AFP reported. While some NATO member states are already active members of the coalition, the military alliance’s chief, Jens Stoltenberg, said their increased role could bring “significant development” and “unique capabilities” which include “building partner capacity, training ground forces and providing stabilization support.”
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has been lobbying for greater participation by NATO in the war on Islamic State, giving a dramatic Thursday speech on “a new stage in the coalition campaign to defeat ISIL” and adding the countries would then be able “look back after victory and remember who participated in the fight.”
The alliance, however, has already found itself in one uneasy situation related to the conflict, when it had to back Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber that was striking militant positions in Syria. While Ankara rushed to seek NATO’s support following the aggressive and clearly avoidable move, and the bloc delivered this support on an official level, reports cited sources taking part in a NATO emergency meeting at the time as expressing discontent with the rash unilateral move by the Turks.
Turkey has since stopped its sorties into Syria in what some attribute to the dispatch of the Russian S-400 air defense systems there, but also due to the pressure by Ankara‘s NATO allies to follow the bloc’s more cautious rules of engagement.