Turkey Shells Kurds Ahead of Operation in Syria

Straight after the last US military vehicle had crossed the Syrian borders following president Trump’s long-declared decision to pull out US troops from Syria, the Turkish artillery started shelling Kurdish SDF military positions on the Tal Taweel hilltop in rural Hassakah close to the Turkish borders. US-backed Kurdish militias feel abandoned and desperate for protection after the US army units’ sudden and hasty departure from northeastern Syria, amid renewed Turkish announcements of an imminent military operation, with the help of pro-Turkish newly-united rebel forces under the banner of ‘Syrian National Army. The apparent Turkish military buildup along the borders indicates that Ankara means business, despite regional and American warnings of the consequences of any major Turkish onslaught against Syrian Kurds in the area.

Military Preparations for Action Complete, Says Turkey

All eyes are now focused on Ankara’s next move against Syrian Kurds in the north, as movement of Turkish forces and heavy weapons along the border with Syria has been confirmed by local and regional observers. Turkey has long branded the main US-backed Kurdish militia a ‘terrorist organization’ and an arm of the outlawed PKK Kurdish Workers Party, whose iconic mentor and leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is serving an aggravated life jail sentence in the secluded heavily-guarded Turkish Imrali prison island.

Meanwhile, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan province, Nechirvan Barazani, has called for the annihilation of SDF militia whom he blamed for the paradigm of Syrian Kurds in the north, and asked Russia to protect Kurdish civilians, in light of the Turkish threats of a forthcoming large-scale and decisive military operation in Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria. Local Kurds who have waged and won some impressive battles against ISIS in the region over the past few years, are reported to have fortified their positions and moved some of their forces from Al Omar main oilfield to the border areas in anticipation of a major Turkish attack that could take place any minute now.

Pro-Turkish newly united militias are also reported to be mobilizing near the city of Manbij, some 50 kms from the Turkish borders, and are expected to play a key role in any forthcoming Turkish incursion into Syria. Kurdish leaders in the area have threatened to hand the city of over 150000 inhabitants over to the Syrian army rather than let the Turks and their proxy militias take control of Manbij.

A History of Abandonment Complex

Words cannot express strongly enough what Syria’s supposedly US-allied Kurds are going through at the moment.  Shock, despair, betrayal and abandonment at the crucial point by their US masters might sum up the feelings.  Similar to what happened to their brothers in Iraq a couple of years ago, they have been left in the open, alone, facing a grim destiny and a Turkish army intent to settle long and heavy accounts with the Kurds, pledging to wipe some of their militias out from the face of earth.

US warnings of strong sanctions that will cripple the Turkish economy should Ankara wage a major military operation against its now ‘former’ Kurdish allies, have done very little to calm Kurdish fears and dispel their strong feelings of abandonment by Trump who wanted out of this ‘ silly and endless war’ in Syria. However, President Donald Trump warned he would “obliterate” the NATO ally’s economy if it took action in Syria that he considered “off-limits” following his decision on Sunday to withdraw American special forces troops from Syria’s border region. Egypt, Cyprus and Greece have all expressed opposition and condemnation of any Turkish effort that undermines the integrity of Syria’s territorial integrity.

Deeper into the Syrian Quagmire?

Turkish Defence Ministry said in a tweet on Tuesday that its “armed forces will never tolerate the establishment of a terror corridor on our borders. All preparations for the operation have been completed. It is essential to establish a safe zone/peace corridor to contribute to our region’s peace and stability, and for Syrians to achieve a safe life,” it maintained. All this comes as President Trump announced that he left the matter up to Russia, Iran, Syria, Turkey and the Kurds to find their own solution.  No wonder, Trump’s repetitive threats and warnings to Ankara appear to have failed make Syrian Kurds in the northeast, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in particular, feel any less vulnerable. The US landmark pull out decision has inevitably deepened the Kurdish abandonment complex which is now proven to be well-founded and more painful than ever.

As the SDF has expressed  its readiness to take on Turkish forces – Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Syria have demonstrated extraordinary will and skill in defending their territories over the years- the Syrian-Turkish border region in the northeast  looks set for a new, fierce, long and costly war of attrition that could easily draw Erdogan’s Turkey further and deeper into the abyss of the Syrian quagmire.