Thu 17 Jan 2019

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Turkey Succeeds in Directing the Compass towards Eastern Euphrates

Turkish army troops above a military vehicle at the Syrian Turkish borders (Getty image)

Turkish army troops above a military vehicle at the Syrian Turkish borders (Getty image)

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The Russian-Turkish deal about Idlib was not limited to the governorate alone. Rather, it gave another dimension to a new front, for Turkey, with stabilizing Idlib, the matter of “concern,” managed to direct the political and the military compass towards eastern Euphrates, controlled by the US-backed  “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), after months of tension which the Turkish government has been living at both the internal and external levels.

Turkey has made several statements following the declaration of the deal, the most marked of which were the statements in relation to the areas run by the U.S. in Eastern Syria, which Russia and Turkey addressed, along with Iran, in what sounded like a “coalition,” that might open the door for new developments, corresponding to the near finalization of the on-ground military operations against the “Islamic State” of the “al-Nusra Front.”

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has, a few days after the Idlib deal, stated that his county intends to expand the buffer zone towards eastern Euphrates, Northern Syria.

On September 25, he said that the step will be similar to the procedures undertaken in the areas of the “Euphrates Shield” and the “Olive Branch” in Northern Syria.

Russia, for its turn, through its Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, considered that the most dangerous threat to Syria’s sovereignty and its unity irrupt from Eastern Euphrates, the areas controlled by “SDF,” supported by the US-led coalition.

Lavrov, on September 21, stressed that Moscow was and will still demand that U.S. “stop these illegal practices.”

On Ground Action

The Turkish statements were followed by on ground action, as media reports talked of the arrival of “massive” Turkish army reinforcements to the borders with Syria, from the direction of Manbij and the two cities of Kobanî and Tell Abyad, amidst talks about Ankara’s intention to launch a military operation, but after resolving the problem with America, in relation to Manbij and the road map.

On “Facebook,” Naser Turkmani, analyst of the Turkish affairs, has, on September 27, said that the Turkish army has intensified its preparations in the eastern parts of the Euphrates river, along the Syrian-Turkish borders, expecting the launch of a military operation in one of the Syrian cities at the borders during the next three months.

The Idlib deal has bestowed Turkey a large space to move again inside Syria, after the phase of fluctuation it lately witnessed due to the Russian pressure against the governorate of Idlib and the fear of the entry of thousands of refugees to its lands, which it has lately considered a part of its national security.

The Turkish statements about Eastern Euphrates are not new, for they have been preceded by threats since the beginning of 2018, after the end of the operation “Olive Branch” in Afrin, which was a major strike to the (Kurdish) “People’s Protection Units” after America has taken its hands off them.

Last March, Erdoğan declared the preparations undertaken as to control four areas in Northern Syria. He said: “We started the required preparations for the purification of Ayn al-Arab, Tell Abyad, Ras al-Ayn and al-Hasakah from terrorism.”

“After the purification of Afrin from terrorism, we will head towards Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tell Abyad, Ras al-Ay and Qamishli as to purify all these areas as well,” he added.

Step by Step

In its first intervention in Syria, Turkey followed the policy of slow action, military and politically, and what proves this is the conditions that introduced the Afrin operations, as it started with a “limited” tactic, which presented it as a losing battle and that fighting forces are almost drained. However, only tow weeks passed before the matter clarified, showing that the gains were Turkey’s and with a little cost.

In a former interview with Mahmoud Othman, a Turkish political analyst, he said that Turkey has the feeling that it today did not manage to secure the minimum level so far, whether the areas realizing its “strategic” security or its shares of control over the Syrian landscape.

He added telling Enab Baladi that the Turks are moving according the “long breath strategy,” which was applied to the “Euphrates Shield,” achieving the financial and moral exhaustion of the opponent, as well as the draining of its military power.

In an article by the Turkish writer kurtuluş tayiz,  published by “AKŞAM Haberler,” a Turkish online newspaper, he said that Erdoğan’s illusion to a military operation against Eastern Euphrates is crucial, as he declared the continuity of preparations as to turn the area into a secure space like Afrin.

He added that Ankara is moving step by step towards Eastern Euphrates through the preparation of the needed infrastructure and the diplomatic frames, pointing out that Ankara will move slowly through smart campaigns and by enhancing its agreements concerning the eastern parts of the Euphrates.

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