Wed 14 Nov 2018

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Similar Circumstance: Would Afrin’s Scenario be Repeated at East Euphrates?

Turkish tanks deployed to the borders with Syria – September 13, 2018 (Anadolu Agency)

Turkish tanks deployed to the borders with Syria – September 13, 2018 (Anadolu Agency)

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The U.S. backed “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) control area at the east of the Euphrates awaits, cautiously and with anticipation, the developments to unfold their outcome in the upcoming days, after Turkey has directed its military and political compass towards the area and its officials have escalated statements about launching a large-scale military operation.

This follows the freezing of the military battles in the city of Idlib, for Turkey signed a deal with Russia on September 9, providing for the establishment of a demilitarized area and the cession of the military operations.

The anticipated battle would not be Turkey’s first in Syria, for in the past two years the Turkish army has conducted two operations, the first, in 2016, titled the “Euphrates Shield” against the “Islamic State” (ISIS) in northern Aleppo, and the second, early this year, with the title “Olive Branch,” through which it controlled the area of Afrin, kicking the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” out of it.

 

Turkish Steps Resembling those of “Olive Branch”

It is noticeable that the steps undertaken by Turkey today are similar to the ones made by Ankara in the past two military operations, starting with the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s declaration of his state’s intention during the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York City on 25 of last September.

Though the operation’s launching date has not yet been defined, similar circumstances, indicators and preparations are made by Turkey, which it often undertakes prior to its military operations.

The first indicator is the threats of launching a military operation made by Turkish officials, on top of whom is the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who on December 30, 2017, two weeks before the operation “Olive Branch,” said: “Turkey will purify Afrin. And, then, we will impose security on all areas adjacent to our borders, starting from Tell Abyad, Raqqa governorate, and Ras al-Ayn, al-Hasakah governorate, because those areas pose a danger to us.”

In the past a few months, Erdoğan repeated his threats of heading towards the east of the Euphrates. However, he sharpened his tone on October 30, when he stressed that “his country has completed its plans and preparations to launch a large-scale military operation against the Units, east of the Euphrates.”

The threats are accompanied with efforts on the part of the Turkish media outlets, for the media machine starts to function, with Turkish-state related outlets shedding the light on anticipated operations.

On Saturday, November 3, the “Yeni Şafak” newspaper has published an article with the title “PKK(Kurdistan Workers’ Party) at the east of the Euphrates: Numbered Days and a Deadly Horror,” which resemble its actions prior to the launching of the operation “Olive Branch,” for it published articles about the Turkish army’s plan and the battle’s details before it took place.

A Contradictory American Attitude

The American attitude towards the Turkish operation against the east of the Euphrates resembles, to a certain extent, its position of the former Afrin operation, for the US-led coalition has abandoned the city a few days prior to the start of the operation for it was not within the frame of the operations it is leading in Syria.

As for its current attitude, the U.S. has on November 3 contradicted the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) statements of activating patrols in the surrounding of the city of Ayn al-Arab, which in the past a few days was a target for the Turkish army’s shelling.

“Reuters” agency has on Saturday, November 3, quoted Kino Gabriel, a spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as saying that the coalition is conducting regular military visits to the area, and it did not increase the number of its patrols there.

Though he considered that new border patrols by U.S. and allied forces sought to ward off any more Turkish attacks, he stressed that “the situation is still tense, nothing is clear [. . .]. We will wait and see the result of negotiations and pressure by the Americans on the Turkish government.”

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