Thu 17 Jan 2019

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East of Euphrates, Offensive or Mere Pressure  

A troop of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), north of Raqqa – November 11, 2018 (Reuters)

A troop of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), north of Raqqa – November 11, 2018 (Reuters)

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The military operation that Turkey announced, as to take place soon, in east of the Euphrates has taken over the whole Syrian landscape, and the area is anticipating the outcome of the “a few upcoming days,” which the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan talked about, at both levels; Turkey’s implementation of the threats of waging a military operation against the forces it classifies as “terrorist” or its continuation of military and political buildup to realize gains indirectly.

“We will get them out of east of the Euphrates, enough is enough,” said Erdoğan at the Turkish Defense Industry Summit on December 12.

This defines the position Turkey has reached in relation to its southern borders, boosted by the United States’ deferment of implementing the road map under the deal of Manbij city, currently controlled by the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units.”

The factions of the “National Army,” operating in northern rural Aleppo, announced readiness and completed preparedness for participation in the operation. Their efforts corresponded to a massive mobilization on the part of the Turkish army along the borders, particularly at the direction of the two cities of Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.

Despite this, the area’s image is not complete yet. While commanders from the “Free Army” confirmed to Enab Baladi that the battle’s decision has been made, there is a potential that it does not start to the day, with the lacking “resolute” statements on the part of the United States.

 

Pressure or “Serious Action”

Would the Turkish army start its military operation in east of the Euphrates as it did in Afrin early 2018? What are the possible scenarios that the area might bear witness to in the upcoming days? Taking into consideration the United States’ establishment of three observation posts on the Syrian-Turkish borders […], is Turkey imposing pressure on America to give concessions or has it already made a decision, which it will not give up on?

These are all questions demanding answers, especially with the many attempts at analyses addressing the future of east of the Euphrates’ areas.

All the indicators on the ground show that Turkey has actually made a decision about undertaking the military operation, of which are the meetings it conducted with the commanders of the “Free Army’s” factions in the past a few days, and the orders of preparedness and readiness for action it gave them.

All the factions will participate in the battle according to demanded percentage and with all their constituents, Youssef Hamoud, spokesperson of the “National Army,” told Enab Baladi in an interview.

He explained that the factions’ participation is limited to infantry unites with support from the Turkish army’s infantry and artillery divisions, pointing out: “The battle will be integral, from Manbij, to Tell Abyad  and Ras al-Ayn.”

The action made by the factions was replicated by the Turkish army, which brought in military reinforcements and “Special Forces” units to the borders, accompanied by the arrival of the Turkish news agencies’ correspondents and TV channels in the area, as to cover developments, similar to what happened prior to operation “olive Branch” in Afrin.

Hamza Tekin, Turkish journalist, said: “Turkey has now entered the stage of final preparations or the final touch, as it is called, of the military operation. There is a final resolution of launching the operation […]. We might be left with a few hours or days; at any moment, the military operation might start.”

He told Enab Baladi that Turkey, months ago, have been making statements by all Turkish officials, of all levels, starting from Erdoğan to the ministries of defense, interior, foreign affairs, and the army, that “America and those offering funding to the terrorist organizations in east of the Euphrates, Manbij, Tell Rifaat and  Tell Abyad, should cut funds. However, for the whole past period, this did not happen.”

Tekin’s statements are related to the Manbij’s road map, reached last June, without a marked progress on the part of the United States, which for seven months delayed its implementation, since the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” did not retreat from the area despite the official statements that announced the opposite.

“There are certain regimes in the Middle east, which are supporting the terrorist organizations in terms of funding. America, on a specific term, should openly declare forsaking them and that it started removing these organizations from Manbij at least to show Turkey that it gave up on them clearly,” the Turkish journalist said.

 

What About the Observation Posts?

Going back to early December, the United States announced establishing observation posts on the Syrian-Turkish borders, despite Ankara’s disapproval of the posts and its demand of removing them.

“Ordered by Defense Secretary James Matisse, the United States has deployed monitoring posts in the border area, north-eastern Syria, to address Turkey’s security concerns, our ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” Colonel Robert Manning, Pentagon spokesperson, said.

The control map shows the observation posts as located in the surrounding of Ayn al-Arab (Kobanî), Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad, at the Syrian side of the borders with Turkey.

According to the current facts, the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), the “People’s Protection Units,” its military wing, depend on the American posts to deter any Turkish military progress. This was opposed by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, when he said: “Our target is not the American soldiers, it is the terror organizations that are active in the region.”

Tekin referred to information provided from the area east of the Euphrates, which were not reported by the media, indicating that some of the American and the French armies’ posts started to dismantle their positions and strongholds to withdraw more from southern and south-astern Syria.

The Turkish official statements and Erdoğan’s renewed reference to Turkey’s resolution about launching the operation is an indicator that we have left the circle of mere threats, warnings and statements,” he said. “The threats have today turned into a serious decision about launching a military operation against the two organizations of PYD and PKK in the east of the Euphrates.”

What is so far stopping the military operation, as he views it, is “the United State’s immediate declaration of giving up on the [Kurdish] forces and forcing them to retreat from these areas. In case this does not happen, Turkey would not withdraw finally.”

 

Is Jarba Playing the Mediator?

A few days before Erdoğan’s announcement of the upcoming military operation in east of the Euphrates, and in Sync to the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey to Ankara, Ahmad Jarba, head of the “Syria’s Tomorrow Movement,” visited Turkey after five years of suspended relations.

The visit took place early last week, during which Jarba agreed with the Turkish side to freshen the relationship. They both reached a coordination about the areas east of the Euphrates, an informed source told Enab Baladi.

Jarba’s meeting with the Turkish side was not the first; rather, it was preceded by several unmediated meetings in several countries, the source added, pointing out that “new and strong relations between the two sides have been realized.”

The source said that this was the fifth meeting between the two sides, and another will be conducted before the end of 2018.

On December 6, the “Syria’s Tomorrow Movement” announced Jarba’s visit to Iraqi Kurdistan and his meeting with Masrour Barzani, the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council.

Jarba entered Syria during his visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, the source said, where he met with key figures of eastern Syria’s tribes.

The source said that, today, Turkey is relying on Jarba for restructuring the eastern area, controlled by the “Units,” and pointed out: “During his visit, Jarba talked about the problems caused by the Kurdish Units and the error committed by the Special Forces when they joined them.”

Ahmad Jarba’s visit, according to the source, focused on his town Tall Ghazal, western rural al-Yaarubiyah, Syria.

Activists posted a video onto the internet of the visit, where Jarba showed up in the presence of a number of the key personalities of Arab tribes in eastern Syria.

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