Turkey escalates against SDF in eastern Syria; Ground and air bombardment
Enab Baladi – Yamen Moghrabi
The Turkish capital, Ankara, witnessed an attack on October 1 targeting the Kızılay area, which includes a number of government buildings, including the Ministry of the Interior and the Turkish Parliament. Several hours later, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for the attack in Ankara, according to the ANF news agency, a loyal media wing to the outlawed movement classified on the Turkish “terrorist lists.”
Ankara quickly announced that it had launched air strikes on areas in Syria and Iraq, through which it said it targeted PKK military gatherings and areas.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which control northeastern Syria, denied their connection to the Ankara attack, but Turkey continued its operations, and then the US forces shot down a Turkish drone on October 5 in the sky of the city of al-Hasakah, northeastern Syria, before the US Department of Defense announced its “regret” over the downing of the drone.
These successive events, and the latest American step, open the door to questions about the SDF’s options in the next stage, as well as the options available to Turkey, which has sought for years to carry out a fourth military operation in the southern border areas inside Syria to fight the SDF, and the possibility of implementing it within current political and economic circumstances.
SDF between hard jaw pliers
On the ground, the SDF does not seem to have many options during the current period, and its commander-in-chief, Mazloum Abdi, previously accused Turkey, on October 5, of searching for pretexts to legitimize its ongoing attacks on the areas controlled by his forces and launching a new military attack, which raises deep concern, according to his statements on the X platform.
In light of the halt of the rapprochement between Ankara and the Syrian regime, even if temporarily, the SDF may resort to cooperation with the Syrian regime or find a solution through Russia and the United States.
Kurdish academic and expert Farid Saadoun believes, in an interview with Enab Baladi, that the SDF’s options in confronting a Turkish military operation are very limited due to the huge differences in the balance of power between the two parties and that it has no choice but the political path that has vanished after the failure of the mediations that the Russians are trying to implement between the Syrian regime and Turkey.
Saadoun considered that the Syrian regime has a firm position if the SDF decides to use it to confront any Turkish military move, which is that the SDF must hand over the region and withdraw from it, and the regime will take care of what remains.
But this also does not negate the fact that the regime has concerns about any Turkish incursion into the region, given that any new Turkish gains mean the presence of cards that will be used in any future negotiation process between Ankara and Damascus, the Turkish expert added.
During the past few days, Turkey intensified its air strikes in areas controlled by the SDF and destroyed sections of the SDF-held Awda oil field east of al-Qahtaniyah.
An SDF military point at the Amouda-al-Hasakah road junction was also destroyed by a Turkish strike, in addition to the destruction of a military point near the village of Dardara in the northern countryside of Tal Tamer, within al-Hasakah.
These strikes led to the outage of electricity to service institutions and hospitals in Qamishli and Amuda, in addition to targeting the village of Sidon, north of the Ain Issa district, with heavy machine guns, according to the Kurdish Hawar Agency.
The agency also said that the drones focused their bombing on vital installations in al-Hasakah and on the road between al-Hasakah and Tal Tamer.
An air strike also targeted the Suwaydiyah electricity generation facility in the al-Malikiyah countryside in al-Hasakah, northeastern Syria, causing it to go out of service, while the government of the Syrian regime and the Autonomous Administration in northeastern Syria (AANES), which controls the station, accuse Turkey of responsibility for this attack.
Hawar News Agency said, on October 6, that Turkish aircraft bombed the Suwaydiyah electricity generation facility for the fifth time in a row.
The bombing affected the turbines in the facility and caused “severe damage,” according to an administration official’s statement to Hawar agency.
The Turkish Ministry of Defense said in a video posted on its “X” account that it neutralized 26 people in response to the attack and destroyed 30 targets.
For his part, the Turkish journalist and political analyst Mustafa Kemal Erdemol, in an interview with Enab Baladi, believes that the Syrian regime will welcome, even if undeclared, a Turkish attack on the SDF.
For years, Ankara has been talking about a possible military operation in areas of northeastern Syria controlled by the SDF, and despite repeated statements by Turkish officials about the possibility of carrying out this operation at any moment, the operation collides with the military presence on the ground of both the US and Russia, as well as Iranian militias on the one hand and political factors on the other hand.
In the midst of the recent Turkish military air operations, the downing of the Turkish drone by Washington came as if it was a message to Turkey not to move on the ground, according to experts interviewed by Enab Baladi.
Two American officials told Reuters that an American F-16 fighter jet shot down the Turkish plane after the United States contacted Turkish military officials several times to warn them that their forces were operating near American ground forces, given the possibility that the Turkish plane was armed.
During a phone call, the Turkish and US Defense Ministers discussed the situation in Syria, stressing the importance of close coordination between the forces of the two countries during their activities in the region, according to the Turkish Anadolu Agency (AA).
Political analyst Hisham Günay believes that Ankara has a clear intention after the recent bombing to launch a ground operation, but the current conditions are not favorable, and the United States is not alone in opposing this matter.
Günay told Enab Baladi that the US sent a clear message by downing the drone that Turkey should not undertake a ground operation and that the latter must bear the consequences of this operation if it undertakes it, according to his opinion.
Turkey’s political response came through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said in a statement on October 6 that the downing of a Turkish drone by the US forces in northeastern Syria did not in any way affect the implementation of the ongoing operations and the striking of the specified targets.
The statement explained that during these operations, a drone was lost due to various technical evaluations in the collision avoidance mechanism with third parties, and the necessary measures are being taken to ensure more effective operation of the collision prevention mechanism with the parties concerned.
Turkish political analyst Erdemol told Enab Baladi that Turkey’s implementation of a ground operation inside Syrian territory is not an easy matter, with the presence of many parties on the ground posing an obstacle to it, and therefore, Ankara will be content with air strikes, as is the case now.
Erdemol considered that Washington’s shooting down of the drone is not a warning as much as it is an intimidation to Ankara, especially since Washington is concerned about Turkish military operations against Kurdish forces in Syria.
“Shooting down the drone is an expression of this discomfort, and Washington will not change its behavior,” he assured.
Washington directly supports the SDF, which Ankara considers an extension of the PKK, although the SDF denies this affiliation. However, it acknowledges the presence of fighters and leaders from the PKK party under its banner who hold leadership positions.
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