Erdogan says Turkey to launch 'air and ground' operation in Syria | Page 15 | World Defense

Erdogan says Turkey to launch 'air and ground' operation in Syria

Khafee

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Man I pray that the gulf arabs and the Turks can sit down together and sort out their problems. So much damage could've been avoided if they were all on the same page.
You need to keep in mind, that Turkey is THE country among muslim states, who holds the title of biggest Muslim economic partner.
 

Berke2

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You need to keep in mind, that GCC was actually on very good terms with Turkey, just look at the arms purchases from Turkey. It was and is Erdogan's illusions of grandeur, that drove a wedge which seems to be only hurting them.

Its very easy to say to sit on the wall, but very difficult to call the guilty party out. If Turkey is going to be driven by "illusions of grandeur," the world is not going to sit idle.

Turkey was ISIS's biggest oil coustomer, then the the Kashoggi incident, why did Turkey run to the US? They actually exposed themselves, by proving that they dont have the ability to handle small incidents like these.
Bro I have no objection to calling anybody out including my own country Pakistan if I see a wrong actions.

What I am trying to say though is what is done has been done. There's little to gain from pointing fingers still. We need to look for a solution rather than just continuing the beef. Yes I know the relationship currently isn't very good but there has been so much negatives due to this. Your enemies, our enemies, have run circles around us because of this. They've just divided and conquered. This can't go on if we wish to survive. The ayotollahs won't care whos is arab or turk or pakistani, they will come for us all one at a time. When one is defeated, then the other will be pursued and the other etc...
 

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You need to keep in mind, that Turkey is THE country among muslim states, who holds the title of biggest Muslim economic partner.
That's bad on them bro I agree. But noone is innocent here. Not turks, not arabs, not pakistanis, we have all done deals with each other's enemies & it's become a real obstacle.
 

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Damascus capitalises on US withdrawal from northeastern Syria
18 October 2019

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Syrian government troops are seen at Al-Tabqah Air Base, which was previously controlled by Kurdish forces, on 14 October. Source: Syrian Arab News Agency


The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has launched a three-pronged move across Kurdish-controlled territory in the northeast of the country in a bid to fill the power vacuum left by the sudden withdrawal of US troops.

The US withdrawal announced by President Donald Trump on 6 October and subsequent Turkish offensive prompted the Syrian Kurds to seek protection from Damascus and Moscow. The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced an agreement on 13 October, saying that the SAA would deploy along the Syrian-Kurdish border to help fight Turkish forces and allied rebel groups now known as the Syrian National Army (SNA).

That night an SAA column equipped with T-72 tanks and accompanied by Russian Military Police advanced to the outskirts of Manbij on the western side of the Euphrates to head off a threatened Turkish attempt to capture the town. Syrian troops then moved into Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) on the Turkish border to the north after US troops left on 16 October.

At the same time, another SAA column with eight T-55 and T-62 tanks moved through the second salient of territory the Kurds held on the western side of the Euphrates around Al-Tabqah and proceeded across the river to move to Ayn Issa, 65 km to the north. A column of BM-21 multiple rocket launchers followed. Russian troops in a Gaz Tigr utility vehicle were filmed with this column on 17 October.

A smaller column from the SAA garrison at Al-Hasakah, which had been isolated since the Islamic State took the surrounding territory in 2013-2014, moved to take up positions around the town of Tal Tamr to the northwest. The available imagery indicated that this column was comprised only of
infantry with armed SUVs.

The similarly isolated SAA garrison in the eastern border city of Al-Qamishli made no apparent move.
 

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Turkey deploys upgraded M60TM tanks to Syrian border
18 October 2019
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Turkey has deployed upgraded M60TM main battle tanks (MBTs) fitted with Pulat active protection systems (APS) to the Syrian border as part of Operation 'Peace Spring', according to photographs taken on 11 and 12 October.

The photographs showed the tanks deploying in the Akçakale area opposite the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, one of the operation's initial objectives. There appeared to be two different standards of upgraded M60s, both fitted with a remote weapon station and laser-warning receivers mounted behind the smoke grenade launchers on the front of their turrets and at the rear.

Some of the tanks also had what appeared to be elements of the Pulat hard-kill APS fitted to their hulls, with one module mounted to the rear of the exhaust on the right side and a second between the first and second road wheels.

This indicates that Turkey is the second country outside of the former Soviet Union to deploy an APS to an operational theatre.

Some of the tanks showed M60s fitted with Aselsan's Telescopic Periscope System (TEPES) fitted on their turrets to the left of the remote weapon station.

With the exception of the Pulat APS, all the additional elements were under covers. However, their shapes and locations matched those seen in imagery released by Aselsan and a concept demonstrator of the M60TM that was displayed at the IDEF show held in Istanbul earlier this year.
 

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Turkey denies reports of attacks in Syria after cease-fire deal
By Nicholas Sakelaris
OCT. 19, 2019
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Turkish soldiers observe the border town of Tal Abyad in northern Syria on Friday, one day after Turkish and U.S. leaders agreed to a five-day cease-fire to halt Ankara's military offensive. Photo by Turkish Defense Ministry/EPA-EFE

Oct. 18 (UPI) -- More fighting was reported in Syria on Friday, even though it's been outlawed by a five-day cease-fire brokered by U.S. and Turkish officials.
Mortars, grenades and gunfire were reported in the border town of Ral al-Ain, where Turkish and Kurdish forces have clashed for more than a week.

Kurdish fighters have accused Turkey of violating the truce negotiated between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday. The leaders agreed to cease hostilities for five days and then re-evaluate.
"Despite the agreement to halt the fighting, air and artillery attacks continue to target the positions of fighters, civilian settlements and the hospital Serekaniye/Ra al-Ayn," Syrian Defense Forces spokesman Mustafa Bali said.

Erdogan denied that Turkish troops have continued the offensive.
"I do not know where you get your information from," he said. "Conflict is out of the question."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there was a "cautious calm" after the cease-fire was announced Thursday, but it didn't last long.

Erdogan agreed to the deal if Kurdish forces left the "safe zone" along the Syria-Turkey border, but Ankara did not agree to withdraw its troops.
"I am confident that this joint effort will promote peace and stability in our region," Erdogan said.
United Nations inspectors said they are investigating claims that Turkish troops have used burning white phosphorus against children in Syria this week, as part of its offensive, Operation Peace Spring.

The inquiry stems from the Kurdish Red Crescent, which said at least six patients had been hospitalized with what appeared to be chemical burns. It couldn't conclusively say chemical weapons were used, but inspectors are trying to determine the cause of the injuries.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Friday it was aware of the situation and is collecting information.
White phosphorus causes severe burning of the skin and its use against civilian personnel is barred by the Geneva Conventions.
 

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Top SDF Commander: Turkey Blocking Kurds’ Retreat; Urges Trump to ‘Stop This War’
BY GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON
OCT. 19, 2019
11:48 AM ET

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“I am asking President Trump right now to fulfill his promise to us and stop this war,” Mazlum Abdi told Defense One by phone.

Turkey is continuing its assault into northern Syria and blocking the SDF’s attempts to withdraw, the commander of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, said on Saturday. Mazlum Abdi called on the Trump administration to intervene, arguing that the United States is not enforcing Turkey’s adherence to a ceasefire agreement. He also said that the SDF is not working with Russia or the Syrian regime.

“I would like to inform the American public that what is happening is very bad and this is leading to destroying the Kurdish people in Syria and ethnic cleaning in front of the American administration,” Mazlum told Defense One today by phone.

Mazlum said that the SDF turned to Russia and the Syrian regime in Manbij and Kobane, in a bid to keep Turkish-backed forces at bay in the absence of any other protection. But now, he said, there are no ongoing discussions with either Russia or the Syrian regime, and it is clear to him that the SDF will not find safe harbor with those forces.

Mazlum urged Trump to help enforce the deal, reached with Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday, to pause the fighting for five days. Mazlum spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this week and said he worked to impress upon the president the urgency of the situation.

“He told me that he will do his best to stop this war. And he told me that he is going to talk to Erdogan, and I believe he received some commitments from Erdogan, but what is becoming clear now is that Erdogan is not listening to Trump and is not abiding by his commitment to him,” Mazlum said. “I am asking President Trump right now to fulfill his promise to us and stop this war.”

Mazlum said that in the two days since the ceasefire agreement was reached in Ankara, his forces have taken more casualties than in the previous days leading up to the deal. He said about 50 of his fighters have been killed and 100 wounded in Turkish air strikes.

“The Turkish Army and their [Turkey-supported opposition] mercenaries have placed a full siege on the city of Ras al-Ain [Serekaniye, in Kurdish], and we have our people and our soldiers surrounded inside the city. We agreed to a ceasefire and to a safe corridor to pull out our people and our forces,” Mazlum said. “The Turks aren’t agreeing to open the safety corridor and they are not removing the siege of the city.”

Mazlum also said Turkey is purposefully preventing the SDF from withdrawing so that after the ceasefire expires on Tuesday Ankara can claim justification to resume their attacks.

“They are besieging the city and they will not allow our forces to move out,” he said. “They are going to keep killing us for these five days and then, at the end, they will say, ‘the Kurds will not withdraw from the city’ and they will exercise ethnic cleansing of our people. This is happening in front of America’s eyes.”

Mazlum said his side had agreed to a ceasefire and a withdrawal from the limited area between Serekaniya and Tal-Abyad, east of Kobani, but Turkey will not allow his side to withdraw.

Mazlum also said that the Kurds will not give up the entirety of the border with Turkey.
“We only agreed to withdraw between Ras al-Ayn to Tal-Abyad and we didn’t discuss other areas,” Mazlum said. “The other areas are Kurdish areas and these people will have no place to go — where are the Kurds going to go?”

The Syrian Kurdish commander urged the United States to reconsider its withdrawal, leave a partial force inside northeastern Syria.
“If full withdrawal happens from Syria, the Russians and the Turks will implement their plan jointly,” he said. “This will undermine all we have achieved with the Americans these past five years and it is harming America’s credibility with the Syrian Kurds who have worked and fought and died with the Americans.”

He argued a U.S. military presence could be a buffer to political negotiations with Turkey.
“America should abide by its commitment and impose this ceasefire, and then they can help address the Kurdish matter in Syria,” Mazlum said. “Saying that the Russians and Syrian regime are going to help the Kurds— this is not true. The Russians and the Syrian regime’s position toward the Kurds is a hostile position.”
 

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SDF forces withdraw from Ras al-Ayn on Syria-Turkey border
October 20, 2019

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SDF will gradual withdraw from the area between Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad southward to the M4 highway, Redur Xelil says


Syrian Democratic Forces fighters have left Ras al-Ayn following two days of evacuations of wounded civilians from the border city, a spokesperson for the force said.

The last batch of SDF fighters finished their deployment on Sunday, October 20, SDF spokesperson Rêdûr Xelîl told The Defense Post.

“Now we don’t have any forces inside the city,” he said. “There will be a gradual withdrawal of the forces from the area between Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad southward to the M4 highway.”

Two convoys of humanitarian workers from the Kurdish Red Crescent, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Syrian Red Crescent and an independent group called the Free Burma Rangers have evacuated dozens of wounded and dead civilians and SDF fighters from Ras al-Ayn over the weekend.

Xelil told the Associated Press on Saturday that the SDF would begin to pull back if the evacuation was complete by Sunday.

The withdrawal of SDF forces is part of a ceasefire agreement announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. SDF commander General Mazlum Abdi said the force would abide by the ceasefire, but the SDF has accused Turkey of various violations throughout the weekend, mostly in Ras al-Ayn.

“Communication continues with the American side at the highest levels for the protection of civilians from the Turkish state’s violence and the armed factions belonging to it,” Xelil said Sunday.

“The Americans assured that they have firm guarantees from the Turkish side to protect the civilians and their security and safety, but we don’t trust the Turkish side and we will continue observing the situation closely.”

The 120-km (75 mile) area between Ras al-Ayn, also called Serekaniye, and Tal Abyad is part of a stretch of Syrian territory where Turkey wants to settle up to two million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.

Ankara launched Operation Peace Spring on October 9 to push the SDF and its predominately-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) south in order to occupy the 30-km-wide buffer area along the border.

More than 165,000 people have been displaced by Turkey’s incursion into northeast Syria, and the Kurdish Red Crescent says 20 people have been killed since the ceasefire announcement.
 

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Details emerge of ISIS families taken by Turkey-backed Syrian rebels from Ain Issa camp

ISIS women are now said to be held for ransom by Ahrar al-Sharqiya near the Syria-Turkey border
New details about the reported escape of women connected to Islamic State from a camp in northeast Syria suggest that dozens were taken by Turkey-backed rebels who may now be holding them for ransom.

Hundreds of female ISIS adherents and their children were said to have escaped from a secure section of Ain Issa camp on October 14 following a Turkish airstrike in the area. Initial reports said refugees fled the camp first, prompting the women to follow, while others claimed that Syrian Democratic Forces guards standing watch over the roughly 1,000 women and children in a secure annex of the camp opened the doors and told them to leave.

Until this week, Ain Issa camp was home to 13,000 people, most of them displaced by fighting in Syria’s eight-year-long civil war.

A source with an international humanitarian organization operating in the area told The Defense Post on Friday, October 18 that Turkey-backed forces invaded Ain Issa, and staff reported that “troops went to the area where foreign families were living and, without incident, took about 150 foreign families.”

They then set fire to the area and camp offices, before leaving with the families.

“This is only going to make a dire, dangerous situation even worse,” said the source, who requested anonymity to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers in northeast Syria.

A British woman from the camp, Tooba Gondal, told The Telegraph on Friday that she had left the camp on her own accord, had later met Syrian rebel fighters and was currently being held near the Turkish border.

Gondal provided photos suggesting she is being held by Ahrar al-Sharqiya, and The Telegraph reported that the Islamist rebel group is effectively holding a number of women for ransom in exchange for allowing them to be smuggled over the border into Turkey.

The humanitarian source told The Defense Post they were struck by how the fighters removed the women without incident.

The fate of most of the other foreign women and children remains unknown. Nine French women are believed to have escaped, the Independent reported on Wednesday. Three British orphans discovered at the camp by a BBC team have been rescued, and an Irish woman, Lisa Smith, is also believed to be in Ahrar al-Sharqiya’s custody. The Irish Times reported that someone claiming to represent the group was attempting to sell an interview with Smith.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday that Ain Issa camp was mostly empty and most residents had moved south to Mahmudli camp near Tabqa.

ISIS claimed on Thursday that it had freed women from Mahmudli, but there have been no substantiated reports of an escape.

Aid organizations including the U.N. are now operating in northeast Syria with limited staff and the humanitarian situation is dire for nearly 200,000 people who have fled their homes since Turkey’s incursion began on October 9.

Furthermore, many of the organizations destroyed their files and equipment as they left the camps, the humanitarian source said, in order to ensure the protection of both their staff and displaced people.

The Syrian Arab Army, which entered many parts of the north on earlier this week following a military agreement with the SDF, has established checkpoints and staff are afraid to travel, concerned they will be conscripted into the army, the source said.

Ahrar al-Sharqiya is one of the groups fighting the SDF in northern Syria under the banner of the Syrian National Army. The rebels have been accused of serious violations, including possible war crimes, after posting videos showing executions on the M4 highway which traverses northeast Syria. They have also admitted to the execution of a Kurdish politician, Hevrin Khalaf, on the same road.

Fighting between the SDF and Turkey-backed groups in Ras al-Ayn continued on Friday despite a 120-hour ceasefire announced the previous night by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Under the terms of the agreement, and according to previous statements by U.S. President Donald Trump, Turkey is supposed to be responsible for the thousands of ISIS fighters and their families in custody throughout northeast Syria. That responsibility had been the burden of the SDF and its internal security services, who warned that they could not ensure the security of ISIS prisoners if Turkey invaded.
 

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U.S. troops leaving Syria heading to Iraq to fight Islamic State
Oct. 20, 2019

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Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, shown here in a White House briefing earlier this month, said U.S. troops leaving Syria will end up in western Iraq. Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo


Oct. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that U.S. troops withdrawing from Syria will end up in western Iraq to continue their fight against the Islamic State.

Esper told reporters while traveling to the Middle East that about 1,000 troops leaving northern Syria will take weeks to reconstitute in Iraq. That presence will add to the 5,000 American forces already in that country.

U.S. troops worked alongside Kurdish fighters to expel the Islamic State out of northern Syria. The Kurds are not fleeing the region from an assault from Turkey, which considers the Kurdish fighters terrorists.

Vice President Mike Pence last week announced a cease-fire in that dispute after traveling to Turkey, but it remains uneasy at best. Esper said, though, it is holding, for the most part, allowing the Kurds to leave the region.

"We see a stabilization of the lines if you will on the ground," Esper said. "And we do get reports of intermittent fires, this and that. That doesn't surprise me necessarily."

Mazloum Abdi, leader of the Kurdish-led forces, said to reporters Saturday that Turkey is not allowing them to leave, while Turkey officials claimed there was "absolutely no impediments to withdrawal."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Jordan this weekend on a Syrian fact-finding mission to discuss other regional matters with King Abdullah II. She was joined on the trip with Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; Eliot L.Engel, D-N.Y.; and Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

"Our bipartisan delegation is visiting Jordan at a critical time for the security and stability of the region," Pelosi said in a statement. "With the deepening crisis in Syria after Turkey's incursion, our delegation has engaged in vital discussions about the impact to regional stability, increased flow of refugees, and the dangerous opening that has been provided to [the Islamic State], Iran and Russia."
 

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This week in Congress: Syria questions abound
21 Oct 2019

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Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters on an armoured personnel carrier drive to cross the border into Syriaon Oct. 18, 2019. (Emrah Gurel/AP)

Lawmakers this week will have a series of hearings and briefings on the ongoing situation in Syria and its long-term impact on U.S. national security.

White House and Turkish government officials last week announced a temporary ceasefire in regards to fighting among Syrian, Kurdish and Turkish forces in areas of northern Syria recently vacated by U.S. troops. The moves have drawn bipartisan criticism of President Donald Trump, who has defended the move as ensuring that American troops are caught in a regional conflict.

Already the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees have announced plans for hearings on the issue, with other committee’s contemplating additional events to come.

Last week members of the congressional armed services committees received classified briefings on the latest developments in the region from U.S. military leaders, but those lawmakers have also promised additional investigation into the issue in coming days.

All that comes amid ongoing budget negotiations in both chambers and House Democrats impeachment investigation into Trump’s handling of military aid to Ukraine.

Tuesday, Oct. 22

House Foreign Affairs — 10 a.m. — 2172 Rayburn
Human rights
State Department officials will testify on human rights abuses in South Asia.

House Veterans' Affairs — 10:30 a.m. — H210 Visitors Center
Pending legislation
The subcommittee on disability assistance will consider nine pending bills.

House Homeland Security — 2 p.m. — 310 Cannon
Cyber threats
Federal officials will testify on emerging cyber threats and U.S. officials’ response.

Senate Foreign Relations — 2:30 p.m. — 419 Dirksen
Turkey and Syria
State Department officials will testify on the impact of Turkish military activities in Syria on regional stability.

Wednesday, Oct. 23

House Veterans' Affairs — 10 a.m. — H210 Visitors Center
Guard and reserve benefits
Outside experts will testify before the committee on issues with benefits parity for Guard and reserve veterans.

House Foreign Affairs — 10 a.m. — 2172 Rayburn
Turkey and Syria
State Department officials will testify on the impact of Turkish military activities in Syria on regional stability.

House Foreign Affairs — 2 p.m. — 2172 Rayburn
Latin America policy
State Department officials will testify on U.S. Policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean.

Thursday, Oct. 24

Senate Armed Services — 9:30 a.m. — G-50 Dirksen
Nominations
The committee will consider the nomination of Vice Adm. Charles Richard to be head of U.S. Strategic Command.
 

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US, European lawmakers swipe Trump and Turkey in new Syria joint statement
By: Joe Gould  
21 Oct 2019
5 mins ago
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U.S. military vehicles drive on a road after US forces pulled out of their base in the Northern Syrian town of Tal Tamr, on Oct. 20, 2019. (Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON ― In a rare joint statement, top foreign affairs lawmakers from the United States and multiple European allies on Monday condemned both President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American military forces from Syria and the Turkish invasion that followed.

The signers, who said they “deeply regret” the moves, included U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.; the European Parliament’s David McAllister, the German Bundestag’s Norbert Rottgen, the French National Assembly’s Marielle de Sarnez and the UK House of Commons’ Tom Tugendhat. They “consider the abandonment of the Syrian Kurds to be wrong” and “jointly condemn in the strongest terms the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria.”

“We deeply regret the decision of the President of United States to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria which marks another landmark in the change of American foreign policy in the Near and Middle East,” the statement reads.

U.S. President Donald Trump two weeks ago abruptly decided to pull U.S. troops out of border areas, abandoning their allied Kurdish-backed fighters ahead of Turkey’s invasion. After the assault began Oct. 9, Trump ordered a general withdrawal from Syria.

Criticism of Trump’s decision has been widespread among U.S. lawmakers in recent days, but the new statement marks a strong expression of transatlantic unity. The statement also called on the European Union and its member states to “take responsibility and engage in the conflict resolution. We are in need of immediate and sustained joint action.”

On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said U.S. troops will stay in eastern Syria to protect Kurdish-held oil fields for at least the coming weeks and he was discussing options to keep them there. Trump has been accused at home and abroad for betraying the Kurds and weakening the coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

In recent days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-N.Y., led a congressional delegation to Jordan where they discussed Syria with members of the country’s royal family. The delegation included Engel, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson and Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

Separately, the joint, trans-Atlantic statement predicted that the, “turmoil Turkish offensive may contribute to a resurgence of Islamic terrorism and undermines years of effort and investment to bring stability and peace in this part of the world. Therefore, we hope the United States will take up its responsibility in Syria again.”

“Equally we call upon the European Union and its member states to take responsibility and engage in the conflict resolution. We are in need of immediate and sustained joint action. There is only one path to follow: a firm and resolute attitude.

“This horrible war touches and affects the peoples of our countries in such an enormous way. For that reason, we, as members of our parliaments, feel compelled to making our common position clear. We unite across parties and nationalities to demonstrate our commitment to our common values, responsibility and interests.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, amid concerns and criticism from NATO allies over for the military operation denied any territorial ambition and called the accusation an “insult” to him. Ankara deems the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has been waging a rebellion inside Turkey since 1984.

However, the transatlantic group of lawmakers, called Turkey’s incursion into Syria, “a military aggression and a violation of international law. The Turkish offensive is causing suffering for the local people who are forced to flee and a further instability in Syria and the neighboring region.”
 

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Turkey's Syria Policy Could Lead to Its Own Destruction
October 21, 2019
Turkish nationalists and supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may cheer Turkey’s incursion into Syria and efforts to end Kurdish self-governance across Turkey’s southern border. Erdoğan may revel in nationalist fervor, but he fails to recognize that his cynical short-term strategy may have dire long-term consequences inside Turkey.
by Michael Rubin

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Turkish nationalists and supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may cheer Turkey’s incursion into Syria and efforts to end Kurdish self-governance across Turkey’s southern border. Erdoğan may revel in nationalist fervor, but he fails to recognize that his cynical short-term strategy may have dire long-term consequences inside Turkey.

Erdoğan says his demand for a safe zone in Syria is rooted in Turkey’s war against terrorism. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Erdoğan says, is as much a threat as the Islamic State. That is of course nonsense: The SDF formed to fight Al Qaeda affiliates and the Islamic State at a time when Turkey was passively if not actively supporting them. Nor can Turkish officials credibly point to terrorist attacks from Kurdish-governed portions of Syria. Groups that evolved from the PKK are not monoliths: The SDF is progressive and moderate; any visit to the region makes clear that the group does not embrace the PKK’s Cold War-era Marxism. The PKK itself has long sought peace and does not attack civilians. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) splinter group continues to engage in terrorism, but they are based nowhere near Syria nor do they have any links to the SDF.

Erdoğan is frustrated that the international community does not share his appraisal of Syrian Kurds and, indeed, wishes to support them. Here, however, he has only his own precedent to blame: In 2006, after Hamas won Palestinian elections, Western and moderate Middle Eastern states agreed to boycott the group until they agreed to the fundamentals of the Oslo Accords: Foreswearing terrorism and accepting Israel’s right to exist.

Erdoğan promised German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he would abide by international consensus, but then invited Hamas to Turkey where he gave them an enthusiastic and celebratory welcome. In the years since, Erdoğan has supported the group diplomatically—much to the consternation of the Palestinian Authority—and close proxies such as the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation and the SADAT paramilitary group—both support Hamas financially and materially. That Turkey supports Hamas despite its terror designation among both Western and many Arab countries undercuts any standing to complain about Western support of the SDF. Indeed, the biggest difference between Hamas and the SDF is that the former readily and openly embraces terrorism while the latter foreswears it and, indeed, has never targeted civilians.

Turkey’s demand for a safe zone inside Syria is another precedent that could haunt future generations of Turks. Erdoğan supporters say the threat posed by the PKK justifies the move, never mind that they cannot point to attacks emanating from the Kurdish self-governed areas, at least in recent years. If the past, however, is reason to impose buffers, what about the Armenians? Historical scholarship increasing concludes that the World War One-era slaughter of Armenians was deliberate.

Much of eastern Turkey was acquired because of terror and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Turks against Armenians. While some Turks may dismiss the notion of any equivalence of ongoing events in Syria and genocide against Armenians a century ago, and others may say any equivalence is irrelevant since Turkey is too strong to allow anyone to establish a buffer within its territory, this is historically blind:

Syria once believed itself too strong to fail. Libya too. But authoritarian countries often become powder kegs, and extremist ideologies are sparks. Erdoğan may believe he can contain extremist proxies, but there is always blowback. Al Qaeda affiliates inside Syria and the Islamic State will eventually turn on Turkey. If any radical group stages cross-border attacks from Turkey into Armenia or Greece, Armenia, Greece and the international community would be right to demand a buffer inside what today is Turkish territory. And, just as Turkey demands the right to settle Arabs inside historically Kurdish areas of Turkey, Erdoğan is creating a precedent by which Armenians and Kurds can demand to settle their own populations inside Turkey. Indeed, Turkey’s 45-year occupation of Cyprus only adds weight to the idea that it is permissible to separate large chunks off countries to protect minorities or counter-terrorism. By Erdoğan’s own logic, for example, Cyprus would be right to demand a buffer to encompass the Turkish naval base at Gölcük and other southern ports from which Turkish forces send ships to loot offshore Cypriot resources.

Precedent matters in international affairs. Erdoğan may fancy himself a brilliant military tactician on par with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, but while Atatürk built modern Turkey, Erdoğan’s ongoing actions could very well sow the seeds of its destruction.
 

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