Alwaght- The Turkish officials and media have said that a new military operation by Turkey's army in northern Syria was likely.
Warning about new Turkish military offensive in Syria came after a post on Twitter by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that read: “We tell the world that Turkey will never allow the establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Syria.”
Yeni Safak newspaper, close to Turkish government, a couple of days before the president's Twitter post had reported that the country’s army was bracing for an offensive against the Afrin canton, one of the three Kurdish cantons in northern Syria administered autonomously by the Kurdish forces. The Turkish daily further said that the preparations for the operation had been going in a surprising pace and that they were close to ending.
Last week, the Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said that Turkey will not hesitate to carry out military operations in Afrin canton if Ankara saw it necessary.
The Turkish propaganda beside its military moves in Syria have so far aroused the ire of the Kurds. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in a statement published a couple of days ago said that the Turkish forces were amassed behind the northern Syria borders and appeared waiting orders from officials to start an invasion on Afrin. They stated that the expected operation, possibly codenamed Euphrates Sword, was going to take place in association with Syrian armed opposition factions.
The Afrin canton is one of the three Kurdish-administered cities in northern Syria. The armed Kurdish forces seized control of Afrin after Syrian government forces pulled out of the city in 2012.
Located precisely in northwestern Syria, Afrin is geographically disconnected from the other two cantons of Kobani and Island. A coalition of militant forces, led by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), crossed the Euphrates River in January 2016 and captured the Kurdish-inhabited town of Manbij. They struggled to advance towards Afrin to link the three independently-run cantons.
In response to the Kurdish advances towards Afrin, Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in August. The campaign majorly backed the combatants of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militant group that seized Jarablus town and so foiled the Kurdish plans. Jarablus is located between Afrin and the other two Kurdish cantons.
Afterwards, Turkey intended to progress eastward to take control of Manbij but declined to continue as it faced the US reluctance as well as Russian and Syrian opposition.
Ankara has focused its threats of fresh military operation against the Kurds this time on Afrin possibly because it failed to persuade Washington to stop arming the Kurdish forces operating in northeastern Syria. Turkey appears to be seeking further closeness to Russia to serve its Syria goals through pressing the US.
On the other side, Russia has declined to transparently address the fresh Turkish offensive threats as its main intention is to see all of Syrian territories returning under rule of the central government. Some sources have talked about a deal struck between Ankara and Moscow according to which Turkey will work with Russia to fully retake Idlib in return for the Russian disregard of probably imminent Turkish campaign in Afrin. Some analysts talk about the Russian plan to put strains on the Syrian Kurds through Turkey to have them hand over their territories to the Syrian government.
Abd Salah Ali, the PYD envoy to Russia, has recently criticized Russia, saying that Kremlin's stances on the threats of Turkish campaign in Afrin were “contradictory.” He further said that the Russian posture on the possible Turkey offensive in the Kurdish canton was not clear.
“They say that we oppose any foreign military intervention in Syria but in practice they only care about the priorities of the Syrian government. I think that Russia facilitates Turkish attacks on Afrin to push us for something to do,” Ali said.
The Russian policy appears to be yielding the desired results as the Kurdish leaders have recently talked about Afrin handover to the Syrian government to steer clear of its falling target to Turkey’s offensive.
Salih Muslim Muhammad, the co-chairman of the PYD, earlier maintained that if Russia and the US decline to curb possible Turkish campaign in Afrin, his forces will give the city back to the Syrian army as they did in Manbij.
“Afrin is a Syrian territory and we will not allow Turkey occupy even an inch of it,” the Syrian Kurdish leader asserted.