A new Turkish-Syrian operation is inevitable

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But it is diplomatic and non-military considerations that will determine how and where it is launched.

With the recent statement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on “the elimination[ing] threats from northern Syria ”, followed by remarks from the Turkish Foreign Minister and the Minister of Defense, it seems that a new joint Turkish-Syrian military operation against the YPG terrorist group in Syria is imminent. If it does occur, this operation will be a further step in the pursuit of counterterrorism efforts and help Syria preserve its territorial integrity.

While some question the reasons for the military operation and its timing, it is important to understand that the military operation was made inevitable by the failure of the United States and Russia to meet their demands under the Turkish-Russian agreement and the YPG terrorist campaign.

The objectives of the military operation can be summarized in three main points: neutralize the YPG of the Syrian-Turkish border to ensure the security of the borders of Turkey; protect the territorial integrity of Syria by increasing the territorial control of the Syrian interim government against the YPG; and allow a safe zone for displaced Syrians as well as the eventual voluntary return of Syrian refugees to Turkey.

After Turkey and the Syrian interim government launched Operation Peace Spring in 2019 in northeastern Syria, the areas between Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn in an area extending 32 km from the Turkish border have been cleared of the YPG terrorist group. However, the Prime Minister of the Syrian interim government called the operation incomplete and stressed that only the first of the three military stages of the joint operation had been completed.

However, two separate agreements with Russia and the United States ended the military actions of the Syrian National Army (SNA) and the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF). While the agreement with the United States halted the advancement of the SNA-TAF and rescinded U.S. sanctions against Turkey, the Presidential decrees renewed each year made it clear that if military operations continued, the revoked sanctions would be reimposed. .

The agreement with Russia was more complete. After Operation Peace Spring, the YPG called on the Assad regime and Russia to protect the front lines against a new push from joint Turkish-Syrian forces. , Manbij and an area extending 32 km from the Turkish border east of the Euphrates to the border with Iraq. The agreement also provided for joint Turkish-Russian patrols in a 10 km wide strip across the Turkish-Syrian border. With the exception of the joint patrols, Russia has not honored any of the terms of the agreement.

On the contrary, the YPG, with at least the green light from Russia, waged a campaign of terror against Turkey and the Syrian interim government. The YPG terrorist group engaged in ceasefire violations on a daily basis by attacking areas populated by civilians with howitzers and rockets. The YPG’s most brutal attacks have been the constant car bomb attacks carried out in urban areas, killing random civilians.

While some of the cases were vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) suicide bombings, others were IEDs placed on civilian cars to be detonated at a random time in a random location. These terrorist attacks with no regard for the targets could not be tolerated forever.

The YPG tried to maintain plausible deniability, but the car bombs captured at crossings between YPG-controlled areas and Syrian Interim Government areas as well as the captured YPG cells and the logic behind the attacks leave no doubt. on the identity of the authors. Foreign backers of the YPG, like the United States, would either condemn the attacks without naming culprits or ignore them altogether like Russia.

The latest YPG attacks that killed two Turkish police and civilians were the last straw. In the past, the YPG even attacked Al Shifa hospital but denied any responsibility by dismissing its presence in Tel Rifaat’s pocket. The YPG argues that it has no connection to its units in Tel Rifaat by giving them another name – a classic PKK name game. For these reasons, a new joint Turkish-Syrian military operation has become inevitable.

Possible locations for the launch of the operation

When the military operation begins, Tel Rifaat seems to be a favorable option. As the YPG and the United States deny the presence of the YPG in the pocket, American sanctions under the presidential decree cannot be applied against Turkey if it launches the operation here. However, Russia wants to preserve the YPG presence in the Tel Rifaat pocket to maintain a buffer zone between areas controlled by the Syrian interim government and the city of Aleppo, and continue to disrupt a potential alternative to Bashar al-Assad’s regime. .

This became clear when Russia carried out airstrikes on the village of Tuways near Tel Rifaat, just after Turkey retaliated against an YPG attack that killed a Turkish soldier in the village. Therefore, an operation on Tel Rifaat would require either a Turkish-Russian agreement or a unilateral military execution by Turkey.

A second option could be to extend the Tel Abyad-Ras al Ayn strip to the east and west. As Russia does not control the airspace in this area and its capabilities with the S-400 are limited in range, this option would face few obstacles from the Russian military. However, carrying out this military operation would automatically impose US sanctions against Turkey, and since this area consists mainly of Kurdish towns and villages, the cleansing of the YPG region could pave the way for the return of 500,000 Syro-Kurdish refugees to Turkey. and Iraq. , but it would also create a media backlash.

A meeting between Erdogan and Joe Biden could be a potential solution to the question of sanctions. For example, the Syrian National Army could only operate in the southern regions where Arabs and the Syro-Kurdish Roj Peshmerga forces live – currently located in northern Iraq where they are trained by and committed Kurdish Peshmerga forces. in clashes against Daesh and the PKK – could be deployed in the northern regions, where the Kurds live. The city of Manbij is said to be an area of ​​operation for the Syrian National Army. The Turkish armed forces would accompany and help both.

A third option would be to focus on the Malikiyah axis near the Iraqi border. If the Turkey-Syria-Iraq triangle is cleared of the terrorist group, the YPG would lose their main supply line between Iraq and Syria. By cutting this road, the threat posed by the YPG and its ambitions as a small autonomous state in Syria would diminish.

Here again, the option of including Roj Peshmerga should be considered. Once again, US sanctions would automatically apply against Turkey. In addition, cutting off the YPG’s supply line would also cut off the supply line of US forces deployed in Syria to the Deir Ezzor oil fields. Therefore, the US administration should either withdraw partially or entirely from Syria, or Turkey should ensure the security of US troops and the functionality of the supply line for US troops.

In short, a military operation against Tel Rifaat would encounter no obstacle from the United States but many from Russia. A military operation against the Malikiyah axis would encounter no obstacle from Russia but many from the United States. A military operation to expand the Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn Strip to the east and west would face obstacles from the United States and small obstacles from Russia. Therefore, if a new Syrian-Turkish military operation takes place, the targeted areas will be determined by diplomatic rather than military aspects.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, views and editorial policies of TRT World.

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Source: TRT World

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