Turkey launches military operation in northeast Syria

Cheryl Sanders
October 11, 2019

Turkey has been poised to advance into northeast Syria since the U.S. troops began vacating the area in an abrupt policy shift by U.S. President Donald Trump that was widely criticized in Washington as a betrayal of America's Kurdish allies.

Turkey on Wednesday launched its planned military offensive into Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Kurdish-led forces have denounced the U.S. policy shift as a "stab in the back".

It is to be noted that the Kurds are an important ally of the USA in defeating Islamic State (IS) in Syria and they are still guarding several IS fighters who are now behind bars in areas under their control. "U.S. should never have been in Middle East", President Trump said in a series of morning tweets.

Trump's decision was denounced by some Kurds as a "stab in the back". "That's where they want to go", he said.

"The difficulty we are going through is this, that we have partnered in dignity and clarity and friendship with American forces for 5 years and it is really hard for us to accept an end to this partnership in an unworthy way", SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told VOA's Kurdish service.

Turkey has launched its military operation in northern Syria, with airstrikes hitting the border towns of Ras al Ain and Tell Abaid.

The U.S. withdrawal from the area will leave Kurdish-led forces long allied to Washington vulnerable to attack by Turkish forces. In his statement, Trump emphasized that there are no American soldiers in the immediate area under attack.

After Erdogan announced that the operation, dubbed "Spring of Peace", had started on Wednesday, Graham called on Trump to reassess the U.S. position "while there is still time".

"Turkish Armed Forces together with the Syrian National Army against PKK / YPG and Daesh terrorist organizations in northern Syria #BarışPınarıHarekatı has started".

If the USA pulls out all its troops from northeast Syria, the Damascus government - backed by Russian Federation - may try to retake control of much of the region not seized by Turkey. The AP could not verify the report independently. Trump denied he had abandoned the forces, the most capable U.S. partners in fighting the militant Islamic State group in Syria.

The Kurds say Ankara's real goal is to dilute their demographic dominance of the northeast with an influx of mostly Sunni Arab refugees from other parts of the country now living in southwestern Turkey. It also would ignite new fighting in Syria's 8-year-old war, potentially displacing hundreds of thousands.

A resident of Tal Abyad said one of the bombs hit an SDF post, and he fled with his wife and mother by vehicle to Raqqa, almost 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the south, to flee the bombing. "This left our people defenceless".

While the territory in question is already outside Syrian government control, a Turkish incursion could mean the area switching from a non-hostile force - the SDF - to Turkey and rebels that have sought to topple Assad.

"Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration. Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place - and we will hold them to this commitment".

He had said earlier this week that he was working on a bipartisan bill to sanction Turkey if they invade Syria, but he did not mention the proposal during Wednesday's interview.

Saudi Arabia condemned the Turkish offensive, state TV cited an official source in the Saudi foreign ministry as saying.

The Turkish presidency's communications director urged the worldwide community to rally behind Ankara.

"Turkey has no ambition in northeastern Syria except to neutralize a long-standing threat against Turkish citizens and to liberate the local population from the yoke of armed thugs", the column said. Lavrov said during a visit to Kazakhstan on Wednesday that the US first propped up the Syrian Kurdish "quasi state" in northeastern Syria and is now withdrawing its support. Patrolling with Turkey and worldwide forces to protect the Kurds and Turkey is the way to go. The Syrian Kurdish-led administration said it viewed positively calls from Moscow encouraging the Kurds and the Syrian government to settle their difference through talks.

Turkey has been massing troops for days along its border with Syria and vowed it would go ahead with the military operation and not bow to the U.S. threat.

In the face of the onslaught, Kurdish authorities announced a general mobilisation, urging all civilians to "head to the border with Turkey.to resist during this delicate historical moment".

Other reports by iNewsToday