World View: Turkey’s Troops Mass on Border, Preparing to Invade Northern Syria

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Turkey’s troops mass on border, preparing to invade northern Syria
  • Collapse of the Russian ‘peace process’
  • The growing conflagration in northwest Syria

Turkey’s troops mass on border, preparing to invade northern Syria

Many thousands of displaced Syrians in Afrin and Idlib will likely be displaced again (AFP)

For months, Turkish officials, including president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have been threatening to invade a region of northern Syria to kill or expel Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militias. The target region is a corridor of land along the northern border between the cities of Afrin in the west and Manbij in the east. We have reported on Turkey’s plans to invade Afrin and Manbij several times in the past.

On Friday, Turkish military forces massed on Turkey’s southern border with Syria, and began artillery shelling targets within Afrin. This has been described as the beginning of the ground invasion by Turkish officials, but so far Turkish troops have not crossed the border, and no time is being given for when that will happen. Because there have been numerous claims for months that an invasion of Afrin was coming soon, and none has occurred so far, we cannot be certain that an actual invasion will occur at this time, or whether it is just another bluff. Presumably, we will know by the end of the weekend.

If the ground invasion occurs, Turkey’s forces will be combined with forces from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is comprised of Syrian Arabs and Turkmens.

This invasion would not lead to a direct conflict with US-backed forces in the recently announced Border Security Force (BSF) because Afrin and Manbij are both west of the Euphrates River Valley, which is the western boundary of the region to be patrolled by the BSF. However, the US State Dept. has counseled Turkey not to attack YPG forces in Afrin, because doing so could destabilize the entire region.

The U.S. has been working with the YPG because the Kurds have proven themselves to be the most effective fighters in Syria against the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) – better than the Turks, the Russians, and the Syrians. However, Turkey is infuriated by this relationship, because they consider all Kurds in Syria to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is a terrorist group that has conducted an insurgency within Turkey for three decades and has perpetrated number spectacular terrorist bombings in Turkey. So Turkish officials have called the BSD a “terrorist army” being supported by the US military, and have vowed to “drown” it. Reuters and Hurriyet (Ankara) and News Click (India)

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Collapse of the Russian ‘peace process’

Another major player in the region is the Russian military. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has been pursuing his delusional peace process in Syria with the hope of being recognized worldwide as the man who brought peace to Syria.

Actually, Russia’s attempts at peace have just been another farce. Russia, Iran, and Turkey held several rounds of peace talks last year in Astana, Kazakhstan, and came up with a plan for four “de-confliction zones” or “ceasefire zones.” Unfortunately, Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad did not endorse the talks, nor any of its agreements. So al-Assad has completely ignored the de-confliction zones, using them as cover to continue his genocidal acts, such as attacking innocent women and children in Eastern Ghouta using WMDs (chlorine gas) and barrel bombs. In addition, al-Assad’s barrel bombs and missiles are specifically targeting hospitals and schools, in order to destroy as much life as possible.

So Russia’s de-confliction zones have simply been turned into al-Assad war zones. Because of his delusional belief in these de-confliction zones, Putin announced in December that the war was over, but it is far from over. Putin also announced that Russian troops would be withdrawn, but repeated attacks on Russia’s Khmeimim airbase by “terrorists” means that Russian troops will have to remain, since protection of the base cannot be trusted to dysfunctional Syrian troops.

Another part of Putin’s delusional peace plan was that he was going to convince the Kurds to agree to some kind of peace arrangement with Bashar al-Assad, and convince the YPG to give up its weapons, so that everyone could live in peace and happiness.

That plan has already been upended by the U.S. announcement of the Border Security Force, which is to consist of 15,000 hardened YPG fighters, along with another 15,000 trainees. Turkey has expressed so much fury and outrage over what it calls this “terrorist army,” that the US backing off somewhat, and saying that, oh, it’s not really an army or anything like that, but just a bunch of policemen doing guard duty. However, the Turks do not believe that.

But Russia still has a relationship with the Kurds, and last year Putin sent troops to Afrin, presumably to protect the Kurds from the Turks. So there have been reports all week that the Turks were meeting with the Russians to ask for permission to invade Afrin. The reports on Friday were that Russian troops were withdrawing from Afrin, but other unconfirmed reports from Russia say that the Russians are denying that they’re withdrawing their troops.

So, we know that Turkey is massing troops, but there are a couple of things that we don’t know: We don’t know whether Turkey got Russia’s permission, and we don’t know if Turkey will invade anyway. Jamestown and Hurriyet (Ankara) and Reuters

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The growing conflagration in northwest Syria

Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria would come at the same time that Bashar al-Assad is pursuing massive waves of attacks on ordinary civilians in Idlib, another one of Russia’s “de-confliction zones” or “ceasefire zones” which al-Assad has turned into war zones.

There are 2.6 million civilians living in Idlib, and they have essentially become sitting ducks for massive attacks by Syrian and Russian warplanes. ( “14-Jan-18 World View — Syria’s al-Assad threatens to drive hundreds of thousands more refugees into Turkey and Europe”)

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are being forced to flee north toward the border with Turkey, and in many scenarios, they will cross the border into Turkey, and produce new waves of migrants reaching Europe.

At the same time, Turkey is threatening to attack Kurdish enclaves in a region stretching from Afrin to Manbij, creating even more hundreds of thousands of refugees. These two situations could combine to bring about a refugee disaster of massive proportions. This would be a repeat of what’s already occurred, when millions of Syrian refugees fled into neighboring countries, with more than a million reaching Europe.

Reading the Turkish media makes it clear that Turkey is becoming extremely nationalistic and xenophobic, with the xenophobia directed not only at the Kurds, but also at Americans and Israelis, who are increasingly being blamed for their troubles. Turkey’s relationship with Russia is a marriage of convenience if there ever was one, and the actions by Russia’s ally, Bashar al-Assad, in Idlib are creating a refugee disaster on Turkey’s doorstep.

Generational Dynamics predictions that I’ve been posting for years haven’t changed. Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a major regional war, pitting Sunnis versus Shias, Jews versus Arabs, and various ethnic groups against each other. Generational Dynamics predicts that in the approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, the “axis” of China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries will be pitted against the “allies,” the US, India, Russia, and Iran. Yeni Safak (Ankara) and Anadolu (Ankara) and Al Araby (UK)

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Syria, Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kurds, People’s Protection Units, YPG, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, Afrin, Manbij, Border Security Force, BSF, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Russia, Vladimir Putin, de-confliction zones, Astana, Kazakhstan, Eastern Ghouta, Idlib, Khmeimim airbase, Bashar al-Assad
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