World View: Turkey’s ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ Turns into Full-Scale Invasion of Syria

Turkish soldiers hold their position on a tank as they watch the town of Kobani from near the Mursitpinar border crossing, on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 13, 2014. The strategic border town of Kobani has been beseiged by Islamic State militants …
Gokhan Sahin/Getty

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Turkey’s ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ turns into full-scale invasion of Syria
  • US turns on Syrian Kurds as they’re attacked by Turkey
  • Debka: Israel in military action against ISIS in Egypt’s Sinai

Turkey’s ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ turns into full-scale invasion of Syria

A soldier looks down on the town of Jarablus (al-Jazeera)
A soldier looks down on the town of Jarablus (al-Jazeera)

On Wednesday, Turkey began “Operation Euphrates Shield,” and became the first Nato member to invade Syria since the beginning of the war that began in 2011. Turkish tanks, planes and special forces crossed the border into Syria. They were backed up by around 1,500 anti-Assad Syrian rebels called the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

We’ve been writing about Turkish plans in Syria for several days now, following the horrific terror attack, blamed on ISIS, of a wedding party in Gaziantep, in southeastern Turkey, triggering a furious demand for revenge. ( “22-Aug-16 World View — Turkey’s Erdogan announces a complete U-turn on Syria policy”)

At first, the announced plan was for some kind of extended humanitarian intervention for the people of Jarablus, a town in Syria on the border with Turkey, who were under attack by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). It was assumed that the FSA would disgorge ISIS from Jarablus.

By the time the attack began on Wednesday, it became clear that it was a major invasion by Turkey’s ground forces and air force, backed up by the FSA, and that Turkey’s forces are going to stay. There are now multiple objectives:

  • Block the expansion of the Syrian Kurds westward, and prevent them from linking up regions that they control. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurds to be linked to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and creating an independent Kurdish state is the nightmare scenario for Turkey.
  • Provide a base for Turkish assault on the Syrian Kurds.
  • Create a safe haven (or “buffer zone”) for Syrian refugees in northern Syria.
  • Push ISIS away from Turkey’s borders, and deny ISIS the corridor its been using from Jarablus into Turkey to transport supplies from Turkey to ISIS, and to infiltrate terrorists back into Turkey to perpetrate terror attacks like the wedding attack in Gaziantep.
  • Create a “no-fly zone” in the region in Syria around Jarablus, where only Turkish planes, but not Syrian, Russian, Iranian or American, planes would be allowed to fly.

The battle for Jarablus lasted 14 hours before the FSA announced on its Twitter account that they captured the city. Daily Sabah (Ankara) and Hurriyet (Ankara) and Al-Jazeera

US turns on Syrian Kurds as they’re attacked by Turkey

Up until last week, the American military’s primary ally in Syria to fight ISIS has been the Syrian Kurds. But in a dramatic turnaround this week, the American administration has turned on the Syrian Kurds, and is effectively allying themselves with the Turkish military against the Syrian Kurds.

During US Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit to Turkey on Wednesday that we reported on yesterday, Biden said:

We have made it absolutely clear that they [pro-Kurdish forces] must go back across the [Euphrates] River. They cannot and will not, under no circumstances, get American support if they do not keep that commitment.

Having been a major US ally in Syria, the Kurds cannot now consider this to be anything but a major American betrayal of the Kurds.

As we mentioned above, one of the objectives of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield is to block the expansion of the area controlled by the Syrian Kurds. The Turkish forces are evidently doing much more, in that they’re attacking Kurdish positions. The army shelled Kurdish forces south of Jarablus on Thursday.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Syrian Kurds regained control of the city of Manjib from ISIS. ( “14-Aug-16 World View — Wild celebrations in Manbij Syria, after major defeat for ISIS”)

But on Thursday, Turkish forces shelled Kurdish positions in Manjib. So a significant victory for the Kurds is now turning into a defeat at the hands of ISIS. This is sure to have repercussions later. Reuters and Hurriyet (Ankara) and AP

Debka: Israel in military action against ISIS in Egypt’s Sinai

As long-time readers know, I like to reference Debka’s subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber), which is written from Israel’s point of view, because they have military and intelligence sources that provide valuable insights. However, it is not unusual for them to get things wrong.

So this week’s addition has some startling claims: That Israel’s military (IDF) is conducting an extensive military action against the ISIS affiliate in Egypt’s northern Sinai, and that this has been going on since August 16.

The terror group is called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM – Ansar Jerusalem – Champions of Jerusalem), which changed its name to Al Wilayat Sinai (Province of Sinai) when it changed its allegiance from al-Qaeda to the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

According to the Debka newsletter, the military action is closely coordinated with Egypt:

For almost two days, F-15 and F-16 jets and a variety of drones pounded ISIS-Sinai bases and infrastructure in every part of the Egyptian peninsula in which the terrorists had struck camp.

Apache assault helicopters chased and picked off the jihadists as they fled the air strikes. And Israeli marine commandos, who landed from the Aqaba Gulf port of Eilat and from the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, raided the ISIS networks embedded in Sinai’s western coastal towns. They found the jihadists getting set to descend on the towns and ports of southern Egypt, as well as Jordan and Israel, and also planning to seize a ship vessel sailing in the Gulf of Aqaba, especially passenger liners for taking hostages.

The vast Israeli offensive – on a scale the IDF had never before undertaken against the Islamic State – was conceived, organized and synchronized down to the last detail with the Egyptian army’s general command. It represented the apex of the covert Egyptian-Israeli military-cum-intelligence cooperation ongoing since last year for crushing Islamic terrorists in their lairs.

According to the Debka report, Israel is engaged in fighting ISIS in at least eight foreign countries: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Chad.

This is a description of a big operation. On the one hand, I cannot find any other report on it. On the other hand, it’s big enough so that it’s hard to believe that Debka got it so wrong.

Still, if Debka got it wrong, it would not be the first time. Also, if Debka got it right, that wouldn’t be the first time either, and this story could be a big one. Debka subscriber-only newsletter

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Syria, Turkey, Operation Euphrates Shield, Jarablus, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Joseph Biden, Gaziantep, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Jarablus, Manjib
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