Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted this week that Ankara is considering escalating its military operations in neighboring Iraq and Syria in the name of national security.
Hurriyet Daily News reports that during a reception at the Presidential Palace in Ankara marking Turkey’s annual “Victory Day,” President Erdogan declared:
Despite the covert embargoes and strikes on our country and our army by the hand of [the Fethullah Terrorist Organization] FETO, and the problems with our allies, there is no falling back in our plans, projects, and operations. Especially in Syria and Iraq, we will not take a step back on any subject related to future of our nation and our brothers in the region. All options in the region are being taken into consideration.
“Everyone should know that we will prevail in this situation,” vowed President Erdogan.
Shiite-led Baghdad has repeatedly urged predominantly Sunni Turkey to leave Iraq, even threatening last November to “dismantle” Turkish troops if they do not withdraw.
Nevertheless, Turkey has refused to leave the country, claiming that it is concerned about violence spilling over from Iraq.
Specifically, Ankara has reportedly expressed fear about the growing influence of Iran-allied Shiite militiamen and the upcoming independence referendum by the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, which borders Turkey’s Kurdish-majority region.
Despite their differences, Ankara, Baghdad, and Tehran are all opposed to Kurdish independence in Iraq. Turkey and Iran are concerned that it will motivate the Kurds within their borders to do the same.
In Syria, Turkey had been supporting the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and the opposition against dictator Bashar al-Assad.
However, NATO allies Turkey and the United States have found themselves on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict in recent months.
Between August 2016 and March 2017, Turkey carried out its Euphrates Shield Operation in northern Syria, combating both ISIS and the fighters affiliated with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The U.S.-backed armed wing of the PYD is known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara claims is the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), considered a terrorist group by both Turkey and the United States.
“We see all the plots carried out via terrorist organizations in the region. We do not accept these impositions,” declared Turkish President Erdogan on August 30.
He emphasized that Turkey finds itself in a vulnerable position as it shares a border with Iraq and Syria and “has taken all kinds of precautions and is ready.”
“They should know that whatever we did in the Euphrates Shield Operation, we are in ready to carry out the same mission in the coming process,” he added.
Tensions between the United States and Turkey in Syria have even resulted in Turkish-backed rebel groups attacking American troops in recent weeks.