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In Syria’s north, in Tel Rifaat and Manbij, a new Turkish operation seems all but inevitable against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
As of October 15th, Turkey has been transferring additional special forces and armored vehicles to the border with Syria in the area of the city of Kobani, which is under the control of the Kurds.
Turkey said its proxies in Syria’s Azaz region were hit in a guided missile attack on October 17th, from Tel Rifaat by the YPG (the People’s Protection Units, the core of SDF).
Ankara has, more than once, said that if diplomacy fails, it would be time for a military operation. And justifications come a dime a dozen in Syria’s north.
Any casual observer could see that there hasn’t even been an attempt at actual diplomacy. Ankara has carried several military operations in Northern Syria targeted at the Kurdish, dubbing most of them terrorists and collaborators of the YPG, no negotiations have taken place, only artillery shells have spoken.
The operation against the Kurds was a foregone conclusion, simply waiting for the proper moment to happen.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Ankara was determined to eliminate threats originating in parts of Syria under Kurdish control and that the attack that killed two Turkish police officers was “the final straw”.
Meanwhile, the Kurds are saying that Turkey’s aggressive actions are making the entire Middle East unstable, and that if they begin their most recent operation, Ankara’s forces will be met with “heavy popular resistance”. They are “shocked” at Erdogan and Co.’s constant accusations and increasing assertiveness.e
Northern Syria is a sort of beehive, as it is filled with Iran-backed fighters, Turkish-supported insurgents, jihadists, US troops, Kurdish troops and Syrian Arab Army (SAA) forces operating across the patchwork of territories. Russian warplanes flying overhead add to the general sense of chaos.
Later on October 16th, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) dropped leaflets over the Turkish-occupied Syrian towns of Marea and Azaz warning Turkish-backed militants against launching any attack in the northern Aleppo countryside.
The warning is unlikely to work, as Ankara has been itching for a fight for a while now, and it wants to make a show of force against any possible SAA offensive on Greater Idlib, where it mostly protects the interests of the al-Qaeda affiliated so-called “moderate opposition.”
Meanwhile, fourteen SAA servicemen were killed and three others were injured in a terrorist attack with two explosive devices that targeted a bus in Jisr al-Rais in Damascus. In total there were three explosive devices, but sappers managed to defuse one of them.
Occasional attacks such as this one are not entirely uncommon, as Bashar al-Assad’s government has many enemies attempting to impede its progress both towards Greater Idlib, and damage it’s recent success in the southern Dara’a province.
If Turkey begins an operation in northern Syria against the Kurdish groups, it would not be entirely unexpected if the SAA also begins its operation against the militants in Greater Idlib to take advantage of Ankara’s focus being elsewhere. In just a matter of days or weeks, all hell may break loose in Syria’s north.