- High-ranking Turkish armed forces liaison officer
- Turkish editor of a major daily publication
- UAE oil ministry source
Turkey is escalating the situation on the Syrian border, vowing an offensive operation at any moment against US-backed Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria. In other words, this would be an attack on the US-controlled part of northeastern Syria—a potential situation that Washington has continued to downplay, but which would have high-level geopolitical repercussions, with Russia, Turkey and Iran all being allied in Syria.
A high-ranking liaison officer in the Turkish Armed Forces told us last week that the military plans which were drawn up months ago for a new operation in northern Syria have been reviewed and revised in recent weeks to adapt them to the new situation on the ground. “The change mostly happened not in the shape of our own forces but on others, including the FSA, and the YPG. The location and capacity of their units changed in these months, and both they and foreign elements including Americans constructed new bases and other facilities,” he said.
As previously planned, the FSA will play a key role again in Turkey’s planned operation. “However, they will not be allowed to ‘roar’ like they did during the Euphrates Shield,” the source said, stressing that Syrian rebel units will be more strictly tied to the Turkish command to avoid any “dangerous engagement”, such as with the Americans and the French. “Despite YPG’s defiant calls in recent days, we think that they will leave many towns without fighting seriously, including Manbij, Tal Abyad and Kobane, possibly withdrawing toward Qamishli and Raqqa,” the source said.
As such, we can expect that Turkey will launch a careful operation, hoping that YPG will retreat especially from Manbij, which will then be presented to the Turkish voters as a big victory ahead of March 31 local polls.
Meanwhile, Trump is thought to have attempted to calm Erdogan by briefly dangling the Gulen extradition carrot; but if he fails to provide anything substantial (with indications from Washington Monday suggesting this carrot has already been withdrawn), the Turkish President is likely to go ahead with the tastier carrot of northern Syria. This is why we are seeing news reports that Erdogan is saying Washington is “working…