Turkey has no intention to fight Daesh in Syria: Analyst Gordon Duff/ Blatant violation of sovereignty’: Damascus condemns Turkish operation in Jarablus/ US warplanes conduct airstrikes as Turkey races against Kurds to take Jarablus
Press TV has conducted an interview with Gordon Duff, senior editor of Veterans Today, to discuss Turkey’s recent military operation in Syria.
Here is a rough transcription of the interview:
Press TV: Turkey moved its forces into Iraq without Baghdad’s permission or approval and now it is running a military operation in Syria without going through Damascus – a controversial foreign policy, your thoughts.
Duff: Well, the Turks obviously know they have done something wrong. They began floating the story that they had US air support; we are not so sure about that. This would have been quite a move for the US to abandon any process it has been involved in and this is obviously as Syria has explained: This is a clear violation of sovereignty. But the Turks also claim they had informed Moscow and they had full cooperation from the Russian Foreign Ministry. We now know that that was a lie as well.
They began the story that they were only attacking ISIS and that they had no concerns for going after the Kurds. Then it became very clear the incursion is simply as the government in Damascus has stated: They are just replacing ISIS with another force that they believe is going to be more capable of fighting the Kurds than ISIS was but doing exactly the same thing.
Press TV: There are reports that Washington is helping Ankara with at the very least logistics and whatnot. Now with this unauthorized operation against supposedly Daesh or the Kurds, now when Washington is simultaneously helping Kurds fight Daesh on other fronts, how does this complicate things in this whole landscape, this quagmire there in Syria?
Duff: I do not think anybody is telling the truth at all here. This began as a series of lies. It is backing up as a series of lies and the Turks I believe are trying to pull their first bastion. They believe they convinced the Russians that they were going to be a new player on the bloc. They have bullied the Americans through these accusations about US complicity in the coup which is true or not, but now they are back to what they were doing in the first place.
If we took the clock back to 2013 -2014 they are running attacks illegally in Syria, attacking the Kurds. Now they have moved in ground forces to attack the Kurds; it is what they were doing all along. The idea that they had any intention to fight ISIS or join the war on terror is nothing more than a ploy. This is another game by Erdogan; this will not last 48 hours.
Press TV: So ultimately what do you think Ankara’s objective is with jumping the border and getting on Syrian soil?
Duff: They clearly saw that the United States was going to go in and set up a Kurdish nation state. The point being is that Ankara had felt initially that they were going to rule that state and they were going to rule the breakaway state under Barzani in Iraq. They thought they had him under their thumb entirely and that is turning out to not be the case. They thought they were going to rule this state as well by wiping out the YPG, only that has not worked out for them either. US aid – far too much of it – has gone against Turkey’s enemies. So, Turkey is stepping on their own in desperation.
Damascus condemned Turkish incursion into the Syrian territory after Turkey’s tanks and Special Forces supported by the Turkish and US aircraft and Syrian rebels launched an offensive on the Syrian northern border town of Jarablus, calling it “a national security issue.”
Syrian government officials said that any side willing to fight terrorism on the Syrian territory should cooperate with the authorities and the Syrian Army, “which has been fighting terrorism for over five years,” as reported by SANA news agency.
Syrian government called the Turkish operation a “blatant violation of the sovereignty” of Syria, adding that “replacing” Islamic State with“other terrorist organizations backed directly by Turkey” cannot be regarded as a fight against terrorism.
“What is happening in Jarablus now isn’t fighting terrorism as Turkey claims – rather it is replacing one type of terrorism with another,” a Syrian government official told SANA and once again called on the UN to “put an end to this aggression” and to make Turkey and the US-led coalition fulfill the UN resolutions related to closing the borders and preventing the terrorists from receiving funding and support from abroad.
The Syrian UN envoy also said Wednesday that the Syrian government did not request any such aid from Turkey and stressed that all foreign forces fighting terrorism in Syria should coordinate their actions with the Syrian Army.
Meanwhile, Russia also expressed its concern over the Turkish actions in Syria. Moscow is “deeply worried” by the developments on the Syrian-Turkish border, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that “a possibility of the further deterioration of the situation in the conflict zone” as well as “potential losses among the civilian population and the aggravation of … antagonism between Kurds and Arabs” is a “source of primary concern.”
The ministry also once again stressed that the Syrian crisis could be resolved only through peaceful means, including a broad interethnic dialog that should particularly involve Kurds
Turkey managed to successfully hit the previously identified IS targets during its operation in the town of Jarablus, Turkish envoy to the UN said in a statement. He also said that the operation was aimed at liberating the Syrian territory bordering Turkey from terrorists and strengthening Turkish border security.
The envoy also stressed that “maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity”was one of the goals of the operation. Turkey said it supported Syrian“moderate” opposition forces during the operation.
Earlier, Syrian rebel groups supported by Turkish tanks and special forces, as well as US airpower, said they had entered Jarablus and now control about 50 percent of the town that had been held by Islamic State since 2013, according to Reuters. Rebel sources told the agency that most IS fighters had fled the town, while some had surrendered.
At the same time, Syrian Kurdish YPG militia condemned the Turkish operation by calling it a “declaration of war.”
A spokesman for the YPG Kurdish militia, Redur Xelil, denounced Turkey’s move as “blatant aggression in Syrian internal affairs.” Aldar Xelil, another influential Kurdish politician, accused Turkey of initiating an occupation of Syria, saying the operation amounted to “a declaration of war” on the autonomous administration set up by Kurdish groups in northern Syria in 2011.
In the meantime, the Kurdish Firat news agency (ANFNews) reported that 29 civilians have been killed by the advancing Turkish and allied troops so far.
Turkey launched a ground operation in northern Syria at 4 am local time (02:00 GMT), which involved tanks and Special Forces, after its artillery shelled targets across the Syrian border. The operation, called Euphrates Shield, was also supported by Turkish air forces, as well as A-10S and F-16 warplanes from the US-led coalition.
On Wednesday, Turkey sent special forces and tanks to seize the border city of Jarablus in northwestern Syria from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which has been in control of it since 2013
Turkish artillery has been pounding targets in Syria for two days and Turkish warplanes are providing aerial support for the troops on the ground in their first foray into Syrian airspace since November of last year, when a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian bomber near the Syrian-Turkish border.
US drones based at Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey are assisting the operation by carrying out surveillance missions over the combat zone, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing US officials. American military advisers on the Turkish side of the border are reportedly helping to plan the offensive.
“We are syncing up with the Turks,” a senior US official told the WSJ.“We have full visibility on what they are doing.”
American A-10 ‘Warthog’ ground attack aircraft and F-16 figher jets are carrying out airstrikes in support of the Turkish ground operation, a Pentagon official told Reuters.
The coordinated attack is meant to capture Jarablus and hand it over to Turkish-backed Syrian rebels before Syrian Kurdish forces can take it, the report said. The Kurds recently took the city Manbij south of Jarablus and have been pushing north.
In principle, the US is allied with the Kurdish militia, the YPG, but in this case it has sided with their Turkish enemies. Ankara sees the YPG as allies of the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey, which has been waging a guerrilla war against the Turkish government for four decades. Though Jarablus is a Kurdish city, Ankara is concerned that should the strategic settlement fall back under Kurdish control, it would compromise Turkish national security.
“We’ve put a lid on the Kurds moving north, or at least doing so if they want any support from us, which I think is a fairly significant piece of leverage,” the US official told the WSJ. “So for the moment I think we’ve put a lid on the biggest concern that the Turks have, which I think gives us some breathing space to make sure this operation in Jarabulus [sic] is done the right way and that we and the Turks do it together.”
Washington does not want Turkish and Kurdish forces to engage in direct combat, a point Vice President Joe Biden tried to make during his visit to Turkey.
“No (Kurdish) corridor. Period. No separate entity on the Turkish border. A united Syria,” the vice president said at an earlier news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
Biden arrived in Turkey hours after the operation began. The pre-planned trip is seen as an attempt to smooth relations between the two countries.
Turkish and Kurdish forces have targeted each other with artillery fire in the past and Turkey has extensively used its warplanes to conduct airstrikes on Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq over the past few years.
Relations between the US and Turkey soured recently after Ankara perceived a lack of support from the US in the wake of a failed military coup last month. Senior Turkish officials said the US had sided with self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who they want extradited for trial. Gulen denies any involvement in the coup attempt, and the US has refused to hand him over, so far.