Turkey threatens to invade Syria amid tensions with Washington
20 December 2018
On December 12, at the Turkish Defense Industry Summit, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to launch a new military operation east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria in coming days, targeting the Kurdish nationalist groups.
He dismissed arguments that US support for Kurdish nationalists was necessary to fight the terrorist threat from ISIS: “There is no ISIS threat in Syria any longer. This is only a tale. We said before and we are saying now that we will start the operation in east of the Euphrates in a few days to save it from the separatist terrorist organization. It is clear that the purpose of US observation points in Syria is not to protect our country from terrorists, but to protect terrorists from Turkey.”
This reflected longstanding concerns in Ankara over US support for the Kurdish nationalist People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdish separatist movement against which Ankara has waged a bloody counter-insurgency for more than 30 years in Turkey. Ankara opposes Kurdish autonomy in Syria, fearing that it will provoke demands for Kurdish autonomy in eastern Turkey.
To crush the Kurdish nationalist forces, Erdogan has twice ordered the Turkish army to launch its own bloody invasions of Syria: “Operation Euphrates Shield” (in August 2016) and “Operation Olive Branch” (in January 2018), directed against the US-backed YPG.
Erdogan’s December 12 speech was a direct response to the announcement made by Department of Defense spokesman Rob Manning on December 11. “At the direction of Secretary (James) Mattis, the US established observation posts in the northeast Syria border region to…