Turkey has openly stated it is ready to invade Syria unless the pro-Kurdish SDF militias relinquish their recent gains of ISIS-held territory north of Aleppo. In taking this territory the Kurds are closer to uniting the cantons that make up Rojava (southern Kurdistan) – see map below. The Kurds seek to connect Afrin canton in northwest Syria with those of Kobane and Cezire in the northeast. The Rojavan Kurds, led by the YPG and YPJ, have been at the forefront of the war against ISIS. Currently Turkish armed forces are shelling Kurd forces in Syria, close to the Turkish border (see video above). Reportedly, the US has warned Turkey to cease these operations and have requested the Kurds to retreat.
Turkey claims the Kurd forces are led by the PYD (Kurdish Democratic Union party, which Turkey regards as equivalent of the proscribed PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party). Turkey’s fear is that if the Kurds sieze all territory north of Aleppo then its cantons in northern Syria will be united and this will encourage Kurds in Turkey (northern Kurdistan) to seek unification with Rojava (and with the Kurds in northern Iraq, led by the Peshmerga).
In short, the conflict, rather than heading for a ceasefire (which was never a realistic proposition) is likely to see an expansion of hostilities, with Turkey officially joining the war (as also Saudi Arabia, which in the last couple of days has moved 20 warplanes and troops to the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey).
Above: a map of Syria. Kurd-held territory is shown in yellow. In the last few days pro-Kurdish fighters have taken towns north of Aleppo: territory that currently divides western Rojava (Kurdistan) from the rest of Rojava.
Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, confirmed that Turkish forces hit YPG targets in northern Syria in the last 24 hours after Kurdish fighters drove Syrian rebels from Menagh, a former military air base near the Turkish border.
The PM issued an ultimatum to the Kurd militias to immediately withdraw from Azaz and surrounding areas or face retaliation. “When there is any threat to Turkey, we will take in Syria the measures that we took in Iraq and in Qandil and will not hesitate to implement the necessary measures,” Davutoğlu said yesterday. In other words: invasion.
Meanwhile the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that Turkish forces shelled towns near Azaz – in particular the villages of Mar’anaz and Malkiyyeh.