The US Stops Short Turkish anti-Kurd Advance on Manbij and Iraq

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, March 25, that his intelligence chief was to meet an Iraqi official to discuss an Iraqi military operation in the northern Sinjar region, where Turkish Kurdish PKK fighters have bases. He said he had learned that the Iraqi government had embarked on a military operation in Sinjar and that the PKK forces, regarded by Ankara as terrorists, were seen withdrawing from their bases and Iraqi troops moving in.

DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report that Erdogan was blowing air to conceal the fact that both his hands were tied for sending his army to continue its conquests after taking Afrin in northern Syria. He had been forced to abandon his plan to go next for the Syrian town of Manbij, where US and US-backed Kurdish YPG forces are deployed, and after that to cross the border into Sinjar in northwestern Iraq. His ultimate target was to have been the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan near the Iraqi-Iranian border, the site of the main PKK bases.

The Turkish president’s plan was halted in its tracks by a severe warning from US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, our sources report. The warning was wrapped round with protestations of friendship for public consumption: Describing Turkey as a NATO ally, Mattis affirmed that the US stands with Ankara. He said he preferred direct communication with the Turkish government instead of through the media because this (the PKK) is “a very serious issue for Turks.”

In the unpublished part of the message, as revealed here by DEBKA Weekly, Mattis made five terse points:

  1. This is the last warning; your army may not operate in Syria without coordinating with us.
  2. Just as you run local militias in Syria [30 in all], so do we and if yours set on our allies, they will be attacked by ours.
  3. The Turkish army must not advance from Afrin to Manbij.
  4. You can’t continue to be a member of NATO while using Russian weapons systems (recently purchased S-400 air defense missiles).
  5. We will not allow Turkish troops to cross into Iraq. Forget about a Sinjar operation.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email