Turkey’s Syrian Invasion Kicks off Wide-Ranging Intervention

The Turkish army’s invasion of northern Syria early Wednesday, Aug. 24, marked the start of a major intervention well beyond its official designation, “to clear Jarabulus of ISIS militants.” It started with heavy artillery fire on the Syrian border town from the Turkish town of Karkamis, followed by the aerial bombardment of Islamist targets and evolving into a cross-border tank and infantry incursion.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that Ankara’s aims were to "prioritize and support" Syria's territorial integrity, prevent a new refugee wave and provide humanitarian aid in the region.
His phrasing, say DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources, was agreed on in advance between Ankara and President Bashar Assad during a secret visit the Turkish Secret Service MIT director Hakan Fidan paid last weekend to Damascus. It was then that he submitted Turkey’s military plan for northern Syria to the Syrian ruler and gained his approval.
The Turkish master spy also won Assad's consent to proclaiming the terrain taken over by the Turkish army a “special security zone” that would be off-limits to any ground or air forces other than Turkish troops or planes.
By this stratagem, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syria's President Assad, probably with silent Russian assent, beat Washington to the draw.
When Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ankara on Aug. 24, he came prepared with an American plan for a Turkish-Syrian no-fly zone, to be supported by the Russian Air Force from its Khmeimim air base near Latakia.
But he found that the Turkish-Syrian deal, backed by Russia, had got in first and would effectively block the path of US aircraft for air strikes over northern and western Syria – whether from the southern Turkish base at Incirlik or the Mediterranean, or from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier.
But Biden managed to turn this setback around. After a day of major upheavals, the American visitor surprised Erdogan by an offer to drop the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia as partner for fighting ISIS, and switch to working with Ankara instead. The Turkish ruler there and then decided to collaborate with the Americans instead of the Russians in setting up no-fly zones in northern Syria. He also assured Biden that the US air force could count on the availability of the strategic Incirlik air base.
And so, the Kurdish militia, strongly backed hitherto by the US for its unmatched prowess in beating Islamic State forces, must have listened with dismay to Biden declaring in Ankara at a joint news conference with the Turkish prime minister, “Syrian Kurdish Forces will lose US support if they don't retreat to East Bank of Euphrates."
Erdogan’s hands are now free to proceed with the next part of his intervention in Syria, which is for his invasion force, after cleansing Jarabulus of jihadists, will split into three heads: One will advance on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwest Syria; one, east toward the Kurdish enclave of Qamishli and Hasakah – thereby nullifying the rise of a Kurdish state; and third south to Al-Bab north of and within range of Aleppo to take a role in a major theater of the Syrian conflict. To reach Al-Bab, the Turkish force would have to transit Kurdish-controlled territory.
(See attached map)
By his first thrust into Syria, the Turkish leader established four far-reaching faits accomplis:
1. Turkey became the first NATO member to conduct a direct military invasion while intervening in the Syrian civil war.
2. Although Ankara’s announcement referred to “Turkey’s military and the US-backed coalition forces” taking part in Wednesday’s cross-border operation, in reality, no US-backed coalition forces were present, excepting only Turkey. Later that day, the deal with Biden made it possible for US aircraft, mostly drones, to join the offensive. Equally, the condemnation of the Turkish operation from Damascus and Moscow were part of the same show.
3. Ankara beat to the punch all of Syria’s concerned neighbors, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, who talked at length about sending forces into Syria to establish security zones along the borders of Jordan, Iraq and Israel, but were slow to act.
4. Turkey was also the first Western nation to openly put boots on the ground for fighting ISIS in its strongholds.

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