In a challenge to US, just days after Ambassador Jeffrey and Rayburn visited Turkey, Ankara vowed it would launch an operation in eastern Syria. The US claims it wants to work with Turkey on a “roadmap” and is seeking to involve Syrian civil society groups. On December 7 “the Turkish-U.S. High-Level Working Group on Syria met for the third time, in Ankara. High level officials from Turkey’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Defense and from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense convened to continue to discuss the promotion of stability and security in Syria.”
But speaking at a Defense industry summit on December 12 the Turkish President said “We have already expressed that we will launch an operation within a matter of days to save east of the Euphrates from the separatist terrorist organization. I am particularly underscoring that our target is not the U.S. soldiers by any means, but members of the terrorist organization operating in the region. We are determined to turn the east of the Euphrates into a peaceful and livable place for its true owners just like the other areas we have made secure in Syria.”
Boasting about Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, the Turkish President went on, “Just a few months into Operation Euphrates Shield, we punctured the balloons of those who had razed Syria to the ground under the pretext of DAESH for years. In the same vein, we also deflated another balloon with Operation Olive Branch.” In the speech Turkey asserted that there was no ISIS threat and intimated there was a conspiracy involved.
Once again Turkey referenced US training of a 30,000 strong stabilization force in eastern Syria, claiming the US was training terrorists and that US observation points established in eastern Syria were to protect “separatist” terrorists. A new observation point was recently photographed.
Turkey spoke of “livable space” for the “true owners” of Syria and accused the US operation in eastern Syria of being merely a “stalling tactic.”
However the US Coalition on December 12 said that it had launched 494 strikes in Syria and Iraq between Dec. 2 and Dec. 8. Most of these were in Hajin.
The Turkish challenge will make it difficult for Ankara to go back. It has threatened operations in the past and Syrian refugees in Turkey have lobbied for an operation in Tel Abyad. The YPG has meanwhile said that Turkey seeks to destabilize eastern Syria.