Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

Syrian Kurds call civilians to front lines as Turkey poised for attack

A Turkish army's tank drives down from a truck as Turkish armed forces drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province READ MORETurkey says it wont bow to US threats over expected assault on Syria
Deanna Wagner | 11 October, 2019, 17:28

The move was announced by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While Washington saw the Kurds as valuable allies in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) extremists, Ankara considers any armed Kurdish factions in Syria to be linked to its own domestic militants, the Kurdistan Workers Party, which it has deemed a terrorist group.

In addition, Turkey wants to expell Syrian refugees from Turkey and resettle them in a "safe zone" it plans to create in northern Syria.

Trump was widely seen as giving a green light at the weekend, ordering the pullback of U.S. troops from the Turkey-Syrian border which had served as a buffer.

Mr Trump announced the decision after a phone call with Mr Erdogan on Sunday evening (local time).

Since then, about 1,000 United States troops have begun to move out of northeast Syria, leaving their allies, the Kurdish-led Syrian Defence Force (SDF) - seen as enemies of Turkey for the past 35 years.

Trump's words are at odds with longstanding US policy of keeping thousands of American troops in the strategically important region, and his decision is being condemned by some of his staunchest Republican allies.

"The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea".

He said Australia was using diplomatic channels to monitor the situation to help determine what "possible worldwide responses" could be taken.

Turkish troops have reportedly crossed the border into Syria after Trump said he would destabilize the Turkish economy if they went too far.

"We are also very concerned about what this could potentially mean for the Kurdish people".

Turkey "has legitimate security concerns" after suffering "horrendous terrorist attacks" and hosting thousands of refugees, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The statement said the mobilization would last for three days.

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Thousands of people fled the Syrian town of Ras al Ain toward Hasaka province, held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Ankara said on Tuesday it would "shortly" begin an offensive into northern Syria, as it sent more armoured vehicles to the border.

The White House has said Turkey will take over responsibility for the imprisoned fighters, but it is unclear how that would happen, if it all.

But one of Trump's closest fellow Republican allies, Senator Lindsey Graham, said failing to support the Kurds would be "the biggest mistake of his presidency" and unveiled a framework for sanctions on Turkey with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas condemned the offensive, saying it will "further destabilize the region and strengthen IS".

The source expressed the kingdom's concern over the incursion and described it as a threat to regional security and peace.

If the US pulls out all its troops from northeast Syria, the Damascus government - backed by Russian Federation - may try to retake control of much of the region not seized by Turkey. Erdogan's office said he told Putin the military action in the region east of the Euphrates River "will contribute to the peace and stability" and also "pave the way for a political process" in Syria.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker called on Turkey to halt its military actions and warned the EU would not help pay to set up any safe zone in north-eastern Syria. "This decision aids America's adversaries, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, and paves the way for a resurgence of ISIS".

A Turkish security source said the military operation into Syria had begun with air strikes.

The preparation for the operation was announced as the surprise decision to withdraw U.S. troops cleared the path for the Turkish operation.

But Kurdish officials have warned that they would have to divert their forces away from guarding IS prisoners in case of a Turkish assault. And he's going to get 100 per cent of the blame.

Another Trump ally, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the GOP leadership, said she was sickened by the prospect of a Turkish incursion.