Intense military activity reported in Şırnak Province, Turkey near Iraqi/Syrian border

Amid signals by the Trump administration that it plans to step up military involvement in the Middle East, Ankara is preparing to expand its intervention in the wars in Syria and Iraq, while also threatening Iran.

On February 27, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met separately with Defense Minister Fikri Isık and General Hulusi Akar, the chief of Turkey’s General Staff. These meetings came three days after the Turkish army officially stated that, acting together with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militia, it had brought the Syrian town of al-Bab fully under its control.

While no statements emerged from Erdogan’s meeting with Isik and Akar, they likely discussed operations against not only the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, but also the Syrian Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military organization, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey is also preparing for a broader campaign against IS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq.

Last week, Akar was in the southeastern Turkish provinces of Kilis and Gaziantep to visit military units. Ankara has already deployed thousands of troops, backed by heavy artillery, along its Syrian and Iraqi borders.

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