Category Archives: Turkey

Israeli military equipment, including Iron Dome missile defense systems, heading North towards Golan Heights

Israel’s cross-border clash with Iranian and Syrian forces on Saturday was a sharp escalation of long-brewing hostilities along its northern frontier — and a bracing alert to those who have focused on other areas of the Syrian civil war, on other aspects of Iran’s strategic assertiveness, or who believed that Israel’s air superiority left it invincible in its own skies.

In the space of several hours, Israel downed what it said was an Iranian drone that had penetrated its airspace, then struck back at what it called the command-and-control center in Syria from which Iran launched the drone. An Israeli F-16, returning from the attack, crashed in northern Israel after coming under heavy Syrian antiaircraft fire — the first Israeli jet downed under enemy fire in decades.

Israel responded with strikes against eight Syrian and four Iranian targets in Syrian territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the day’s events as proof of Israel’s resolve. “Yesterday we dealt severe blows to the Iranian and Syrian forces,” he said Sunday. “We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of action have not changed one bit. We will continue to strike at every attempt to strike at us.”

But strategists and military analysts in Israel did not see things quite so simply. As both sides sift through the debris, here are some important points:

This isn’t over. It’s just beginning.

As the Syrian civil war winds down, a new conflict is emerging among Iran, which appears to want a lasting Syrian base to threaten Israel; Israel, which is determined to prevent this; and the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which showed renewed confidence in firing on Israel’s warplanes.

“We are seeing a renegotiation of the rules of the game with regard to the kind of military activity that each side tolerates in the other,” said Ofer Zalzberg, an analyst at International Crisis Group. “We will see more and more friction between the parties, given that we are seeing more and more this sense that Assad has the upper hand” against Syrian rebels.

Neither side can be expected to back down.

Israel believes it is vital to stop Iran, Hezbollah or other Shiite militias from threatening it with precision rockets from faraway corners of Syria, or with artillery and troops just beyond the disputed Golan Heights.

And Iran does not want its investment in rescuing Mr. Assad to have been for naught, and to have to bring its forces home, said Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council. “If Iran would move back to its bases, then Assad will have gotten what he wanted, the Russians will have gotten what they wanted — but what about them?”

Israel alone can’t stop Iran in Syria.

Israel has stopped neighboring countries from building nuclear facilities, but it has never tried to stop one from building up a conventional force, Mr. Eiland said. And it is unlikely, on its own, to succeed, even if it manages to slow down Iran’s efforts.

What Israel can do, Mr. Eiland said, is punish the Assad government for Iran’s buildup.

“We destroyed some Syrian targets, and that might create some tension between Bashar Assad and the Iranians,” Mr. Eiland said. “Assad is not interested in the Iranian presence; he just cannot say no to it. But if he and his regime are paying more of a price, maybe he can ask Iran to stop, or lean on the Russians to help.”

With the Trump administration looking to reopen the nuclear deal with Iran, Mr. Eiland said, Israel could try to bring its own security concerns into the mix of a new negotiation.

“The Americans and Europeans want to prevent Iranian long-range missiles from reaching Europe,” he said. “But from the Israeli point of view, Iran already has missiles that can cover Israel, so that’s much less important than Iran’s presence in Syria.”

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Several Turkish tanks and military vehicles, including M60T, Leopard 2A4 and ACV-15, roll into Syria from Hatay border

The ground units of Turkish military is likely to join operation in Syria’s Afrin on Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday.

“From tomorrow [Sunday], depending on developments, our ground units will perform the necessary activities [as part of the Operation Olive Branch],” Yildirim told reporters in a joint news conference with the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli in Ankara.

The prime minister said the first phase of “Operation Olive Branch” was conducted by air forces and ‘nearly all’ targets were destroyed.

Turkey launched a military campaign in Afrin region, northwestern Syria, to eliminate the PKK, PYD, YPG and Daesh terrorist organizations, and to save civilians in the region from the terrorists’ oppression and cruelty.

“The goal of the Republic of Turkey is not and may never be to bring prejudice to the territorial integrity of Syria. The work that is being done for the last three years will remove the harassment and destruction on the territory of the Euphrates Shield in northwestern Syria and it will also eliminate the violation against civilians living on our border districts and terrorism activities.

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http://aa.com.tr/en/turkey/land-forces-may-join-afrin-operation-sunday-turkish-pm/1037237

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US MIM-104 Patriot missile batteries (air defense system) loaded onto general cargo vessel ‘EIT PALOMA’ (under Antigua and Barbuda flag) in Germany (very probably) bound for Middle East

The Syrian government said on Thursday that a U.S. military presence in Syria represented an “aggression” against Syrian sovereignty, and vowed to free the country from any “illegitimate” foreign presence.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry statement was a response to a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday in which he signalled that U.S. forces would stay in parts of Syria indefinitely.

“The American military presence on Syrian land is illegitimate and represents a blatant breach of international law and an aggression against national sovereignty,” the statement said.

Syria would continue its “relentless war against terrorist movements with their different names until every inch of Syrian soil is cleansed” and would work with “the same determination” to free Syria of any “illegitimate foreign presence”.

Tillerson signalled an open-ended military presence as part of a broader strategy to prevent Islamic State’s resurgence, pave the way diplomatically for the eventual departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and curtail Iran’s influence.

The United States has around 2,000 military personnel in Syria, deployed as part of the U.S.-led coalition’s campaign against Islamic State. The Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said the government was not in need of U.S. dollars “stained with the blood of Syrians”.

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https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa/syrian-government-u-s-military-presence-in-syria-is-act-of-aggression-idUSKBN1F70YL

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Massive mobilization of Turkish forces toward Syrian border

Turkey’s president has said the country will launch a military assault on a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria “in the coming days” and urged the US to support its efforts.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the operation against the Afrin enclave aimed to “purge terror” from his country’s southern border.

Afrin is controlled by a Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG. Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency within its borders.

A YPG spokesman in Afrin said there had been clashes on Sunday between his unit and Turkish troops near the border. Rojhat Roj said shelling of areas in Afrin district, in Aleppo province, had killed one YPG fighter and injured two civilians.

Turkey and its western allies, including the US, consider the PKK a terrorist organisation. But the US has been arming some of Syria’s Kurds to help defeat Islamic State in Syria – a sore point in already tense US-Turkish relations.

The Turkish president said that “despite it all” he wanted to work with the US in the region and hoped it would not side with the YPG during the Afrin operation.

“We expect [the US] to support Turkey in its legitimate efforts” to combat terror, Erdoğan said.

Separately, Erdoğan’s spokesman described as “worrying” reports that the US-led coalition fighting Isis would establish a 30,000-strong border security force in Syria involving the Kurdish militia.

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https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/14/turkey-plans-assault-on-kurdish-enclave-in-syria

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