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October 9, 2019

Turkey strikes Syria-Iraqborder ahead of offensive


October 9, 2019

ANKARA: Turkey’s military struck the Syrian-Iraqi border to prevent Kurdish forces using the route to reinforce northeast Syria, as Ankara prepares to launch an offensive there after a surprise U.S. troop pullback, Turkish officials told media on Tuesday.

Turkey says it is ready to advance into northeast Syria, after the United States began pulling back troops from the Turkey-Syria frontier in an abrupt policy shift widely criticized in Washington as a betrayal of America’s allies.

The U.S. move will leave Kurdish-led forces long allied to Washington vulnerable to attack by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), which brands them terrorists because of their links to Kurdish militants who have waged a long insurgency in Turkey.

Giving details of the overnight strike, a security official said one of the main goals was to cut off transit route between Iraq and Syria often used by Kurdish armed groups “before the operation in Syria”.

“In this way, the group’s transit to Syria and support lines, including ammunition, are shut off,” the official said.

Turkey ready for Syria offensive despite mixed signals from Trump: Turkey said Tuesday it was ready for an offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Syria despite mixed signals from US President Donald Trump over whether he had approved the operation. The United States pulled back 50 to 100 “special operators” from Syria’s northern frontier on Monday, where they had served as a buffer preventing a long-planned assault by the Turkish military against Kurdish forces. Trump’s surprise move drew heavy criticism from top Republicans that he was abandoning the Kurds, who were crucial in the years-long campaign to defeat Islamic State. But he later appeared to backpedal, warning Turkey that he would “obliterate” the country’s economy if it went too far — without explaining what that meant. “I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane... they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy,” he said.

Ankara brushed aside the threat on Tuesday, with Vice-President Fuat Oktay saying: “Turkey is not a country that will act according to threats. Turkey has always pushed hard against Washington’s support for Kurdish forces in Syria due to their links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has fought a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. Its defence ministry tweeted that preparations for an offensive in northern Syria have been “completed”. The Syrian government said it was an opportunity to welcome the country’s Kurds back into its fold. The Kurds have been “tossed aside” by Washington, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper. “We will defend all Syrian territory, and we will not accept any occupation of Syrian land,” he added.

Iran opposes Syria military action, Zarif tells Turkey: Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif told his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in a phone call that Tehran is opposed to military action in Syria, the foreign ministry said. “Zarif voiced opposition to military action” and “urged respect for Syria’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty,” Zarif was quoted as saying in a statement issued late Monday. The Iranian foreign minister also “stressed the need for the fight against terrorism and for the establishment of stability and security in Syria”. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey was poised to launch a military operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, after US President Donald Trump gave him the green light.

Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from the region has faced strong criticism in the US, including from political allies who have accused him of turning his back on Kurds who took heavy casualties in the US-backed campaign against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. Iran said the US should have pulled out of Syria long ago, while expressing concerns about a Turkish incursion.

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