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Tensions mounting in Syria, Turkey terrorizing Kurds

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Just because the Syrian Civil War has been won, does not mean that it’s over. The Liberation of Aleppo paired with the Fall of the Islamic State is enough grounds for the Assad regime to clinch victory. While ISIS still troubles the desert, HTS, the latest rebranding of Al-Qaeda holds a dwindling amount of territory in Syria’s northeast. Without a overly significant ISIS presence, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have focused their attention on HTS territory as well as terrorist held territory in the suburbs of Damascus. HTS, while not officially listed as a foreign terror organization, is the evolved version of the al-Nursa Front which is. This organization may have a more active ally in Turkey. After several months of deescalating, tensions are mounting in Syria.

Turkey has already seized territory in Syria as apart of Operation Euphrates Shield using the unofficial terror organization, the FSA (Free Syrian Army), as a front for doing so. Turkey has also been undergoing operations in North Idlib and West Aleppo, territory held by the HTS. Now Turkey has commenced Operation Olive Branch, a misleading name to put it bluntly. The primary target of Operation Olive Branch is the YPG. The YPG is a Kurdish paramilitary that was a large contributor to dismantling the Islamic State’s presence in the country. They are the primary forces in control of the Afrin region in Syria. On January 19th, Turkey launched Operation Olive branch after mounting forces along the region’s border. What began as bombings and shelling escalated into mini land grabs along Afrin’s border. Turkey has also upped its propaganda game.

If this seems confusing allow this excerpt from TRTWorld to clear things up.

TRTWorld: The strategy behind Operation Olive Branch

Afrin, in northwest Syria bordering Turkey, used to be a city with a population of 80,000. Taking advantage of the chaos caused by the civil war in Syria, the YPG took control of it in 2012. During the years of civil war, since there are no clashes in Afrin, its population increased up to 300,000. And finally, after the evacuation of Aleppo in December 2016, people fled to Afrin, increasing the population to around 750,000. Around 60 percent is Arabs, five percent on the Turkish border in the northwest of the city is Turkmen, and the rest are Kurds. Hundreds of its original residents, who could flee the YPG after 2012, are in Turkey.

Afrin is located between two strategic Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA)-held areas: Azaz and Idlib. The two FSA commanders who talked to TRT World, tell of the geographical importance of Afrin in these words: We need to connect two opposition areas to support each other. But using the road in Turkey along the border from Kilis to Reyhanlı takes five hours. If we drive directly from Azaz to Idlib through Tel Rifat, it would only take less than two hours.

That makes the Tel Rifat front of upmost importance to the operation.

Turkey is trying to win support for its jihadists put shifting the majority Arabs in the Afrin region against the Kurdish forces in control of the region. They are also trying to connect to of their FSA operations in two provinces. Since this operation has been launched, there are two losers: the SAA and the YPG. The SAA is having its territorial integrity violated by the uninvited Turkish forces and the YPG, and by extension Kurds, are the primary target and are at a apparent military disadvantage of the NATO power.

TSK Engaging SAA

Turkish forces have deployed a convoy featuring armored vehicles into Syria to “facilitate a deescalation zone” but is also being escorted by HTS terrorists forces.

Along the way, Russian and Syrian forces have targeted the convoy’s path. Tensions escalated to direct shelling between SAA and TSK. Meanwhile Russia is trying to balance its relationship with the Turkish regime. As of now the SAA and the Turkish controlled area north of Aleppo have held a peaceful border as Turkey just mainly wants to target Kurds. Russia and Syria have deescalated Turkish targeting to the east by taking Kurdish militias under their wing. Turkey has mostly been non-confrontational with pro-Assad forces, but this engagement could destabilize the other Turkish controlled regions in Syria.

US Response

The US has held a very weak response to Turkey’s newest rounds of aggression. President Trump and Ergodan has a phone call on the 24th over the Operation, but little has been done by Americans to combat the latest threat to stability. In fact, YPG fighters are concerned about their continued US support. Turkey could eventually pose a threat to US forces in the country. The US has forces in the Manbij region of Syria which is east of Turkish zone captured during Euphrates Shield. After Turkey is done attacking Kurds in Afrin, they could move east towards Iraq into Manbij. The forces their have stated their right to self defense against any incoming attack which makes the possibility of an intra-NATO skirmish all that more likely.

Takeaway

Kurds have reason to worry as Turkey has a brutal history of exterminating ethnicities they don’t like and a continued success at getting others not to address their atrocities. The Turkish regime is becoming increasingly Islamic and totalitarian. Turkey’s tactics appear to be performing land grabs extending to Iraq, but the implications of its Operation on the Syrian Civil War are more clouded. So whether this is muscle flexing against a Shia power or a more nefarious jihadist mission has yet to be determined. This could destabilize the entire country that has already spent several years in war and was just seeing the light at the end. Before this, the HTS was doomed to lose, paving the way for more formal peace talks. But now they have some new life with Operation Olive Branch.

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Culture and Religion

Two weeks after Benghazi attack, Ilhan Omar Tweeted ‘Allahu Akbar’

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Two weeks after Benghazi attack Ilhan Omar Tweeted Allahu Akbar

This is old news, of course, but bears repeating at this time. Representative Ilhan Omar has been doing everything she can over the last couple of weeks to paint herself as the victim of bigotry and someone who loves our country. And while there’s definitely some substance to the notion that crowds of Republicans shouldn’t be chanting “send her back,” it’s also understandable why so many Americans are opposed to her presence on Capitol Hill.

Even if we dismiss reports that she married her brother, called for CBP to be eliminated, said this is “not going to be the country of white people,” referred to 9/11 as “some people did something,” and is regularly praised by former KKK leader David Duke, it’s difficult to dismiss her reaction to the Benghazi attacks that took the lives of four American heroes in 2012.

I’m not going to dignify her Tweet with an opinion. She’s the one who needs to explain it. But despite her celebration, life isn’t good for the four men who lost there’s in Benghazi. Remember this, folks, as Democrats embrace her wholeheartedly.

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Foreign Affairs

Iran has seized a British tanker

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Evidence points to Iran seizing British tanker

Update 2: They may have captured a second British tanker.

Update 1: Iran has confirmed it seized the tanker.

Original Story:

A British oil tanker traveling through the Strait of Hormuz to Saudi Arabia has made some strange maneuvers, causing speculation that it has been seized by Iran.

The tanker, Stena Impero, veered off course according to positioning trackers and is now heading towards the Iranian island of Qeshm which has a substantial Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) base. British authorities are seeking answers.

The Islamic republic has threatened retaliation for the British seizure of an Iranian tanker heading towards Syria, which would break an EU sanction. Five Iranian attack vessels confronted a British tanker last week but quickly retreated when the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose closed in.

Iran has long claimed sovereignty over the international waters of the Strait of Hormuz. They attempted to stage bombings of two oil tankers last month and four in May in hopes of being able to act as defenders of the Strait, but U.S. video of the second round of bombings caught an Iranian ship removing an unexploded mine from the haul. With that potential bargaining chip off the table, it appears they’re trying to work their way to the negotiating table by force.

A collapsing economy is forcing Iran to make aggressive moves. This is standard operating procedure for the desperate. An international military response may be in order to abate further acts of terrorism by Iran.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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Foreign Affairs

Is war with Iran inevitable?

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Is war with Iran inevitable

Aggressive actions have become commonplace between Iran and the United States over the last two months. The U.S. sent the powerful Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber squadron to the region following the defection and intelligence cache delivery by former Iranian Brigadier General Ali Nasiri. Since then, Iran has been bombing tankers, shooting down American drones, and attempting to seize a British Tanker.

Today, the escalation continued as Iran admitted to capturing at least one foreign oil tanker. Then, the United States sent the USS Boxer, loaded with 2000 Marines, into the Persian Gulf where it shot down an Iranian drone that came within 1000 yards of the ship.

Is war inevitable?

No. There is still a very good chance President Trump will not risk reelection by engaging in another unpopular Middle East war. There are those who think Iran will push it too far, and that may be the case, but their goal would be to provoke attack, not war. It behooves them to get hit by the United States so they can play the victim card in the international arena. This is why they’ll poke, prod, annoy, and continue to be aggressive without going so far as to make war warranted.

An attack by the west is the best thing Iran can hope to happen at this point. Their economy is crumbling. Their terror and military proxies are hurting because of the dried up funds no longer coming in from Tehran. They can’t seem to sneak an oil tanker around Africa to Syria, one of the few places willing to disregard U.S. sanctions against Iran. So they’re left with either giving up their nuclear weapons ambitions altogether or provoking a war without being clearly seen as the aggressors.

Even though I do not believe war is inevitable, I don’t see a way to completely avoid military action. Iran won’t stop until they’ve forced an attack against them.

The Middle East has always been a volatile place. With Iran doing everything they can to appear like the victims to the international community while still seeming strong internally, strikes may be inevitable but war is not.

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