On August 24, dozens of Turkish tanks, accompanied by hundreds of soldiers and around 1,500 jihadists of Al Nusra Front, Sultan Mourad and other Islamic groups crossed into Jarablus, a northern Syrian town held by Turkey-backed ISIS terror group since 2013.
The date chosen by Turkish Islamists was not a random one. According to reports, August 24 is the date on which ISIS-like Ottoman Empire had started to occupy land populated by Arabs, Jews, Assyrians, Armenians and Kurds 500 years ago.
It was the ISIS-like Ottoman Turks who won the battle against the peoples living on this land 500 years ago but today the history will not repeat itself.
Meanwhile, the “Euphrates Shield” is also the name given for the operation by Turkey’s Islamist government, because the operation is aimed at the Kurdish-led advance toward Aleppo in western Euphrates River, not world’s number one enemy ISIS with which Turkey has had no problem at all.
ISIS has been holding this part of land since the beginning of the Syrian war. The entire International community witnessed Turkey’s dirty business and relations with ISIS. The Russians and the Americans have enough proofs to take this jihadist’s safe haven to International Criminal Court. (Click here ISIS AND TURKEY to see recent proofs sent to international media by TEV-DEM, the Democratic Society Organization in Rojava) Kurds handed over thousands of documents to Americans and Russians showing Turkish involvement in oil trade, weapons transfer with ISIS and Al-Qaida-linked jihadist groups operating in Syria.
Desperately watching Kurdish advance backed by US-led coalition across the border, Turkey as the last chance, entered the Syrian quagmire in order to prevent Kurdish gains. But the question is whether it would be able to escape from it without harm?
This is not something as a Kurd I claim but also the international media including CNN International, New York Times, BBC, FOX, Der Spiegel, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Reuters, AFP, AP, The Guardian, The Independent, Jerusalem Post, RT and Sputnik News and experts agree on that. The ISIS is an excuse for Turkish government; the Kurds are the real target.
Germany’s leading weekly magazine Der Spiegel wrote on Monday that Turkey’s Erdogan, with its war on the Kurds in Syria, is creating a breathing space for ISIS.
“If Turkey wanted to undertake a military operation because of the IS threat, it should have done so much earlier. IS has been occupying Jarablus and its vicinity for a long time, yet Ankara had not felt any “security threats” to launch an operation.” the veteran Turkish journalist and one of the leading Middle East experts of this century, Cengiz Candar wrote in his column at respected Al-Monitor.
Turkey’s priority is the Kurds, because Turkey sees secular Kurds fighting against Islamic terror organizations it has ties with its number one enemy. This is not a secret. If it had had a problem with ISIS as Candar pointed out it could have done this incursion into Jarablus long time ago. ISIS has never targeted Turks or Turkish armed forces. All ISIS attacks inside Turkey were either carried out against Kurds or foreign tourists. In the latest one of these attacks, 58 Kurdish civilians most of them children were massacred by a suicide bomber in Antep on late August 20.
The world media showed Turkey’s Bollywood like operation in Jarablus with its jihadist proxies. They took the control of the town within hours without firing a shot. There were no ISIS members to be seen neither civilians. Talking to a camera, a jihadist was speaking of the happiness of people but there were no people to be seen. The town was deserted before Turkey began its incursion, according to local sources. Although ISIS is known for its fight to death policy against Kurds, Syrian and Iraqi armies, however, in Jarablus this was not the case. There was no fight, no suicide car bombs, no bobby traps, no machine guns and beheadings. There are still not a single proof of a fight between Turkey-backed jihadists and ISIS.
However, clashes broke out between US-backed Kurdish forces and Turkey’s jihadist allies in southern Jarablus on August 27. According to Kurdish sources, Turkish jets attacked civilian settlements and their positions around newly liberated villages located 8km south of Jarablus. Following airstrikes, Turkish tanks moved in but Kurdish-led local forces retaliated. In a report, Kurdish Hawar News Agency claimed that three Turkish tanks were destroyed and a number of Turkish soldiers and jihadists killed. Turkey also later confirmed its first fatalities in the Syrian Quagmire.
A video published by Jarablus Military Council on YouTube shows the moment Turkish tanks blown up by American-made TOW missiles while trying to reach the top of a hill in the Kurdish-controlled El-Emarne village in south Jarablus. The Council said in a statement that around 30 jihadists and Turkish soldiers were killed in their retaliation actions and promised to hold the ground they regained from ISIS recently against Turkey and its jihadist groups.
American officials also made it clear during their daily press briefings at the White House that Turkey and its jihadist allies should only target ISIS and avoid any confrontation with the Kurdish-led forces backed by International coalition. However, the escalation of August 27 and deadly clashes tell the opposite of what the Americans wanted to see.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that the Turkish bombing killed at least 35 civilians and four Kurdish-led fighters in Beir Koussa, a village about nine miles south of Jarablus.
SDF spokesman Shervan Darwish told Associated Press from his base in Manbij that the airstrikes and shelling which began overnight and continued Sunday along the front line, killed many civilians in Beir Koussa and nearby areas. He said the bombing also targeted the village of Amarneh. He said 50 Turkish tanks were taking part.
On Monday, five other civilians were killed by Turkish-led terror campaign in the village of Dandania located north of Sajur River.
Speaking at a rally in the southern Kurdish city of Antep, Turkish lunatic named Tayyip Erdogan, threatened the Kurds with ultimate elimination. His main focus was Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). “We are as determined about the PYD, the separatist terror organization’ Syrian wing,” he said. PYD and its armed wing YPG are the allies of the US-led coalition fighting Turkey-backed Islamic terrorism in Syria and Iraq.
“We will continue until we uproot this organization,” Erdogan told his Islamist followers at the rally.
While on the one hand, Turkey continues to threaten the Kurds and its allies, on the other hand, the US is watching the developments closely. It has Special Forces advising and training Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in almost all areas controlled by Kurds including newly liberated Manbij. Any attempt by Turkey and its proxy jihadists to move further down along the Euphrates River and attack Manbij would be challenged by the US-led coalition.
On Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook underlined that the US forces are not involved in the ongoing Turkish-jihadist war on Kurds in Jarablus. “These attacks were not coordinated with us, and we do not support them,” Cook told reporters during his weekly press conference at Pentagon.
“The SDF have proven to be a reliable and capable force, and our support for the SDF in its fight against ISIL is ongoing and will continue to do so,” Cook said, using another acronym to refer to the Islamic State group. “They have fought hard and sacrificed to try and rid Syria of this hateful group,” Cook said.
US Gen. Terry Wolff, the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS at Department of State, told me during a recent encounter with him in a European capital that Manbij was the number one priority for the coalition because ISIS planned all its terror attacks in Europe from there.
Moreover, the plan to liberate Manbij from Turkey-backed ISIS terror group was not made by the Kurds but by Brett McGurk, the Special Envoy of the US President for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS and other coalition partners. The liberation of Manbij cost US-led coalition millions of dollars in funds and the lives of 300 Kurdish and Arab fighters.
After 5 days of Turkish aggression against Kurds in Syria, the U.S. has increased pressure on Turkey. The Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Washington has asked Turkey on Tuesday to “stay focused” on the fight against the Islamic State and not to engage with the Kurdish-led SDF.
“We’ve called on both sides not to fight one another, not to fight each other,” Carter said in a press briefing took place at Pentagon.
Following Ash Carter’s warning, Turkey stepped back and agreed to a ceasefire with the US-backed Kurdish forces in Jarablus. The details of the agreement yet to be announced.
When we carefully analyze all these statements and warnings by the US officials, I strongly believe that Joe Biden and John Kerry’s recent statements on the Kurdish position in the west of Euphrates were not more than paying lip service to Turkey. At the end of the day, It was Joe Biden, who blamed Turkish government for its support of ISIS terror organization in 2015. The Obama Administration knows pretty well how Turkey with its jihadist friends had failed them on many occasions with its train and equip program. Turkey messed with the United States by attacking its reliable Kurdish allies in Syria and I believe there will be a high price for Turkey to pay.
Therefore, I am still optimistic and don’t think that the Obama administration will let down the Kurds it has been supporting against ISIS for more than two years. The Kurds have been the most effective and reliable force on the ground for the US-led International Coalition as Pentagon’s Press Secretary Peter Cook underlined. They are the only force the west can put trust in for a new peaceful and ISIS-free Middle East.
Turkey is already in the Syrian Quagmire as Kurdish leader Salih Mohammad pointed out in a recent tweet. But it will definitely not be able to get out without harm, humiliation, and sufferings.
*Rodi Hevi is a Kurdish journalist based in Europe. He holds a B.A. in International Economics and an MA in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Haifa International School. He specializes in Kurdish and Middle East Politics.