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Turkish soldiers patrol on a road near the Turkey-Iraq border in the mainly Kurdish southeastern province of Sirnak (File)

Storm on the Horizon: Is A Turkish 'Ground Invasion' of Syria Looming?

© AFP 2016/ MUSTAFA OZER
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Various reports indicate that Ankara could soon (if it has not already) launch a ground operation in neighboring Syria, which, some say, will target Daesh fighters, but many fear that it will instead be focused on the Kurds – one of the main forces trying to defeat the brutal group.

Turkey, which has long been criticized for doing too little to tackle Daesh, is reportedly planning to create a buffer zone on its border with Syria, Stratfor reported on Tuesday. These efforts could already be underway – Turkish forces have started to clear mines along the border near the Syrian town of Jarabulus, which is currently controlled by Daesh.

"Turkey has already begun to ramp up its artillery strikes along its border with Syria to help its rebel allies and to destroy Islamic State targets. This could indicate an effort to soften enemy defenses ahead of a Turkish ground incursion once minesweeping operations have been completed," the Texas-based think tank explained.

On Wednesday, reports emerged that Turkish forces had in fact crossed into Syria near Jarabulus. Anonymous security sources in Turkey later denied that it happened. 

​Ankara's ground operation – if launched – could deal a blow to Daesh. But many experts and politicians have pointed out that Turkey views dealing with the Kurds, not the terrorist group, as its key priority. The offensive then "would also strengthen the [Turkey-backed] rebels in northern Syria, in turn preventing the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from expanding their reach westward," Stratfor noted.

In addition, Ankara has carried out a major operation against the Kurds living in Turkey since the peace process between Turkish authorities and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) collapsed last year. The crackdown, which has claimed hundreds of lives, has increasingly been referred to as a civil war. More than 2,000 scholars from Turkey and beyond branded it a massacre in an open letter, which was published last week. 

A combination picture taken from video shows a war plane crashing in flames in a mountainous area in northern Syria after it was shot down by Turkish fighter jets near the Turkish-Syrian border November 24, 2015
© REUTERS/ Reuters TV/Haberturk
A combination picture taken from video shows a war plane crashing in flames in a mountainous area in northern Syria after it was shot down by Turkish fighter jets near the Turkish-Syrian border November 24, 2015

Turkey's ground offensive will likely add additional stress to the already strained relations between Ankara and Moscow. The two countries have seen their ties deteriorate after a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian bomber over Syrian territory, citing airspace violations that, according to Russian officials and the pilot, did not took place. The Su-24 was on an anti-Daesh mission in northern Syria when it was downed.

"Still, that does not mean that Ankara, with Washington's help, is not trying to reach an understanding with Moscow, at least in terms of setting up deconfliction procedures to avoid clashing with each other in the Syrian warzone, which is rapidly becoming crowded," the think-tank assumed.

As an alternative to a ground offensive, Ankara could seal the border with Syria, which terrorists have used to smuggle oil, supplies and fighters in and out of the warzone.

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Tags:
Turkish Kurds, Russian aerial campaign, ground military operation, Kurds, military operation, Syrian conflict, Daesh, Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), Jarablus, Turkey, Syria, Russia
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  • ivanwa88
    Turkey could be clearing the mines to let its mercenaries slip back in and let the refugees back to Syria. Its surprising he's even bothering!
  • Mikhas
    The planted "rumour" was evidently a trial balloon from the ultra-primitive jackass Mullah Erdogan and the best way of knowing if it occurred or not is the Russian/Syrian inaction, disinterest even.

    But an invasion from the Turkish pariah state is inevitably an invasion from the USA and NATO and will be dealt with accordingly. Is the Turkish Gollum and Obongo´s white masters ready to face the risks? We shall see....
  • Dan
    If the Turks enter Syria, they are legitimate targets for Russia. Russia should avenge the death of the heroic Russian pilot by bombing a whole battalion of Turks.
  • peaceactivist2
    So far Rusdia still sound like spoiled kid whining for this help, that help. Unable to work quietly, forcefully, alone, and effectively. French coming, German coming, U.S. Coming UK coming, turkey coming? Each fight on its own term, fly from own locations? What kind of leadership is that?
  • Mikhas in reply topeaceactivist2(Show commentHide comment)
    peaceactivist2, So what are you doing here Schlomo? Trying to make a few Shekels?
  • Blackiein reply toMikhas (Show commentHide comment)
    Mikhas,
    Hi,
    Turkey must be put back in their sand box. They are just..
  • Eva Brown
    Sputnik !!!! Stop calling them Turquish army . Call them Ottoman Army that's what they are. When do you open your eyes !?
  • armorin reply topeaceactivist2(Show commentHide comment)
    peaceactivist2, Let me tell you something( then I won't even bother to react to you) : Russia knows what she is doing, trust her, she did not create that chaos, it was created by (maybe) people you like. You seem odd here....but you know exactly what you want, you know very well quite a few things, but there is a little something that is wrong somewhere...Bye now.
  • cast235
    Russia MUST send a strong message. First ask Syria IF they allow Turkey into their territory. Because IF Turkey attack the wrong faction, try opening no fly zone and a place for their puppets, Russia MUST attack Turkey inside Syria. And Turkey will lose big time. They messing with the very wrong thing.
    That sense of indestructibility of Turkeys, or Sultan Erdogan's army , will end with Russia. Russia will bring missiles and equipment that defeat ANY defense in the world. And all vehicles including Erdogan's beloved tanks, will litter Syrian soil.
    Turkey better seal it's side of the border. And FORGET Syria.
    Ottoman militia in Syria WILL die . They will be all killed or they can go BACK to Sultan Erdogan's PALACE.
  • Ivan Zadorozhny
    If the Turks invade Syria, that will mean a war with Syria and Russia by extension. Ankara is playing a very dangerous game.
  • michaelin reply toIvan Zadorozhny(Show commentHide comment)
    Ivan, and a very stupid one if they believe that they can control the situation,
    or make a profit from it. :(
  • zarusin reply toMikhas (Show commentHide comment)
    Mikhas,

    LOL schlomo got owned
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