00:17 GMT +316 December 2018
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    Afrin Ambiguity: "Rescue Op" or Not?

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    Andrew Korybko
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    Conflicting reports have been circulating over the past week alleging that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) or one of its allied militias is on the way to Afrin in order to "rescue" the Kurds from the Turks.

    The news started streaming in over the weekend that Damascus had supposedly ordered the "Popular Mobilization Units" to enter the theater of hostilities, which initially seemed to align with what President Assad's chief advisor, Ms. Bouthaina Shaaban, said during the Valdai Club's conference on Russia's role in the Mideast earlier this week. She asserted that her country would continue to fight against all aggressors and invaders, including Turkey, which was interpreted as lending credence to the reports that Damascus was planning to intervene on behalf of the PYD-YPG Kurdish "federalists".

    That, however, triggered fierce warnings from Turkey, with its Deputy Foreign Minister predicting that this move "would cause a disaster in the region" if Syria goes through with it. These ominous words followed his boss, the actual Foreign Minister, promising that "no one will stop" his country in its anti-terrorist campaign against the Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara considers as indistinguishable from the terrorist-designated PKK. Shortly thereafter, President Putin spoke to his Turkish counterpart President Erdogan, and the next day the latter claimed credit for apparently getting Damascus to reconsider its official deployment to Afrin. The Syrian Kurds, however, saw things differently, and one of their sources told Syria Live Maps — as reported by Fort Russ — that they blame Russia for apparently stopping their hoped-for intervention.

    This high-stakes situation is terribly ambiguous because of the fog of war that's settled over Afrin ever since the commencement of Turkey's "Operation Olive Branch" last month, which makes the state of affairs extra dangerous because of the real risk that a single miscalculation could spark a state-to-state war between Syria and Turkey, one which might quickly entangle other regional players such as Russia, Iran, and possibly even Israel as well. Whatever the case is behind the curious reports about the SAA or its allied militia's prospective deployment to Afrin, the fact remains that they haven't deterred Turkey from declaring that it will actually accelerate its operation there through increased shelling and the planned encirclement of the city. As the war continues to rage on and peace talks falter, the conflict in Syria seems to have entered an unexpectedly intense phase at one of its most sensitive moments.

    Serap Balaman, Turkish political commentator, and Ali Syed, Political researcher/analyst based in Belgium, commented on the issue.

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    Tags:
    Kurds, Syrian Arab Army, PKK, Afrin, Turkey, Syria
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