After a motion authorising the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to conduct cross-border military operations in Iraq and Syria for two more years was passed in the Turkish parliament on Tuesday, Turkey deployed two-hundred military vehicles in northern Syria.
Two sources told Bloomberg that this last move was “preparation for a long-suspended offensive” against the Kurdish forces, mainly the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in northeastern Syria.
Ankara considers the YPG and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) to be ‘terrorist organisations,’ saying that both are the extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an armed struggle in Turkey for over four decades, seeking expanded rights for the Kurds.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, on his return flight from Azerbaijan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that plans of meeting with US president Joe Biden have changed and he will see his counterpart in Glasgow, Scotland, not in Italy as he previously announced.
“Probably not in Rome, but we will meet in Glasgow,” Erdoğan said, adding the “F-35 issue” will top the meeting agenda.
Turkey, which was removed from US F-35 programme in 2019 after buying the S-400 Russian missile defence system, seeks compensation for the $1.4 billion it had paid to procure the F-35 fighter jets.
The White House, earlier on Tuesday, released US President Joe Biden’s schedule at this weekend’s G20 summit in Rome, announcing that Biden will then head to Glasgow for COP26, the international climate conference. However, the White House schedule included no details of a meeting with Erdoğan in Biden’s announced schedule for Rome and Glasgow.
Even though Erdoğan stated that the “F-35 issue” will top the agenda of his yet unconfirmed meeting with Biden, it is expected that Erdoğan’s intended offensive plans in northeastern Syria would be among his “secret agenda” items due for discussion as he travels to Glasgow.
Regarding Erdoğan’s potential offensive in northeastern Syria, sources told Bloomberg: “Turkey would aim to capture areas south of the town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, to connect areas under its control west and east of the Euphrates river.”
Another potential target is to capture the Menagh air base near the town of Azaz from YPG forces, who carry out hit-and-run attacks on Turkish forces. Allied Syrian rebels would join it in the planned campaign, Bloomberg quoted officials as saying.
In a tactic to prevent Moscow from openly opposing Turkey’s war plans, Turkish forces may withdraw from a few areas south of the strategic M-4 highway that forms Idlib’s southern border, the officials said.
Elena Suponina, a Moscow-based Middle East analyst, told Bloomberg that even though Moscow is against such a new offensive, “still, the most Russia will do is to criticize the offensive – it won’t actually try to stop it from happening. That’s probably enough for the Turks.”
Washington’s attitude towards a new Turkish offensive in Syria seems to be even more negative than Moscow’s. In a letter in relation to Syria, dated 7 October, Biden accused Turkey of undermining the fight against the Islamic State with its military offensive in northeastern Syria, describing Turkey as an “extraordinary threat” for the US.
Sharing her perspectives about a possible Turkish attack in northeastern Syria, Ilham Ahmed, the president of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), said that all Kurds should always be prepared for “self-defence.”
“As long as we face threats, we will need an armed defence. We need to protect ourselves, political, diplomatically and legally,” she told ANHA.
“If it had not been for our self-defence, we would be deprived of our rights and lose our dignity. No one should doubt that Kurds will be defending themselves.”
Drawing attention to the increasing tensions in Idlib, the prominent Syrian Kurdish politician warned that Turkey’s threats are not of a “temporary” nature: “This is something essential to their policy. Attacks in northern Syria are not the only problem: threats, attacks, genocidal policies target all Kurds.”
For the time being, Washington has not confirmed the meeting Erdoğan announced, but it is sure that Erdoğan will try his best to see his counterpart, especially after the huge disappointment he experienced in recent talks with Biden during his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly in September.
Erdoğan has made a series of moves appearing to appease the US in a desperate bid to get Biden’s attention – which he isn’t getting, diplomats and officials told Insider.
Erdoğan has been trying to get on the good side of Biden, yet he has not been able to obtain a “green light” for a new operation in Syria.
Right after his visit to the US, Erdoğan travelled to Sochi, Russia, on 29 September and had a face-to-face meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
Critics evaluate Erdoğan’s consecutive visits to Biden and Putin as part of his efforts to get support for his new aggression in northeastern Syria.
“Erdoğan went to Sochi to get approval from Putin. At the end of this month, he is planning to meet with US President Biden to get approval to attack Rojava,” Cafer Tar last week wrote.