What’s behind Turkey’s Kobani offensive

Alwaght – As part of renewed military operation in northern Syria, the Turkish army entered the Kurdish-controlled Syrian territories from west of Kobani canton early on July 30.

Reports suggest that the advancing Turkish troops have crosses some 20 meters into Saftak and Babuneh villages in western Kobani, bringing with them vehicles special for digging moats and establishing other military fortifications.

The Turkish military forces are now camping just 13 kilometers from Kobani’s west.

As part of the initial reactions to the Turkish military build-up near Kobani, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have threatened that they will confront the Turkish troops if they decline to respond to calls for retreating.

Persistent threatening on Kurds

Two key reasons might motivate the Turkish military deployment to Kobani. First reason certainly is related to the Ankara’s aim to keep a persistent level of threats against the Syrian Kurds. Since the start of Syrian conflict, Turkish officials, and particularly President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, frequently repeated their intentions to deter any plans by the Kurds to establish an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria where borders southern Turkish frontiers.

The warning by Ankara leaders has always been tough as they have repeatedly said that Turkey will attack the areas controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) if needed. The Turkish threats were realized when in December 24, 2016 Erdogan ordered start of Operation Euphrates Shield that comprised of the Turkish forces and Syrian armed rebels in northern Syria and liberated from ISIS Jarablus, a town lying on the western bank of the Euphrates River and just south of Syrian-Turkish borders.

The Turkish army’s operation along with the allied Syrian opposition militants went on to west of Jarablus. The offensive concluded when they controlled Azaz and later Al-Bab town, 40 kilometers northeast of Aleppo.

Recent months witnessed the Turkish officials threatening to launch assaults against Afrin canton. The army launched a ground operation with aims to cross into the major Kurdish canton but aborted the campaign only a single day after beginning, and stopped short of airstrikes against positions of the Kurdish fighters in the area.

The July 30 Kobani offensive was latest anti-Kurdish measure taken by Ankara leaders. The analysts argue that the objective of all these serial military operations in northern Syria is to make the shadow of war prevail in the Kurdish-controlled Syrian territories in a bid to stifle efforts by the Syrian Kurds to gain further power and rise as a major actor in the future Syria.

Disrupting US-Kurdish cooperation

Second important drive for the Turkish Kobani campaign is Ankara’s desire to set up roadblocks ahead of the alliance between the US and the Kurds that is very apparently embodied in joint operation underway by the American forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a bloc containing Kurdish and Arab fighters, to retake Raqqa, ISIS Syria stronghold and capital of the self-proclaimed caliphate. The Turkish leaders repeatedly demanded that the US quits support for the PYD-affiliated forces, but not very surprising to the Turks, so far the Americans proved unresponsive by increasing their backing step by step.

Ankara’s anti-Kurdish measures appear to have been aggravating so far. Sipan Hemo, the commander of the YPG in the Raqqa push has warned the US-led international military coalition that if Turkey fails to halt anti-Kurdish air raids, the Kurds will quit the Raqqa front lines and head to Kobani borders with Turkey. The US appears to have been convinced by Kurd’s cautioning, warning Ankara not to open a new front with the Kurdish forces in northern Syria, otherwise it will practically disarray the ongoing push against ISIS.

To appease the Syrian Kurds and take a stance against Turkish measures, the US stamped up arming the YPG. In a very latest move, the Turk Press website reported, the US sent 100 trucks of military equipment to YPG forces. Even worse for Ankara, the news are emerging that Washington is weighing up plans to build a military base in the Kurdish-held northern Syrian territories, likely to replace Turkey’s Incirlik air base for Syria campaign.

All these Kurdish-related developments herald an upcoming escalation of tensions between Ankara and Washington as they conflict over the American scale of support to the Syrian Kurds. But experts suggest that Turkey’s schemes to impair the US-Kurdish links will meet with failure. Moreover, the Turkish army is unlikely to manage to capture Kobani as it faces severe American opposition. Indeed, it seems that Ankara campaign is more propagandistic than military and is unlikely to win Turkey any ground achievements.