Operation “Euprhates Shield”: The true story

Ssofokleousin.gr – Sep. 5, 2016

The kick off of the operation “Euphrates Shield” was a surprise to many international parties. The process began at 4 a.m. of Wednesday, August 24, by moving troops belonging to the Syrian opposition armed forces numbering more than 3.000 soldiers to the Syrian city of Jarabulus next to the Syrian border with Turkey. They were backed by troops of the Turkish army equipped with more than 25 tanks and rocket launchers, and the intensive support of Turkish air force targeting the sites of ISIS troops in the city. Within eight hours the “Euphrates shield” forces managed to evacuate the city from ISIS and declared Jarabulus currently free from the hands of the terrorist organization. The question here is: why now?

Jarabulus: The historic ancient city on the northern tip of Syria on the border with Turkey, a city inhabited in the majority by Arabs, a minority of Kurds and a small Armenian Christian population, has been participating in the Syrian revolution since the beginning of 2011 with many protests against the Assad regime and captured by the forces of the Syrian opposition in mid-2012. It remained so until January 18, 2014, when the city and surrounding areas fell into the hands of ISIS.

The Turkish reaction came after many international and regional moves by the Turkish leadership, beginning with the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Moscow where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Syrian issue had priority in the talks, which included many agreements on economic co-operation between the two countries. After this meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Ankara, while US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ankara on the same day that the operation “Euphrates Shield” began.

Source from the Russian leadership environment assured me that the agreement reached on the next day of the visit of the Turkish President to the meeting between the Chiefs of Staff and the heads of the Intelligence Services of the two countries is summarized in the following points:

(a) Consent to the forces of the Syrian opposition to move through the Turkish territory to the city of Jarabulus.

(b) Consent to the Turkish air force entering the Syrian airspace (I note that the Turkish aircrafts stopped entering the Syrian airspace after the Russian aircraft was shot down on November 24, 2015).

(c) The Syrian and Russian air forces will not attack the forces of the Syrian opposition, but will support them by striking the ISIS targets to the west of the Euphrates.

This agreement also includes accepting any Turkish military action against the Kurdish forces to the west of the Euphrates, thus cutting the way in the dream of the Americans to create a Kurdish mini-state in the north of Syria.

In conclusion, what is happening in northern Syria right now is the result of a Russian-Turkish agreement and an Iranian consensus, far from the US strategy, which treats the Kurds as the only ally in the war against ISIS. In the days following the liberation of Jarabulus, we are witnessing a direct confrontation of the Turkish-backed military forces of the Syrian opposition with the US-backed Kurdish forces, which proves that Turkey was almost completely removed from US hegemony.

Despite what has been said in the last two days by various US officials about reaching an agreement with the Turkish side to stop the hostilities against their Kurdish allies, these are just leaks. The Turks will not allow a Kurdish state to be created in northern Syria at any cost.

The timing of the launch of the “Shield of the Euphrates” company is mainly linked to two points:

(a) The first reaction of the Turkish leadership to the White House’s attempt to escape the issue of Fethullah Gülen.

(b) The weakness shown by the US administration in the Middle East over the past few months, due to the upcoming election runoff. So the Turkish leadership felt that this was the opportunity for a business such as the “Euphrates Shield”.

In the battles of the last few hours, there has been a lot of progress by the Turkish-backed forces of the Syrian opposition who have succeeded in linking Jarabulus with Azaz, leading, in principle, to completely remove ISIS from the Turkish borders and secondly the opposition controls 90 km along the border and 15 km across. This is in fact the area that, for two years, Turkey has repeatedly called for a safe area in order to ease the burden of refugees.

Since yesterday, China hosts the G20 summit. Several bilateral meetings are under way, which will determine the future of the region. The most important of these will be between the Turkish President and his American counterpart on the first day of the session, as he and his Russian counterpart today. In my opinion, the Syrian crisis will be at the heart of these meetings. Will they be able to come up with a solution?