Pressure from the United States and Russia has prevented Turkey from launching a new invasion into northern Syria, leader of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Ferhat Abdi Şahin said during an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that was published on December 7.
Turkey launched an operation against Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, codenamed Claw-Sword, on November 20 in response to the November 13 bombing in Istanbul. Ankara believes that the core faction of the SDF, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, was involved in attack, which claimed the lives of six people and wounded more than 80 others.
So far, Operation Claw-Sword has been limited to air and artillery strikes, despite repeated warnings from senior Turkish officials that the operation could morph into a ground offensive against the SDF in northern Syria.
Şahin, who is known by his nom de guerre Mazloum Abdi, told the London-based newspaper that American and Russian pressure as well as the SDF’s growing military capabilities forced Ankara to put its plans for a new invasion of northern Syria on halt.
“I believe the American pressure on Ankara played a hand to an extent. With time, international pressure also mounted on Ankara. Ankara violated understandings that it had reached with Russia and the US alike. This prompted the major pressure that in turn led to a drop in strikes,” the Kurdish leader said. “The second factor, frankly, is that we, as a military force, had been well prepared. For example, the Kobane region, Manbij and Tell Rifaat were heavily attacked by Turkish jets and artillery, and yet, the SDF did not lose a single member. The Turks did not achieve their desired result.”
Since 2016, Turkey has launched several ground operations against the SDF in northern Syria that have allowed it to control areas along the border.
Responding to a question about a recent meeting with the Russian military command in Syria, Şahin said that Russia is currently standing in a “neutral position” between the SDF and Turkey. According to the leader, Russia is trying to ensure that the 2019 Sochi agreement is being implemented and it is tackling violations when they happen.
“On our end, we have many reservations over Turkey and the many violations it is committing,” Şahin said.
Early on in the crisis, Şahin threatened to set the Syrian-Turkish border aflame if Turkey launch a new ground invasion into northern Syria. The leader also called for more American and Russian pressure on Turkey, a move that appears to be working.
With air and artillery strikes on northern Syria slowing down, the chances of Turkey launching a ground invasion to uproot the SDF from the region are getting slimmer. Ankara will not apparently risk such a move without a green light from the U.S. and Russia.
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