The Turkish Military and its proxies are reportedly preparing to launch a new large-scale operation against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria.
Speaking following a cabinet meeting on May 23, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara will launch a new military operation in Syria in an effort to link up two areas already under Turkish control in the northern and northeastern regions of the country.
Erdogan said the operation would aim to resume Turkish efforts to create a 30km “safe zone” along its border with Syria.
“We will soon take new steps regarding the incomplete portions of the project we started on the 30km deep safe zone we established along our southern border,” Erdogan said.
Following Erdogan’s statement, the SDF said it that there had been no “strategic change” in northern and northeastern Syria, and that Turkey was trying to “undermine stability” in these regions. The group also revealed that it is exchanging information on Turkish threats with international guarantors, in a hint to the US and Russia.
The SDF is led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which Turkey views as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
On May 24, Leaflets were dropped over SDF-held Minaq in the northern countryside of Aleppo, calling on civilians there to stay away from all military positions in the town. The leaflets said the Turkish decision to “cleanse” areas held by Kurdish forces is “irreversible”.
Minaq is expected to be one of the main targets of any upcoming operation against the SDF, along with the towns of Tell Rifaat and Manbij in the northern Aleppo countryside and the town of Kobane in the governorate’s northeastern countryside.
A fairly large force of the Syrian Arab Army and several units of the Russian Military Police are present near all of these towns.
Ankara could soon find itself in a new confrontation with Damascus, whose Foreign Ministry called the Turkish plans to establish a “safe zone” in the northern and northeastern regions a “colonial aggression” in a message sent to UN Secretary-General António Guterres on May 25.
The US, the main backer of the SDF, has also warned Turkey against launching a new military operation in northern and northeastern Syria.
Turkey is likely trying to take advantage of the Ukrainian conflict, which is keeping Russia busy and the US in need of all of its NATO allies, to further its agenda in Syria. A new operation against the SDF could also play in favor of Erdogan and his party, the Justice and Development, before the 2023 Turkish elections.