MESOP NEWS BACKGROUNDER : Turkey Halting Its Offensive in North?

March 30 – 2017 – MESOP  –  Turkish PM: “Operation Euphrates Shield has been successful and is finished”

Turkey has announced an end to Operation Euphrates Shield, the Turkish-rebel offensive that has driven the Islamic State from Syria’s border and taken much of northern Aleppo Province since last August.Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced in a televised interview on Wednesday, “Operation Euphrates Shield has been successful and is finished. Any operation following this one will have a different name.”

Yildirim said “everything is under control” after the Turkish-rebel forces cleared ISIS out of a 98-km (61-mile) corridor and then moved south, reaching as far as the capture of al-Bab — 30 km (19 miles) from the border and 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Aleppo city — in late February.The announcement appears to end any Turkish hopes of pressing east to take Manbij, held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and then pursue an offensive against Raqqa, ISIS’s central position in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had repeatedly declared his intention for such an operation. Turkey is opposed to any Kurdish presence west of the Euphrates River and consider the Syrian Kurdistan Democratic Party (PYD) and its YPG militia — the leading element in the SDF — to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.But both the US and Russia put in supplies and troops to bolster the SDF in Manbij, and the SDF added a further obstacle by handing over villages west of the city to pro-Assad forces. After months of hesitation over the Turkish-PYD conflict, Washington has also recently signalled its support for an SDF-led offensive against Raqqa. Yildirim kept Turkish options open, saying that cross-border operations could resume, but offered no further signal of a counter to the PYD/YPG plans.