MESOP NEWS Syria Daily: Turkey Seeks Russia Approval for Attack on Kurdish Afrin; US and Assad Regime Object

By Scott Lucas – January 19, 2018 – eaworldview – Turkish meetings in Moscow with Russian and Iranian counterparts on Thursday

In a realignment of forces in Syria’s 81-month conflict, Turkey is asking for Russian acceptance of military operations against the Kurdish canton of Afrin in the northwest. Meanwhile, the Assad regime has said that it will shoot down Turkish warplanes, and the US has asked Ankara to refrain from an attack and focus on the Islamic State.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned for weeks that Turkey will move against Afrin and possibly the city of Manbij in eastern Aleppo Province, held by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its Kurdish militia YPG to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.The warnings have become louder in the last week amid reports that the US is planning to create a 30,000-strong border force, half of which will come from the SDF and half from other recruits. Erdoğan immediately said that Turkey will drown the “terror army” and launch an offensive on Afrin. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that operations could also include Manbij, and the head of the Turkish military, Gen. Hulusi Akar, spread the message at a NATO meeting.

Even though Tillerson claimed on Wednesday that the US proposal had been exaggerated and was “misportrayed” — a statement amplified by the US-led coalition as “this is not a new ‘army’ or conventional ‘border guard’ force — Turkey has dispatched Akar to Moscow to seek Russian and Iranian backing of any military measures.

“We will intervene in Afrin,” Cavusoglu said on TV. “We are meeting the Russians and Iran on the use of air space.”

He said that he did not expect Russian opposition: “When we carry out an intervention, we need to coordinate on this, it should not impact the Russian observers.” In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert appealed to Ankara, “We would call … on the Turks to not take any actions of that sort. We don’t want them to engage in violence but we want them to keep focused on ISIS.”

Earlier this week, both the Pentagon and the US-led coalition indicated that they would take no action in Afrin in the event of a Turkish offensive.Cavusoglu said on Thursday, “Our response to this is our legitimate right to retaliate. We told the United States this.”