Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies attacked Kurdish militia in northeast Syria on Wednesday, pounding them with air strikes and artillery before starting a cross-border ground operation that could transform an eight-year-old war. The Turkey incursion to dislodge the Kurds also aims at establishing a Syrian Sunni mini-state governed by the Muslim Brotherhood with ready-to-be-governed 2 million Syrian refugees.
RUSSIA WATCHES AS US SENATORS ATTACK A NATO ALLY
In response, U.S. Republicans condemned President Donald Trump’s Syria policy, which represents a rare break from the White House. Some, like Senator Lindsey Graham, have called for “devastating” sanctions against a NATO ally. Russia, meanwhile, has been mostly quiet as it witnesses a wide rift in the NATO alliance. Mostly the cause of a defunct Syrian policy, which started during the Obama era.
The assault began days after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled American troops out of the way.
The Turkish defense ministry tweeted after nightfall:
The Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river as part of the Operation Peace Spring.
The UN’s 15-member body will meet on Thursday to discuss Syria at the request of the five European members, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland.
TRUMP STANDS HIS GROUND
On Wednesday, President Trump rejected criticism from fellow Republicans over his Syria decision. He also dismissed worries that captured Islamic State fighters might escape in the chaos of a Turkish attack. And just as Assad released Islamists from his prisons, the Kurds have hinted they might just duplicate. The Kurds, with U.S. help, have captured over 5,000 ISIS fighters.
Asked what he would do if Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan were to wipe out the Kurds, Trump said: “I will wipe out his economy if he does that.”
Why Trump has abandoned the Kurds remains a mystery, but many in Washington believe it might be for these two reasons:
- It is a personal score settling maneuver by a President known to harbor grudges. Against whom and for what reason is the mystery.
- He is playing a card that helps Vladimir Putin by creating splits in NATO countries. Putin will win big if Turkey orbited his sphere of influence should the U.S. follow through with sanctions.
His decision to empower Turkey makes no sense because Trump needs Republican support to fight an impeachment inquiry.
On the battlefield, thousands of people fled Ras al Ain toward Hasaka province as Turkish Air Force pounded the town the Kurds cleansed of Syrian Arabs during the civil war. So far, the Turkish air strikes killed at least five civilians and three fighters from the SDF.
Reuters contributed to this article.