By Selcan Hacaoglu. There’s only one major group of combatants in the Syrian war that’s backed by both Russia and the U.S. — and now Turkey is attacking it.
Since the weekend, Turkey has unleashed its 155-millimeter heavy guns across the border with Syria. The targets are Kurdish forces, whose recent advance is a key part of the Russian plan to extend President Bashar al-Assad’s control over Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday refused to stop the shelling and said Turkey was acting in self-defense.
Syria’s five-year war has turned into a tangled web of proxy conflicts between global and regional powers, with a growing risk that some of them could clash directly. Right now the most dangerous flashpoint is between Russia and NATO member Turkey, which shot down a Russian plane in November. Since then tensions have steadily built as the Assad-Russia alliance — with help from the Kurds — threatens to surround Turkish-backed rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city.
“Both Russia and Turkey are looking to position for strategic advantage,” Tim Ash, head of emerging-market strategy at Nomura in London, said by e-mail on Monday. “The risk is of an actual Russo-Turkish military clash, which would then threaten to draw in NATO.” (Read more from “Storm Clouds Gathering: Turkey Viciously Attacks Only Syrian Group Backed by Both Putin and U.S., Risking Direct Conflict With Russia” HERE)
Kurds’ Advance in Syria Divides U.S. And Turkey as Russia Bombs
By Daren Butler. The rapid advance of U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, taking advantage of Russian air strikes to seize territory near the Turkish border, has infuriated Ankara and threatened to drive a wedge between NATO allies.
Washington has long seen the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG military wing as its best chance in the battle against Islamic State in Syria – to the chagrin of fellow NATO member Turkey, which sees the group as terrorists and fears it will stir up greater unrest among its own Kurdish minority.
Russian bombing has transformed the five-year-old Syrian civil war in recent weeks, turning the momentum decisively in favor of Moscow’s ally President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian army has come within 25 km (15 miles) of the Turkish border and says it aims to seal it off altogether, closing the main lifeline into rebel territory for years and recapturing Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war. (Read more from “Kurds’ Advance in Syria Divides U.S. And Turkey as Russia Bombs” HERE)