Turkish aviation began striking Syrian Afrina on Kurdish formations. The beginning of the military operation "Olive Branch" was announced by the President of Turkey Recep Erdogan, who is confident in the result and is ready to advance on other Syrian cities. But talking about the success of the offensive is premature. Armed with the Americans, the Kurds can seize the initiative and move into a counteroffensive.
On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the beginning of the ground military operation "Olive Branch" in the Syrian city of Afrin. It is located in the north-west of the country where the Kurds live.
The first air strikes were inflicted by Turkish air forces on positions of the Kurdish party "Democratic Union" (PYD). The planes appeared over the bordering Syria with the Turkish province of Hatay in the districts of Reyhanli and Kyrykhan. Turkish media reported that from Afrina can be heard the sound of shell explosions.
The offensive began at 17.00 Moscow time. Erdogan said he was determined to "eliminate the terrorist threat" on the entire stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border right up to Iraq. The army is thrown against the People's Self-Defense Forces (YPG) of the Democratic Union party. The reason for the invasion was the Pentagon's information about the training on the basis of the Syrian democratic forces, the backbone of which is the YPG, the armed units for the protection of borders and internal order (according to the calculations of the Americans, these forces should undertake patrolling the border of Syria). Ankara calls PYD the continuation of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been at war with Turkey since the beginning of the 1980, and identifies Kurdish militias as terrorists.
The fact that the intervention will happen in the very near future became clear this week after Erdogan's words about the beginning of the operation to stage the gradual liberation of Syria's regions from terrorists, which "can not be prevented by the countries that declare support for Ankara and at the same time inflict Turkey a blow to back ". In these words Erdogan clearly hinted at the Americans. Reports of shelling around the neighborhood of Afrina have been coming all the last days. There was information about the transfer to the border with Syria of Turkish armored vehicles and electronic warfare complexes Koral.
Moscow, the Foreign Ministry reported, apprehended information about the beginning of the military operation of Turkey with concern and monitors developments. On Thursday, the head of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov held talks in Moscow with his counterpart from Turkey Hulusi Akar and the chief of her national intelligence, Hakan Fidan. Many Turkish analysts believed that the parties agreed on the details of the operation.
In the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Turkey, they explained their actions by the right of the country to self-defense. On the actual beginning of the operation with "artillery shelling" the day before reported the Minister of Defense of Turkey Nurettin Janikli. At the same time, contradictory information appeared about the alleged withdrawal from Afrina, where the Russian Center for Conciliation of the Parties and Military Police is operating. But this information was denied by the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov.
According to observers, in the attack on Afrin the Turks will bet on aviation, as artillery and armored vehicles can not be effective against 15 thousand well-trained fighters. Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad threatened to rebuff as appropriate "to any aggressive sortie by Turkey or its military invasion." According to him, "the Syrian air defenses are ready to destroy any Turkish goal in the sky of the Arab Republic."
The success of the "Olive Branch" would allow Erdogan to get rid of image losses after the dubious outcome of the operation "Shield of the Euphrates", the terms of which were tightened and led to results that were twice as low as planned. Now Erdogan is again confident of military success, saying that the next goal of the Turkish forces after the capture of Afrin will be the Syrian region Manbij, which is on the main road from Turkey to Rakku.
At the same time, the Turkish leader criticized the US for supporting the Syrian Kurds and called on the West to realize that "Turkey is an ally with which to reckon and cooperate in the region."
Director of the research center "Middle East - Caucasus" Stanislav Tarasov is convinced that Erdogan started a dangerous game. He warned that the Kurds could provide worthy resistance and seize the initiative in their own hands.
"The situation is not completely clarified, very contradictory information is received. The Americans have well prepared the Syrian Kurds for this offensive, now they are armed to the teeth and will give battle. The Turkish army will suffer heavy losses, "Tarasov told VZGLYAD.
The expert believes that, after the invasion, Syria "has the right to transfer military operations to the territory of the aggressor state". "There is a feeling that
Americans bring Erdogan to the fatal line in order to draw him into the war. This will not be a one-day operation. There will be raging losses. I'm afraid of a military coup in Turkey itself.
Erdogan plays a very serious game: after confronting with the United States, NATO, Europe, he did not really agree with either Iran or Russia. His ambitious tactical maneuvers can collapse at the first contact with the Kurdish fighting detachments, which, as noted by the Russian military, are very combat-ready, "the political scientist said.
Tarasov stressed that modest successes during the operation of the "Euphrates Shield" did not allow the Turkish army to show its effectiveness. "It's too early to draw conclusions. But the fact is that Turkey, which until recently raised the banners of neo-Ottomanism, now has conflicts not only on its borders, but faces the threat of losing its territorial integrity. If this happens, then this will be the second geopolitical catastrophe after the collapse of the Soviet Union, "Tarasov said.
The expert considers the beginning of the operation "Olive branch" a political miscalculation of Erdogan, a demonstration of a lack of experience of state thinking. "This is one of the mysteries for orientalists. Unlike the former Soviet republics, Turkey was still a relatively open country, it was integrated into the West. It seems that they should have specialists who are well aware of this region. But they make mistakes of an unforgivable level. It's amazing how they are "bred" by the Kurds, the Alawites. It's unclear why the Americans are substituting their NATO partner. Washington continues the scenario of the Arab spring, going to the frank fragmentation of Turkey, as the Americans did before with Iraq and Libya. Moreover, on the Kurdish shoulders, Americans can break into Iran. You can treat differently the actions of Americans in this region, but you can not recognize the step-by-step nature of their actions, "the expert concluded.
The operation of Turkey can create certain difficulties for the congress of the Syrian national dialogue, which will be held in Sochi on 29-30 January. "This will introduce certain difficulties for the beginning of the inter-Syrian dialogue in Sochi," the chairman of the State Duma defense committee, Vladimir Shamanov, told TASS, calling the event "a painful topic."
The deputy stressed that Moscow "has taken possible political and diplomatic steps (in connection with the plans of Ankara) and, of course, the continuation will still be behind it." "This is difficult to talk about, because it was an undesirable precedent on the eve of the planned congress on reconciliation of the parties in Syria," he concluded.
The guarantor countries of the ceasefire in Syria - Russia, Iran and Turkey - agreed 22 December following the results of the international meeting in Astana on holding the Congress of the Syrian national dialogue in Sochi from 29 on 30 January. At the forum, it will be a question of elaborating a new Syrian constitution and holding elections on its basis under the auspices of the United Nations.