Erdogan’s promised Turkish military operation in northeast Syria has begun, as confirmed by regional media and video footage. On Monday night Turkish fighter jets commenced bombing the Semelka Border Crossing in far northeast Syria on the border with Iraq.
Both Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen television channel and Israeli media are also reporting Turkish jets have attacked Kurdish targets in northern Syria.
This as the US claimed to have effectively shut down Northern Syria airspace to Turkey, and while Russian jets have reportedly been observed patrolling southern Syria, presumably to ensure the Turkish incursion comes nowhere near Syrian Army positions. The Semelka crossing since 2016 acted as a key SDF supply point between Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.
Turkey’s Anadolu Agency also reports Turkish officers have been expelled from the Joint Air Operations Center which was the heart of coordinated anti-ISIL activities among the allies, meaning US surveillance and reconnaissance data are no longer shared with Ankara. In northeast Syria a rapid US withdrawal from border observation posts at Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain has reportedly already occurred, paving the way for the imminent Turkish incursion.
Citing Pentagon spokeswoman Carla Gleason, Anadolu noted, however:
She stopped short of saying that the air space has been shut down to Turkey, but noted “if you’re not on the air tasking order, it’s really hard to coordinate flights in that area.”
We might note that when it comes to the Kurds, Erdogan has never suffered qualms about having to “coordinate” his actions with allies.
It appears Trump’s dire Twitter warning to “obliterate” Ankara’s economy, directed both at the Turks and at US hawks who accuse the president throwing Kurdish partner forces to the wolves, was ineffective, given by all indicators a Turkish aerial campaign has commenced.
Trump warned earlier in the day Monday, “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).”
“They must, with Europe and others watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100 percent of the ISIS Caliphate,” he added. “It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!” the president finished with.
Meanwhile Turkey’s military spokesman has ominously warned that the army will move forward to “correct the demographics changed by YPG in Northeast Syria” and further that “Turkey won’t allow ISIS to return in any shape or form.”
Considering Erdogan already stood down US pressures on acquiring the Russian S-400 air defense system, he appears more willing to call Trump’s bluff at this point.