Turkish jets launched a series of airstrikes at the Islamic State-held town of Jarabulus yesterday, followed up by a tank invasion.
“(Wednesday's operation) started in the north of Syria against terror groups which constantly threaten our country, like (ISIS) and the [Kurdish] PYD” President Erdogan stated, unequivocally demonstrating that the action was aimed as much as fighting the Kurds as the Islamic State.
“The Turks never cared about Jarablus until the Kurds wanted to get there,” an unnamed US Official told CNN.
Turkey views the Kurds and their push for autonomy as a mortal threat.
Kurdish forces recently took Manjib and were advancing on Jarablus.
But now forces loyal to the Free Syrian Army, which is backed by Turkey, have reportedly taken Jarablus.
U.S. officials said, “We've been in communication with the Turks about the operation” and described it as "very significant."
The operation is dubbed “Euphrates Shield.”
The date chosen for the operation, August 24, is of historical significance, because it marks exactly 500 years to the day since Ottoman Sultan Selim I won the decisive Battle of Marj Dabiq, leading to the Ottoman conquest of Syria and much of the rest of the Middle East.
Erdogan has previously shown his neo-Ottoman ambitions with comments such as, “We were born and raised on the land that is the legacy of the Ottoman Empire. They are our ancestors. It is out of the question that we might deny that presence. Of course, the empire had some beautiful parts and some not so beautiful parts. It’s a very natural right for us to use what was beautiful about the Ottoman Empire today.”
This particular campaign may simply be an effort to cut off Kurdish forces from gaining too much territory thus weakening Kurdish elements in southern Turkey. Erdogan has been engaged in an attempt to crush all dissent among the Kurdish population there, where there is a strong movement for greater regional autonomy.
Meanwhile China has also entered the fray on the side of the Syrian regime. China sent military advisors to Syria to support the regime’s army and trainers to teach Syrian soldiers how to use Chinese weapons.
China has also opened discussions with Russia and Iran about humanitarian aid and as to whether or not China will regularly deploy military advisers to Syria.
China’s interest in Syria is twofold. First, it wishes to protect itself from terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists in China, where there have been jihadist strikes in the Uighyur province in the West of the country in the past.
Second, China needs regional stability in order to safeguard its titanic “One Belt, One Road” project, which seeks to re-open the ancient silk road, running trade overland from Europe to Asia.
China is investing billions in in modern infrastructure to make global trade along that highway possible and the presence of jihadists and other unstable armed militia groups near the route jeopardize that investment.
In 2015, China opened up the Lianyungang-Istanbul railroad corridor as part of the initiative. It ships freight through Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia and is expected to generate U.S. $2.5 trillion in annual trade within the next 10 years, according to the Asia Times.
China does not seem to mind whether Turkey is Islamist or not, what it cares about is stability and security.
The intervention of both countries marks a serious escalation in the Syrian Civil War.
Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk analyzes China’s intervention: