Nov 25, 2020 A contemporary Turkish navy buildup is underway within the northern Syrian area of Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, round the important thing M-Four freeway, elevating the specter of one other Turkish thrust to curb the Syrian Kurds. Military automobiles, heavy weaponry, radars and distant surveillance tools have been stationed in areas that type the road of contact with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to Kurdish sources, the Turkish navy and allied insurgent teams have arrange navy posts on the village of Saida, north of Ain Issa, in addition to round Tell Tamer and Zirkan. In early November, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Turkish forces had been stationed additionally at Kaffifa, Ain Rummana, Tina and Al-Rabea, all near the M-Four freeway. Mervan Rojava, the top of the media workplace of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the spine of the SDF, informed Al-Monitor that Turkish forces had arrange a watchtower with surveillance cameras and snipers at Saida, a abandoned village simply north of M4. Rojava recalled that the M4 had successfully change into a separation line between Turkish forces and the SDF after Turkey seized management of the border stretch from Tell Abyad to Ras al-Ain in Operation Peace Spring in October 2019. “The Turkish military has been setting up military bases and digging trenches along the separation strip at sites just several hundred meters from the highway,” he mentioned. After Operation Peace Spring, the grain silos within the village of Shergirak near Ain Issa turned the biggest Turkish base within the neighborhood of M4. Another camp space is positioned near the village of Misherfa, not removed from Tell Tamer. Turkey has been reinforcing each bases in addition to new websites, in accordance with Syria-based Kurdish journalist Nazim Dastan. Trenches, canals and tunnels are reportedly being dug near Medrut, not removed from Tell Abyad, Zirkan and the Hoshan and Khalidiya villages alongside the M4. Referring to Saida, which has been a kind of a buffer zone between the 2 sides, Dastan mentioned, “Turkish officials met with the Russians a while ago, asking to set up a military base at Saida. The response of the Russians was negative. This was followed by an intensive assault, which the SDF repelled. Then they began to dig trenches and tunnels and erect a watchtower. They are now using the site to monitor the M4 and Ain Issa.” According to Rojava, Turkey has concurrently stepped up shelling of villages round Ain Issa and Tell Abyad. The neighborhood of Shergirak has change into a “true nightmare” for locals, he mentioned, including that civilian convoys had been coming underneath assault on the M4, despite the fact that they’re imagined to be underneath Russian safety underneath Turkish-Russian accords. He mentioned “the road has become synonymous with looting, abductions and intimidation” by insurgent militias aligned with Turkey. Is the Turkish navy exercise within the space a prelude to a brand new part in Operation Peace Spring? President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the prospect of a contemporary operation a number of instances in October because the United States was busy with presidential elections. For Ankara, the US partnership with the YPG quantities to help for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the armed group that has fought Ankara for nearly 4 many years. Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the PKK and considers each terrorist teams. “There are still terrorist areas in Syria. Either they are cleansed as we have been promised or we’ll go and do it ourselves,” Erdogan warned Oct. 3. In one other warning Oct. 24, he mentioned, “Efforts are underway to establish a terrorist state there. Turkey will never allow the creation of such a state along its borders. We’ll do what it takes to drain the terrorist swamp.” Four days later, he asserted that Turkey had “a legitimate reason to intervene at any moment” if “all terrorists are not removed … as we have been promised.” Turkey appeared to mull an try to make additional positive factors on the bottom whereas President Donald Trump, whose abrupt choices have usually given Erdogan alternatives to behave, was preoccupied with the election. Trump’s defeat appears to have considerably altered Ankara’s calculus. Erdogan’s warnings have ceased since Joe Biden’s victory was assured, however Turkey’s navy exercise on the bottom has accelerated. The prospect of Turkey making the most of the transition hubbub in Washington to develop Operation Peace Spring can’t be dominated out but, regardless of indicators of adjustment to the brand new actuality in Washington. Ankara’s avowed enmity to the de facto Kurdish self-rule in northern Syria stays unchanged. Since scrapping the settlement course of with the Kurds at home in 2015, Erdogan has invested nice political capital on this coverage, together with his alliance with Turkey’s nationalists, which helped him set up the manager presidency system in 2018. Though Erdogan’s narrative about crushing the “terrorist corridor” in Syria would possibly proceed so long as he depends on nationalist help, Biden’s influence is extensively anticipated to drive moderation in Ankara. The Kurds, specifically, anticipate an easing of tensions with Turkey. “While we cannot say that the chances of Turkey mounting a new military attack against [Kurdish-held areas] are zero, we can say that they have been significantly reduced,” SDF commander Mazlum Kobane informed Al-Monitor earlier this month. Still, the Kurds stay cautious. Asked concerning the prospect of a contemporary Turkish offensive, Rojava mentioned, “They are watching for an opportunity to attack northern Syria, even though they know the political climate after the US elections is not in their favor. US and Russian forces, who are the guarantors of the deals [with Turkey], are keeping up their communication with the SDF, but are not preventing Turkey’s acts of occupation. Turkey might try to pursue its agenda [while] its old ally Trump [remains in office], but I don’t think they’ll have the means and guts to do that because the implications could be disastrous.” Likewise, Dastan believes Turkey has a large-scale offensive in thoughts despite the fact that the political local weather has modified to its detriment. “The offensive might not happen immediately, but they are laying the ground for it. They might make a move as soon as an opportunity emerges,” he mentioned. Since final 12 months, the Kurds have been anxious that Turkey might attempt to seize the Kobani space to attach the 2 border stretches it controls on both aspect of the realm. They now fear that Turkey might attempt to seize Ain Issa first, which would go away Kobani encircled apart from a path to Tishreen to the south. Also, there are long-running issues that Turkey might acquiesce to Russia’s recreation plan in Idlib in return for concessions to develop Operation Peace Spring towards the Kurds. Russia’s perspective would possibly complicate Turkey’s calculations. Under the Sochi Accord of October 2019, Turkey and Russia have been conducting joint patrols alongside the jap and western boundaries of the Operation Peace Spring space, together with the periphery of Kobani. Though the association has not stopped Turkey’s assaults, it permits Russia partial management on the bottom. Moreover, some important modifications have occurred on the bottom because the signing of the accord. The Russians have taken over the bottom that US forces evacuated in Ain Issa and the Syrian navy is now current each on the M4 and on the Turkish border. Ultimately, the goal of Turkey’s reinforcements might stay restricted to growing its management over the M4. In a report earlier this month, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu information company highlighted the position of the M4 as a route of oil provides from Kurdish-held areas to territories managed by Damascus. “While under US sanctions, the [Syrian] regime continues to obtain oil from the YPG/PKK terrorist organization, the United States’ partner. The oil trade … has totaled 15,000 trucks over the past month. Tankers carrying oil from YPG/PKK-occupied Rmelan have been spotted in [at least] three locations occupied by the organization, including Tell Tamer, Ain Issa and Raqqa,” the report mentioned. Disrupting the oil circulate requires management over the M4 and a number of other junctions on the route.