Turkey to ‘hit button’ on military operations into Syria and Iraq: pro-government paper

Turkish tanks on their way to Syria as part of the Euphrates Shield Operation launched in August 2016.

Turkey is planning three cross-border military operations into Iraq and Syria as a follow-up to the Euphrates Shield Operation, a pro-government newspaper has claimed.

The headline of the Yeni Safak daily on Thursday read, “Turkey to hit button” and said the Turkish government was going to initiate an operation into Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases in the Zap-Avashin and Shingal areas of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq.

According to the pro-government paper, another operation will be launched into the Karakozak area in northern Syria, where the Suleyman Shah tomb was formerly located. Karakozak is to the west of Manbij and controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Ankara views the SDF as a “terrorist” organisation due to it being led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it says is affiliated to the PKK.

The tomb, belonging to the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, was moved to the village of Ashme in a joint operation with the YPG in 2015, after the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group threatened to attack it. Turkey denied YPG participation at the time.

Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, previously said military incursions into neighbouring countries could be launched if Turkey saw fit.

The Euphrates Shield Operation came to an abrupt end in late March with critics saying the military incursion had been a disaster in terms of Turkish military and political goals in the region.

Turkey has said it will not allow a “Kurdish corridor” being formed on its southern border and has called for Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups it is backing to control the area. Attacks by FSA groups on SDF affiliated militias in north-western Syria’s Afrin region have been constant, local media has reported.

The Kurdish-led multi-ethnic autonomous administration in Syria’s north has expanded areas under its control and is proposing a federal solution to the crisis.

Both the Syrian government and opposition groups backed by Turkey, Gulf and Western states have rejected a federal solution.