Will Turkey’s ‘Euphrates Shield’ turn into ‘Euphrates Sword’?

The autonomous administration in northern Syria (Rojava) in yellow. Turkey-led Euphrates Shield in green, Syrian Arab Army and allies (including Russia) in red, and Islamic State in black.

Although the Euphrates Shield Operation was formally halted on Wednesday, Turkey could launch a new military campaign in Syria at any time, according to Russian political analyst Alexander Asafov and his compatriot Vladimir Avatkov, head of the Center for Eastern Studies, International Relations and Public Diplomacy, Sputnik reported.

Asafov told Sputnik that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted “a carte blanche to act independently” and protect Turkey’s interests in the region. While Asfov thinks it likely that Turkey “could for instance kick start Operation Euphrates Sword that would be targeted against both Daesh and the Kurds.”

Footage showing the removal of four concrete modules of the wall at Turkish border town Akcakale near Urfa was grist to the mill for speculations of a possible “Operation Euphrates Sword” across the border where the Syrian city Tell Abyad is located.

The Islamic State (IS) was pushed out from Tell Abyad (Gire Spi in Kurdish) on 16 June 2015 by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and has since been part of the autonomous Rojava administration in Syria’s north.

Turkey has objected to the YPG-led Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), carrying out the operation to capture IS stronghold Raqqa.

Ankara has offered the global anti-IS coalition the alternative of leading the operation with Free Syrian Army forces it is backing. Other commentators have said Turkey could launch “Operation Euphrates Sword” to intervene in the Raqqa offensive.

Turkey’s National Security Council convened on Wednesday to declare a “successful end” to the operation but did not specify whether Ankara plans to withdraw its forces from the region.