Turkey President Recep Tayyip erdogan..
(photo credit: REUTERS,JPOST STAFF)
The Turkish army penetrated deep into Syria on Sunday to rescue its soldiers guarding a revered tomb surrounded by Islamic State fighters, but did not draw any fire from the jihadists.
This raises the question whether the country’s cooperation with the Syrian opposition influenced the smooth operation.
Turkey informed Islamic State and the Syrian government in advance of the operation, but did not get the latter’s agreement, McClatchy reported.
The notification to Islamic State went to fighters “in the area,” the report quoted officials as saying.
Sunni Turkey refuses to cooperate with the US-led coalition against Islamic State, as it sympathizes with the Sunni jihadists and has supported the Syrian rebels against the Syrian regime, allowing them to cross back and forth across its border.
In the regional sectarian confrontation between Sunnis and Shi’ites, Turkey has thrown its support behind revolutionary Sunni movements.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday a military incursion into Syria to relocate a tomb considered to be in sovereign Turkish territory was a temporary measure for security reasons and not a retreat.
A Turkish military operation to rescue 38 soldiers guarding a tomb in Syria surrounded by Islamic State was launched to counter a possible attack on them, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Monday.
The action, which involved tanks, drones, and reconnaissance planes as well as several hundred ground troops, was the first of its kind by Turkish troops into Syria since the start of the civil war there nearly four years ago.
“With this operation, our government has removed the risk of a possible attack on the tomb and the military post, and of endangering the lives of our soldiers,” Kalin told a news conference in Ankara.
The Syrian government described the operation as an act of “flagrant aggression,” a response dismissed by Kalin, who said the Syrian authorities had lost all legitimacy “Turkey used force unilaterally in a cautious manner.
There was a vacuum in the area of the revered tomb and they acted swiftly to remove it,” Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar- Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post
. Inbar argues that this whole operation was just a Turkish public relations maneuver.
“The grave was not in great danger. Islamic State did not touch it and neither did the Kurds.”
Asked what was the real motivation behind the incursion, Inbar responded that it seems to be a move to impress the electorate and send a message to the region that Turkey is strong.
Turkey informed all parties at the last moment so as to emphasize that it “did not need permission from anybody to attain what is considered important to them,” he said.
Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, told the Post regarding the failure of Islamic State to attack Turkish forces, “You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Coordination if not outright bribery has been going on for months; this is just the latest example,” adding that “the decision to evacuate the shrine now suggests dark clouds on the horizon.”
“Perhaps Turkey realizes it is losing control over the monster it helped create and incubate.”
“I think the big point is that it suggests Turkey has lost control of Islamic State,” claimed Rubin, adding, “When you play with fire, you get burned.”
“And with ISIS unleashed and sleeper cells in Turkey, the Turks are about to get scorched like they never have been before.”
The Kurdish Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) provided security and opened up a corridor for the Turkish troops, the Turkish media reported on Monday.
Rubin, author of the new book Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes, said that in reality the Syrian Kurds and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is basically the same as the Kurdish Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units YPG.
And the fact that the Turkish military requested PKK protection during its operation shows that the political purges of the military have taken their toll.
“If the Turks can work directly with the PKK and affiliated groups, there is no reason why the United States and Israel should not,” remarks Rubin on the fact that the US and the West regard the Kurdish militia as a terrorist entity.Reuters contributed to this report.
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