Biden faces test as Turkey prepares new attack on Syrian Kurds

In January 2018, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch. It was designed to capture and ethnically cleanse the Afrin District of northern Syria. In October 2019, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to control, via Turkey’s Arab proxies, the population centers from around Tell Abyad to Ras al-Ayn. Get ready for incursion No. 3.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan justifies the looming offensive as a response to a rocket attack that killed two Turkish policemen. Those officers were acting as occupation authorities in Syria’s Azaz region, north of Aleppo. Turkey appears to blame the incident on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) operating near Tel Rifaat , which the YPG captured in 2016.

In recent days, Erdogan’s government has reportedly signaled to both Moscow and Washington that it wants to launch a new attack. Turkey’s state-controlled press hint that Turkey seeks to move 20 miles into Syria in order to drive the YPG from Manbij, Qamishli, and Kobane. That latter city is where the YPG broke the Islamic State’s siege and turned the tide of the war against the self-declared caliphate.

While neither President Vladimir Putin nor President Joe Biden has approved the operation in the manner that President Donald Trump and his envoy James Jeffrey did in 2019, Turkey appears undeterred. Russian forces have reportedly evacuated some of their positions in Syria in case Turkey makes its move.

Biden may face within days his first major test in the Middle East. What is at issue, after all, has never been terrorism. The Turks are hard-pressed to back their accusations of cross-border Kurdish terrorism with evidence. Turkey’s currency, meanwhile, is in free fall, as is what remains of Erdogan’s popularity. True to form, the Turkish leader appears now to take a page out of the distraction playbook of Argentine military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri, who ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who in 1990 ordered the invasion of Kuwait.

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