Monday, January 22, 2018

Turkey's Military Incursion Into Syria Shows Complex Syrian Conflict 'Nowhere Near Ending'

Turkey’s Presence in Afrin Shows Complex Syrian Conflict ‘Nowhere Near Ending’

The Turkish military’s incursion into northwestern Syria creates a new dimension in the years-long crisis in Syria and highlights the conflict is “nowhere near ending,” an international affairs and security analyst told Sputnik.

The Turkish operation is nothing short of an effort to "cleanse" the Syrian city of Afrin from ethnic Kurds, security analyst Mark Sleboda told Sputnik.

​"Turkey was candid," US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday regarding Ankara's plan to lay siege to the US-backed Kurdish militia in Afrin. "They warned us before they launched [the airstrikes that] they were going to do it," Mattis told Reuters on a flight to Asia January 20.

Mattis did not disclose Washington's stance on the Turkish operation, except to point out that Turkey was the only NATO member with an ongoing insurgency inside its borders. "Turkey has legitimate security concerns," he said.

"The low-hanging fruit of ISIS [Daesh] has largely been defeated," Sleboda told Radio Spuntik's Loud & Clear on Monday, but the seven-year long crisis in Syria is "nowhere near ending."

The situation has resulted in a "three-way Mexican standoff," Sleboda said. The major parties consist of the allied Russian and Syrian governments; Turkey and aligned proxy groups including "what was once the Free Syrian Army, Ahrar al-Sham and Al-Qaeda's iteration, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, HTS;" and finally "the US and its proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces," the analyst explained.

A recent plan to build a 30,000-strong "border force" to defend territory held by US-supported and Kurdish-led forces in Syria enraged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish leader vowed last Monday that Turkey would "strangle" any such group "before it's even born," Reuters reported.

The name was changed to a "stabilization force" in an effort "to assuage Turkey," Sleboda said, but US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced last week that, in any event, the US will "maintain" a military presence in Syria. Justifications for the US military presence have ranged from preventing Daesh's resurgence to "countering Iranian influence, as if Syria doesn't have the right to say who its allies are and aren't," Sleboda noted.
In response, the Syrian Foreign Ministry stated on January 18 that "the American military presence on Syrian land is illegitimate and represents a blatant breach of international law." Turkey was not pleased with the announcement, in addition to the US' refusal to take back weapons supplied to Kurdish fighters, Sleboda said.
"Evidently, the Russian and the Syrian governments went to Afrin and said: ‘If you'll raise the Syrian flag, allow the Syrian Army in and recognize that we're your government… then we can protect you.' The Kurds said no," Sleboda explained. "That was basically the green light Turkey needed" to start its military operation, he added.

Analyst have have pointed out how quickly the US left the side of Kurdish fighters who have "proven their effectiveness" in helping to "shred [the Daesh] caliphate in Syria," according to Mattis' description of the Kurds on Sunday.

"I can't get my head around how helpful Kurdish fighters were against [Daesh] compared to the Free Syrian Army and especially Turkey," Max Abrahms of the Council on Foreign Relations said Saturday, adding that the "Free Syrian Army has teamed up with Turkey to crush the Kurds in the name of counterterrorism. They should call this Operation Irony."

Abrahms also observed the intriguing development that "Turkey wasn't pro-ISIS enough by allowing foreign fighters unfettered access in and out of Syria, so now Turkey is trying to destroy the best fighting force against ISIS."

Years of heavy investment in military equipment and technology in China’s People’s Liberation Army have resulted in a new electronic warfare aircraft that will be deployed for projecting power in the East and South China Seas, according to recent Chinese media reports.

"The H-6G electronic warfare aircraft boast of high electronic jamming power and can cover relatively bigger combat areas such as the South China Sea and [the] East China Sea," military commentator Song Zhongping told the Global Times on Monday.
The latest electronic aircraft to join China's navy have been in development since 2008, the Global Times noted. A defining feature on the jets consists of electronic countermeasure pods mounted on the plane's wings to play "a supporting role" in electronic warfare environments, said Military Time, a CCTV program in China.
"The main role of the electronic fighters is to obstruct the enemies' electronic jamming devices — for example, radar — to temporarily or permanently, if powerful enough, cover the surveillance devices and to hide our combat platforms' track," Song told the Global Times.

In 1999, a PLA officer described the 2.8 million-person military as being similar to a boxer plagued with "short arms and slow feet," in a RAND Corporation analysis of China. At the time, Beijing's army was described as "indisputably not a ‘peer-competitor' of the United States."

Since, China's leadership has invested an unprecedented level of resources into its navy, air force and general military technology capabilities. Nearly a decade later, China's military capabilities had advanced to become "anything but ‘short' or slow,'" due to new top-of-the-line Russian aircraft, surveillance assets in space, a sizeable inventory of ballistic missiles and an improving naval force, according to a study published for the US-China Economic and Security Review commission.

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