Thomas Wictor

Turkey confirms that Arab League special forces are in Syria

Turkey confirms that Arab League special forces are in Syria

I don’t blame people for being wrong about what’s happening in Syria. What does anger me is fearmongering and the notion that only westerners are capable of solving the problems in the region. American politicians say that the US has to lead the fight. Actually, our attempts to do so have made everything worse. The best we can do is provide weapons and training for the locals, including Turkey.

My theory is that the Arab League has sent thousands of special-operations troops to Syria to kill everyone who needs killing and to provide a Sunni Arab alternative to the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Wahhabism. Turkey has confirmed that I was right, as I’ll explain in a moment.

The Manbij offensive

On January 6, 2016, Jaysh al-Thuwar (Army of Revolutionaries) announced that it had begun an offensive to take the Syrian city of Manbij from the Islamic State.

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Manbij_Syria

Prior to January 6, 2016, Jaysh al-Thuwar—part of the Syrian Arab Coalition that comprises the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD)—was not known for its fighting abilities. The militia had no support from foreign countries, which meant that all it had was light weaponry.

Now, Jaysh al-Thuwar is equipped with new uniforms, and the members hide their faces.

Jaysh_al-Thuwar

They also have armored vehicles and unidentified autocannons (red arrow).

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This is the problem that Manbij presented to Arabs, Kurds, and Turks.

Kurds consider large parts of this area as their own, including the long zone along the Turkish border — not only the Kurdish-held cantons of Afrin to the west and Kobane to the east, but also the sections in between that are currently held by rebel groups or IS. The Kurds have similar views on Manbij, which lies well south of the border. Even if the population in some of these areas is mostly Arab, the PYD [Democratic Union Party] still considers them “historically Kurdish,” seemingly basing their argument on notions from the Middle Ages and Salah al-Din.

Accordingly, the PYD aims to ensure territorial continuity between its Afrin canton and the rest of its self-proclaimed Kurdish region (called Rojava).

Turkey refuses to let the Kurds control the entire border and has warned several times that it will attack them if they cross the Euphrates, as it did in July when it shelled a PYD position near Jarabulus. On December 26, the Democratic Forces of Syria (an umbrella group for the PYD and its Arab allies) seized Tishrin Dam, then took the village of Abu Qilqil on the other side of the river three days later, bringing them only twelve kilometers from Manbij.

Although that town is out of Turkish artillery range, Ankara could hit PYD forces there with other weapons.

Well, the Israelis, Arabs, Kurds…and TURKS have once again shown themselves to be far superior than westerners when it comes solving the problems in the Middle East. Everything above has been addressed.

Masters of strategic deception

All that matters are actions. Words are completely without value. Everyone has been concentrating on words and ignoring actions. If you look at what people actually do, you’ll see the truth.

Here’s what President Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday.

Turkey has not allowed and will not allow the Syrian Kurdish PYD, which is fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) but has links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, to cross west of the Euphrates river, President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday.

Speaking to reporters in İstanbul, Erdoğan dismissed suggestions that fighters from the Kurdish militia had already crossed the river.

“This is all gossip. We haven’t allowed it up until now. Even if there are partial movements, we won’t allow such a thing,” he said.

It’s a lousy translation. Erdoğan said that Turkey won’t allow even a partial movement of the YPG from east of the Euphrates into northwestern Syria.

These are said to be Kurdish YPG fighters on the eastern side of the Tishreen Dam.

Tishreen_Dam_fighters

They’re certainly wearing the insignia of the YPG, but the men who crossed the Euphrates into northwestern Syria completely surprised the terrorists. The assault troops also had air support from both fixed and rotary-winged aircraft that used new munitions. It was a very sophisticated, complex, and violent operation.

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Tishrin_Dam_destruction.2

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Despite the massive firepower brought to bear, the dam itself was undamaged. Only professional special forces could’ve pulled it off.

The Kurdish YPG east of the Euphrates has remained there. As brave as they are, they haven’t had the luxury of extensive training in unconventional warfare. On January 3, 2016, Islamic State terrorists attacked the town of Ain Issa, 30 miles (50 miles) north of Raqqa.

Ain_Issa

Dozens of YPG fighters were killed in this battle.

During the assault on Tishreen Dam of December 26, 2016, the Arabs of the QSD suffered no casualties. In the two weeks that followed, they repelled multiple counterattacks by the Islamic State, including a nocturnal infiltration by rubber raft. On January 8, 2016, the Arabs of the QSD killed over 50 terrorists, for a loss of two men.

Both the US and Turkey have said that only Arabs of the QSD crossed the Tishreen Dam into northwestern Syria. They’re telling the truth, in the sense that the men fighting west of the Euphrates are indeed Arabs.

Turkey proves that I was wrong and right

I’d written off Turkey as a nation run by men with no brakes. My evaluation shows that westerners are incapable of grasping the complexities of the Middle East. On January 19, 2016, the Turks went into northern Syria and began clearing mines laid by the Islamic State near Jarablus. I thought Turkey had a nefarious plan in mind, but in reality this was simply preparing the battlefield. Here’s the official story.

Ankara has repeatedly reiterated its desire to establish some-form of ISIS-free border zone in northern Aleppo, with Turkey’s Yeni Safak newspaper reporting on January 11 that rebel groups were working to achieve the goal.

The daily—which is close to the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)—quoted a rebel commander as saying the opposition groups intend to secure Ankara’s desired safe-zone stretching from Aazaz to Jarabulus, which would prevent the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from further expanding along the Turkish border.

More strategic deception. The Kurds in northeastern Syria have no intention of going west from where they are now. In the map below, YPG units sit east of the Euphrates, Jarablus is the orange balloon, and Azaz is the red arrow.

Jarablus_Azaz_Syria

Turkey was clearing the way for Arab special operators. There’s no doubt. About 1000 of them entered Syria from Turkey and headed westward.

Even though Turkey is cracking down on Turkish Kurds, it’s certain that Syrian Kurds—with the help of the Arab League—have come to an understanding with Ankara. Syrian Kurds will not try to carve out an autonomous Kurdish zone along the Turkish border. How do I know this?

Here you go.

QUESTION: What’s the role of the Turkish Government in this fight? Because today Turkish prime minister said that 200 ISIS militants will be – are killed as a result of the Turkish artillery shots against ISIL targets. Are they supporting this offense against ISIL target in Manbij pocket?

COL WARREN: Well, we’ve seen the Turkish fire some artillery to very good effect in the Manbij pocket. We’re continuing to work with the Turks to tighten up our coordination with them on these artillery strikes that they do in that area, but yes, they are targeted.

QUESTION: So they are not under the umbrella of coalition, these artillery shots?

COL WARREN: They are, but we still need to work on our coordination.

QUESTION: What kind of coordination? Can you more – I mean, give some specifics? The targets, or the groups that they are supporting – what kind of coordination are we talking about? If they are —

COL WARREN: Well, we want to ensure that we know exactly where they’re going to strike before they strike. And this is always the case in any – in any type of a large outfit with as many moving parts as we have in this coalition, that’s going to happen. So we’ve identified is the Turks filling a need, right? There were some weather problems; we were having difficulty providing the type of air power we wanted to provide, and the Turks filled in with artillery fire. So it was perfect. It happened the way it was supposed to happen.

The Turks are firing long-range artillery in support of the ground forces carrying out the offensive on Manbij. That proves that Arab League special operators are the attackers. Under no circumstances would Turkey support a Kurdish offensive on Manbij, and there simply aren’t any members of the Syrian Arab Coalition capable of assaulting heavily fortified positions.

It also proves that the Turks are confident that the Kurds won’t take advantage of this war to create a contiguous Syrian Kurdistan that lies both east and west of the Euphrates. For the Turks to directly involve themselves in combat on the side of the Kurds, they had to have gotten ironclad assurances.

Turkey is using its T-155 Fırtına 155mm self-propelled howitzer to strike targets in Manbij.

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For pinpoint indirect fire, you need a forward observer on the ground. Arab special operators are calling in those strikes, and it’s likely that Israel has given Turkey the Top Gun guidance system for 155mm artillery rounds.

Top_Gun_artillery

The shortest distance between Manbij and Turkey is 17 miles (27 kilometers); Turkey claims that the T-155 Fırtına has an accuracy of 57 feet (17.5 meters), but unguided 155mm rounds over long ranges can have a circular error probable (CEP) of as much as 853 feet (260 meters). Unguided artillery is simply not useful when targeting specific structures or positions from far away. According to the US, Turkish artillery was used in place of precision-guided aerial munitions. Therefore the Turks must have GPS-guided artillery rounds.

Below is what the men attacking Manbij are facing, according to Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman US Army Colonel Steve Warren.

I’ll tell you, that’s a tough fight right now. From what I’ve seen, the imagery I’ve looked at, it’s very much a World War I style situation. You’ve got trench lines, bunkers, berms, and it’s a fairly static fight right now. There is – in small spots of tremendous tactical ferocity, but they’ll battle heavily over feet or inches even.

Tunnel warfare, trench warfare, hand-to-hand combat, and the destruction of hardened firing posts. Warren said that a total of about 150 US-trained Arab fighters are in Syria. Again and again and again we come back to the only answer: Arab League unconventional warriors have been deployed in very large numbers. Recently the YPG said that the US doubled the length of an airstrip in Rmeilan, in the northern part of Hasakah Governorate, Syria.

Rmeilan_airstrip.2

However, the Pentagon denies it. I think that’s true. Operating out of Syria would be very risky. The airstrip was lengthened by someone else, someone not afraid to suffer casualties or inflict them. My guess is that the new airstrip will be used in the assault on the Islamic State capital of Raqqa.

The Syrian Kurds and Turkey have obviously worked out an accommodation. I was wrong about Turkey. Of course this doesn’t settle the long-term issue of a Kurdish state, but that will happen eventually.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has called for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported.

“We must openly call for the establishment of a Kurdish state that separates Iran from Turkey, one which will be friendly towards Israel,” Shaked said at the annual INSS security conference in Tel Aviv.

“We are witnessing the disintegration of nation-states. We Kurds and Jews have a long history. We have common interests in trying to stop the Islamic State. The Kurds are fighting Daesh with all their might,” she added.

I have no idea how the Saudis and Israel manage to get consensus in the region. That just shows my own limitations. Westerners should never offer advice. We’re out of our depth when it comes to the Middle East.

All I can tell you is that very skilled people are handling it. If you know what to look for, you’ll see them.

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