Erdogan hints at military action against YPG

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the Belt and Road Forum at the China National Convention Center (CNCC) in Beijing, in this photo taken on May 14, 2017. (AP)
Updated 19 May 2017
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Erdogan hints at military action against YPG

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted at possible retaliation against the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in a speech to Turkish business group TUSIAD on Thursday,.
Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization affiliated to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
Erdogan said during his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, he notified him that Turkey would “exercise its rights under the rules of engagement” without consulting anyone.
“We are facing a picture where terrorist organizations are constantly supported, strengthened and are confronting us. Turkey is not a country that will consent to such treatment,” Erdogan said.
Turkey refuses to take part in the anti-Daesh coalition’s impending Raqqa operation if the YPG participates.
The US considers the group a reliable and strong partner on the ground in its anti-Daesh efforts.
Last year, Turkey carried out Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria against Daesh and the YPG. Erdogan said Turkey would not hesitate to conduct similar operations when necessary.
Galip Dalay, senior associate fellow on Turkey and Kurdish affairs at Al-Jazeera Center for Studies, and research director at Al-Sharq Forum, told Arab News that if Erdogan carries out this threat, it will likely undermine the stability of the Raqqa operation.
But Dalay said he does not expect a sustained military operation similar to Euphrates Shield to be undertaken in other parts of Syria.
“The conditions aren’t in place for such an operation. We might witness some short-lived cross-border firing or operations. The symbolic significance will be higher than the real military or geopolitical impact,” Dalay said.
Dalay added that the US will try its best to defuse tensions between the YPG and Turkey.
“I don’t think we’ll witness the kind of fighting between Turkey and the YPG that occurred between Turkey and Daesh during Operation Euphrates Shield, because any clash with the YPG would lead to full-fledged battles on many fronts such as Turkey, Syria and Iraq,” Dalay said.
“I sensed some toning down in Erdogan’s discourse on the YPG when he said Turkey will react if the YPG targets Turkey,” Dalay added. “That means a reactive response rather than a proactive assault on the YPG.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the US provided Turkey with guarantees that heavy weapons given to the YPG will only be used to liberate Raqqa from Daesh, not against Turkey under any circumstances.
Experts expect military action in Shingal, a PKK-occupied town in northern Iraq near the Turkish border.
Last month, Turkish warplanes carried out a wave of airstrikes against Kurdish positions in Iraq and northern Syria.
The YPG in Syria and the Peshmerga in Iraq, which are part of the anti-Daesh coalition, said their forces were targeted in the strikes.
“Such an operation (in Shingal) will probably have the blessing of the US and the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party), maybe not that overtly,” Dalay said.


Nearly a year since fall of Iraq’s Mosul, hunt for bodies goes on

Updated 21 May 2018
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Nearly a year since fall of Iraq’s Mosul, hunt for bodies goes on

  • “The operations will continue until all the corpses are extracted” from the heart of the city
  • The rubble makes it impossible to bring in heavy construction machinery

MOSUL: Atop an enormous mound of rubble under blistering sun in Iraq’s second city Mosul, fire crews and police chip away at a grim but vital task.
Some 10 months after dislodging the Daesh group, they are still extracting bodies from the ruins of the shattered Old City.
“Over three days, 763 bodies have been pulled from the rubble and buried,” Lt. Col. Rabie Ibrahim says.
Despite the overpowering stench, the men work relentlessly, braving unexploded munitions in an area devastated by the nine-month battle.
“The operations will continue until all the corpses are extracted” from the heart of the city, Ibrahim says.
Civilians’ bodies that can be identified are handed to their families, while the remains of Daesh combatants are buried in a mass grave on the western outskirts of Mosul.
Some of the putrefied corpses are sent to Nineveh province’s health services, Ibrahim adds.
The workers, their faces covered with masks or scarves, move with great caution.
The bodies of jihadists are sometimes still clad in suicide belts.
Grenades, homemade bombs and other crude contraptions left by Daesh fighters during their retreat to Syria pose a constant threat.
The improvised boobytraps are hidden under multiple layers and obstacles — the rubble of collapsed homes, disemboweled furniture and uprooted trees, in some places subsiding into the waters of the Tigris that meander murkily below.
Where a maze of cobbled streets was once lined with homes and market stalls, there is now a formless mess populated by stray animals, insects and disease.
The destruction is so great that some residents cannot pinpoint the remnants of their homes or even their street as they try to direct salvage workers to the remains of loved ones.
The rubble makes it impossible to bring in heavy construction machinery, says General Hossam Khalil, who leads Nineveh province’s civil defense force.
His men therefore have to rely on smaller vehicles, but Mosul “only has a few,” he says.
There is a pressure to work as quickly as conditions will allow: residents are exhausted by three years of Daesh rule, nine months of brutal urban combat and now the slow pace of reconstruction.
“But it’s impossible, with this stench, this pollution and the epidemics they can cause,” says Othmane Saad, an unemployed 40-year-old whose home in the old city is entirely destroyed.
Another resident, 33-year-old Abu Adel, wants the authorities “to clear all the corpses as quickly as possible” and to “compensate residents so they can rebuild, then establish public services.”
But the task is titanic.
Since Mosul was retaken in July, “2,838 bodies, including 600 Daesh members, have been retrieved from the rubble,” governor Naufel Sultane says.
Even after the corpses are taken away and buried, they leave harmful bacteria which the Tigris can carry far beyond the old city.
The authorities insist drinking water stations are unaffected and that they pump water from the Tigris’ central depths, avoiding the banks and other shallows.
But gastroenterologist Ahmed Ibrahim advises caution.
“You must boil water before drinking it and don’t use river water, either for bathing or washing,” he says.
Birds and fish “can carry typhus, bilharzia and gastroenteritis,” he adds.