Turkey’s Syria offensive enters 2nd month with slow progress

Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters are seen in the town of Salwah, less than 10 kilometres from the Syria-Turkey border on February 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Turkey’s Syria offensive enters 2nd month with slow progress

ANKARA: Turkey’s offensive against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria will enter a second month Tuesday having made little progress while straining relations with Washington and The European Union.
Ankara on January 20 launched a cross-border air and ground operation against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) supporting Syrian rebels in the Afrin region.
Turkey views the YPG as a Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly hailed the operation’s success, analysts argue Ankara’s forces have made slow progress.
The Turkish army has said 32 Turkish military personnel have been killed in the process.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, Syrian rebels and Turkish forces have taken 35 villages since the start of the operation, but most border Afrin.
Meanwhile, Turkish security expert Abdullah Agar said the “Olive Branch” operation forces captured around 300 square kilometers (120 square miles) of territory.
Since the operation began, the Observatory said 238 Olive Branch fighters (including Turkish soldiers) and 197 YPG fighters have been killed along with 94 civilians.
Ankara strongly denies that there have been civilian casualties, saying its armed forces are showing utmost care not to harm civilians.

Kurdish YPG forces

Jana Jabbour, professor of Political Science at Sciences Po university in Paris, said the Turks were “struggling to move forward” because of the “organization of the Kurdish YPG forces and their combativeness.”
She added it was important to distinguish between the political rhetoric, “even political propaganda,” and the reality on the ground.
On the ground, Turkish fighting was now focused around the area of Arab Wiran in northeast Afrin, the UK-based Observatory said.
If this is captured, pro-Ankara forces would control 50 continuous kilometers (31 miles) on Afrin’s northern border with Turkey.
The operation is likely to be further complicated after the Syrian state news agency SANA on Monday said pro-government forces were expected to enter Afrin to counter the Turkish offensive.
In response, Erdogan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call there would be “consequences” if the regime entered the region, according to Turkish media.
Jabbour said she doubted the regime would move into Afrin because “behind the scenes Turkish forces and Syrian forces are talking to each other,” adding Russia would not allow the regime to enter direct confrontation with Turkey.
Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), blacklisted by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.


Iran can expand range of ballistic missiles: Guards commander

Updated 10 December 2018
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Iran can expand range of ballistic missiles: Guards commander

  • The Iranian government has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities
  • Last month, Hajjizadeh said that US bases in Afghanistan, the UAE and Qatar, and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf were within range of Iranian missiles

GENEVA: Iran has the ability to build ballistic missiles with a broader range, a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Monday, according to the semi-official Fars News agency.
Iran’s missiles currently cover a range of 2000 kilometers (1,240 miles) and many “enemy bases” are within 800 kilometers of the Islamic Republic, Amirali Hajjizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division, was cited as saying.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
“We have the ability to build missiles with a broader range,” Hajjizadeh said, according to Fars News. He added, “We don’t have limitations from a technical perspective or by conventions with regard to missile range.”
The Iranian government has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities, particularly its missile program run by the Guards.
Last month, Hajjizadeh said that US bases in Afghanistan, the UAE and Qatar, and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf were within range of Iranian missiles.
In October, the Revolutionary Guards fired missiles at Daesh militants in Syria after the extremist group took responsibility for an attack at a military parade in Iran that killed 25 people, nearly half of them members of the Guards.