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Turkey’s preparations to invade Efrîn

Turkey’s preparations to invade Efrîn and Shehba continue. Villages in the areas declared military zones are being evacuated in line with the invasion plan. 

Turkey’s preparations to invade Efrîn and Shehba continue. Villages in the areas declared military zones are being evacuated in line with the invasion plan.

It is still unclear what the US, Russia and Western countries think of the invasion.


Turkey has been planning for an invasion of Efrîn and Shehba for a long time, and the plans have accelerated in the last 15 days. They are stockpiling weapons and forces in Azaz, Exterin, Rai, Jabal Akil, Bab and Marea regions to this end.

As Turkey continues with the stockpiling, they have declared some villages -particularly Kurdish ones- in the region military zones and decided to evacuate them. They wanted to evacuate Marea and surrounding villages to invade Tel Rıfat, Şeyh İsa, Meraanaz, Minix and other villages and towns in Shehba.

Since noon yesterday, they evacuated Meraa and nearby Qaar Qelbin and some other villages. They positioned heavy weapons and infantry troops in the evacuated Marea and other villages. In the coming days, they are expected to launch attacks from these locations to invade Shehba and Tel Rifat.


Turkey is trying to continue with their so-called FSA policy from before to invade Efrîn and Shehba. But now, they are entering the region with not only so-called FSA groups, but also their own army, heavy weapons and equipment to implement this invasion.

The power Turkey leaned on the most in the invasion maneuver they launched in Jarablus in August 2016 had been Russia. In their relationship with Turkey, Russia acted in line with a policy of categorizing all so-called FSA groups as terrorist, reconciling with the Syrian Baath regime and making Turkey accept the regime. Negotiations over Aleppo took place in this context. The groups were removed rom Aleppo, and the city was left to Syrian Baath regime control. In return, Russia permitted the invasion to start from Jarablus and continue into Rai, Azaz and Exterin, then further into Bab to cut off the Kurds and the peoples of Northern Syria.

Turkey, despite it was them who carried out the invasion, took international and NATO laws into consideration and always tried to make it seem like the FSA groups were doing the actual act. The FSA groups they talk about were led by the Ahrar Al Sham, the military force of the Muslim Brotherhood. They also formed an umbrella from the groups who partook in the invasion maneuver they launched under the title Euphrates Shield. The Muslim Brotherhood group, Ahrar Al Sham group and the Turkmen and so-called Kurdish groups founded by the Turkish intelligence took their place in this structure.

Before the last invasion maneuver started, Turkey formed a front from Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham. It was Turkey’s attempt to create a legitimate cover for Ahrar Al Sham for the powers that didn’t accept the group, namely Russia and the US. Ahrar Al Sham ruled the areas they acquired with Sharia, they founded courts and carried out trials. Turkey knew Ahrar Al Sham wouldn’t be accepted like that, and made them issue a statement while they prepared for the invasion of Shehba and Efrîn. The statement claimed Ahrar Al Sham would stop using Sharia methods in their trials and would start acting according to constitutional laws. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that making Ahrar Al Sham release this statement aimed to bring the group closer with Russia and the Syrian Baath regime and to reconcile them in certain points.

As Turkey supposedly “transformed” Ahrar Al Sham in this way, they also developed a tight relationship with Al-Nusra and wanted to give them a role in the invasion maneuver they were going to launch. To this end, they met with the Al Nusra administration (except for Muhammed Colani) last week in Antep. In these meetings, they gave a clear message to Nusra: “Either you act with us, or we will come at you together with the Regime and Russia and crush you.” Nusra bombing villages in Shehba and Efrîn from Atme, the Samaan Fortress and Sheikh Berekat Hill together with Ahrar Al Sham shows that they accepted this deal. This way, we understand that Russia also struck a deal with Ahrar Al Sham and Al-Nusra, along with Turkey. Of course this deal is a deal developed over Turkey.


Russia, wanting to have influence in Syria, has held several meetings with PYD, including its co-chairs, since the early days of the Rojava Revolution. These meetings were held in Moscow. After the autonomous Canton administrations were declared, the Autonomous Canton Administration Representation Offices were officially opened. But Russia engaged with Rojava defense forces in the military sense after the attacks on Efrîn from Atme in 2013. After UAE-national Abdulkerim El Imarati, a.k.a. Ebu Maaz, from ISIS was killed in the clashes in Atme and documents were retrieved from his person, this relationship developed further. The document is still in the YPG archives. Russian authorities stated that the phone numbers in the document were extremely important. This document, in a way, showed over which center the Russia-ISIS and Russia-Nusra relationships were formed.


Following the documents obtained on Abdulkerim El Imarati’s body in Atme in 2013, Russia further developed their relationship with the Rojava defense forces, but this relationship remained secret. When ISIS launched attacks to invade Kobanê and the US openly associated with the YPG, Russia started to make the relationship public in steps.

Since the day the revolution started, the Rojava administration have said they follow the third line. But Russia, in the relationship they developed and hoped to make dominant, always pushed for a restoration of the pre-civil war Regime rather than an alliance and cooperation between the Rojava revolution administration and defense forces and the Regime based on principles. The Rojava revolution administration and defense forces did not accept this. Then Russia started to approach the revolution administration and defense forces with a policy of blackmail. When that also didn’t work, they formed a temporary alliance with Turkey, with whom they came to the brink of war, and attempted to threaten Rojava with the Turks to convince them for cooperation with the Regime.

Turkey is now leaning on Russia and planning an invasion in Efrîn and Shehba with Russia’s approval, stockpiling heavy weapons and infantry forces there. Russia is trying to assert the Baath Regime’s dominance in Efrîn and Shehba through the threat of Turkey. To this end, they positioned forces in Efrîn to give the message that the region is under Russian protection against a possible attack by Turkey. And now they are threatening to pull these forces. If Russia thinks they will attract Kurds more and implement their policies through the threat of Turkey, they will realize that they made a great political and historical mistake soon enough. But the opportunity will have passed by the time they realize that it was a mistake. Because the Kurds can in fact call Russia’s bluff on what they wish to accomplish through the Turkish threat. They can say, “Retreat if you wish, we are not without alternatives” and invite the US and the Coalition Forces to Efrîn. In that scenario, Russia will have nothing left to do.


Although the US and the Western countries have not put forth a clear stance in the face of Turkey’s threat of invading Efrîn and Shehba, they have declared that they will not accept any stance that hinders the fight against ISIS. Such statements by the US and Coalition Forces seem to have reined Turkey in, even if only a little. Western countries, and Germany in particular, have started to request the files with documents proving Turkey’s relationship with ISIS which were previously prepared by the Rojava autonomous canton administrations, and that shows that the Western countries will launch certain efforts regarding the relationship between Turkey and ISIS in the coming period.


Turkey was to launch the invasion they had been planning on June 27, but the operation hasn’t started yet. The reason could be Russia stopping Turkey due to the cards the Kurds have shown. And, not being a member of NATO, Russia might have realized this approval could put both themselves and Turkey in a difficult situation. Meanwhile, Russia is known to use Turkey just as leverage and a weapon against the Kurds and the US and the Coalition to achieve their goals in Syria. As Russia wants to use Turkey to this end, Turkey sees this as an opportunity to further their invasion goals. It could be said that Russia has given a limited approval to Turkey to prevent them from turning the situation into a permanent opportunity.

Both the US and the Coalition forces, and Rusia are aware of the dangerous game Turkey is playing, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that they prevented the invasion because of that. To this end, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan first spoke with US President Donald Trump on the phone. Later he is expected to speak with Putin. In both talks, it is known that Erdoğan will ask for approval for the invasion. But it is unclear whether he will be able to get it. Even so, Turkey is still preparing for the invasion, and it is clear that they plan on expanding this invasion further than Shehba and Efrîn.

All these developments happen at a time when the YPG, YPJ and SDF fighters continue with their operation to liberate the city center of Raqqa, the “capital of the Caliphate” as ISIS calls it. When we look at it from this perspective, it is apparent that ISIS benefits directly and indirectly. Turkey has always been a country that directly supports ISIS, and any countries in alliances and collaborations with them can’t help but fall into the same position of aiding ISIS, whether they mean to or not.


The people and the defense forces of Efrîn and Shehba are also preparing for Turkey’s invasion. The civilian population has been picking up arms to fight against Turkey in a possible invasion scenario. It is not just the Kurds who are taking up arms, Arabs, Turkmens and other peoples and clans in the area are also doing the same. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that a great resistance awaits Turkey in the case of a possible invasion.

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