Despite recent warnings not to do so from the United States, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday announced a fresh 'special operation' of the Turkish army to clear "terrorist elements" from northern Syria's Tal Rifaat and Manbij areas. The operation hearkens back to when an initial major Turkish offensive kicked off in the region, which is on sovereign Syrian territory south of Turkey's border, in 2019 which earned international outrage and condemnation.
"We are taking another step in establishing a 30-kilometer security zone along our southern border. We will clean up Tal Rifaat and Mambij," Erdogan announced, saying that the operation will from there continue to other parts of northern Syria.
"We are moving to a new phase to create a 30 km deep safe zone," Erdogan said further in making the announcement. "We will clear Tal Rifaat and Manbij from terrorists."
And that's when he seemed to poke the West over the ongoing row caused by Ankara's refusal to admit Finland and Sweden into NATO: "Let's see who will support us and who will stand against us," he stressed.
According to Turkey's Daily Sabah, the Turkish leader has grown more and more frustrated over US as well as Russian 'inaction' against armed Kurdish groups in northern Syria. In the case of the US, a limited force of some 900 American troops still occupying northeast Syria continues to directly support the Syrian Democratic Forces militarily. The SDF is dominated by the Syrian Kurdish YPG - which Turkey argues is but an extension of the 'terror'-designated PKK:
Erdoğan has said as the United States and Russia failed to live up to their commitments to provide such a safe zone in the border region, Turkey is ready to mount an operation to protect the nation and locals in northern Syria from the YPG/PKK terrorist threat.
Turkish officials have lashed out at the idea of 'fast-tracking' Finnish and Swedish ascension to NATO, slamming the door on the prospect unless the Nordic countries greatly alter their policies on PKK and associated groups. Both have sizeable immigrant Kurdish populations, particularly Sweden.
How can Turkey approve of the Swedish and Finnish NATO bids given that the terror affiliates "freely roam, hold rallies there?" Erdogan questioned earlier this week.
Finland and Sweden in 2019 jumped on board an EU move to ban weapons exports to Turkey amid its 2019 northern Syria operation.
Starting Saturday, however, Erdogan warned in a speech of Kurdish groups along the Syrian border: “Like I always say, we’ll come down on them suddenly one night. And we must."
The lira began plummeting on the news of a fresh Turkish operation into Syria, already amid the country's increased international isolation over its resistance on the Finland, Sweden NATO question...
He had further lashed out at US support for the YPG in the prior statements: "All coalition forces, leading with the U.S., have provided these terror groups a serious amount of weapons, vehicles, tools, ammunition and they continue to do so. The U.S. has given them thousands of trucks," he said.
As the for the US, the State Department has condemned any fresh new potential Turkish military operation in northern Syria, saying it would destabilize the region further while putting American forces at risk. As some observers noted...
Look if your argument is that after 70 years of hypocrisy NATO owes Turkey just a few more, go ahead and make it— Nicholas Danforth (@NicholasDanfort) May 31, 2022
It seems Erdogan may be taking advantage of the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the fact that Ankara can gain major concessions amid its firm rejection of Finland and Sweden's NATO applications.