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Turkey gets a foot into the Syrian door

February 22, 2015

The Turkish Army launched a military incursion into Syria late Saturday, February 21, to evacuate the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which allegedly has been besieged by IS (Islamic State) terrorists since last year.

A Turkish lawmaker said on his Twitter account that Turkish military had entered into Syria and arrived at the Suleyman Shah tomb early Sunday. “TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) entered in Saygi Station. Our station is taken under protection. Clashes or attacks out of question,” wrote Sinan Ogan, a deputy of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party.

The initial reports about this military operation in the online editions of the Turkish newspapers Milliyet and Yeni Safak were pulled from the internet almost immediately after being posted, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed now the successful conclusion of the operation.

Suleyman Shah 1

A large convoy of 39 tanks and other heavy weaponry with 572 military personnel including special forces commandos entered Syria through Kobane, the Kurdish territory in Syria which has recently been freed of IS occupants in a military operation by the Kurdish YPG/YPJ.

The military operation was reportedly conducted in correspondence with Enver Muslim, co-leader of the Syrian Kurdish YPG in control of Kobane, and aimed to evacuate 38 soldiers, including 20 elite troops from the Turkish special forces who guarded the tomb.

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference on Sunday, February 22, that Turkey had not sought permission or assistance for the mission but had informed allies in the US-coalition against IS once it began.

This was an extremely successful operation with no loss to our rights under international law,” he said, flanked by the chief of the military and the defense minister.

Two operations were carried out simultaneously as part of what was dubbed operation “Shah Euphrates,” Davutoglu told, one to Suleyman Shah and the other to secure the area around Esmesi, a small village inside Syrian territory close to the Turkish border, where the tomb has been temporarily relocated. The remaining buildings at the original site were destroyed to prevent their use after the remains were removed.

There have been no reports of clashes till now, but one Turkish soldier died in an accident. The Turkish air force was on alert but has not been used, with the exception of drones which were used for reconnaissance.

Suleyman Shah 3

Suleyman Shah was the grandfather of Osman I, who founded the Ottoman empire in 1299. Travelling through modern-day Syria, according to historians, he fell off his horse and drowned in the Euphrates near the site of todays mausoleum, located 37 kilometer from the Turkish border. His tomb is considered by the Turkish government to be Turkish territory.

Davutoglu has repeatedly said that Turkey would retaliate against any attack on the tomb. “Countries which do not look after their historic symbols cannot build their future,” Davutoglu stated when he announced the military intrusion.

In March 2014, Davutoglu, foreign minister at the time, said that Turkey would take any measure necessary to safeguard the security of the tomb, referred to as Turkish soil based on an accord signed between Turkey and France in 1921.

Should there be an attack, either from the regime, or radical groups or elsewhere, it would be countered equally,” Davutoglu said categorically. His statement was soon followed by the replacement of the tomb’s regular guards with special forces troops.

In 2012, at a time when the Syrian conflict had intensified and Turkey’s support for Islamic militants became more obvious, Ankara revised its military engagement rules and licensed the army to launch cross-border operations if they were deemed necessary.

 

Suleyman Shah 2 tanks

Update:

The Syrian news agency SANA reports:

Turkey transgressed into the Syrian territory and relocated the tomb of Suleyman Shah from the northeastern Raqqa province where it exists in a “suspicious” act that reveals the Turkish government’s close connection with terrorist organizations operating in the area.

An official source at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said in a statement to SANA Sunday that Turkey did not await the Syrian consent to move the tomb after the Turkish Foreign Ministry informed Syria’s consulate in Istanbul of its intent to carry out the relocation on the eve of the transgression act.

Turkey did carry out the move without Syria’s consent contrary to procedures usually followed according to the 1921 agreement signed between Turkey and the French occupation authorities back then.

The Foreign Ministry source described the Turkish move, which took place at dawn Sunday, as no less that an act of aggression against Syria, dismissing it as “suspicious” inasmuch as it unmasks the reality of the Turkish intentions and Turkey’s relationship with the terrorist organizations of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Turkey went far beyond providing all forms of support to its tools of the gangs of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations to carry out a blatant aggression on the Syrian territory,” the source said in the statement.

The suspicion lies in the fact that this reputed tomb has been all along spared the acts of ISIS, which, on the other hand, has been destroying mosques, churches and tombs in various areas across Syria, according to the statement.

This “confirms the deep connection between the Turkish government and this terrorist organization,” the source added.

It concluded the statement by saying that the Turkish authorities, by breaching the aforementioned agreement, will be responsible for any possible repercussions of this aggression.

A dangerous development

There are reports about an increasing boldness of Turkish troops who are supporting Islamic terrorists in Latakia, including artillery support. The border between Syria and Turkey is completely open for terrorists and radical Turkmen groups in the border area call for even more military support from Turkey.

Turkish creeping invasion from the north, Israeli airstrikes and artillery attacks in the south on the Golan heights. US and Gulf state airplanes fly across eastern Syria at will. What can the Syrian government do against this persistent infringement of Syrian sovereignty?

This is a dangerous development because it means that Syria has practically become “fair game” and international law doesn’t apply anymore.

The goal is to create the impression that Syria has become a failed state and that the international community needs to step in at one point to protect the population and deny terrorist groups a safe haven.

Every single incident of these violations of Syrian sovereignty should be brought to the UN Security Council and discussed there intensively for days. Why is Russia not doing this?

Another interesting aspect: The Turks obviously have no qualms to cooperate with the Kurdish authorities if only the authority of the Syrian state is weakened. Enver Muslim should be ashamed, though he probably didn’t have much choice than to let the Turkish troops pass unhindered through the YPG area.

Update 2

The Suleyman Shah Tomb evacuation was coordinated with the YPG. The operation was planned with the Turkish military four days in advance. The YPG helped secure the routes used by the Turkish military.

Ankara invited Enver Muslim, the prime minister of the Kobane canton, to Ankara to be present during the operation, in order to prevent any coordination problems or misunderstandings between the Turkish army and the Kurdish YPG on the ground.

The 10-acre piece of land in Eshme, where the tomb will be relocated, was bought from a Syrian Kurd. Esthme is just beside Kobane, about 200 meters from the Turkish border, opposite the Turkish town of Suruc. The area is under the control of the YPD and the security of the by Turkey newly annexed territory will be jointly provided with Syrian Kurds.

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Piazza della Carina.



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