Within the past 24 hours, the Turkish state has formally crossed into Syria at Jarabulus (pictured in the map) alongside thousands of Syrian oppositon forces that they transported there through Turkey from Idlib and Northern Aleppo (Azaz-Mare). They quickly took from Daesh what turned out to be a completely abandoned Jarabulus. Curiously, the city appears to have been left free of IED's which is a serious departure from the usual Daesh tactics and is causing some to question the entirety of the situation. One of the primary reasons Turkey is giving for this move is the recent Daesh attack on a Kurdish wedding in Ganziantep. We hope that the irony of Turkey suddenly giving a shit about Kurdish lives when it comes to justifying their movement into Syria is not lost on anybody.
This offensive has the full support of the US-led coalition who is apparently providing air support for the Turkish army and oppositon forces, though it is not clear who exactly they are striking since Daesh is nowhere to be found. US Vice President Joe Biden was in Turkey today as well, presumably to oversee the beginning of this operation. He stated very clearly in a speech that the US supports Turkey's "red line" in Syria for the YPG which states they are not allowed to cross west of the Euphrates.1 What is not clear is to what extent this is merely verbal posturing to appease the Turkish state versus how much of it signals the inevitable US pivot away from the Syrian Democratic Forces of which the YPG constitute the largest part. The fact that just a day or two ago Turkey was shelling SDF units north of Manbij shows that they aren't buying the idea that the YPG is just sitting on the eastern bank of the Euphrates while the Arab components of the SDF continue westward. Regardless, there are reports that suggest that the SDF had some involvement in the talks that led to this offensive.2 I believe it is a safe bet though that the coalition is going to try and leverage the SDF into liberating Raqqa now, under threat of complete withdrawal of coalition support and protection from Turkey, which will keep them busy on the east bank of the Euphrates thus appeasing Turkey.
The stated goal of this offensive is to take Jarabulus and then push westward along the Turkish border toward al-Rai, denying Daesh ANY potential border crossings. However, Charles Lister who is an analyst employed by a Gulf state-backed firm with many connections amongst the Syrian opposition has stated that al-Bab is the ultimate goal. This means preventing Rojava from linking the cantons is the overarching goal here rather than taking down Daesh.3 It is curious that so many opposition fighters chose to leave an incredibly active and critical front against the Assad regime in Aleppo to take an empty border crossing from Daesh at the behest of Turkey as they strive to prevent the cantons from linking. The liberation of Jarabulus by these fighters from Idlib and N. Aleppo with not stop the Russian and Regime cluster munitions from falling on E. Aleppo. Furthermore, KurdishQuestion.com reports sources stating that this offensive has ambitions toward Mabij whiuch was recently liberated from Daesh by the SDF after a long and very bloody fight.4
On that note, it is also at this time not clear to what extent that Russia and the Assad regime were involved in the discussions and planning for this operation. On one hand, they both have offered incredibly tepid, public expressions of "concern" over these developments which has led many to believe the offensive at the very least has their blessing. As we stated earlier, thousands of opposition troops moving from the Aleppo area to Jarabulus will benefit the regime for at least a short while. Perhaps they are counting on things escalating between Turkish/opposition forces and the SDF which will allow the regime to fully crush the resistance in Aleppo. Regardless, it seems a bit a short-sighted if they are willing to cut deals with Turkey, the coalition, and the opposition all of whom at least publicly still oppose the regime. The only thing that this situation has made clear is that there have been some serious deals made behind the scenes otherwise one would expect a stronger response to the Turkish violation of Syria's territorial integrity which is something Russia and Assad have porported to take very seriously.
The events of the past 24 hrs have left us with many questions, sad, and yet not surprised. We wish the best for the SDF, Rojava, and the free people of Aleppo and beyond as they all continue their struggle for dignity in the fact of state imperialism and theocratic fascism. For further analysis, check out this article from the DW News: http://www.dw.com/en/turkeys-syria-offensive-aimed-at-kurdish-ypg/a-1949...
UPDATE: YPG spokesman Redur Xelil has stated that, "We are in our own country and not withdrawing at the request of Turkey or someone else."5 This corresponds with reports that have emerged suggesting that the SDF has defied VP Biden and Turkey's demands and pushed further north from Manbij toward Jarabulus, leading to shelling from both sides against each other around the village Amarinah. Situation remains fluid, with some conflicting reports. Stay tuned to our page here for further updates.