Turkey attempts using northeast Syria incursion to stop U.S. sanctions - experts

Turkey tries to use a possible military incursion into Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria as a trump card as the U.S. Congress pushes for sanctions over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air missile systems, the U.S. News said on Thursday.

Shortly after Turkey’s Defence Minister announced that the delivery of the Russian S-400 systems started, Ankara also began deploying additional equipment near the Syrian border, including heavy weapons, armoured vehicles and tanks.

"Something is changing," said Jennifer Cafarella, research director with the Institute for the Study of War, which tracks military movements in Syria. According to the analyst, Turkey is building up forces across the border from two of the key towns that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan indicated are initial objectives in Syria.

The Turkish government last year announced plans to launch a military operation in northeast Syria to remove the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as a sister-group to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey has repeatedly criticised the United States for ignoring an ally’s national security concerns by providing equipment to the YPG, which forms the backbone of U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. Washington and Ankara have been negotiating the establishment of a safe zone in northeast Syria along the Turkish border for months with no concrete progress.

Turkey also plans to deploy the first Russian missile system in the southeastern border province of Şanlıurfa.

According to analysts, Ankara’s move is an attempt to gain leverage against the U.S. Congress, where there is a bipartisan support that sanctions should be imposed on Turkey for acquiring Russian missile systems.

“It's an act of desperation,” sayid Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at private geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor. "But I don't think it's going to convince the U.S., especially Congress, to back away from imposing retaliatory measures."

Washington on Wednesday announced that Turkey’s participation to the manufacturing of the F-35 programme would be suspended, while the U.S. President Donald Trump said that United States would no longer sell the aircraft to Turkey.

A senior Pentagon official on Wednesday declined to say how Turkey may retaliate for Trump's decision to withhold the F-35s, the U.S. News said. "I'm not going to speculate on what actions the Turks may or may not take," it quoted the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, David Trachtenberg, as saying in a press conference.