Erdogan Amassing Troops for Possible Offensive vs Syrian Kurds, US Sends Words, Assad Sends Troops, Russians Send Flankers
US troops are present in Kurdish-held eastern Syria but not at the very border with Turkey. This is a legacy of a 2019 move by Trump where the US pulled from the border to allow a Turkish invasion. (In other words, the US troops did not leave, but they did stop doing the one good thing they were doing.)
The US withdrawal was followed by a Turkish offensive that was tempered more by Russian diplomacy than by Kurdish resistance helped by Syrian government forces. (That said Russia accepted limited Turkish gains along the stretch of the border where few Kurds live.)
The Turks have been threatening to launch another such offensive and take another chunk of northern Syria along the border. The Turkish idea is to take the heavily Kurdish region around the town of Kobani (famous for withstanding an ISIS assault in 2014-15) and connect their two Turkish-occupied regions in Syria (here in red):
Ironically the Turkish threats and military buildup put the US, Assad, and Russia all on the same side, albeit their level of involvement and investment differs.
The US has made some noises:
But Assad has sent actual troops to back the Kurds up:
A column of the Syrian Arab Army heads north of the city of Raqqa to support the Kurdish militias of the SDF.
Tension is building in northern Syria as it will soon be known whether Turkey will finally launch its long-awaited offensive. pic.twitter.com/6t6SMwslDY
— Abdías Arlet (@AbdiasArlet) November 4, 2021
But actually, the most critical role is again played by Russia. Reportedly Russia has likewise told the Turks not to try anything, a report which is made believable by the fact the Russians for the first time deployed their Su-35 fighters to Quamishli right on the Turkish border. Quamishli airbase is under the control of the Syrian government but it is a tiny exclave deep inside Kurdish-held north-east of the country.
That's a marked expansion of RuAF assets, and in super close proximity to U.S. forces based nearby.
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) October 27, 2021
The deployment is also a message to the Americans who are likewise present in the vicinity that with Russia as the chief protector of Syria and of its Kurds from Turkey, they can expect to be seeing more of Russia in that region of Syria. (US attempts to block their patrols and subsequent American-Russian road wars notwithstanding.)
"The operation [against SDF in northern Syria] will start when all preparations are completed. We are in coordination with Russia on the matter. The issue was addressed with the United States already," the senior Turkish security official said.https://t.co/4VuwZufHDJ
— Abdulla Hawez (@abdullahawez) November 5, 2021