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Turkey Enters Syria: What Next?

Summary: Turkish forces have begun an incursion into Syria, after a spate of recent terror attacks. President Erdogan has IS in sight but Kurdish groups are no doubt a target due to their growing presence on Turk borders. What can we expect?

Turkish land forces have entered Syria in an effort to capture the border town of Jarablus, one of the last remaining Islamic State held strongholds along the Turkish/Syrian border.

The new offensive, 'Euphrates Shield', is backed by US-led coalition air cover as Turkish tanks rolled over the border earlier in the day in a show of Ankara's determination to suppress any further threat of terrorism it perceives eminating from the area and from IS itself.

Turkish President Erdogan states that the military operation to take Jarablus in intended to remove IS from close proximity to its borders, but also stated that the PYD, the pro-Kurdish Democratic Union Party, would be in his sights too.

The PYD's military wing, the Kurdish YPG, have had the most success to date in fighting Islamic State in Syria; targetting YPG operations would hamper the fight against IS and further complicate the ground realities in Syria.

Erdogan's goal of hitting the YPG may prove a controversial one with Washington, however, as the group are viewed in the West as the most effective fighting force against IS. Turkey lists the YPG as a terrorist organisation, whose affiliation with the PYD certainly means, in Erdogan's eyes, it has deep ties with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The PKK is accused of waging a decades old insurgency in south east Turkey against the government. Ankara's pursuit of the YPG in Syria will be seen as a direct way to settle scores with the PKK and gain the upper hand against further PKK insurgency.

Consequently, Turkey will not want to see any PYD controlled territory along its own border with Syria - the prospect is a real one as the most efficient rebel group fighting Assad, the Syrian Democratic Force, (SDF), is largely led by the Kurdish YPG.

Having already wrestled Manbij from Islamic State control earlier this month, Ankara will be loathe to see strategic Jarablus come into KPG/SDF hands, creating de-facto Kurdish territorial claims close to home.

Reports state that SDF fighter groups have been amassing close to Jarablus, on the other bank of the Euphrates River, where it seems likely they are preparing to launch operations on the town.

This worries Erdogan and the prospect of the SDF and YPG controlling assets the length of the Turkish border is a nightmare too far for Ankara's leadership.

What Has Prompted Today's Incursion?
Last Saturday, a suicide bombing ripped through a wedding celebration in the Turkish city of Gaziantep. Over fifty people were killed, prompting calls for immediate and hard action against the perpetrators. IS claimed responsbility.

In addition to IS attacks, fingers of blame have often been pointed at Kurdish separatist groups in the wake of atrocities in Turkey. These reasons factor in heavily on Ankara now taking decisive action in the incursion into Syria, in what the Turkish government will see as fully justified in the wake of recent attacks.

** Interestingly but predictably, Erdogan had, just two days previous, slammed Israel for retaliatory attacks into Gaza, after Hamas had renewed rocket fire into residential Southern Israel. Such rhetoric from Turkey highlights the "one rule for everyone else and one rule for Israel" attitude many have in regard to how Israel handles its own security issues. Turkey has also been accused in the past of colluding with Islamic State in the distribution of oil pilfered from pipelines in Syria and Iraq; Erdogan and his family were implacated in this illicit, lucrative oil trade but, to date, he remains evasive on the issue. **

Turkey is still reeling from a failed coup last month, an event that has sharply stirred and divided opinion in the country over the draconian measures that have been introduced in the wake of the coup's failure.

In order to restore public confidence, tens of thousands have been arrested among the army echelons, judiciary, academics, religious figures, democratic opposition, educators and more.

The abortive pusch was short-lived and some believe the whole thing was staged to allow Erdogan's autocratic vision to be imposed against the backdrop of a national crisis. Time will tell what the true facts of the coup and who its real agitators were.

We will have to wait and see how Turkey's incursion into Syria plays out. Previously, Turkey had entered Syria temporarily but withdrawn. Now, anything is possible and may mask Ankara's true intentions behind its reasons to take Jalablus.

However, the Turkish government will be loathe to get embroiled in a long-term ground offensive and risk alienating western support and further adding to the complexity of an already intractable Syrian civil war that has no end in sight.

Turkey undoubtedly features prominently in biblical end time scenarios. The land of Gog Magog, outlined in the prophet Ezekiel 38, and so prominent in regard to events in Israel and the Jewish survival, is to be found in present day Turkey.

Some feel that the crescent moon of Turkey is in ascent and the coming prophetic scenes are now been moved into place on the global stage. Certainly, events like today's incursion will only fuel such speculation and how Turkey may play a pivotal role in the coming Middle East drama.

Indeed, a vision of the current Turkish leadership is to implement a restored Ottoman Empire in the form of an Islamic Caliphate. We commented upon this in an earlier article. Read here.

We keep watching; we keep praying. Much more is yet to come to pass but the events are lining up as Scripture asserts. Meanwhile, through watching and praying, we also look up to the coming of our Lord, for our salvation draws near.

About Ian Jupp

Ian Jupp is Executive Director of Return To Zion Ministries.
Ian's experience as a communicator, pastor, writer, teacher and his understanding of the Middle East, Israel, The Church and God's purposes, place him in a unique position to provide timely commentary on the urgent, prophetic events that are unfolding in our day.
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