In a stunning escalation of tensions in the crisis unfolding in northern Syria, the Turkish army has allegedly shelled a United States Special Forces unit in an attack on Mashtenour hill in the Kurdish city of Kobani.
Newsweek has discovered through Iraqi Kurdish intelligence and senior Pentagon officials that the Trump-approved Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held Syria, cynically dubbed “Operation Spring Peace,” has already put American forces in the line of fire.
— Ryan Browne (@rabrowne75) October 11, 2019
While officials did not say how many U.S. troops were present, estimates put U.S. presence in the city between 15 and 100 men.
Asked senior source and confirmed it
Picture of US base that was hit in Mishtenur hill in Kobani pic.twitter.com/zsk6wOBu7F
— Wladimir (@vvanwilgenburg) October 11, 2019
The invasion was greenlit by President Trump earlier this week after he abruptly told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would be withdrawing American forces from northern Syria and would not interfere in fighting between Turks and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that currently control the area.
Thousands have been forced to flee and dozens have been injured as the Turkish army immediately began indiscriminately bombing and shelling civilian areas ahead of their ground troops. Over 100,000 people have reportedly fled the onslaught. The Turkish Defense Minister says 342 YPG members have been killed, though that number seems preposterously inflated, since the SDF itself says they have only lost 20 fighters so far.
Monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced yesterday that 10 civilians had been killed in the fighting in Syria, along with 46 members of the SDF.
The Turkish landgrab intends to fulfill two purposes. The first is to carve out a 300-mile “safe zone” in Syria where they will resettle at least a million Syrian refugees that currently reside in Turkey. Erdogan has threatened to send them into Europe should the international community complain about his plans, cynically using the lives of a million people as a political pawn and a cudgel with which to advance Turkey’s agenda.
The area between the green lines is what the Turks intend to add in the first phase of the battle, coinciding with the cities of Manbij, Ain al-Arab (Kobane), Tell Abiad and Ras al-Ain pic.twitter.com/v0AXm7ySF1
— Y.N.M.S (@ynms79797979) October 8, 2019
The second is to break the power of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multiethnic coalition led by the Syrian Kurdish YPG/YPS and includes other local tribal militias, which currently control significant portions of northern Syria on the border with Turkey. The Turks have long been waging a genocidal war against the separatist Kurds that live in southwest Turkey, and the existence of a de facto autonomous Kurdish enclave on the other side of the border is an existential threat that they cannot stand.
The presence of U.S. military forces has been a major deterrent preventing the areas that the SDF forces liberated from ISIS from being overrun by the Turks and their proxy militia forces. Trump’s bending over for Erdogan opens the door for ethnic cleansing in northern Syria, as the Turks will likely drive out the Kurdish and Yazidi populations and then resettle the area with Arabs like they did in the Kurdish canton of Afrin.
President Trump has already been facing a widespread backlash from both parties for his cowardly decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and to stand by as the Turks commit crimes against humanity in their genocidal zeal to destroy the YPG. That fury should intensify now that our own servicemen are in harm’s way thanks to his impulsive decision.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as new information is released.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.