PHOTO: Turkish forces moving to secure the tomb of Suleyman Shah inside Syria in February
UPDATE 1540 GMT: The gathering discussion on Turkish intervention inside Syria has taken another turn — elements within the Government and military are pushing back against a report that the armed forces would not accept an order to pursue air and ground operations.
Unnamed sources, apparently within the Turkish military, had set out a series of obstacles to intervention (see below). However, leading military officials said this afternoon, “We will not evade any responsibility given to us.”
The Vice President of the ruling party AKP also rejected the claims of military objections.
UPDATE 1200 GMT: The Turkish military appears to have hit back at reports of an imminent intervention inside Syria with its preferred option.
Unnamed sources told Hurriyet that the armed forces (TSK) are not eager to send in ground forces unless they are targeted by Syrian or Islamic State attacks. Instead, the army is considering bombing Islamic State units from Turkey instead and providing logistical support to the Free Syrian Army — but only after the new Parliament makes its stance clear.
Before the Parliamentary election of a Speaker and new Government, the sources say the military will be limited to intensifying security and upgrading the presence at the border; increasing intelligence activity in the region; and “keeping units on full alert in line within the framework of the rules of engagement”.
The military put out a series of objections to the reported Government plan to establish a zone of up to 100 square km (37 square miles) inside Syria, including:
*the possible international reaction ;
*caution about working with rebel groups designated by Washington as “terrorist”, presumably a reference to Jabhat al-Nusra ;
*unwillingness to become a party in the fight between Kurdish forces and the Islamic State ;
The TSK also questioned the timing of the Government’s request, saying the steps would hamper the new Government and Parliament on the issue of Syria.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister has said that the Government will reveal its decisions on intervention in Syria, including ground troops, after a National Security Council discussion on Tuesday.
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday, “We have a MGK meeting tomorrow; we will make the necessary announcements afterwards.”
The leading Turkish daily Hürriyet reported Saturday that the Government of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu wants to step up military action in support pf rebels against the Assad regime, the Islamic State, and possibly Kurdish forces in Syrian territory, but the military is reluctant to do so.
Options include long-range artillery fire against Islamic State, air operations, and land forces to secure a strip of territory along the Turkish border. Ground troops could be despatched to Jarablus on the Turkish border, with up to 12,000 soldiers involved.
The Cumhuriyet daily said Sunday that the military is only in the planning stage and is not yet mobilizing. It claimed any operation will take place in an area of about 100 square km (37 square miles) along the border, possibly extending 20-30 km (12-19 miles) deep into Syria.
Amid the discussion, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday in a series of tweets, “We will not shut our eyes against the terror organizations’ efforts to change the chaos in the region into an opportunity.
He continued, “No country has put forth its stance against the incidents, first in Kobane and also in Syria and Iraq, like Turkey has….Our aim is to salve the wounds of our brothers who have been victimized and oppressed.”
However, the Chief of General Staff, General Necdet Özel, has reportedly delayed the Government directive. He has cited the uncertainty of reactions by the Assad regime and its supporters, Russia and Iran, and the US.
According to Hurriyet, the Government gave the order for plans after a series of meetings chaired by Erdoğan following the capture of the border town of Tel Abyad by a Kurdish-rebel force, defeating the Islamic State, earlier this month. The military, concerned about risks, refused to receive verbal orders and insisted on written instructions.
The main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, objected strongly. Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin said, “Turkey should never be a part of a dirty war in Syria,” and he accused the government of supporting the Islamic State.
Battle Between Islamic State and Assad Forces In Several Areas of Hasakah
The Islamic State’s assault on regime forces in Hasakah city in northeast Syria continued on Sunday, with fighting reported in several areas.
Pro-Assad outlets denied reports from Saturday that the Islamic State has taken the Aziziyah and Gweiran districts, saying that battles continue. Fighting is also reported in al-Nashwa and at the Central Prison. The outlets also say that Kurdish units and Assyrian militia have joined the Assad forces in resistance.
An observer mapping the conflict is not so positive about the regime’s position:
#Hasakah city is nearly cut into pieces by the ISIS assault. Only thing connecting S to N is one major road and the sports city district
— Karybdis (@Karybdamoid) June 29, 2015
The Islamic State was repelled in an assault on Hasakah earlier this month, but suddenly renewed the offensive last Wednesday night. It has established positions in the south of Hasakah, a mixed Arab, Kurdish, and Assyrian city near the Turkish and Iraqi borders.