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November 28, 2015

Will Turkey Close Or Erase Its Border With Syria?

There are some new and worrying development on the ground next to Syria.

The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday said that Russia is ready to close the Turkish Syrian border:

Lavrov recalled that French President Francois Hollande earlier voiced the proposal to adopt specific measures to block the Turkish-Syrian border.

"We actively support that. We are open for coordination of practical steps, certainly, in interaction with the Syrian government," he said. "We are convinced that by blocking the border we will in many respects solve the tasks to eradicate terrorism on Syrian soil."

Russia is taking active steps to make that happen. Six or seven truck staging areas near the crossing points north of Aleppo have been bombed over the last several days. Truckers and truck owners will now think twice before taking on a cross border trip. In Latakia the Syrian army and its allies are pushing Turkey's "turkmen" mercenaries back over the border into Turkey. From the east Kurdish forces with Russian air support push along the border towards the Aleppo corridor.

A day after Lavrov's statement the U.S. suddenly claims it also urges Turkey to seal the border. But that claim may be false:

The Obama administration is pressing Turkey to deploy thousands of additional troops along its border with Syria to cordon off a 60-mile stretch of frontier that U.S. officials say is used by Islamic State to move foreign fighters in and out of the war zone.

The U.S. hasn’t officially requested a specific number of soldiers. Pentagon officials estimated that it could take as many as 30,000 to seal the border on the Turkish side for a broader humanitarian mission. Cordoning off just one section alone could take 10,000 or more, one official estimated.

It’s unclear how Turkey will respond.

We do not know how serious the U.S. is about this. We do know that the U.S. connives the Islamic State's oil trade with Turkey and handles weapon transfers to the "moderate" rebels through the Turkish-Syrian border. I doubt that these issues have changed.

But Turkey is moving troops to the border:

Turkey deployed additional tanks, armoured personnel vehicles and other weapons alongside its border with Syria on Saturday after the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkish Armed Forces heightened the tensions between the two countries.

A convoy of military trucks, coming from western Turkish provinces and towing armoured personnel vehicles and 20 tanks, entered into the 5th Armored Division Command in the border province of Gaziantep.

Previous day, another batch of tanks were deployed alongside Turkish border with Syria.

Tanks are not very useful to close down borders. That needs infantry, lots of it. But tanks are good to fight other state's forces. There were also a report that Turkey deployed an ASELSAN Koral electronic jammer system at the border. That could probably jam the Russian air defense in Syria or could blind Russian fighter jets. Such a system was used to electronically blind the Syrian army and to disable its radios when the "moderates" earlier this year stormed in from Turkey and conquered Idleb.

To me the Turkish deployments so far look offensive, not like preparations to shut off the border.

Syria alleges that Turkish weapon shipments to the rebels increased and that its soldiers were fired on from Turkish ground:

"We have certain information that the Turkish government has recently increased its support to the terrorists and the level of their supplies of weapons, ammunition and equipment necessary to continue their criminal acts," an army statement said.
The statement by the Syrian army command alleged that weapons were being delivered in shipments which Turkey claimed to be humanitarian assistance. It also alleged the weapons were supplied in exchange for looted Syrian and Iraqi antiquities and oil sold at low prices.
The Syrian statement also said Turkey had fired a number of mortar bombs toward Syrian army positions on Friday night from a location just over the border from Latakia province in northwestern Syria.

Turkey may pull back from its aggression against Syria and really close its border. The weapons supply to the "moderates" would then shrink significantly. If Turkey does just sits tight and does nothing Russia will do it the way it already started to do it. It will bomb any truck or other transport that crosses into Syria.

But maybe Turkey wants to prevent that and will try to scare the Russian away from the border and to push its troops into Syria to create a "safe zone" and attack Aleppo and other Syrian cities from there. It is a bad idea. It would not work but it would be bloody and potentially escalate further into a bigger war. One wonders if Obama will give a green light for that and promises the "moderate" Erdogan his support.

PS: This may well be a good book: The Dirty War on Syria

Posted by b on November 28, 2015 at 19:18 UTC | Permalink

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@99 angry panda.. as i see it putin/russia pointing out how the isis oil is going into turkey is calling into question the wests involvement in going after isis.. as i recall when putin told obama about this, obama was surprised.. now either his armed commander isn't telling him what is going on, or obama is feigning ignorance.. turkey/erdogan can plead ignorance all he wants regarding this transfer of oil.. based on what i read/see, turkeys role as conduit for the arms and mercenaries - isis, turkmen, moderate rebels and etc, while transfer country for iraq/syria oil taken by isis is something the usa/west must know.. it defies logic to see it any other way.. i suppose i have a cynical viewpoint on the intentions of the west, but it has been gained over a lifetime of actions that just don't add up to a positive and rosy view.. i think the west/nato will go to bat for turkey. i think they already are.. whether the public of these same countries wish to remain ignorant, or go along with it all remains to be seen.. regime change in syria has to be another eye opener for some given russias involvement, which we never saw in iraq, or libya to any extent.. russia has primarily remained in the area of it's own country..syria is different..

Posted by: james | Dec 1 2015 5:51 utc | 101

Posted by: Angry Panda | Nov 30, 2015 10:18:01 PM | 99

Putin's decision to blow the whistle on Turkey's cooperation with ISIS, and the Western Media's treatment of his revelations, may well prove to be a landmark event in the ongoing Media Wars. China is so sick of all the West's Media bullshit that it has convened and concluded the First BRICS Media Summit in Beijing on Nov 30 to Dec 1, 2015 to explore ways of Countering the Crap.

Here's an overview of the summit from The Hindu.

'BRICS Media Summit' is a searchable term and there's a satisfying variety of info in the search results.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 2 2015 2:39 utc | 102

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