Iran launched a surprise military drill with army special operations forces near the country’s border with Turkey on Wednesday, reported the Iranian state television. The drill came amid Iran’s opposition to Turkey’s planned invasion of Northern Syria against Syrian Kurdish fighters.
As per the report, the drill was overseen by Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi, chief of Iran’s army.
The TV report didn’t mention about the expected Turkish operation nor elaborate on the number of troops taking part in the drill in Qushchi in Iran’s Western Azerbaijan province. The area is about 620 kilometres, or 385 miles, north of Tehran.
It is to be noted that Iran and Russia are both key allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s long-embattled government. Both countries have troops on the ground in Syria. They may publicly oppose a Turkish incursion into Syria but they probably don’t mind an operation that diminishes the Kurdish forces.
Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, has accused the United States of playing very dangerously games with the Syrian Kurds, whose fighters were top US allies in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria.
During his visit to Kazakhstan, Lavrov said that the US first propped up the Syrian Kurdish quasi-state in northeastern Syria and is now withdrawing its support.
Such reckless attitude to this highly sensitive subject can set fire to the entire region, and we have to avoid it at any cost, he added.
He didn’t directly address the issue of Turkey’s anticipated invasion into northeastern Syria but said that Moscow is encouraging the Kurds and the Syrian government to settle their difference through talks.
Lavrov highlighted that both the Damascus and the Syrian Kurds have said that they are open to dialogue and will do their best to help launch talks on this subject.
The civilian administration in northeastern Syria has issued a general mobilisation call along the border with Turkey, as Ankara masses troops ahead of an imminent invasion.
The local authority, known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, says: “We call upon our people, of all ethnic groups, to move toward areas close to the border with Turkey to carry out acts of resistance during this sensitive historical time.”
It also called on the international community to live up to its responsibilities as “a humanitarian catastrophe might befall our people” in northeastern Syria.
Turkey has been preparing for the attack on the Kurdish fighters in Syria, who they consider as terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency.
US President, Donald Trump announced on Sunday that the American troops would step aside ahead of the Turkish push a shift in US policy that essentially announced the Syrian Kurds longtime US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.
A top Turkish official says Turkey’s military will “shortly” cross into Syria together with allied Syrian rebel forces after President Donald Trump announced US troops would withdraw from the area.
Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency’s communications director, called on the international community in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday “to rally” behind Ankara.
Altun says Turkey seeks to “neutralise” Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria and to “liberate the local population from the yoke of the armed thugs.”
He wrote: “The Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army, will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly.”
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters, allied with American forces in the fight against IS, as terrorists linked to outlawed Kurdish rebels within Turkey.