The YPG resistance has been severely on the wane in Afrin. Turkish soldiers have stormed ahead, taking villages, mountains and hills – today, they and their FSA human shields managed to grab total control of Mersava, Shaltah, Iki_Dam and Kyrrhos as the YPG front lines disintegrated, also taking control of Hopkan village and reaching Rajo.
The panicked YPG have acted accordingly. They recently made a deal in which the Assad regime would move into their territories, either to help fight the Turkish army or ensure that the Turks wouldn’t dare attack any further into Afrin by flying regime flags from rooftops – the same tactics they and the US used in Manbij and al-Bab.
Given the previous reaction from the Turks (which included abruptly cancelling the al-Bab offensive’s second phase in March 2017) it was surprising to see what happened next – a rain of Turkish airstrikes seem to have hailed down on the road between regime-held Nubl (and Zahra’) and YPG-controlled Afrin: the Turkish army was actively trying to block regime reinforcements. The Assadists promised to move forward; Turkey retorted by claiming that nobody would stop them.
In terms of potential for events on the ground to explode, this is pretty huge. Turkey delayed intervening in Syria for 5 years, only finally intervening in 2016 when it became apparent that the US was helping a Marxist death cult to form a large, pseudo-ethnostate on its borders. The urge to attack Assad was dutifully and loyally ignored upon the wishes of both Obama and Trump. Now Turkey is expressing a willingness to steamroll over whoever stands in his way; American, Assadist or PKK terrorist.
Does this mean that Erdoğan is going to turn into the Assad-fighting, Muslim-loving Ottoman sultan that many Muslims blindly seem to labour under the delusion that he will? Of course not! Erdoğan could care less for Muslims, as seen in both his complete willingness to ignore Assad’s slaughter, his willingness to team up with open enemies of Islam and his disdain for the fundamentals of Islam.
No, Erdoğan is merely protecting his interests, which include keeping YPG (PKK) fighters and their foreign allies away from his borders to avoid them forming a bridgehead that they could use in a future invasion of Turkey. His overall policy towards Assad probably won’t change. At most, the regime forces will move in to check his advance, his men will repulse them until they reach the boundary of Afrin proper, then stop. There will be no heroic charge to Damascus, as evidenced by his indiscriminate slaughter of the children of al-Bab in the exact same manner of Assad.
Indeed, government spokesman Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu claimed “there are no problems” if the Syrian army moves in to take over land & fight the YPG, merely if “it comes in to defend the YPG” – which is seen as the threat, not Assad (although the regime considers it a branch of what’s left of the Syrian army).
But in terms of the ability to get ugly, this could escalate things in Afrin. PKK fighters, backed by Assadists, Shi’a militiamen, potential US commandos here and there (plus secretly shared intel, according to Turkey) and Marxist foreign fighters versus Turkish soldiers & jets, FSA cannon fodder and Grey Wolves? This may not end well.
To say nothing of what may happen when Russia decides to take whichever side it pleases.