As Syrians Flee Turkish Airstrikes, Graham Vows Erdogan Will “Pay A Heavy Price”, Trump Makes Statement

US-backed Forces have begun firing back on invading Turkish forces, supported by F-16 jets, already bombarding densely packed civilian areas inside Syria…
from Zero Hedge

update3: In his first full statement since the start of Turkish military operations Wednesday morning, which has now witnessed ground forces cross into northeast Syria supported by Turkish F-16 fighter jets, President Trump has slammed the operation as a “bad idea” — but stopped short of calling for a halt to the incursion.

Further, after the SDF announced “the suspension of all operations against ISIS” given the Kurdish-led group is busy fighting off the Turkish onslaught, the president underscored that “Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form.”

Notably the president reaffirmed that he’s keeping American forces out of the conflict now engulfing the northeast border area where US bases were once located.

Here is Trump’s full statement:

This morning, Turkey, a NATO member, invaded Syria. The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea. There are no American soldiers in the area. From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars—especially those that don’t benefit the United States. Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment. In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form. We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

Meanwhile, CNN reports “The United Nations Security Council will meet privately Thursday morning to discuss the situation in Syria,” after European powers urged an emergency session.

Multiple casualties are now being reported as Syrian civilians continue fleeing Turkish airstrikes. An SDF spokesman said Turkish warplanes have “started to carry out airstrikes on civilian areas,” causing a “huge panic among people of the region.”

update2: The Kurdish-led and (formerly) US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have begun firing back on invading Turkish forces, which are being supported by F-16 jets, already bombarding densely packed civilian areas inside Syria near the border. Now busy defending themselves against Turkish air and ground forces, the SDF has announced “the suspension of all operations against ISIS.”

Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reports multiple rockets were launched from Kurdish positions in Syria’s Qamishli, landing in the center of the Turkish border town of Nusaybin. Turkey will use the Kurdish response as justification for a more aggressive aerial response, with reports suggesting there could already be up to 200 Turkish warplanes in the air currently.

Turkish state media has claimed its invading forces have killed 6 SDF fighters, which it labeled “terrorists”, and further cited sporadic shelling on its border towns from SDF positions.

Civilians are now fleeing en mass as Turkish airstrikes over Syria continue:

It must be remembered that with US special forces withdrawn away from border areas ahead of the Turkish offensive, the SDF is without air power, and likely has not been given anti-aircraft weapons, though ironically al-Qaeda linked ‘rebels’ have been seen with American-issued MANPADS throughout the war.

Meanwhile, as the SDF has urged Washington to impose a No Fly Zone, Congressional members led by Sen. Lindsey Graham have vowed to make Erdogan “pay a heavy price” for the devastating military incursion, already said to be targeting civilians.

“I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working,” the Republican senator said immediately after the Turkish invasion commenced. The Trump ally said he’ll lead an effort in Congress “to make Erdogan pay a heavy price.”

As to the economic toll on Erdogan’s big gamble, S&P Global announced Wednesday the military operation “raises risks for Turkey’s currency and balance of payments,” per Bloomberg. “Nevertheless, we do not expect this to have any immediate impact on our sovereign ratings on Turkey,” the S&P Global statement continued. “Potential consequences of military operations in northeastern Syria could include, like in the past, retaliatory attacks in the region, including on Turkey’s tourism infrastructure.”

And European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged “restraint” and for Turkey to halt its operations already underway. Juncker added that “if the Turkish plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don’t expect the European Union to pay for any of it.” France, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Poland and Kuwait have reportedly called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the developments.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg is also urging Turkey not to “further destabilize the region” and to halt its incursion. Germany has also weighed in, saying via Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that “we condemn the Turkish offensive in the northeast of Syria in the strongest possible terms. ”

But big surprise: Syrian al-Qaeda chief Abu Mohammad al-Jolani has issued a statement supporting the Turkish operation, claiming the region “belongs to Sunni Arabs”.

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update: Just as President Erdogan formally announced Wednesday that military operations have begun in Syria, Turkish F-16s began bombing targets in northeast Syria’s Ras al-Ayn and Sarekaniye minutes ago in what Ankara has dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring’.

And immediately the Turkish Lira began sliding near a daily low as troops began crossing into Syria, as limited groups of Turkish forward deployments are now seeking to move US-allied Kurdish forces away from its border, as Bloomberg reported this morning.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Army is reportedly moving toward Manbij, which could squeeze YPG/SDF forces between the two powers — though by week’s end we could see the Syrian Kurdish militias make a deal with Assad, after both sides signaled openness to such amid the Turkish invasion.

Turkish fighter jets are now flying over Syrian Kurdish positions.

Meanwhile the SDF has made another desperate appeal to Washington as the attack is unfolding, requesting a US-imposed ‘No Fly Zone’ to stop the air assault.

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Just like the Kurds warned, Turkish troops have started crossing into northeastern Syria as the country begins a military offensive that President Erdogan has insisted is vital for Turkey’s security. As of early Wednesday morning in New York, a small group of Turkish forces had already entered the country, and reinforcements of troops and artillery were preparing to take up positions, Bloomberg reports.

One video that has been circulating on Twitter showed Turkish troops crossing the border, as journalists warned that “a new phase of this bloody regional war could be about to begin.”

Even BBG is reporting that the goal of the Turkish operation is to “force back Kurdish militants controlling the border area.” Turkish troops entered Syria at two points along the border near the Syrian towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.

Bloomberg said there was “no immediate comment from Kurdish-led forces” though it noted that the YPG had earlier vowed to defend themselves against any Turkish attack.

Turkish markets were treading water on Wednesday after President Trump insisted that the US wouldn’t stand in Turkey’s way, but that Ankara had promised him that Washington’s allies in the area – i.e. the Kurds – would be safe, with Trump threatening to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if Turkish forces attack the wrong people.

In what has been described as a “dramatic” reversal in US foreign policy, Trump signaled earlier in the week that the US would turn over thousands of ISIS members to Turkey (after their home countries overwhelmingly refused to take them back), and allow the Turkish military to cross into northeastern Syria as the US pulls out. However, Trump’s move is in line with his insistence that other NATO members shoulder more of the responsibility for their defense. Turkey is a NATO member.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told state-run TRT TV that “deployments and work is still underway regarding the operation,” indicating that more Turkish forces will move across the border.

If they want to prevent a resurgence of ISIS, they better hurry up. YPG forces have warned about mass jailbreaks of ISIS prisoners during a Turkish invasion.

Turkey wants to eliminate the YPG because of its ties to the separatist PKK, a Kurdish party inside Turkey that has been battling against Ankara for decades to try and achieve sovereignty for the country’s Kurds. Ironically, though it was Washington’s closest ally on the ground in Syria, the YPG is considered a terrorist organization.

In a statement, Turkey’s chief of communications warned that Kurds have two options: “They can defect, or we will stop them from disrupting our counter-ISIS efforts.”

We imagine the Kurds will find that very convincing.

As for where Turkey goes from here, one journalist has a breakdown: