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Turkey Escalates Proxy Invasion of Syria, Sends 500 Islamist Fighters to Stop Kurdish, SAA Advances

Ankara is content with illegally shelling Syria from across the border, and sending mercenaries to do the real dirty work

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

For the last few days, reports have been streaming in about Turkey allowing "moderate rebels" to cross its border into Syria in an attempt to stop the advances of the SAA and Kurdish forces. Apparently unwilling to risk direct military intervention without full US support, Ankara has chosen a different strategy: Lob shells across the border, and let mercenaries to do the on-the-ground terrorizing.

The latest from the Guardian:

<figcaption>The sultan sends in mercenaries</figcaption>
The sultan sends in mercenaries

At least 500 rebels on Wednesday crossed the Turkish border, a monitor said, and headed for the Syrian town of Azaz in northern Aleppo province where opposition forces have suffered setbacks at the hands of Kurdish fighters.

We should point out that the "monitor" cited by the Guardian is none other than the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the London-based rumor mill that is most likely a front for western intelligence agencies. But what does this tell us? Our guess is that Turkey might actually be acting unilaterally -- and the west is running out of patience. Let's not forget that the Kurds being targeted by Ankara continue to receive diplomatic and military backing from the US.

But how accurate is this report? We would bet it's right on the money -- maybe even a a cover for operations by Turkish special forces. Earlier this week it was reported that Turkey had allowed some 350 fighters to cross the border into Syria. Who these "fighters" are is anyone's guess.

And it's hardly surprising that Ankara would flood Syria with new waves of fighters: If the Turkish-backed "moderates" lose Azaz, it could be the knock-out punch to Ankara's ambitions in Northern Syria. The situation as it stands now:

The green represents terrirtory held by the \"moderates\". The Kurds (yellow) have made huge gains in the last week, while SAA forces are creeping up from the south
The green represents terrirtory held by the "moderates". The Kurds (yellow) have made huge gains in the last week, while SAA forces are creeping up from the south

As this map shows, Turkey has continued its UN-condemned shelling of Kurdish positions (represented by the blue rockets on map).

For now, Turkey and Saudi Arabia seem unwilling to commit to a direct invasion -- so they're just doubling down on the same strategy they've used since the beginning of this conflict: Send in proxies.

With Russia now openly supporting Kurdish forces, it will be interesting to see how Turkey's proxy army fares against Russian airstrikes.

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