Turkey flexes military might as Washington urges restraint

Turkey flexes military might as Washington urges restraint

State Department says it does not want further militarization of situation in Syria; Ankara drills its tanks on the border

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Washington came out on Wednesday against Turkey’s recent military build-up on the Syrian border in the wake of the downing of a Turkish air force jet in June. Turkey nonetheless flexed its military muscle by conducting tank exercises on the Syrian border on Thursday, Today’s Zaman reported.

US State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell told reporters that Washington did not think that Ankara’s mobilization of armored and infantry units was an appropriate means of dealing with the rising violence in Syria.

“We continue to think that we do not want to further militarize the situation. We obviously understand that they [Turkey] have their national security interest as well, but we do not think that further militarization right now is the way to go,” Ventrell said.

Last week Turkey mobilized and deployed tanks and missile batteries on the Syrian border adjacent to a Kurdish region that declared autonomy from Damascus. Since the end of June, the Turkish military has mobilized large numbers of anti-aircraft and armored units to the Syrian border amid rising tension with Damascus.

Ventrell said that the US and Turkey are maintaining “close and constant communication” concerning the situation on the border. Responding to inquiries of whether the US prognosticates a Turkish military operation in Syria, Ventrell replied that “I do not think we are at a point where we are going to see — or we are hearing greater calls for immediate external military operations into Syria.”

The Turkish government has voiced increasingly bellicose rhetoric regarding the devolving situation in the Syrian civil war. The probability of a Turkish incursion into Syria increased with the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish enclave in Syria along the Turkish border governed by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political offshoot of the PKK in Syria.

Analysts have noted that Turkey has not refrained from striking Kurdish terrorist groups in Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria in the past. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed on July 26 that should Syrian Kurds use force, “then intervening [in northern Syria] would be our most natural right.”

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