The fight in Syria looks to get a lot worse in the next day or so, as it’s being reported that Assad is sending his militias to Afrin to support the Kurds and fight Turkey:
REUTERS – Militias allied to the Syrian government will enter the Afrin region, Syrian media reported on Monday, after a Kurdish official said a deal had been struck with the Syrian army to help Kurdish forces end a Turkish offensive.
A senior Syrian Kurdish official said Kurdish forces and the Syrian government had reached a deal for the Syrian army to enter Afrin, and that it could be implemented within two days.
All deals between the Syrian government and the Kurds, which each hold more territory than any other side in Syria, are closely watched because they could prove pivotal for the future course of the war.
“Popular forces will arrive in Afrin in the next few hours to support the steadfastness of its people in confronting the aggression,” state news agency SANA reported, citing its correspondent in Aleppo, 35 km (22 miles) from Afrin.
But Erdogan suggests he isn’t going to turn tail and head back to Turkey, vowing there will be consequences if Assad enters Afrin:
DAILY MAIL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Syria will face ‘consequences’ if it wades into Turkey’s offensive in Afrin.
Erdogan told Putin that Turkey’s military operation in the northern Syrian Kurdish enclave will continue as planned during a phone call between the two leaders.
The pair spoke amid reports that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime has agreed to support Kurdish fighters and that government forces would be entering Afrin ‘within hours’.
This morning, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, warned that ‘no-one can stop us’ as he insisted that his country was ready to battle Assad’s forces if necessary.
He said that ‘if the regime is entering to protect the YPG, then no one can stop us, stop Turkey or the Turkish soldiers.’
Perhaps one of the reasons Assad has decided to send militias to Afrin is because it’s being reported that Turkey has been using chemical weapons in Afrin:
REUTERS – Syrian Kurdish forces and a monitoring group said the Turkish military carried out a suspected gas attack that wounded six people in Syria’s Afrin region on Friday.
There was no immediate comment from the Turkish military, which has previously denied accusations of hitting civilians in its Afrin operation.
Birusk Hasaka, a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin, told Reuters that Turkish bombardment hit a village in the northwest of the region, near the Turkish border. He said it caused six people to suffer breathing problems and other symptoms indicative of a gas attack.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that Turkish forces and their Syrian insurgent allies hit the village on Friday with shells. The Britain-based war monitoring group said medical sources in Afrin reported that six people in the attack suffered breathing difficulties and dilated pupils, indicating a suspected gas attack.
Syrian state news agency SANA, citing a doctor in a Afrin hospital, said Turkish shelling of the village caused choking in six people.
This could get ugly, especially with Iran and Russia being strong allies of Assad. However I think it’s interesting that Assad, once again, would choose to use militias rather than use his official army. It means to me that if he’s willing to use disposable militias to try and repel Syria, he’s not as serious about going to war with Turkey and forcing them out of the country. Also if he were to use his own army, then it might necessitate intervention by Russia and Iran which would certainly escalate things quickly. And it could also give Erdogan the excuse he needs to mount a full invasion and take out Assad once and for all.