Reprinted from Counterpunch
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) achieved its greatest victory in the four year-long war on Tuesday when it recaptured the strategic Kuweires military airbase in North Syria. Hundreds of ISIS terrorists were killed in intense fighting while hundreds more were sent fleeing eastward towards Raqqa. The victory was announced just hours after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Turkey would be willing to invade Syria as long as Washington agreed to provide air support, create a safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border, and remove Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Now that Kuweires has been liberated, Davutoglu will have to reconsider his offer taking into consideration the fact that Russian warplanes will now be within striking distance of the border while troops and artillery will be positioned in a way that makes crossing into Syria as difficult as possible. The window for Turkish troops to enter Syria unopposed has closed. Any attempt to invade the country now will result in stiff resistance and heavy casualties.
To fully understand the significance of Kuweires, we need take a look at Amanpour's interview with Davutoglu and see what was being planned. Here's an excerpt:
"Christiane Amanpour: Would Turkey, under the right conditions, agree to be a ground force?- Advertisement -
"PM Ahmet Davutoglu: A ground force is something which we have to talk [about] together. There's a need of an integrated strategy including air campaign and ground troops. But Turkey alone cannot take all this burden. If there is a coalition and a very well designed integrated strategy, Turkey is ready to take part in all senses.
"C.A.: Including on the ground?
"Davutoglu: Yes, of course. We have to solve the Syrian crisis in a comprehensive manner.
"C.A.: So I understand what you're saying is that the condition for Turkey to be more involved would be an agreement by a coalition to also go after Assad?
"Davutoglu: Yes, and against all groups and regimes that are creating this vacuum and this problem. On many days we are assisting the coalition in (the fight) against ISIS, but it is not enough. Now we are suggesting to our allies for many months -- and now we are suggesting again -- to create a safe haven and to push ISIS far away from our borders.
"C.A.: So what do you make of the US, Europe and especially Russia saying Assad must and can stay for a period of time?- Advertisement -
"Davutoglu: ...The question is not how long can Assad stay, the question is when and how Assad will go. What is the solution. The solution is very clear. It is when millions of Syrian refugees are able to return home, assuming there is peace in Syria, then this is the solution. And if Assad stays in power in Damascus, I don't think any refugee will go back. There is a need of a step by step strategy, but what is the endgame? What is the light at the end of the tunnel, that is what is important to the refugees.
"C.A.: Why is the Turkish government making it hard for the US government to arm and train and use Kurdish fighters as their ground troops?
"Davutoglu: (we are not making it hard for the US government to use the) 'Kurds,' but the PYD as a wing of the PKK.
"There is another Kurdish group, the Peshmerga. We allowed the Peshmerga to go through Turkey to go to Kobani in order to help Kobani to be free. If the US wants to arm Kurdish fighters on the ground against ISIS, we are ready. But not Kurdish terrorists like PKK. If they want to arm and help Barzani, or Peshmerga and help them go to Syria, we are ready to help. But everybody must understand, that today PKK is attacking our cities, our soldiers and our civilians. We will not tolerate any help to any PKK-related groups inside Syria or Iraq. If that happens, Turkey will take all measures to stop it." ("For refugees to return, Assad must go, says Turkish PM," CNN)
Let's recap: Even though the Russian-led coalition is conducting major military operations in Syria, Turkey is willing to invade provided that Washington meet its demands, demands that have never changed and which (we have said in earlier columns) were part of a secret deal for the use of the Incirlik airbase so the USAF could conduct sorties over Syria.