by WorldTribune Staff, October 9, 2019
As Turkey launched a long-awaited military offensive into northern Syria, Iran announced it was holding military exercises near its own border with Turkey.
According to an Oct. 9 report by Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency, Iran’s military is holding war games in Western Azerbaijan Province which include rapid reaction units, mobile and offense brigades, and helicopters.
Iran, a key ally of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, opposes Turkey’s military incursion in Syria.
Related: Trump on Syria: Let Turkey, Russia, Iran ‘figure it out’, October 7, 2019
On Oct. 9, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Turkey to show restraint and avoid military action in northern Syria. He also said U.S. troops “must leave the region” and Kurdish forces in Syria “should support the Syrian Army.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed on Oct. 9 that Turkish military activity in Syria has begun.
“Our Air Force, together with the National Army, has launched a ‘Peace Spring’ operation in northern Syria against Kurdish and ISIS terrorists,” Erdogan tweeted.
The Turkish president added: “The operation will counter terrorist threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a buffer zone that will allow the return of Syrian refugees to their homes. We will safeguard Syria’s territorial integrity and free local communities from terrorists.”
A small group of Turkish forces first entered northeastern Syria Wednesday morning near the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, Bloomberg reported. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency later said Turkish artillery units have been shelling suspected Syrian Kurdish targets in Tal Abayd, while two mortar shells fired from Ras al-Ayn struck the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar.
U.S. President Donald Trump said “The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea. 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.”
Trump added: “There are no American soldiers in the area.”