Turkey seeking Iranian, Russian permission to strike targets in Syria

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The Turkish government appealed to the Iranians and Russians on Friday with a request to strike U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, a move that, should it happen, will only further the divide between NATO allies.

Ankara sent top security chiefs to Moscow to confer with Russian counterparts. It’s not clear what the Kremlin’s response will be.

Turkey’s foreign minster, Mevlut Cavusoglu, dismissed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s assurances that a border force it is backing and helping to build is not a threat to Turkish sovereignty.

U.S. officials have said the force is aimed at securing a portion of Syria’s borders — most likely against Iranian incursions. The force, however, will consist primarily of Kurdish militias; Turkey considers the Kurds a terrorist group and is outraged by the formation of a force that would include them.

Turkey’s top general, Hulusi Akar, and intelligence agency chief Hakan Fidan flew to Moscow on Thursday to discuss regional security issues and developments and Syria with General Valery Gerasimov, head of Russia’s General Staff.

“We are under attack from Afrin every day, we have to make an intervention,” Cavusoglu told CNN-Turk. “The U.S. must stop cooperating with this terrorist organization,” he said of the Kurdish fighters. “We have to establish coordination for intervention from the air” so that military observers in the area are not harmed, he added, referring to those countries’ military advisers in Syria.

Meanwhile, Syrian officials warned their country would retaliate if attacked. [source]

UPDATE: Turkey has begun shelling Kurdish positions inside Syria, in the Afrin region. Turkish media has been reporting movement of large numbers of Turkish troops and armor. [source]

(Analyst comment: When you’re no longer willing to trust a NATO ally who has forces in territory you seek to attack, the level of tension and the seriousness of the threat to NATO cannot be overstated.

To non-subscribers, I go into depth regarding the worsening situation in Syria in the most recent Strategic Intelligence Summary. Subscribe to get caught up. — JD)

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