Turkey's military buildup on its border with Syria aimed at crushing Kurdish fighters has fueled worries in Iran, which has remained the key regional ally of President Bashar al-Assad during his country's eight-year conflict.
Addressing a Cabinet meeting Oct. 9, just before Turkey launched a military operation into northern Syria, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Turkey, the "brotherly" country, to exercise "patience" and "reconsider" the planned operation.
Turkey views the Kurdish People's Protection Units, the forces operating in northern Syria, as a terrorist entity affiliated with its sworn enemy at home, the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has been battling a bloody war against Ankara since 1984.
In his speech, the Iranian president recognized Turkey's "right" to address its "concerns" about the Syrian border, but he proposed dialogue as the best solution. "The approach adopted today and the backchannel agreements do not benefit the region," he added, without elaborating on those "agreements." Rouhani also advised the Kurdish fighters "to stand by the army of their own country (Syria)."
Earlier, Iran's Foreign Ministry in a statement called on Ankara to respect Syria's territorial integrity and expressed Tehran's readiness to mediate a peaceful resolution to the tensions.
Meanwhile, the Iranian army launched what it called a "surprise military exercise" outside the northwestern city of Urumiya, close to the Turkish border. There was no immediate explanation as to whether the exercise had to do with the ongoing situation on the Syria-Turkey border. But the Iranian commanders declared they were putting to test the "combat preparedness" of their "rapid-reaction forces."
Turkey's military offensive — now officially launched — was triggered by a sudden US withdrawal from northern Syria, ordered by President Donald Trump. That order, according to the Iranian Reformist daily Mardomsalari, was a "green light" to Turkey to stab the once American-backed Kurds "in the heart." Similarly, hard-line outlets such as Javan highlighted the "unreliability" of the US president and traced it back to the "disillusionment" he recently brought upon America's allies, most notably in the fallout of the September attacks on the key Saudi Arabian oil facilities.
Trump's decision to pull out, says former Iranian diplomat Qasem Moheb-Ali, was meant for domestic purposes — an effort to shift attention away from his ongoing impeachment saga. "Trump is acting like a stubborn kid … who tells opponents, 'If you pile up more pressure on me at home, I will react by creating fresh predicaments abroad,'" Moheb-Ali said.
Hashtags were trending across social media in Iran in support of Syria's Kurdish population, and calls grew on the Iranian government to help head off a new war.
"Turkey will end up in a quagmire in Syria, and Turkish officials will ultimately have to retreat with tails tucked between their legs along with massive casualties," predicted one Iranian user, adding, "The Turkish operation will lead the Kurds into a strategic alliance with Damascus forged to fight the common enemy."
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