Turkish Troops Launch Overnight Operation in Syria to Relocate Tomb

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Turkish soldiers raise Turkish flag on February 22, 2015 in the Esmesi region of Aleppo where the Tomb of Suleyman Shah will be placed. The Turkish Army launched a military operation into Syria to evacuate soldiers guarding Tomb of Suleyman Shah, exclave of Turkey situated in Karakozak village, northeast of Aleppo, Syria. Suleyman Shah was the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire. His tomb is a Turkish exclave located 30 kilometers south of the Turkey-Syria border. Anadolu/Fırat Yurdakul

Published Sunday, February 22, 2015

Turkish tanks backed by drones and reconnaissance planes entered Syria overnight to evacuate several dozen Turkish soldiers guarding a tomb considered sovereign territory by Ankara and surrounded by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insurgents.

The Turkish troops, reportedly numbering around 40, were guarding the mausoleum complex of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman empire's founder Osman I, which under a 1920s treaty is considered sovereign Turkish territory.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that 572 Turkish soldiers using 39 tanks, 57 armored vehicles and 100 other military vehicles were involved in the operation called Shah Firat (Shah Euphrates).

The military said there had been no clashes during the “initial stage” of the operation, the first such ground incursion by Turkish troops into Syria, but that one soldier had been killed in an accident.

Flanked by the chief of the military and the defense minister, Davutoglu told a news conference that Turkey had not sought permission or assistance for the mission but had informed allies in the coalition against ISIS once it began.

He said on in a statement that the mission had resulted in the successful repatriation of the soldiers who had guarded the tomb perched on the banks of the Euphrates river, as well as the remains of Suleyman Shah himself, which had been temporarily moved to a new site within Syria north of the village of Esmesi close to the Turkish border.

"The remains of (Suleyman Shah) have been temporarily repatriated and will be reburied inside Syria at a later date," he added.

Davutoglu congratulated the Turkish army on the success of an operation that he said had posed "considerable potential risks."

"This was an extremely successful operation with no loss to our rights under international law."

There was no immediate reaction from the Syrian authorities.

Two operations were carried out simultaneously as part of the operation, Davutoglu said, one to Suleyman Shah and the other to secure the area around Esmesi. He said the remaining buildings at the original site were destroyed to prevent their use after the remains were removed.

In March last year, the possibility of an attack on the exclave by ISIS emerged, prompting then prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to declare that any attack on the exclave would be tantamount to attacking Turkey itself.

Davutoglu had repeatedly said that Turkey would retaliate against any attack on the tomb, which was located 37 kilometers (23 miles) from the Syrian border before being moved overnight.

"Countries which do not look after their historic symbols cannot build their future," he said on Sunday.

The tomb was made Turkish territory under a treaty signed with France in 1921, when France ruled Syria and had been relocated twice before over the span of nearly eighty years.

ISIS and other Islamist groups, whose strict interpretation of Islam deems the veneration of tombs to be idolatrous, have destroyed several tombs and mosques in Syria.

Turkey has been reluctant to take an active role in the US-led military campaign against ISIS, partly despite its 1,200 kilometer (750-mile) border with Iraq and Syria because it wants to see the military action target Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces as much as the insurgents.

However, In October, the Turkish parliament authorized the armed forces for a year to conduct military operations in Syria and Iraq in a bill that also recognized the dangers the exclave faced.

Turkey also agreed in principle to train and equip Syrian rebels and is already training Kurdish peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq.

The Syrian government has consistently accused the NATO member of harboring, financing, training, and arming militants since violence erupted in March 2011, which says played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS.

In mid January, social media sites Twitter and Facebook, along with many other websites, were blocked in Turkey after anonymous accounts published new evidence in an ongoing case accusing Turkey of illegally shipping weapons to Islamist militants in Syria.

Damascus has also repeatedly accused Ankara of playing a major role in fueling the armed crisis in Syria by opening its borders and allowing free access to foreign jihadists into Syria.

According to a UN report published in November, Turkey has been singled out as a major transit point for ISIS’ oil deliveries, with trucks often returning to Iraq or Syria with refined products.

(Reuters, AFP, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

Comments

I've found some excellent analysis on this topic (from my perspective and limited knowledge), centered around the Syrians living in the Hatay province of Turkey (that Paris gave to Ankara in 1939), their political economy with Ankara, and the now increasing number of Syrian Sunni refugees in that area.

It is called, Ghosts of the Future: Fears of a Phantom Referendum Haunt the Turkish-Syrian Border,
by Noga Malkin and Nick Danforth | published October 24, 2014 at Middle East Research and Information Project.

Link: http://www.merip.org/mero/mero102414

Why did the Turks wait until now? Have they tried to use the tomb as bait, so to be able to attack the Syria by claiming defence in accordance to their "international right"? Doesn't the leaked phone conversation between Erdogan/Davitoglou and two others, from just before their last election, point to something like that? Waiting for 4 years obviously shows that the tomb and its guards were not in danger by either indigenous nor imported militants, they obviously don't bite the (Turkish) hand that feeds them.

So what has changed but for the SAA's offensive in the area, which for all these decades has been a guarantor of the tomb, and for that Peshmerga is clearing the way between Kobane and towards Aleppo, just south of the border so to eliminate Turkish supply routes?

For sure, this is a media stunt by Erdogan and its directed both to the domestic public, which all that chest thumping hot air Davitoglou has been quoted, saying "[the] decision was solely taken in Ankara, within the framework of international law, without asking any permission or help from any party. The Turkish military would overcome any obstacle, whoever comes their way, risking clashes". That quote is obvioiusly not directed towards "Benny the European" but to fuel the head of "Tarkan the Turk". But watching Al-Jazeera's news desk question a Turkisk brigader general the news anchor was all about trying to depict Syria as a possible agressor against Turkey, and of course didn't mention anything that pointed towards the contrary.

So it points towards being a publicity stunt seen out of a short perspective but what gains does Erdogan aim for in the long run? A UN secured area like the one the zionist entity wanted after Hezbollah handed them their ass in 2006? After the UN comes in it this area will with the passing of time be questioned as being a part of Syrian land and thus it will be more easilly annexed, yeah?

What else? Is Erdogan doing all he can to avoid being forced to war against ISIL should they attack the tomb?

I see this as a dirty trick by Turkey, the godfather of the terrorists in Syria. The untrustworthy, Muslim-back-stabber Turks should relocate the cadaver to Turkey itself. Pretty soon they may want to relocate the corpse near Damascus and send troops there under the pretext of protecting it. Erdogan and Davutoğlu can fool only their own people.
Also, look at those soldiers holding and showing the Turkish falg, trying to copy the Americans in WWII. How phony and ridiculous.

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