Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signaled that an operation is being planned to take out the leader of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Turkish media outlets reported on Wednesday.
“Some countries eliminate terrorists whom they consider as a threat to their national security, wherever they are. Therefore, this means those countries accept that Turkey has the same right. This includes the terrorists they shake hands with and praised,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, referring to the SDF commander Mazloum Kobani according to the pro-government Yeni Safak daily.
Kobani heads up the SDF, which until recently was a crucial ally for the United States (U.S.) in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.
Turkey has long aimed to clear the northeastern Syria of the SDF, which consists primarily of Kurdish militia.
US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces just three days before a launched a military incursion into the region on October 9.
On October 22, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on the Kurds’ withdrawal from a planned “safe zone” within 150 hours, in order to put an end to the offensive.
Russia said on Tuesday that the armed Kurdish forces had pulled out from the zone before the scheduled deadline which expired at 15:00 GMT, 6 pm local time. However, the Turkish authorities have expressed doubts over the Kurdish pull-out.
“I hope we will have good news for the nation on this matter soon,” added Erdogan while speaking at his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) group meeting on Wednesday, hinting that Turkey would assassinate its enemies as the US did at the weekend.
Following the parliamentary meeting, Erdogan was asked whether he had referred to Kobani in his speech.
“Why are you hurrying up. Such acts [to kill Kobani] should not be announced. Did the US announce [its move ]in advance [of killing the ISIS leader],” Erdogan said.
Trump announced on Sunday that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the fugitive leader of the ISIS, had killed himself during a US military raid.
Erdogan has been at odds with the US since 2014, as it has backed Kobani’s SDF which created an autonomous area in northeastern Syria along the Turkish-Syrian border following the ISIS defeat.
Erdogan’s Turkey considers the SDF a “terrorist offshoot” of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) that has waged a decades-long separatist armed insurgency against the Turkish state.
Erdogan’s assassination threat came after some recent US moves.
Last week on Wednesday, a group of bipartisan senators led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Van Hollen called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to expedite a visa for Kobani in a bid to let him visit Washington to brief the US Congress on recent events in Syria.
A day later, Trump said on Twitter that he had called Kobani and that the SDF commander was appreciating what had been done, despite harsh public criticism for his order to withdraw the US troops from the region — a move that allegedly gave a green light for Turkey to launch its October 9 military operation into northern Syria.
On the same day, Erdogan, who is scheduled to visit the White House on November 13, told state-run broadcaster TRT that his justice minister would officially request the US hand over Kobani, one of Turkey’s most wanted men.
Erdogan also vowed during the press release that he had not yet decided on his visit to Washington on November 13, saying there were “question marks.”
On Tuesday, the day that is marked as the 96th anniversary of Turkey’s Republic Day that celebrates the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the US House of Representatives approved two resolutions regarding Erdogan’s Turkey.
One resolution called on Trump to impose sanctions on Turkey and its officials over its recent Syria offensive, while the other was officially recognizing the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.
The House sent the sanction resolution to the Senate floor for a vote. If it passes, it will then go to Trump to be signed into law.
According to the resolution, the US would impose financial and visa penalties on Turkey’s defense minister, the chief of the general staff of the Turkish armed forces and the finance minister and sanction the state-run bank, Halkbank.
The bill also says all arms sales to Turkey that could be used against the SDF forces in Syria would be banned and foreigners providing arms to the country’s military forces would face sanctions.
Turkish foreign ministry expressed condemnation for the draft sanction bill in a statement on Tuesday, underlining that it was “incompatible with the spirit of our NATO Alliance.”
Regarding genocide recognition, the reaction also came from Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“Those whose projects were frustrated turn to antiquated resolutions. Circles believing that they will take revenge this way are mistaken. This shameful decision of those exploiting history in politics is null and void for our government and people,” said the minister.
Turkey’s official stance accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in inter-communal clashes during World War I, but it refuses to label the incident a systematic mass killing and a genocide.