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Turkish military forces' howitzers fire on Afrin on January 23, 2018. Photo: Cem Genco / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Turkey’s incursion into Afrin, in northwestern Syria, marks a significant move in its campaign against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). It was authorized by Russia, with the likely aim of returning local control to the Assad regime, and signals displeasure with the U.S.’s recent announcement of a 30,000-strong border protection force. Rex Tillerson called news of such a force “misportrayed,” but amid conspiracy theories and anti-American sentiment, his clarification came too late.

At this point, there’s little the U.S. and EU can do apart from pressing Turkey to seek moderation and avoid civilian casualties. The EU might also offer cross-border humanitarian assistance on Syrian soil.

The stakes will be raised if and when President Erdogan launches a promised ground operation against the town of Manbij, located at the Western edge of a vast region controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), themselves under the command of the YPG. Because the SDF are backed by U.S. Special Forces, the risk of a U.S.–Turkish confrontation is real.

What's next: Given restrictions on free speech within Turkey, the media is expected to produce a unanimously positive image of the operation. By playing up this limited operation as a major success, Erdogan is attempting to burnish his image as the providential leader best able to steer the country through difficult times.

Marc Pierini is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and a former EU ambassador and head of delegation to Turkey.

Go deeper

Updated 2 mins ago - Sports

MLB headed for first lockout since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is headed for the first management lockout since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancelation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years, per AP.

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost confirmed Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.