Turkish President Recep Erdogan sounds more and more like his counterparts every day. First, he locked up his military leaders and stifled free speech in his country. Then Erdogan invaded Syria and threatened the United States. Now he wants to open an Eastern front in the Mediterranean.

This latest Russian-brokered deal opens the door for paramilitaries allied with the Syrian government to enter Afrin Feb. 19 to support the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighting Turkish forces. A Kurd spokesman said the agreement is strictly military with no wider political arrangements, according to Deutsche Welle. What has not been mentioned is whether or not Russia will provide air support.

Afrin borders Turkey and is held by the YPG and has faced a month-old assault by Ankara and allied Syrian rebels including IS mercenaries. Damascus says it is sending mercenaries, not regular troops. “If they are entering [Afrin] to protect YPG/PKK, nobody can stop the Turkish army,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, according to Al Jazeera.

Best fighters

Many countries view the YPG as a terrorist organization. Ankara considers the YPG the Syrian arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it has fought a decades-long insurgency against. The United States has allied with the YPG elsewhere in Syria and Iraq, providing it with arms and other support to fight Islamic State.

Kurd fighters have proven to be the most capable and dependable infantrymen in the conflict.

Russia also supported the YPG in Afrin, training Kurdish forces there before withdrawing as Turkey announced its assault last month.

U.S. stays put

Erdogan threatened U.S. forces [VIDEO] in Syria with an “Ottoman slap” if they persisted in partnering with Syrian Kurds. The slap is a supposed martial arts maneuver to kill an opponent. The Ottomans viewed themselves as gentlemen opposed to punching. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman laughed at the Turks threat. Erdogan was referring to U.S.-coalition control of Manbij in Syria.

Cavusoglu told reporters Americans shouldn’t be offended by the president’s statements because Erdogan was speaking to Turks for propaganda purposes [VIDEO]. After seeing Syria mercenaries attacking Deir al-Zor province, and failing, last week Ankara says it is willing to let U.S. forces, their NATO allies, withdraw from Syria so Turkey can administer the region. As nice an offer as that is, the U.S. failed to accept it.

Syria offensive

Large Syrian armored and artillery forces are concentrated in the Damascus region ready for a new offensive to recover the town and its outlying suburbs from rebel control.

The fighting started overnight and by noon EST U.S. Feb. 19, at least 18 civilians were reported dead and another 75 wounded in Eastern Ghouta by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

This suburb of Damascus is controlled by al-Qaeda-associated al-Nusra Front until August 2016 when it split for propaganda purposes. It consists of Syrian rebels fighting in the civil war. By becoming a nationalist group it hoped foreign entities would not bomb it.