“Turkey will have a hard time”
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the country’s armed forces are ready “at any moment” to launch a new military operation in the north of the Syrian Arab Republic. According to him, the timing of the outbreak of hostilities depends on many factors, such as army readiness, terrain conditions, weather conditions and the presence of political will.
Hürriyet newspaper writes that Erdogan will make the final decision on military operations in Syria after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 30. At that meeting, the Turkish president said that his country still needs to create a 30km-deep security zone in northern Syria, which the parties agreed on in Sochi in autumn 2019. According to him, it was not possible to implement the plan and therefore Ankara is ready for decisive action.
Erdogan recently spoke of his desire to “completely destroy the terrorist formations in Syria and northern Iraq, that is, the Kurdish forces, as that term”. The head of Turkey warned that his country will not stop anything and will not seek permission from the United States, which, according to him, is helping the Kurds with weapons.
Moreover, the Turks have already kept some of their promises – the operation called “Claw-Fortress” against the targets of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) banned in Turkey in Iraq began on April 17, 2022. A week later, Hulusi Akar announced that the first phase was over as the Turkish army “reached where it needed to be”.
The operation in Syria may begin in the near future. According to Turkish media reports, around 50,000 Turkish soldiers and pro-Turkish armed opposition could take part in the new operation. However, although Ankara forces did not declare an operation in a neighboring country, they neutralized “approximately 30 terrorists” in recent days.
On May 30, the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Turkey of ethnic cleansing on the territory of the Arab Republic.
“The Turkish regime’s actions to create a so-called “safe zone” in Syria is a shameful act of aggression and is part of the ethnic and geographical cleansing policy of the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the occupied Syrian territory. It is a war crime and a crime against humanity” – Damascus’ was also announced.
Amur Gadzhiev, researcher of the Turkish sector at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told socialbites.ca:
Ankara will most likely be able to maintain its military-political presence in the desired areas, including the possible appearance of its military bases.
True, the Kurds may put up a fierce resistance.
“Turkey is currently fighting the PKK inside the country, on Iraqi soil, and it is quite logical that this cross-border adventure will also affect Syria. However, it is difficult to predict because there are many unknown variables. For example, we do not know what the Kurdish Self-Defense Units are. But this is their last stronghold, so fierce wars are possible and Turkey will have a hard time,” he said.
Why it is necessary
Turkey has recently conducted several operations for various purposes in Syria, where the Spring Shield operation took place in Idlib, most recently in the spring of 2020, following the death of the Turkish army.
However, the 2019 “Peace Source” operation by the YPG (“People’s Protection Units”) against Kurdish armed groups and the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDG) can be considered the last of those directly involved in the situation. of the Kurds. Second, it was created to fight ISIS (the organization is banned in Russia), which has warm relations with the Kurds, or with the support of the United States, during negotiations with the special representative of former US President Donald Trump three years ago. The Kurds have openly stated that Washington has “sold” to Erdogan, refusing to defend it.
As a matter of fact, as a result of Operation Peace Spring, Ankara obtained the desired buffer zone between the Syrian border cities of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain, which was also recorded in the Sochi Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and Turkey.
In addition, according to the agreements, YPG weapons were withdrawn from the Syria-Turkey border from a depth of 30 km. Moscow and Ankara launched joint Russian-Turkish patrols to a depth of 10 km in the west and east of the operation area, with the exception of the town of Al-Qamishli.
But now Ankara is declaring that the Kurds are again a danger to Turkey, and according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the US and Russia “did not keep their promises” to reduce the presence of “terrorist organizations” in Turkey. -The Syrian border is up to 30 km deep. All this is reason enough for a new operation in the eyes of the Turks.
In a comment to socialbites.ca, Nikolai Surkov, senior researcher at IMEMO RAS, urged Turkey’s plans to create and constantly control (either on its own or by pro-Turkish forces) a large buffer zone on the 30km border. . The Syrian opposition) is not a new idea, the implementation of which would require “a fairly large-scale operation”.
Amur Hajiyev explained why it is such an important goal for Erdogan to complete the creation of the seat belt.
“This will ensure that any possible Kurdish pseudo-state formation that would threaten Turkey’s territorial integrity is completely absent near Turkey’s borders. After all, local Kurdish groups are in close ties with PKK militants, and Erdogan wants to break this chain. Officially, it is a 30 km security zone, but I think there will be deviations from this target due to geography. At the same time, the Turks say that they will abide by the principles of Syria’s territorial integrity and indivisibility,” he said.
What about the USA and Russia?
Hajiyev is confident that Turkey’s operation cannot begin without consultation with the Americans.
“After all, we are not only talking about the lands west of the Euphrates, but also the east, which is largely controlled by the US-led international coalition against ISIS. It can be assumed that there is an agreement between Turkey and the USA on this issue.
Most likely, this issue was the subject of negotiations between Turkey and other NATO countries, when they talked about the possible participation of Sweden and Finland in the alliance. Oddly enough, all these processes happen at the same time. It seems to me that without the tacit consent of the United States, Turkey would hardly have allowed it to carry out such an operation.
It is more likely to argue about some kind of collusion,” he said.
Meanwhile, Erdogan blocked the start of NATO talks on the accession of Finland and Sweden, precisely because he refused to condemn the PKK and granted asylum to its members.
On the other hand, Russia advocates always respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, where the government controls about 65% of its territory.
Experts interviewed by socialbites.ca could not agree on how much Turkey’s new military operation would run counter to Russia’s interests.
This is why Amur Gadzhiev believes that autonomy in northern Syria, de facto and without Ankara’s control, controlled by pro-Western forces has already been formalized. So in terms of territorial integrity, if Turkey comes there, nothing will change for Damascus – it will not control this region, just as it does not control it.
At the same time, according to the expert, the Turkish presence in Syria will fit into the general context of the Astana process (negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition mediated by Turkey, Russia and Iran) and the strategy of the three guarantor countries. .
Here, however, it will also be necessary to take into account the position of Iran, which has been so zealous and painful in Turkey’s attempts to advance and expand its influence in Syria. But whether his opposition will be decisive and decisive will become clear only if the next round is held within the framework of the Astana format,” he said.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh has already expressed Tehran’s stance – according to him, military operations in Syria will not help Turkey to ensure its security.
Much more categorical that Turkey’s plans go against Russia’s interests is Nikolai Surkov from IMEMO RAS.
“Such actions in any case undermine Syria’s sovereignty. After the operation in its north, it is likely that the formation of a Turkish semi-state will continue, which will delay the re-establishment of the unity of the country for a long time. And this is exactly what Russia represents.
And now there is hope that the Syrian government can come to terms with the Kurds – either in some kind of federal format or on autonomy. But if these lands come under Turkish control, it would be almost unrealistic to give Damascus back under its control,” he said.