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Operation “Peace Spring”: The Turkish invasion in Syria

Posted on Posted in Analyses, International Developments, Middle East, Strategy & Defence

By Giovanni Giacalone, Analyst KEDISA

 

Operation “Peace Spring”,the Turkish invasion in Syria has been strongly criticized on an international level but not everyone disagrees with it and the reference is not only addressed to the Trump administration. As reported on October 9th by the Middle East Monitor, Spain has announced its support for Turkey’s military operation into northern Syria, making it the first European country to do so.

Additionally, Spain’s official North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Twitter account made the announcement in a series of tweets on Monday: “NATO Support to Turkey is aimed at contributing to a de-escalation of the crisis along the Alliance’s border.”

However, is it really so? What “escalation” is Ankara concerned about?

It is clear that the primary objective of Turkey’s invasion is to get rid of the Kurdish YPG militias from the Syrian side of the border, these same militias that covered a major role in the anti-ISIS offensive. These same militias that, for some reason, represent a serious national threat for Erdogan. A perspective that cannot raise questions regarding Erdogan’s methodology of risk evaluation, considering that Turkey was caught on several occasions shipping weapons to Jihadists in Syria, medically treating Jihadist leaders (belonging to both, ISIS and Al Qaeda’s factions) on Turkish soil, in Turkish hospitals.

As recalled by the New York Post on November 21st, Sümeyye Erdogan, daughter of the Turkish president, reportedly set up an entire medical corps, including a hospital to treat wounded ISIS fighters in Sanlurfa, a city in Southeastern Turkey close to the Syrian border. [1]

Let’s not forget that the Turkish intelligence service (MIT) provided material and tactical support to ISIS, something which has been documented on a number of occasions. It is also important to recall when in 2014 a group of MIT trucks carrying weapons bound for the Jihadists was uncovered by reporters working for the Cumhuriyet newspaper. The case generated a political thunderstorm in Turkey as the reporters were accused of espionage and arrested. [2] [3] [4]

Now, considering the Turkish support for ISIS and Al-Qaeda, let’s recall that many Jihadists captured by the Kurds as a consequence of the anti-Jihad Russian and Syrian coordinated offensive launched in September 2015, are being held in Kurdish prisons located in the areas that the Turkish military is now attacking. What a strange coincidence. At this point there is a question that spontaneously arises: what will happen to these Jihadists detained in such detention centers? Is it a conspiracy theory to speculate that they might be absorbed within pro-Turkish militias active on the border? Forces to be used against the Kurds and against the Syrian government?

After all Erdogan never really metabolized the obliged alliance with Moscow that forced him to stop his support for the Jihadists and to watch Assad regain control of the country.

Hence, the military operation launched by Erdogan is a big opportunity to place feet on Syrian soil and try to establish the conditions for a new offensive, possibly carried out by pro-Ankara proxies, against the Syrian government. Such conditions include the settling of displaced Syrian refugees who will find a new home in such a “safe zone”, after getting rid of the Kurds, indeed. This plan could be defined as ethnic replacement.

However, there are a few points that must be carefully pondered by Erdogan, first of all, the Kurdish militiamen are experienced, tough fighters that master the territory and the guerrilla tactics. The Turkish can use its air force to bomb the area, but it is well known that wars are not won exclusively through aerial campaigns, as taught by the Soviet-Afghan war. On the ground the situation is far more complex and the territorial advantage is clearly on the Kurdish side. The risk is that Ankara will get stuck in a long campaign that will weaken its forces and damage its international image, which is already strongly compromised not only by the various “Jihadist scandals”, by the use of the immigration flows as a threat tool against the EU, but also by the repression perpetrated against journalists and politicians who dared criticizing the AKP government and President Erdogan.

One month from now Erdogan will have to provide Trump with the results of the military campaign and the outcome is way far from predictable. In the meantime let’s keep in mind that Turkey is an important NATO member and it is very hard not to conceive such membership as a huge embarrassment when considering the support provided by Ankara to Jihadists and its violation of basic human rights.

A final consideration must be made in relation to the Russia-Turkey axis; so far Moscow seems to be observing the situation from the sideline, but this is just an impression. In fact the Turkish invasion must have surely received green light by both Washington and Moscow, even if not for shared objectives. Erdogan couldn’t afford to take such a step without Putin’s consent, since Russia is the one that makes the rules in Syria now. This is a very important point that Erdogan should keep well in mind, because Russia is the real winner of the Syrian conflict.

The fact that the Kurds have been betrayed by their historical “ally”, the US, might bring them to a potential alliance with Assad and Russia. It is only an hypothesis, but in the last decade we have seen everything and the opposite of everything in the Middle East, so why not? In conclusion, the Turkish offensive in Syria might be a double-edged sword for Erdogan, and the sharpest side might not necessarily be pointing outwards.

Sources

[1] https://nypost.com/2019/09/21/why-isnt-the-media-covering-turkish-president-erdogans-ties-to-isis/?fbclid=IwAR3_017ViXX9Oz1uOtzcyDO7yzO2f9SeLwsXyYupOC6IC9d1tQgj-jvioDE

[2] https://investigativejournal.org/turkeys-intelligence-agency-illegally-dispatched-arms-to-syrian-jihadists/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/27/turkish-journalists-charged-over-claim-that-secret-services-armed-syrian-rebels

[4] https://stockholmcf.org/court-declines-to-sentence-turkish-journalists-in-mit-trucks-case/