Maryam Salari

Turkey’s Tactical Move in Attacking Afrin

Date of publication : February 3, 2018 00:49 am
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People hold a Turkish flag in front of a damaged house after PKK/PYD organizations fired 7 rockets since January 31 from Syria's northwest Afrin region, where Turkish Armed Forces conducts the 'Operation Olive Branch' against PKK/PYD groups, in Hatay, Turkey on February 01, 2018

Turkey has always played an important and effective role in control or relative containment of the crisis in Syria. One of the most important goals pursued by Turkey in Syria is to keep in check the increasing role of the Syrian Kurds in areas close to the country’s border due to Ankara’s concern about a possible union between Syrian Kurdish groups and those in Turkey. However, the main factor that has prompted Turkey to choose the current juncture for carrying out military operations in Syria’s Afrin region is the special importance of the current juncture.
 
Turkey has chosen this juncture for a number of reasons. The first reason is that a meeting of Syrian opposition groups to discuss a possible solution to the country’s crisis is going to be held soon in Russia’s resort city of Sochi. This meeting will be held through mediation of Moscow and all Syrian groups, including the Kurdish groups are to play an active role in it. Therefore, Ankara is trying to influence the forthcoming meeting in Sochi through its ongoing operations in Afrin. The leaders of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party have always been opposed to Kurds playing an effective role in shaping the political structure in a new Syria. Therefore, during past few years, they had consistently opposed the leaders of Syria’s Kurdish groups from being invited to take part in Syria peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva. During the past months, they have also frequently voiced their dissatisfaction about the invitation extended to Syria’s Kurdish groups to take part in the Russia-mediated Sochi peace talks.
 
Another factor that has caused Turkey to attack Afrin at the present time is a longstanding effort by Ankara to undermine the peace process in Syria. Turkey is not yet satisfied with new conditions regarding the Syrian government and stabilization of President Bashar Assad’s power and this is why it still continues to oppose the incumbent Syrian regime. An example of Ankara’s opposition to Assad was seen in an African tour by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he openly talked about the need to change the Syrian regime. Since the forthcoming negotiations in Sochi can be an important step towards national reconciliation in Syria and further strengthening of Assad’s standing, Ankara is trying through this preemptory measure to prevent restoration of stability to Syria.
 
The third factor behind Turkey’s ongoing operations in northern Syria is the role that Ankara is playing on behalf of the United States in this region. Under conditions when Washington is not very willing to openly intervene in the Syria crisis, its regional allies, including Turkey, can play this role. Therefore, contrary to the apparent verbal conflict that is going on between Ankara and Washington, there is remarkable coordination between the two countries in this regard. At the present time, it seems that Ankara has been given guarantees by the United States about being secure to possible moves by pro-US Kurdish forces and, as a result, it is implementing its own intervention scenario in order to prevent stabilization of the political conditions in Syria.
 
On the whole, although these operations seem to be a tactical measure taken by Turkey, they prove absence of fixed principles in a Turkey, which is known across the region for its profiteering nature and sinusoidal moves. The policy of attacking Afrin also speaks volumes about Turkey’s unpreparedness to adapt itself to new conditions in Syria and indicates Ankara’s great concern about increasing power of Turkey’s regional allies, including Iran and Russia. At the same time, Turkey has never followed a stable regional policy with regard to countries like Iran and Russia as well as the Zionist regime of Israel. Therefore, excessive pragmatism and avoidance of sticking to clear principles have caused Turkey to ignore some previous agreements and implement a new plan in order to gain some technical achievements. However, this measure, like other measures that Turkey has already taken in Syria, is unlikely to be of any good to Ankara. In short-term, the only result of these operations is increased tensions in Syria and across region, and new regional initiatives are expected in order to establish renewed balance in this region.
 
 
 
Maryam Salari, a international affairs journalist, is the expert on Middle East issues.
 
 
 
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