February 15, 2016


Prospects for a Turkish Incursion into Syria (Can Kasapoglu, 9 February 2016, Project Syndicate)

Recent gains by the Assad regime in its ongoing northern offensive -- in particular, the recapture of the Shiite towns of Nubl and Zahra -- pose a significant geostrategic threat to Turkey and the opposition groups based in and around Azaz. The regime and its allies are now in a favorable position to cut the lines of communication between the Turkish border areas and the rebel-held city of Aleppo. Such an outcome now seems inevitable given major Russian and Iranian support for regime forces. As a matter of fact, the regime, backed by the Russian air-ground campaign, has been successfully advancing towards the Turkish frontier areas at the time of writing. In this regard, it should be noted that the Russian air force detachment in Syria enjoys high sortie rates as a result of Hmeymim Airbase's proximity and an effective sortie-to-strike ratio stemming from good intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB). An expansion of Russian military advisors on the ground has enabled efficient coordination between close air support platforms and advancing Syrian Arab Army units, while the elite Iranian Quds Forces and Lebanese Hezbollah drive forward fueled by sectarianism and experience in hybrid conflicts.

More alarmingly, Ankara may soon face a menacing combination of hostile forces along its southern borders: Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)-affiliated YPG forces, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and the Syrian Arab Army. The only Ankara-friendly groups near the Turkish border would be the rebel fighters in Idlib province, who would be surrounded by Latakia in the south and Aleppo in the northeast.

Under these tense circumstances, Russia accused Turkey of preparing for a military incursion into Syria. In response -- having already drawn attention to Russian "crimes" in Syria -- Ankara firmly stated that it had the right to take necessary measures for its national security. 

Posted by at February 15, 2016 4:50 PM