September 2, 2016


Is Turkey falling into its own Syrian trap? : The sentiment in Turkey is that, with "Operation Euphrates Shield," the country has made a thunderous return to the Middle East. But in a topography where nobody knows who is fighting who and what will tomorrow's alliances look like, there are serious traps awaiting Turke (Fehim Ta┼čtekin, September 1, 2016, Al Monitor)

Kurds may be upset with the US pressure on them to withdraw from Manbij, but they don't want to destroy their bridges to the United States while they are surrounded by enemies. Kurds are bound to come up with some pragmatic schemes to throw Turkey off balance.

But if Turkey's operations expand toward Rojava, the YPG may have to give up its four-year-long restraint and resist. Such a scenario may be the harbinger of a conflagration that will also pull in Turkey.

What if the Turkish operation halts on the edge of Manbij and turns against IS? This, too, will pose serious risks to Turkey.

Looking at the mindsets of Turkey's rulers, the operation has other objectives that are not openly mentioned:

To create a de facto buffer zone in the Jarablus-Azaz-Marea triangle.

To mobilize Turkey's Housing Development Agency to build satellite towns in the buffer zone to house Syrian refugees.

To open a corridor for anti-Assad armed groups currently stuck in Aleppo.

It won't be easy for Turkey-supported armed groups to hold the de facto buffer zone. Their capabilities and capacity are limited. They can advance or hold on to a position only if there is an army like the TSK behind them.

If the buffer zone is to be secured by increasing TSK's presence on the ground, that would put Turkey in the position of occupier, ushering myriad of problems it would have to cope with both on the ground and in the international arena. The Syrian government took no time in accusing Turkey of crimes against humanity and in filing a complaint with the UN Security Council. When compared with the troubles that Turkey will have to deal with on the ground, the Syrian complaint would be but a minor headache.

Building a town for refugees without coordinating with the Syrian administration will only consolidate Turkey's occupier status. Moreover, settling refugees in a risky area is bound to provoke humanitarian and legal arguments.

Meanwhile, a corridor to Aleppo first requires securing the Azaz-Marea line and then expelling IS from al-Bab.

Extending the TSK operation 50 to 60 kilometers from the Turkish border doesn't guarantee anything. IS is not expected to abandon Dabiq and al-Bab easily (it ascribes special importance to those towns) as it did with Jarablus. Moreover, such an operation will require Turkey's partnership with major field forces such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, which are shunned by the CIA. And then there is the Syrian army, which is engaged in a major war in Aleppo with the support of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Going deeper into Syria may bring the TSK face to face with these forces. Russia is likely to make use of its deterrent powers before that point is reached.

Nobody knows what contingency scenarios Ankara has in mind. The general feeling is that the government is not acting based on well-studied strategic plans but according to its sense of opportunities and gut feelings.

Only our Republican President has stayed out of the trap.

Posted by at September 2, 2016 3:06 PM