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Turkey’s operation in northern Syria causes mixed opinions among politicians and experts

23:36 | 17.10.2019 | Analytic

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17 October 2019. PenzaNews. Despite the position of Western countries, Ankara is not going to stop its anti-terrorist Operation Peace Spring in Syria until it achieves goals. This was stated by the Press Secretary of the President of Turkey Ibrahim Kalin.

Turkey’s operation in northern Syria causes mixed opinions among politicians and experts

Photo: Andrew Goedl, Wikipedia.org

“They were silent when thousands of civilians were killed in Mosul, Raqqa and Dayrzor, when cities were raized to the ground, when terrorists were armed. Now they seek to pressure Turkey to stop its fight against the terrorists. The days of ordering Turkey are over. Get used to it,” he said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Ankara’s operation raises mixed opinions of the international community. Canada, the United Arab Emirates, China and the EU countries have sharply condemned the actions of the Turkish authorities, expressing concerns about possible strengthening of terrorism in Syria. Several EU countries, including France and Germany, advocated imposing an arms embargo on Ankara and have already refused their arms supplies to Turkey.

US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Ankara to make it cease its operation against Kurdish forces allied to the US. However, despite criticism, the US military has withdrawn from the northern part of Syria at his command, leaving the Kurds without support.

“After defeating 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, I largely moved our troops out of Syria. Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land. I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria and [its President Bashar] Assad to protect the land of our enemy? Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!” Donald Trump said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the autonomous Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria has signed an agreement with Damascus. According to it, the government troops enter the border areas from Manbij to Al-Malikiyah to help repel the Turkish attack. The Syrian flag has already been hoisted in the cities of Tabqa, Hasek and Qamishli, previously controlled by the Kurds.

“This is a preliminary military agreement. The political aspects were not discussed, and these will be discussed at later stages,” Badran Jia Kurd, a top Syrian Kurdish official, said stressing that such a decision was made after the United States left them face to face with the Turkish army.

In turn, Turkey itself declares respect for the territorial integrity and unity of Syria, stressing that Ankara’s priority is the safety of civilians, just like it was during the previous anti-terrorist operations.

Commenting on the current situation, Orkhan Gafarli, expert at Ankara Policy Center, reminded that the main goal of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to create a security zone in northern Syria.

“Ankara intends to cleanse the region of Kurdish terrorists and relocate the refugees who are now in Turkey,” the expert told PenzaNews.

According to him, the operation will positively affect the regional balance of power.

“It will provide an opportunity to develop relations between the US and Syria, ensure territorial integrity of the Arab Republic and provide the Syrian regime with room for maneuver in relations with the Kurds,” Orkhan Gafarli said.

Commenting on the position of Western states, which condemned the operation, the Turkish analyst drew attention to the geographical position of his country: it borders on Syria, and “it has to solve certain security issues.”

“In my opinion, the operation will be finished in the near future, and Turkey will start creating a security zone in northern Syria. Of course, there is condemnation from European countries. Sanctions were imposed against Turkish ministers, but I think this will not significantly affect strategic relations with the West, since the West itself will need cooperation with Turkey on the Syrian issue,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Fernand Kartheiser, Luxembourg Parliament member for the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), expressed the view that Ankara “profits from its geopolitical situation and its military strength to pursue its perceived national interests without much consideration for international public law.”

“The Turkish invasion is not covered by the UN Security Council, it targets also the civilian population and it questions the territorial integrity of a sovereign country. All these factors make the Turkish initiative totally unacceptable. Even though the short-term success of the Turkish operation seems likely, the long-term consequences of such a unilateral and illegal move risk to be detrimental to Turkey. From a Western perspective, the Kurdish people and their militias have to be considered as valuable allies against IS. Western Nations should therefore take moves in order to prevent Turkey to realize its goals,” he said.

“Since the EU has maneuvered itself in a situation of total dependency from Turkey [Ankara is the EU's main partner in the 2016 Migrant Agreement] it has no real influence for the time being. The presence of so many migrants or refugees in Turkey who would like to enter the EU allows Turkey to blackmail its Western partners,” the politician said.

However, in his opinion, the Turkish behaviour alienates Ankara further from the West and adds to isolation of an economically weakened country.

“Turkey, formally a member of NATO, is not seen any more so much as an ally but as a burden. The aggressively of Turkey towards all its neighbours, including Russia, worries many. The only realistic perspective might be an American mediation effort between the Kurds and the Turks. Washington has enough geopolitical weight to exert a real influence in the region. The unilateral withdrawal of some American troops from the border area should not be interpreted as an approval of the Turkish expansionist agenda. It was primarily a preventive move. Washington should now put limits to the actions of its most difficult ally in order to be able to build new partnerships and keep its political credibility in the region,” Fernand Kartheiser explained.

According to Ilgar Velizade, Head of the Baku-based South Caucasus Club of Political Scientists, Turkey’s actions “are justified in terms of protecting national interests.”

“Unfortunately, in the case of Syria, international law has been violated many times. It just does not work there. [...] Participating in military operations in Syria, Ankara has been put in a position where it is forced to defend its own interests in the face of international law paralysis,” the expert explained his view.

He also stressed that the country is quite determined in its actions.

“Soon the events will be intense. Turkey will try to create a security zone along the Syrian-Turkish border as soon as possible to place there a significant part of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees now settled in Turkey and to protect itself from the militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which are supported by Kurdish defense forces,” Ilgar Velizade said.

“The Kurdish administration can make an agreement with the Syrian authorities to deter the Turkish offensive. But the reaction of Washington, which has so far supported the Kurds, is not entirely clear. It is also not clear how Israel will continue its policy of supporting the Kurds if they move closer to the Assad government. There are many questions, but the answers to them will be found out only in the course of events,” he added.

Meanwhile, Itamar Rabinovich, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, former chief negotiator with Syria between 1993 and 1996, professor emeritus of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, distinguished global professor at New York University, foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, shared the opinion that the relevance of a legal dimension to the current crisis is marginal.

“Of course, Turkey has unlawfully invaded the territory of a neighboring country and is inflicting damage and casualties on both combatants and civilians. But Syria is in fact a failed state enjoying limited sovereignty. Turkey herself has already captured part of Syria in earlier invasion. Russian and Iranian troops are in Syria at the government’s invitation but so are also several Shiite pro-Iranian militias,” he said.

The expert stressed that the operation has already led to the rapprochement between the Syrian Kurds and Bashar Assad’s regime.

“Abandoned by Washington and pummeled by Ankara, the Kurds turned to Damascus as the lesser evil. It should be noted that the Kurds never joined the rebellion against Assad. They fought against the Islamic State and their goal was autonomy not independence,” Itamar Rabinovich explained.

At the same time, in his opinion, there is no swift solution to the crisis.

“Turkey is determined to capture a large piece of territory and keep it. The Kurds with the regime’s help will fight back. The US opted out at least for now. Europe is terrified by Turkey’s threat to send more Syrian refugees its way. Russia and Iran are the patrons of the Assad regime but both are also eager to cultivate relations with Turkey and pull it away from NATO and the US,” the expert added.

In turn, Kamal Sido, Head of Middle East Department of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), called the Turkish operation a disaster for the Kurds.

“In accordance with the international law, this is absolute lawlessness. Turkey has no right to attack this region of Syria – no one threatened Ankara, but it decided to arrange ethnic cleansing in order to force the Kurds from this territory. There are no more Christians, Yezidis, Armenians in this area. There are only the Kurds who opposed the islamization of this region. Erdogan’s goal is to blast the Kurds off the map,” he said.

According to the analyst, the US decision to leave Syria may indicate the presence of certain agreements, according to which the Americans agreed to leave the region to the Turks.

In addition, he suggested that Russia could convince Damascus of the need to provide citizens of northeast Syria with democratic rights and the possibility of holding free elections.

“Many Kurds hope that Russia, being a federal republic with extensive experience in building relations with autonomies, can influence Damascus, pushing it to create Kurdish autonomy and respect the rights of religious and ethnic minorities,” Kamal Sido concluded.

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