Dr. Abolhassan Khalaj Monfared, speaking to the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, pointed out that the Turkish invasion of Syria with US green light could put the Turkish government in a huge quagmire with dire consequences. What is happening on the northeast border of Syria is a continuation of the strategic mistakes the Turkish government has unfortunately made with the green light of the US, which is what President Trump wants, namely conflict between two Muslim countries in the region and the creation of insecurity and more bloodshed and deepening hostility between the Kurds, Arabs and Turks in this sensitive area.
Q: What is your analysis of the reaction of different Turkish people and parties to the Turkish military strike on northeast Syria?
In principle, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey has made great strides since it showed it wants to make serious changes in its foreign and domestic policy. In the first decade of AKP’s rule, the party showed that it wanted to be inclusive. The party sought to overcome the social divisions that had been historically created in Turkey and overcome them as an inclusive party in the country. In the first period of its rule, the party succeeded in overcoming the intellectual and social divisions and, with its cultural policies and political openings, largely attracted various strata of the nation, including the Kurds. The party had considerable success in attracting the Alawites and Sunnis, and even laic and secular sections of Turkey, and thus the party’s votes in the early periods of its rule recorded an upward trend.
In the foreign policy at that point, the AKP adopted a policy of minimizing (to zero point) the challenges and problems with its neighbors and trying to resolve all the problems of Turkey with its neighbors and emerge as a reliable neighbor. Turkey also emerged as a positive actor in the international arena. For example, joining the European Union and observing its standards was one of the Party’s serious slogans. Also, observance of democratic values and freedoms, etc. were the slogans of the AKP in its first term in power, which made Turkey popular among the countries of the region in its foreign policy and its relations with many of its neighbors, including Syria, were expanded. But unfortunately, Ankara’s both domestic and the foreign policy lines have faced problems since the party slowly abandoned these two policies. At home, unfortunately, they allied with an extremist nationalist party that strongly opposes the Kurds and departed from their previous principles in foreign policy.
The Turks unfortunately entered the US game on the issue of Syria and in what was called the Arab Spring by the West and disrupted their friendly relations with Syria which if continued could have great benefits for both countries. My analysis is that the US and the Zionist regime were dissatisfied with the cooperation and progress of the two major countries of the region, Turkey and Syria, so they dragged Turkey into the Syrian civil war and then abandoned them. From that time on AKP’s problems in domestic and foreign policy started.
In the current situation, what is happening on the northeastern border of Syria continues to be the same strategic error that the AKP unfortunately committed with the green light of the US. This is what Trump wants, that is conflict between the two Muslim neighbors of the region and creation of greater insecurity and bloodshed and deepening hostility between the Kurds, Arabs and Turks in this sensitive region.
The far-right Nationalist Movement Party, now an ally of the Justice and Development Party, is a highly anti-Kurdish and Turkish-oriented party that accounts for 10% to 14% of the popular votes. The party is firmly in favor of the government’s attack on Syria. Naturally, AKP supporters have long been prepared for this operation and generally must support the action. But on the other hand, the opposition parties, most importantly the People’s Republican Party and its allies, as well as the Kurdish political currents and some of the opponents of AKP parties, do not support the ruling government. These parties defeated the ruling party in major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir in the recent mayoral elections, showing that they have more than 50% of the votes, that is more votes than the AKP and its allies. These parties are strongly opposed to the Justice and Development Party’s move in Syria, even if they did not speak out at this point.
On the social and grassroots level, the attack on Syria has many opponents. Twenty percent of Turkey’s population is said to be Kurdish, and certainly all Kurds in Syria are strongly opposed to Turkey’s attack on Syria. Proponents of the People’s Republican Party as an opponent of the government, those who follow secular and intellectual currents disagree with the government’s military action in Syria, and Turkey’s Alawites who are big in number also strongly disapprove of the move. First, the AK Party in Turkey has propagated that there is an Alawite government headed by Bashar al-Assad in Syria, so the Turkish Alawites will naturally oppose the military attack. Secondly, the Alawites are generally considered to be supporters of the opposition in Turkey.
After all, there is an important issue in Turkey that is very decisive in the judgment of the people, and it is the economic factor that has the most influence on political issues, so that it is believed to be one of the most important components of the successive achievements of the AKP and expansion of economic successes and the improvement of the standard of living of its people for the past two decades. Therefore, if a policy and action causes economic problems in people’s lives and challenges Turkey’s fragile economy, it is likely that Turks will not go along with it and oppose it in the long run. So I think if the attack had economic consequences for Turkey, which will certainly have as the value of Turkish Lira dropped on the first few days after the attack, it would face the Turkish economy with challenge causing more opposition among the people, and social and political groups and civil society in Turkey will fall, and even the number of supporters of the AK Party will fall and oppose the move.
When the negative results of this incursion show themselves slowly, opposition will start unveiling. Of course, when the government of any country engages in a foreign war, for some time parties and people will generally try to keep silent as they face an external front, but with the results of this attack being known the attack oppositions will certainly show off.
Q: Despite these issues, some experts believe that one of Turkey’s goals in attacking northern Syria is to create an external enemy with the aim of boosting internal cohesion. Do you think this is the way Turkey does this?
There is no doubt that the ruling Justice and Development Party is pursuing various goals, including incursion into northeast Syria, but how far it can achieve its goals we must wait and see what the outcome of this action will be. For many years the Turkish government has been in serious conflict with the Kurds in the political and even military arenas, and throughout these long years governments have managed this challenge with various means. But such a massive military invasion and entry into the territory of a neighboring country with the green light from the US has never been more so, and could put the Turkish government in a difficult quagmire with heavy consequences.