Objectives and consequences of new Turkish military movements in Syria

2022/06/11 | Note, political, top news

Strategic Council Online—Opinion: One of the most important consequences of the prolongation of the Russian conflict in Ukraine and the erosion of this war in Europe is the impact on the extent and manner of Russia's military presence in the Middle East and, most importantly, in Syria. Russia has to deploy a large part of its forces and military base in Syria to support its forces in Ukraine, and in this case, the vacuum of Russia's presence in crisis-stricken Syria will allow new conflicts to arise between ambitious actors, including Turkey. Ali Saadtazar-Director of Turkey Department, Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam

For Turkey’s goals in Syria, two approaches, one minimalistic and one maximalistic, are conceivable; In a minimalist approach, Ankara intends to build a 30-kilometer-depth security corridor from the Tigris to Idlib, Syria. Turkey, which has been trying for months and years to delineate buffer zones on its border with Syria, will use the power vacuum created by the withdrawal of Russian forces to increase its depth of influence in Syria.

The recent escalation of terrorist attacks and harassment by the PKK and the People’s Defense Units (PKK / YPG) operating in northern Syria is the best opportunity for Turkey to persuade public opinion inside and in the region of new interventions. In recent days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly announced new operations against terrorist hotspots and nests in Syria, and Turkish security forces and the army are on high alert.

Turkish security experts point out that possible operations in the Tal Rifat, Mambach, Ain al-Arab, Qamishli and from Qamishli to the Iraqi border areas are very serious. Turkey will relocate Syrian refugees to this area after establishing a safe zone in northern Syria.

Another goal of Turkey is to permanently return Syrian refugees to safe areas in northern Syria. This will also be the best opportunity to bring about demographic change on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Integration of safe areas is a basic condition from Turkey’s point of view; That is why the Turkish army and its pro-Assad and anti-Assad forces, including the so-called Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Army, which is affiliated with the Turkish army and corps, have taken control of Jarablus, Afrin and Tel Abyad.

The areas between Jarablus and Afrin, Tal Rifat and Manbij after three rounds of negotiations with Turkey and field interactions are now in the hands of Russia and will be evacuated soon. Geopolitically, the region has prevented the integration of the safe zone between Jarablus and Afrin, and according to Turkish security officials, the PKK and the People’s Defense Units have been deployed between the two safe areas in recent years, infiltrating Afrin and Jarablus. Hence, Turkey seeks to attack the area between Afrin and Jarablus to facilitate the integration project. Of course, this plan will have many difficulties and costs for Turkey; Especially if the Russians give their military equipment to the Kurds or the Assad government. As a result, Turkey will have the most conflicts with Russia, the United States, Kurdish forces and the Assad government. In the past, Turkey had taken control of Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad by conducting “Operation Spring of Peace” east of the Euphrates River. Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani, is under the control of the PKK and the People’s Defense Units between Tel Abyad and Jarablus. Therefore, there is a security vacuum between Ras al-Ain and the Tigris. Turkey wants to create a security corridor from the Tigris to Idlib in northern Syria by closing the security vacuum in the region.

In the maximalist approach, Turkey seeks to increase pressure on the Assad government and pave the way for change in central and southern Syria. Support for anti-Assad forces is a joint project of Turkey and the Israeli regime, which was agreed upon during Cavusoglu’s new visit to Tel Aviv. The strong support of the United Arab Emirates and, to some extent, Saudi Arabia for the Turkish-Israeli talks on the future of Syria signals an unwritten coalition to put more pressure on Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian forces stationed in Syria. It should be noted that this project is to be implemented if the first goal is achieved, namely the completion of the security corridor in northern Syria, and most importantly, it will be implemented on behalf of pro-Assad currents, and due to Iran’s interests in the center and south. Turkey will not operate directly.

This is at a time when Biden’s United States does not have a serious presence in the region at the moment, and the Israeli regime’s attacks on the positions of pro-Assad groups, especially Hezbollah, have increased in recent years. US Secretary of State Anthony Bellinken has warned Turkey about planned operations in northern Syria that we do not want to see anything that jeopardizes our efforts. Therefore, given the opposition of Russia and the United States to the Turkish operation against the PKK forces in Syria, the possibility of postponing costly and dangerous operations for the Turkish government or limiting it to restricted and specific areas is high.

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