With the world’s attention still focused on the ongoing Ukraine crisis, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened that his country is planning a full-scale military campaign to repel Syrian Kurdish militants and establish a buffer zone in Syrian territory. .
The situation along the border region between Syria and Turkey is already volatile, with daily exchanges of fire between Kurdish guerrillas and the Turkish-backed Syrian armed opposition. Military analysts believe that by making such threats, Turkish strongman Erdogan is seeking to exploit the escalating conflict in Ukraine to achieve his long-term ambitions in neighboring Syria.
In fact, Erdogan benefits from several political developments, both globally and domestically, and such a unique combination provides an opportune moment for Ankara to unleash a military campaign against northern Syria. Currently, the Russians are terribly involved in Ukraine and despite signs of rapprochement in recent months, the Americans also need Erdogan to reconsider his stubborn stance against Sweden and Finland’s candidacy for the United Nations Treaty Organization. North Atlantic (NATO).
Turkey has vetoed Finland’s and Sweden’s offers of NATO membership, increasing pressure on the two Scandinavian countries to severely restrict the activities of exiled Kurdish dissident parties.
On the other hand, the fight against Kurdish militants could strengthen Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its political ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) led by Baheli, whose popularity is rapidly declining, especially at a time when the Turkish economy is on the verge of collapse.
Turkey’s economy has been decimated by rising fuel prices, soaring inflation, impending food shortages and endemic poverty. Therefore, waging a new war against the Kurds could distract the nation’s attention from the country’s precarious financial situation. Erdogan is desperately hoping that as Turkey’s economy deteriorates and inflation climbs to 73.5%, Ankara’s attack on Kurdish-populated areas in northern Syria could mobilize ardent nationalist voters. Moreover, the next presidential elections in Turkey are scheduled for 2023, and Erdogan is well aware that previous attacks against the YPG in northern Syria have strengthened his position.
Meanwhile, Erdogan recently revealed his intention to establish a 30 kilometer buffer zone on the southern border with Syria. In fact, Turkey made efforts to establish such a zone in 2019, but the Turkish military failed to achieve this coveted goal.
According to Turkish authorities, Ankara is now determined to build thousands of homes in areas under its control to ensure the “voluntary return” of one million Syrian refugees to their war-torn homeland. An estimated 7.3 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey.
In fact, the Turkish government is trying to destabilize Kurdish-controlled territories by building thousands of small dwellings, mainly for Syrian Arabs, in neighborhoods such as Afrin and Ras al-Ayn, located next to Kurdish communities, which which could ultimately lead to a huge demographic change. If Erdogan succeeds in implementing his plans to relocate around a million Syrians to northern Syria, most of whom are Arabs, it would be a catastrophic blow to Kurdish hopes for an autonomous region in northern Syria. Syria.
In three previous military operations, Turkey occupied large swathes of Syrian territory, including the strategic cities of Afrin, Tell Abyad and Jarabulus.
But it seems that the Turkish army plans to take control of other Syrian districts, including Tell Rifaat and Manbij. According to military specialists, Ankara believes Syrian Kurdish militants, also known as the People’s Defense Units (YPG), are using Tell Rifaat as their main base to attack areas captured by Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries. Ankara also wants to cut off all remaining supply lines between the YPG and its PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a devastating war since the 1980s to gain independence for Turkey’s Kurdish minorities by striking at the northern regions of Syria.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched three military operations inside Syria to target the US-backed YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization and a Syrian offshoot of the PKK.
New reports also indicate that the Turkish military may be approaching the burning town of Koban (officially Ayn al-Arab), where Kurdish forces defeated IS terrorists in 2015.
Reacting to the ongoing developments in the border regions between Syria and Turkey, the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates issued a statement on Saturday, June 4, 2022, condemning any possible Turkish military invasion of northern Syria, describing it as a flagrant violation of Syria. sovereignty and territorial integrity, which constitutes a violation of all international laws and conventions. The statement adds that Ankara’s incursion into Syrian territory would violate previous agreements reached under the Astana Process, pose a serious threat to peace, stability and security in the Middle East and undermine sponsored agreements. by the international community on Syria’s de-escalation zones. .
Rights advocates fear Turkish troops could commit war crimes and atrocities, including ethnic cleansing of Kurdish civilians, if they launch an all-out military assault in northern Syria, vying to secure its southern borders.
If this time Turkey achieves its stated military objectives despite vehement opposition from the Syrian government, the entire border area west of the Euphrates will be free of the Kurdish-led PKK, YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). .
In this scenario, the so-called Free Syrian Army, which receives all of its equipment and funding from Turkey, expands its dominance west of the Euphrates, paving the way for Turkey to further encroach on Idlib and even Aleppo. .
Finally, it would be in the interest of all parties involved in the crisis for Ankara to seek a diplomatic rather than a military solution in order to avoid a new deadly confrontation in Syria, which has been ravaged by relentless bloodshed and has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians over the past 11 years.
Arwin Ghaemian is a PhD student at the University of Tehran, specializing in Iranian Qajar history. He resided in Arab countries for almost two decades. His expertise is in modern Iranian history as well as socio-economic and security issues in the Middle East.
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV).
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