Originally published in the Greek weekly newspaper “Paraskinio”, issue 591, p. 42 on Aug. 12, 2017
Turkey is the most important international player in northern Syria because of its increased role in supporting Syrian opposition armed groups in the region. Being in a state of tension and concern about continued US support to the Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria, it believes that any solution must ensure the unity of the Syrian territory and prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state in the region that would increase Kurdish power and their influence within it. That is why it launched the operation “Euphrates Shield”, which ended with the sharp expulsion of ISIS from the Turkish-Syrian border and the control of the city of Al-Bab, thus excluding the Kurdish militias from connecting their influence from the Syrian east to the west.
According to my information, despite ongoing pledges of US officials, including Foreign Minister Tillerson during his recent visit to Ankara, that the US used the Syrian Kurds only to end ISIS and that when it is completely removed from the Syrian territory, Washington will withdraw its support for them and will not allow them to pose a threat to Turkey’s national security, Ankara has lost confidence in the entire government of USA.
Since the beginning of last month, Ankara has begun to prepare for a new operation in the north of Syria around the Kurdish-controlled Afrin. During this time, Turkish officials had frequent contacts with their Russian counterparts to get the green light for the operation. However, Russia, despite its response to the Turkish request to withdraw its forces from Afrin and its surroundings, has asked the Turkish side for awaiting and trying to find a solution through the negotiating route. This climate does not satisfy Ankara and, as my sources have assured me, Ankara has transferred 5.000 Turkish soldiers of special forces to the west of the area of the “Euphrates Shield” opposite Afrin, while the Turkish army has deployed 25.000 soldiers at the syrian-turkish border in preparation for the next move.
It is certain that such a complex operation will be completely different from the previous one. This time, the opponent is supported internationally with weapons and political coverage. The ethnic ties between the Kurds of northern Syria and the Kurds of Turkey may be the beginning of a large wave of violence inside the second. On the other hand, European governments, which have declared a communicative and verbal war against Erdoğan and his party, can use this Turkish move as a reason to impose harsh economic and political sanctions.
Therefore, Turkey faces two options: (a) to accept the Kurdish influence on its southern borders as a fait accompli, which could pave the way for ethnic war on Turkish soil; (b) organize a new military operation against the Kurdish militias in the northern part of Syria, which will lead to its exit from NATO, its support for Russia against European and American political and economic sanctions, thus jeopardizing a new round of violence and coups.