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Erdogan decides to "place his bet" again

What Erdogan is trying to achieve by playing the Syrian card. Photo: Slovo i Dilo

What Erdogan is trying to achieve by playing the Syrian card. Photo: Slovo i Dilo

The statement of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on launching a military operation and creating a security zone along the Turkish-Syrian border is related to a postponed three-year-old project.

In 2019, Erdogan did not have enough allies to implement this mission: both the Russians and the Assadites, as well as the Americans and even the Kurds themselves interfered. During the then operation, Istanbul faced serious protests and backlash from European countries.

At that time, the Turks brought part of the territories under their control, but still less than they had hoped to. To date, Ankara sees the goal of the operation as gaining control over a 30-kilometer zone in order to push back Kurdish units and create a sanitary zone with Syria in the future, resettling Syrians loyal to them from Turkey here.

By and large, this story is not surprising if you look back at the Ottoman Empire that in the 19th century often resorted to such ethnic relocation of the loyal population.

Today, Turkey is interested in two regions west of the Euphrates, where Erdogan seeks to create a buffer zone of loyal Syrians. This is the territory of Tell Rifat that adjoins Aleppo, which remained under the control of the Kurds and Assadites after the Turks had managed to bring Afrin under their control.

The second equally important region is Manbij on the other side of the Euphrates that is controlled by the Kurds and Assadites. Moreover, there are units of the Syrian army affiliated with the Turks in the suburbs of Manbij.

If we look at the stated goals, first of all what it involves is gaining control over these two regions. And then, if possible, seize territories east of the Euphrates. For example, the well-known Kabbani, famous because the Kurds rebuffed the Islamic state there.

On the chessboard — Russians and Kurds

Today the question is how other players will react to this daring initiative. Erdogan understands that in the current situation he has favorable conditions to "place his bet"".

Turkey can bargain quite seriously with NATO and European countries due to the accession of Sweden and Finland. Using this opportunity, Istanbul aims to minimize the backlash.

Eventually, this game can be successful, albeit not an easy one. As for the 10 items put forward at the talks on Finland's and Sweden's accession to NATO, Europe considers them outright political rudeness, they are overwhelming. Nobody will agree to this. The Syrian card is also tricky, but still more expected.

For Ankara, it is important that the Russians do not interfere in the confrontation. It is perfectly clear to everyone that this operation becomes possible only because Russia does not withdraw its troops from Syria.

A great deal depends on how much the opposite side is ready to rely on and how much the Russians are ready to support the actions of their allies with aviation.

In any case, it’s all the same for us. As active observers, we are interested in seeing the Russians find themselves in a difficult situation of choice. But if the Russians discredit themselves, if they have to fight against the Turks, this is also a result for us.

As for Erdogan himself, we should not forget that such statements are made in the context of the upcoming elections. The president really needs victories and a demonstration of foreign policy success.

It seems that the Turks have concentrated large resources and are able to achieve their goal. But after winning the election, the situation can be switched up many times. Now this statement has become the subject of bargaining, serious political maneuvers have begun.

But the players are aware of the limited impact on this process. Sometimes you have to let the situation develop as it develops. Under certain circumstances, it can give a successful result, under others — less successful. And no one can guarantee what will happen next.

After all, in this picture, the political will and readiness of the Assadites and Kurds to defend themselves on their territory remain serious variables.

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