Would Turkey attack Afrin?
It is not at all easy for Turkey to attack Afrin; in a case where it does, there is no guarantee that it will profit from the consequences.
Let us state at the beginning what we were to at the end. Afrin is not an easy morsel for Turkey. Let alone swallowing it whole, it won’t even be able to gulp if it were to try and eat it. This, Turkey, knows better than all. It is for this reason that while not an iota has dropped in the threats for attacking, it is not leaving Russia’s door in order to enable a basis for an attack. To put it openly, it is waiting for Russia’s approval to ensure progressing the issue according to its plan. The main reason for this is the fact that the west of Euphrates is predominantly under Russia’s control.
We are well-informed about the tacit agreement between the US and Russia. It is more than clear that east of Euphrates has been ‘apportioned’ to the US while its east to Russia. Russia is using Turkey in order to resolve Idlib, located on the west of Euphrates to its advantage. And Turkey wants Afrin in exchange for the Idlib bribe. What has been rendering Russia silent on the matter, the obstacle impeding it from stating a clear position is undoubtedly this situation, in other words, the jihadists in Idlib. To be sure, if it knew Turkey has the capacity to control the jihadists in Idlib and to hand over this city to Syria just as it did in Aleppo when it expelled them from the region, it won’t wait a single day to proceeding with giving Turkey the approval for attacking Afrin. That is what it did in the Jarablus, Azaz, Mare’, al-Bab line, in exchange for which it had Aleppo cleared by Turkey and handed it over to Syrian control. Most organisations taking refuge in Idlib believe that Turkey betrays them in Aleppo.
Russia too is aware of the stage reached with these jihadist groups. This is one of the reasons for its measured approach and not putting forward a clear position. Put simply, it is observing Turkey’s “expansionism game” in order to verify the direction of change in the balance of forces.
It is useful to refer to the approach of jihadists in Idlib. ISIS was the ‘naughty child’ of the jihadists. It delved right into it, received everyone’s backing by use of all kinds of brutality, it shattered and destroyed and then began to unravel in the face of the resistance of Syrian Democratic Forces, with mainly the YPG and YPJ and passed its expiry date as it was. ISIS is now in permanent decline. The point will reach henceforth is to continue its identity as a terror organisation exploding bombs now and then, causing mass deaths.
But is this case for the jihadists in Idlib? ISIS intended to take over solely the military power of organisations generating derivations of al-Qaida which extend from the Taliban to al-Qaida and thence to al-Nusra and Ahrar-al Sham and to establish rule in the region on this basis. However, the jihadists in Idlib are not the same as ISIS. Even though those mentioned are the very organisations forming the brains of ISIS, they have experience and capacity to behave ‘cleverer’ than ISIS. They also have a broad organisation in Turkey and have an undeniable basis. Particularly, Antep and Hatay [two major cities in south-central Turkey] seem to have turned into the back door of these organisations. In these cities, these organisations have hundreds if not thousands of supporters.
Here is a summary of the issue: Turkey cannot rule these organisations as it wants. It cannot dare to confront them either. For they have capacity to threaten Turkey itself. Put more bluntly, this was the issue pointed out to when we criticised Turkey and cited Pakistan as an example. In other words, they are also the forcesthat will turn Turkey into Pakistan. It is for this reason that Turkey is making a promise to Russia and indirectly to Syria about Idlib. It is of the opinion that it will profit if it can rid Idlib from the jihadists through talks or fighting and on top, receives approval to annexe Afrin. If it can do what it desires, it will profit, that much is true. But this is not simple at all. Experienced jihadists from Aleppo now have the experience of knowing what will happen to them if they trust Turkey. And those who live in Afrin are not comprised of olive collectors alone. While this is the situation, this recklessness, put bluntly, can very well turn into a disaster for Turkey; and it probably will.
Russia is making better senses ofIdlib jihadists than the US. Although it has preferred to remain silent against the Turkish position in order to render Kurds more in need of its support, on the long run it won’t trust or easily support steps by Turkey ensuring its permanence in the region. And this much is clear too: Russia won’t easily undersign any attempt which will bring itself at loggerheads with the US. However, what seems probable is that it will continue to play with Turkey for a while more and continue its game.
It is within this reality that Turkey’s attempts for an offensive against Afrin are being debated. And what the entirety of this reality tells us is that: It is not at all easy for Turkey to attack Afrin; in a case where it does, there is no guarantee that it will profit from the consequences. On the contrary, it looks more likely that it will lose the proverbial wheat on the way to rice.
Reactions across the world are also important… After all, the world remained silent when it entered Jarablus, with a significant section offering tacit or planned support. Even though a number of countries resorted to tricks, after all the de facto force faced by Turkey was ISIS.
Well then, who will face Turkey in Afrin? Is it ISIS? No. On the contrary, it is YPG and YPJ who have driven ISIS out of the region, who went all out to this end, who paid a price. It will be the Syrian Democratic Forces conducting the Raqqa operation. Will the world look at the events from the same perspective?
All these are impasses Turkey faces but it is as much a reality that the mind that currently rules Turkey is out of hand. Unfortunately, it is expectant of war in order to retain its power. What is apparent is that it won’t refrain from setting out for an adventure knowing fully its grave consequences and that it may very well be its end.
I hope I am mistaken on this…