18 January 2018 22:23

Who does the the politics of AKP government in Syria benefit?

AKP government's intervention in Rojava does not only contribute to escalating the Syrian crisis but also ‘legitimises’ the presence of US and Russia.

İhsan Çaralan

Turkish foreign policy has for some time been steered by the slogans of “we may turn up unannounced one night”, “we pack a punch” and “Turkey’s national security start beyond its borders”.

These post-2007 tendencies of “active foreign policy” and “neo-Ottomanism” reached a deadlock both primarily in Syria and the region and globally; hence the attempts to overcome these with arms and military power. ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ was a clear demonstration of this.

Frictions with Russia and Syria (and of course Iran) in Idlib and problems in determining who should attend the meetings in Sochi have been met with increasing claims that Turkey will attempt a military intervention on Menjib and Afrin.


The media is used in spreading the news that ‘Clans and Tribes Higher Council’ is acting on decisions taken in its Istanbul meeting in Menjib; this is an attempt to strengthen the perception in the public eye that “conditions for a military intervention are developing”.
Subsequently, President Erdoğan’s threat in the last few days that “they will see what will happen within a week” is a clear indication of the green light given to military intervention.

The recent US declaration has been a development that increased the ‘heat’. Speaking to the website ‘The Defence Post, Colonel Thomas Veale, spokesperson for the International Coalition, said “The Coalition is working with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in an attempt to create and train a new border force along the Syrian border. Our ultimate aim is to create a force of approximately 30 thousand individuals”(*). İbrahim Kalın, Presidential spokesperson, responded with “The US is taking alarming steps rather than ceasing its support to PYD/YPG; these steps will legitimise and help establish this terrorist organisation in the region. This situation cannot be accepted… necessary precautions will be taken”.


Turkey’s policy to force its political line through military power compels it to aggression on both sides of the border because the majority population on both sides of the border is Kurdish. However, recent popular struggles demonstrated that problems caused by the constant state of vigilance and the struggle against ‘forces of resistance’ are not easy to deal with; the US could not sustain it in Iraq.
Hence, Afrin and Menjib aside, even if Turkey could achieve a military takeover of the whole of northern Syria and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) areas it cannot sustain its presence there.

In other words, foreign policy line of the AKP-Erdoğan government, and the Syrian policy which is central to this is not sustainable.
Lessons of recent experiences show that ‘peace’ achieved through military means does not last for long. On the contrary, it is the demands of the peoples that ultimately triumph; peoples take necessary steps to achieve their right to self-determination. Therefore the conditions to achieve peace between two countries or within a region is not the ‘quiescence’ provided by the country with the stronger army or economy. Real peace can only be achieved under conditions where peoples right to self-determination is upheld, where peoples and countries are not forced to change regimes.
Especially in solving crisis between countries, it seems really important that regime changes are not imposed on these countries. This was clearly evident in Turkey’s Syria and Iraq policies.


In Iraq, we witnessed how tensions between countries escalate, how issues of sectarianism and ethnic differences increase when they tried to dictate how the Iraqi government should run the country. The imposition of a regime in Syria did not only escalate the civil war but also mobilised all the conflicts within the region.
Turkish government's intervention on attempts of peoples in Rojava in northern Syria to determine their own future, imposing conditions and restrictions, does not only contribute to escalating the Syrian crisis but also ‘legitimises’ the presence of US and Russia; already looking for excuses to increase their presence in the region. Hence the rise of IS, gaining control in the area and declaring its own country, gave a reason for the US military to return, as well as providing a basis for Russia to increase its influence in the region.
Recent Turkish declaration of PYD and YPG as terrorist organisations and attempts to determine the ‘regime’ and ‘fate’ of Syrian Kurds provided the basis for newly established US military bases in Rojava, its armament of SDF and the drive to increase its military foothold in the region.
In short; the policy that carries the banner of “we might turn up unannounced one night” did neither benefit Turkey nor the peoples of the region. It has, however, served to increase the military and political activity of US and Russia in the region.


If, instead of trying to impose a ‘regime’ and a ‘future’, Turkey chose a peaceful relationship with the cantons in Rojava, in line with respecting their rights to self-determination; would it have been possible for the US to establish a new foothold in the region with the support of the Kurdish forces?
Likewise, Turkey’s attempts of imposing a new regime on Syria, as well as declaring it a terrorist regime against its own peoples, have also been a determining factor in strengthening Russian presence in the region. Especially following the defeat of IS, Turkey’s regional policy only serve to entrench the US and Russian presence in the region, legitimising it in the eyes of the public.
In short, utterances of “we might turn up unannounced one night” might score points with the chauvinist, nationalist sections of the population, but it would not be wrong to predict that such policies will drag Turkey into more hardship in the medium term.

For example, the answer to the questions “if Turkey followed a peaceful line: would the US had the support of the Kurdish forces for new bases in the region?; would Russia have been able to secure the surrender of the Syrian regime to itself to such an extent?; Would Iran have been so successful in the region through its use of sectarianism?” would mostly have been ‘NO’!


Could Turkey sustain its foreign policy based on “Active foreign policy”, “becoming the dominant power in the previously Ottoman regions”, “the use of MIT (National Intelligence Agency) as the main driver of foreign policy in the region”, “becoming a regional power through relations with jihadist forces”, “becoming the leading Islamic country”, “competition with regional countries”, “yo-yoing between imperialist forces in the region”, “imposition of regime changes in the region and believing in the right to interfere in the futures of peoples that want to exercise their rights to self-determination”?
Of course, if you had the necessary economic, diplomatic and military power to back this policy it could be somewhat sustainable; that is what the US and Russia do.
Regarding this line of politics, President Erdoğan says “Turkey is not the ‘sick man’ of the period at the end of the Ottoman Empire; our economic power, as well as military power, are enough to achieve our regional ambitions”.
Major imperialist countries such as the US and Russia pursue such policies. However military and economic might of these countries are enormous compared to Turkey. More importantly, these countries pursue these policies in countries and regions far away from their national borders. If they are unsuccessful, the consequences are never severe enough to threaten their borders. On the contrary, Turkey is trying to impose this policy along with its border of 1500km with Iraq and Syria, claiming it has the military and economic capacity to do so.
Considering that increasing military expenditure accounted for 18 billion TL of the new taxes, totalling 30 billion TL, introduced at the beginning of the year; it is clear that Turkey cannot sustain these policies in the medium term even in economic terms.