11 October 2019 06:48

Syria is not Turkish territory!

it is necessary to stress that Syria is not Turkish territory. And the Kurds on Turkey’s Syrian border are not our “enemy”. The fundamental threat to Turkey comes in the form of new ISISs.

Photograph: AA


We embarked on the week with news that the US had made way for the operation east of the Euphrates the AKP administration had been insisting on.

US President Trump first said they would withdraw from Syria, and Turkey, Europe, Russia and the Kurds should deal with detained ISIS warriors in the region. Following this most controversial of steps, the American Department of Defence commonly known as the Pentagon announced that the US did not in any way approve the operation Turkey was planning in the north of Syria and the American army was not supporting it, either. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who generally stands behind Trump, responded to Trump’s initial announcement by saying, “A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime” and by saying, “Major new conflict between Turkey and our partners in Syria would seriously risk damaging Turkey’s ties to the United States and causing greater isolation for Turkey on the world stage.”

Trump’s fresh comment that he tweeted on Monday as war diplomacy dominated the day’s headlines came as the proclamation of new limits whose details as yet escape us: “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before).” As to the Pentagon’s announcement that Turkey had been removed from the anti-Daesh coalition's air tasking order and had had its access to surveillance information halted by the Combined Air Operations Centre, these were of critical importance. Even if this does not amount to a ban on Turkey using airspace, it is a decision that can be read as saying, “We won’t give military support and will also cause as much difficulty as possible.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s pronouncements, "We are aware of Turkey's acts to ensure its own security and we accept them," in the first operation-related announcement from Russia became all the more poignant along with his stress on Syria’s territorial integrity being the “starting” point for the solution of the Syrian crisis and other issues.

As expected, Russia, in pursuit of its policy of bringing Turkey into confrontation with the US, has provided Turkey with support in which it stresses that it cannot attain permanence in Syria. This support also complies with the Syrian government’s expectation that a weakening of the Kurdish armed forces in the north of Syria will bring them closer to Damascus.

In short, Turkey is faced politically with a landscape replete with mines in this operation.

Let me not move on without stressing that the US’s attitude towards the Syrian Kurds comes as clear confirmation, following Iraqi Kurdistan, that it is amenable to various forms of sell-out in line with its own interests.

As to the significance of this war to the power holders and state in Turkey, we can stress that the Erdoğan-led AKP which, as the most recent elections showed, is gradually losing power and is harbouring efforts to create two parties from its midst, sees this war as an opportunity to shore up its power. Will this war really meet these expectations of the AKP? This is a question which is more perplexing for the AKP to answer than before.

However, accounting for this manoeuvre solely with reference to the AKP’s internal difficulties may lead to a whole host of other factors being overlooked. Despite the loss of mass support it is undergoing, the AKP is undoubtedly cast in the role of basic political actor in relation to this war as a party which dominates the state and civil service. This also comes with a supporting historic context. The emphasis, “Within this process, Turkey cannot at any time indulge itself by leaving events to follow their own course or restricting itself to a ‘wait-see-react’ tactic due to both its strategic and geopolitical importance” that Intelligence Agency Undersecretary of the day Emre Taner in 2007 placed on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of the agency’s founding was the proclamation of an active and operational foreign policy.

Harking back further, the inclination to regard the corner of the earth in which it is located as Ottoman heritage has always been on the Turkish state’s agenda. For the duration of the Syrian war, we have witnessed this inclination seeking out cracks it could seep through. The decision in the Official Gazette bearing President Erdoğan’s signature concerning the founding of the Al-Bab Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences, the Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Azaz and the Faculty of Education in Afrin affiliated to the Rectorship of Gaziantep University is an indication of this. The step towards the creation of new positions in Syria dubbed a “safe zone” is a further such indication.

Making this connection, it is necessary to stress that Syria is not Turkish territory. And the Kurds on Turkey’s Syrian border are not our “enemy”. The fundamental threat to Turkey comes in the form of new ISISs that may sprout within a mooted Arab belt.

(Translated by Tim DRAYTON)