Global Migration & Politics
Analysis and commentary on the politics of the Middle East, of the power games that defines the region, and the economic, religious and ethnic problems the region is often facing.

Turkey and a handful of Syria

When Turkish troops attacked the Syrian border town Jarablus with both fighter missiles, rocket attacks, and tanks, more media went on self-esteem. One considered the Turkish invasion as an additional intensification of an already explosive situation involving too many actors involved.

Several media wrote that, although the attack intended to eradicate Islamic State (IS) in the border area, the real reason was , thus preventing Kurdish autonomy.

It is always interesting to imply that a country operates with hidden agendas and that a given act actually covers something completely different. Thus, you can also bring conspiracy theories to peat.

However, the truth is more nuanced than that. And with the media’s constant simplification of headlines and superficial news analyzes, we never risk getting closer to a deeper understanding of our “neighbors in the East” – both Turkish and Arabic. But without assuming the role that teaches Andersen, it is important to keep in mind that there are more shades when it comes to the Turkish attack in Syria than the media suggests.

Particularly three conditions apply:

First, the attack was part of the coalition force’s total offensive against IS:

Thus, after coordination with and orientation of the United States that the attack took place. In other words, it was not a spontaneously let-alone Turkish attack. US Vice President Joe Biden is visiting Turkey in these days and has expressed support for the Turkish attack. He also has noted the requirement for withdrawal of all Kurdish rebel groups from the border area. This was further emphasized by the fact that, if not, all American support for these groups will stop immediately.

Just this precious case with American support for Kurdish groups is something of a hot potato for the gentlemen from Turkey and the United States. For where several of these Kurdish groups receive support from the United States, Turkey regards some of them as terrorist groups.

For example, the Syrian Kurdish group YPG is a declared terrorist group in Turkey, while the same group is enjoying American support. That has done everything else right to make the cooperation between Turkey and the United States a somewhat strained affair. Not only these days, but for a while. Particularly when one looks so badly, the whole thing is gradually embarrasing with a Turkish demand for extradition of Fethullah Gülen, residing in the United States. Ankara assumes he is the author of the recently unsuccessful military coup in Turkey. A hesitant United States hits the water in response – or rather no response.

Getting American support for the attack in Syria accompanied by a simultaneous US demand for immediate Kurdish withdrawal is important symbolism at this time in the conflict. An indication that, although the two countries have a different view of the Syrian-Scandinavian groups, the United States is unequivocally in support of the Turkish position in relation to Kurdish presence in the border region.


Secondly, Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has not concealed that the target of the attack was not only to hit IS, but was equally about preventing further Kurdish advances against Turkey’s borders:

There is thus no hidden agenda in the attack. Erdogan was associated with the attack quoted to pronounce :” Nobody can solve Syria’s problems without having to take into account internal Turkish affairs. ”

It’s a notification that does not make any difference. Turkey has a particularly concrete interest in preventing the creation of a Kurdish corridor, thus strengthening the idea of a Kurdish autonomy area. The city itself, which was the subject of the Turkish attack, Jarablus, is not particularly interesting, besides being the bordered by the IS. By means of protic Syrian opposition groups (note that there are both pro </ m> and anti – Turkish Syrian opposition groups), in cooperation with the Turkish military, IS was thrown at the gate.

With IS out of the picture in the border town, Jarablus is by itself not of a more strategic interest in Turkey. What is far more interesting for President Erdogan is the recently agreed agreement on ceasefire with another Syrian border town Hasakeh. The city is located at the border with Turkey and Iraq in northeastern Syria. The ceasefire was taken by Russia. And while most of the city’s inhabitants are Arabs, the city is controlled by Kurdish rebel forces. The agreement required withdrawal of Syrian government troops and armed forces. Such a requirement can of course only be seen as a defeat to the Syrian regime and as a victory for the Kurdish interest in autonomy.

How fragile ceasefire agreements may be, the signal value of the agreement’s content is not to be ignored by Erdogan. Any kind of agreement that takes into account Kurdish interests is per. definition against Turkey’s national interests. But this is not part of a hidden agenda for Erdogan. On the contrary, it is a very pronounced and specific Turkish policy. It is thus misleading when newspapers write that the eradication of IS in fact is a convenient cover for chasing Kurds.

One can rather talk about two flies with one slap: to remove IS and to emphasize the Turkish view that the Kurdish component of the Syrian nightmare of a civil war and its cloth blanket by various actors can not take a position that goes against national Turkish security interests.

Thirdly, Turkey is not the first time to make military attacks/interventions in neighboring countries when own national interests are at stake:

The same occurred in Nordirak in both 2007 and 2008. Each time with prior orientation and coordination with both the Northern Irish government government, Jalal Talabanis, knowing the then Iraqi president al-Malikis and US President George W. Bushs. And whatever they had to say about these attacks, Turkey did not make Turkey a permanent actor in the country afterwards. The same will probably be said about the current attack in Syria.

To summarize: Yes, a Turkish military operation has been made in Syria for two clear purposes: To remove IS from the border region up to the Turkish border and to prevent further Kurdish positioning and further cementation Kurdish desire for autonomy. And no, it will hardly mean a further intensification of the already inflamed situation in the country with now another permanent Turkish player in Syria. The attack has not taken place in the context of a hidden agenda for Turkey, but a very official and openly declared policy. As one may agree politically or disagree. But it is misleading when newspapers suggest a contradictory agenda. Call a spade for a spade. It earns all the best.

Image Source: Collage ved Michael Dorbec – baseret på foto fra

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