United States (US) has been supporting Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. YPG is a “tactical” partner of US, whereas Turkey is a “strategic” partner. Strategic mistakes cannot be corrected by tactics, however, tactical mistakes can be corrected by correct strategic preferences. Both Turkey and US, however, respect the right to self-defense in case of a terrorist threats.
Besides operation to relocate the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, Olive Branch is the third operation of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in Syria. Operations of Turkish army in Syria demonstrate Turkish politics toward the region. The main goal of Euphrates Shield (2016), Idlib (2017) and Olive Branch (2018) military operations is to clear Turkey’s borders from any potential terrorist threats.
Turkish Public Support for the Operations in Syria
An obvious determination, unity and solidarity is observed among Turkish public regarding operations in Syria which intend to minimize potential terrorist attacks.
Fight against terrorism (PKK) constitutes of the most sensitive issues in Turkey. Relatively, during these operations public reaction by Turkish people exhibited a national unification against the PKK and all its branches spread across the region. Turkish people consider the PKK and YPG as parts of the same whole. So the operation is considered as a step to defend Turkish national security by securing Turkish borders.
Rocket attacks of YPG to Turkish cities during the operation legitimizes Turkish concenrns. Immediately after the operations, large stockpiles of YPG’s ammunition and arms were found in the region. It was obvious that YPG was well prepared to launch attacks agains Turkey. The threat was imminent and the operationalizing the attacks were a matter of timing for YPG.
US administration has underestimated the popular public support for the operations and has failed to comprehend the sensitivity of Turks against PKK and all its fractions. Maybe this is one of the reasons that intense diplomacy between Ankara and Washington started only after the Afrin operation started. Turkish voice was heard only the country had to use hard power on the ground.
United Stats – Turkey Relations in Syrian Conflict
Opearation in Afrin has brought US decision makers to point that they have to prefere between Turkey and YPG. Now, they should come up with an exit strategy from YPG-engagement and save their strategic partnership with Turkey. The future of Olive Branch operation defines the future of Turkish-US relations. Diplomatic steps taken by US so far have exhibited that US is trying to keep diplomatic contact with its NATO ally. As Washington neglectd of Turkish pleas regarding YPG’s connection with PKK, Turkey was pushed toward partnership with Russia. Is US policy in Syria under extreme pressure with Olive Branch opeation?
Turkey is obviously disturbed from the partnership between the US and YPG, the terrorist organization PKK’s Syrian branch. To secure its southern border and prevent terror attacks against its citizens the country has started the cross-border opeartion.
It was announced by Turkish government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ that a US-Turkish working group that will convene in Washington on March 8-9 will focus on all issues regarding Syria, inclduding terror goups YPG and Daesh. It is expected that such diplomatic initiatives will bring about positive developments to build new bridges of trust between Turkey and the US.
In spite of the efforts in Western media to cost shadow on Turkish fight against terrorism; Turkish military has been unique in its sensitivity to differentiate between civilians and armed fighters. Turkish solders have been exhibiting enormous care and sensitivity to avoid any harm to the civilians during the operations. “Strangers will one day leave the region, but we are neighbors and we will have to face each other all our lives.” So respect for the civilians is a matter of principle for Turkey.
We witness a powerful international propaganda mechanism to thwart, deter, hamper and restrain Turkey. Western media have been claiming that Assad regime and the YPG have come to terms to expel Turkey from Syria.
Expecting Turkey to halt its military operation in Syria is not the case for Turkey. It has been claimed that Turkish operation in Syria has diverted YPG’s attention from fight against Daesh to Afrin. Has the fight against Daesh not yet been over?
Why Munbij is Important?
Turkey is determined to eliminate YPG presence from all northern Syria, including Manbij.
Turkey announced that it was going to target Manbij after Afrin. This announcement further strained Turkish – US relations. The reaction of the USA is understandable as US forces are stationed in Manbij, where they shelter YPG armed forces. US officials have repeatedly been implying that Turkish offensive against Manbij is not welcomed and that Turkey should limit the scope of Operation Olive Branch. Turkey, on the other hand, is committed to march as much as necessary eliminate terrorism nested next door. Taking into consideration theri long term national interests, US decision makers might leave Munbij under protection of Turkish Armed Forces and make sure that the YPG leaves the city.
Turkey has suffered from terrorism for four decades
Turkey has suffered terrorist attacks over the last three years from its Syrian borders. It is widely believed that the US did not appreciate the trauma that the Turkish people went through during this perid and that death of over forty thousand Turkish citizens during four decades of Turkey’ struggle against terrorism has been ignored by US. Any sensitive approach from US side will have significant influence in public opinion in Turkey towards foreign policy.
All global an Regional players are involved in Syrian Crisis
The Syrian crisis is evolving to a new phase where the conflict is changed into a structural problem where regional and global players are becoming more directly involved.
The US, Russia, Turkey and Iran are on the ground. Whereas, Israel is concerned that Iran will establish itself in Goldan Heights via Hezbollah. Turkey, instead of using proxies, prefered to be involved in Syria directly. Beside using its hard power, Turkey has supported the local, moderate Syrian opposition using its soft power and it has also tried to contribute to the settlement of the Syrian war through diplomatic means in the international arena It. We should also keep in mind that Turkey has hosted more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees and has provided them with safe living environments. It is a well know fact that PKK and YPG terror groups have been active in Europe. Connectedly, state-run Anadolu Agency of Turkey reported that Turkey has officially demanded the temporary arrest and extradition of former Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) co-chair Salih Muslim from Germany.
The post-Cold war order is subject to dramatic changes. China, Russia, Brazil, India and Turkey are emerging powers. Turkey on its part is exhibiting self-confidence, taking active role in the global system and taking solid regional steps for eliminating the global guerilla war against its citizens.
Turkish determination in the war against terror
During its military operations in Syria, Turkey has also targeted Daesh, cleaning them from the Turkish border with a successful operation.
If Turkish military does not eliminate YPG presence from Afrin,the operation will fall short of its goal.
For the past 15 years, Turkey has showen a significant improvements in local and national weapons and ammunition technologies in the defense industry. In addition, operations in Syria have clearly displayed Turkish operation skills.
Actually, the capability of the Turkish military to organize a massive cross border operation was doubted by some US officials. The Olive Branch operation in Afrin, however, has so far demonstrated preparedness of Turkish Armed Forces for taking unilateral action against terrorism in the region. We should take in mind that Turkey has successfully been striding in its operations without any support from its from its allies, mainly the US.