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Are Turkish statements about battles in east of Euphrates area real, or are they media hype?

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Editing: Mohamad Alaa |
TranslationEditor: Farah Nassif |
Translation: Nouha Salti
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Publication date: 2018/12/13 22:36

Turkey – SMART

The Turkish statements against the presence of the Autonomous Administration east of the Euphrates River area in Syria grew more aggressive in past days, as the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will start an campaign to eliminate the presence of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the military arm of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The former Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Ahmad Berri, told SMART that the Turkish military operation will likely be "limited to the border area, only tens of kilometers into Syrian territory," to stay in adherence to the United States and the western world's political, economic, and military considerations in the area.

Berri, who is now head of the FSA's military delegation to the Astana Talks, said that in the case that the US does not manage to pull the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) out of the border area, the SDF will have to withdraw, or face the Turkish Army and FSA factions. Berri added that the SDF "is not capable of facing Turkey."

What does Turkey need for its coming operation?

Berri said that the Turkish Army, which is considered one of NATO's strongest armies, has qualitative training, advanced weapons, military experience, and high combat capabilities. 

Berri also said that the large public base that supports a Turkish military operation east of the Euphrates area helps prevent civilian and military casualties, adding, "We witnessed this during the Olive Branch Operation in Afrin and the Euphrates Shield Operation in the Northern and Eastern Aleppo countryside."

Turkey has no interest in attacking US Army areas 

Samir Nashar, a former member of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said that Turkey is not serious about attacking an area where US forces are present, and that the "Turkish media hype" aims to "draw the attention of the United States to a possible Turkish threat."

Nashar also said that Turkey cannot start a military operation now that the US has established observation outposts along the Syrian-Turkish border east of the Euphrates to separate the two conflicting parties; instead, Turkey can only continue to bomb YPG-controlled villages in the area to express its discontent toward the US policies to support the YPG.

Nashar explained that the US is trying to create a way for Turkey to distinguish between the PYD and the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), regardless of the relations between the two, by offering a financial reward for the arrest of three PKK members wanted internationally. The US attempt did not convince Turkey, escalating the situation to embarrass the US for slowing the Turkish-American roadmap agreement regarding the city of Manbij, Eastern Aleppo.

Turkey orbits Russian-American tensions

Nashar said that the US considers Turkey an allied member of the NATO and expects more solid collaboration from Turkey in Syrian affairs, especially regarding a diplomatic solution in Syria, as Turkey is a guarantor of the Astana Talks, (along with Iran and Russia), which try make Turkey part of the solution.

Russia allowed Turkey to advance into Syrian territory in the Afrin area and the Northern Aleppo countryside in exchange for Turkish compromises in Idlib, Aleppo, and other de-escalation agreement areas that the Syrian government forces gradually seized, according to Nashar.

The US supports Turkey against Russia by maintaining the current situation in Northern Syria and forming a United Nations-supervised constitutional committee in Syria, while Russia seeks for the Syrian government forces to seize control of Idlib and Northern Syria, and for the Syrian government to gain the majority of representatives in the constitutional committee, according to Nashar.

Autonomous Administration founding party: "Turkey prefers oppressive Syrian government to us"

The joint president of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, which is a founding party of the Autonomous Administration, Talal Mohammad, told SMART that Turkey prefers the presence of the oppressive Syrian government in the east of the Euphrates area to the Autonomous Administration's presence.

Mohammad said, "The unfolding of the Syrian crisis affected Turkey's internal affairs; therefore, it is in Turkey's best interests that an oppressive regime would prevail in the area, not a democratic regime."

Mohammad said that Syrian government's idea to re-take power in Northern and Northeastern Syria is an "attempt to say that it is still strong, while the current state of its institutions indicate that it is in its weakest stages." Mohammad added, "Therefore, it is not possible that the Syrian government would seize any of the Autonomous Administration-controlled areas."

Mohammad assumed that Russia would support a Turkish military operation in the area for mutual interests, as Russia "always creates chaos and disturbance east of the Euphrates to block the US project in the area," while Turkey "seeks to prevent a democratic regime from ruling near its border in Northern Syria."

Mohammad also said that the US did not give Turkey "permission" to attack, while Turkey is trying to "embarrass" the US, as the area "lies under American custody," after the US established observation outposts along the Syrian-Turkish border and the US-led International Coalition monitored the area and provided military support for the SDF there.

On Wednesday, the Autonomous Administration declared a public alert in its areas in Northeastern Syria, after Turkey threatened to start a military operation in the area east of the Euphrates River; the Administration also called on the Syrian government to take a stand against Turkey.

Iran does not favor Turkish intervention in area east of Euphrates River

Nabil al-Attoum, a political analyst specializing in Iranian affairs, said that a Turkish intervention would mark a "serious threat" to Iranian interests in the area, because Iran considers itself harmed by the Idlib agreement, and now wants to oppose other possible Russian-Turkish agreements, enforce its presence, and gain maximum profit by "playing the Kurdish card."

Al-Attoum added that in addition to playing the Kurdish card among the different parties, Iran has the "Arabian tribes card" that it could play by supporting one tribe against another.

If the Turkish Army is to carry follow through on the threats, it would be the third time that Turkey launches a military operation in Syria in two years, after two operations in coordination with the FSA west of the Euphrates area. During the two operations, Turkey managed to seize control of the Islamic State-controlled city of al-Bab and its perimeter, and the YPG-controlled Afrin area.