The following report comes in from a senior board member of the NCF. The opening comment is his:
30 June 2015: Turkey’s erratic president is apparently finalizing plans to send his army across the border into Syria. Ostensibly, for US consumncfption, this action will be stated to be in support of the American led coalition’s efforts against ISIS.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Erdogan has been working at cross-purposes with American objectives in Iraq and Syria for years. Symbolic of this has been his government’s patent refusal to allow its Nato allies to use the base the alliance maintains at nearby Incirlik to bomb ISIS positions in support of Iraqi and Kurdish battles against ISIS.
Yet, indicative of a hypocrisy which is appalling almost to the level of farce, Turkey demands the placement of state-of-the-art Patriot systems to protect its vulnerable border region from air and missile attack. Alliances have one-way responsibilities apparently.
In fact, Turkey’s military operation — if, in the end, it is given the green light — will be undertaken to end the hopes for “Rojava” — the Kurdish autonomous zone created in a small slice of Northern Syria close to or along the Turkish border. This area has been created from lands seized by the YPG — the military wing of the PYD, the Syrian off-shoot of the Kurdish PKK which is banned in Turkey as a terrorist organization — from either the Syrian government or from ISIS and other marauders who have been active in the area for the last four years.
Erdogan declared in another one of his bombastic blasts last week that he will not permit a Kurdish state along the Syrian border. It has also been his long-held desire to see the fall of the government of Bashar al-Asad in Damascus.
Unlike the Russians and the Iranians — and even the Americans it would now appear — Erdogan does not seem to care who displaces al-Asad, as long as he goes. Given what has happened in Tripoli, Cairo, and Sanaa, this attitude should ripe for reconsideration, but Erdogan is not known as a man of tact, let alone humility.
If actually undertaken, this operation has all the markings of Saudi Arabia’s ill-considered air assault on
Yemen which began on 26 March of this year. It is fraught with difficulties and, in the absence of a plausible end game, potentially painful and costly results. But maybe Erdogan does have a plan in mind.
Another question is how this will play in Turkish domestic politics. President Erdogan’s AK party lost its majority in parliament in the 7 June elections. In the absence of forming a strong coalition, new elections will be necessary later this year.
The right wing MHP party has listed several tough demands if it is to join to keep the AKP in a coalition government — including sending four former AKP minister’s and the president’s son, Bilal, to trial on corruption charges. These were shelved late last year under blatant political pressure.
Whether the MHP’s strong anti-Kurdish bias will be sufficient for it to swallow its principles is a key question. The reported opposition of Turkey’s generals to Erdogan’s Syria gambit adds an additional fly to the ointment.
It is also possible that Erdogan may hope that the sight of ‘sons of Turkey fighting to defend the Motherland’ against extremists will be sufficient to propel his AKP to a majority position in another round of elections this fall. It received 41% in June — twice that of its nearest rival. End Introduction and Comment.
“Turkey Plans to Invade Syria, But to Stop the Kurds, Not ISIS”
by Thomas Seibert
28 June 2015
ISTANBUL—Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning a military intervention into northern Syria to prevent Syrian Kurds from forming their own state there, despite concerns among his own generals and possible criticism from Washington and other NATO allies, according to reports in both pro- and anti-government media.
In a speech last Friday, Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not accept a move by Syrian Kurds to set up their own state in Syria following gains by Kurdish fighters against the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in recent weeks. “I am saying this to the whole world: We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria,” Erdogan said. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.” He accused Syrian Kurds of ethnic cleansing in Syrian areas under their control.
Following the speech, several news outlets reported that the president and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had decided to send the Turkish army into Syria, a hugely significant move by NATO’s second biggest fighting force after the U.S. military. Both the daily Yeni Safak, a mouthpiece of the government, and the newspaper Sozcu, which is among Erdogan’s fiercest critics, ran stories saying the Turkish Army had received orders to send soldiers over the border. Several other media had similar stories, all quoting unnamed sources in Ankara. There has been no official confirmation or denial by the government.
The government refused to comment on the reports. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “the necessary statement” would be issued after a regular meeting of the National Security Council, which comprises the president, the government and military leaders, this Tuesday.
The reports said up to 18,000 soldiers would be deployed to take over and hold a strip of territory up to 30 kilometers deep and 100 kilometers long that currently is held by ISIS. It stretches from close to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in the east to an area further west held by the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other rebel groups, beginning around the town of Mare. This “Mare Line,” as the press calls it, is to be secured with ground troops, artillery and air cover, the reports said. Yeni Safak reported preparations were due to be finalized by next Friday.
There has been speculation about a Turkish military intervention ever since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. Ankara has asked the United Nations and its Western allies to give the green light to create a buffer zone and a no-fly area inside Syria in order to prevent chaos along the Turkish border and to help refugees on Syrian soil before they cross over into Turkey. But the Turkish request has fallen on deaf ears.
“We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria.”
The latest reports fit Erdogan’s statement on Friday and the government position regarding recent gains by Syrian Kurds against the Islamic State. The Syrian Kurdish party PYD and its armed wing YPG, affiliates of the Turkish-Kurdish rebel group PKK, have secured a long band of territory in northern Syria from the Syrian-Iraqi border in the east to Kobani.
Ankara is concerned that the Kurds will now turn their attention to the area west of Kobani and towards Mare to link up with the Kurdish area of Afrin, thereby connecting all Kurdish areas in Syria along the border with Turkey. Erdogan expects that the Syrian Kurds, whose advance against ISIS has been helped by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition, will go on to form their own state as Syria disintegrates after more than four years of war.
PYD leader Saleh Muslim denied that Syria’s Kurds intend to do this.
But Turkey’s leaders are not convinced that is true. The daily Hurriyet reported Erdogan and Davutoglu wanted to “kill two birds with one stone” with a military intervention along the Mare Line. One aim would be to drive ISIS away from the Turkish border, depriving the jihadists of their last foothold on the frontier and thereby cutting off supply lines. Such a move would tie in with the U.S. strategy to contain and weaken ISIS.
A second goal of the operation would be closer to Ankara’s own interests. The English-language Hurriyet Daily News quoted one source saying there was a need to “prevent the PYD from taking full control over the Turkish-Syrian border,” and also to create a zone on Syrian territory rather than in Turkey to take in new waves of refugees.
But the military is reluctant, the reports said. Generals told the government that Turkish troops could come up against ISIS, Kurds and Syrian government troops and get drawn into the Syrian quagmire. Retaliation attacks by ISIS and Kurdish militants on Turkish territory are another concern.
Finally, the soldiers pointed to the international dimension. The military leadership told the government that the international community might get the impression that Turkey’s intervention was directed against Syria’s Kurds, the newspaper
Turkey’s NATO partners, some of whom have deployed troops operating Patriot missile defense units near the Syrian border to shield member country Turkey against possible attacks from Syria, are unlikely to be happy with a Turkish intervention.
Turkey’s pro-government press insisted there were no tensions between civilian and military leaders in Ankara. “If the government says ‘go,’ we will go in,” the pro-Erdogan daily Aksam wrote, attempting to sum up the military’s stance in a headline.
On Sunday, fighting broke out between ISIS troops and FSA units near the town of Azaz, close to the Turkish border crossing of Oncupinar. News reports said ISIS was trying to bring the Syrian side of the border crossing under its control. The area of the latest clashes lies within the “Mare Line” cited as the possible location of a Turkish incursion.