By Scott Morgan
It has finally happened. The Turkish Army has finally fulfilled its threat to enter Syria and is advancing towards the Kurdish Enclave of Afrin. They are being supported by Syrian Militias that are allied with the Erdogan Regime as the Syrian conflict splinters yet again.
There are several key points that have to be realized in order to properly understand the moves by the Turkish Government at this time. After some careful consideration, these concepts will become self-explanatory to both the reader and the armchair general.
First of all, the motivation for this action: this is a political gambit by President Erdogan on the highest order. Currently, Elections in Turkey are scheduled to be run in 2019. These polls will be all inclusive (President, Parliament & Local). However, either a successful operation in Afrin or even a downturn in the Turkish Economy may accelerate this process. Regardless of whatever happens it is conceivable to have Elections take place around July 15th of this year. Which is also the second anniversary of the failed coup.
Secondly, this is an attempt to weaken the YPG in Syria. Despite what one reads in the Western Media, the YPG is not a unified force under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
These units of the YPG in the Afrin area were allies of the Russians. This explains both the evacuation of the Russian Observers from the area before the Operations began and the consultations that took place between Ankara and Moscow prior to the beginning of the Operation.
Regardless of the outcome of this Operation one thing is certain: in the long term, the main beneficiary of this will be President Assad of Syria. The main reason for this will be that it is possible for some of the YPG units to find themselves in a position where they have no choice but to seek assistance from the Central Government in Damascus. This strengthens the position of the President during any Peace negotiations. How this plays out in the current Grand Strategy by Turkey has yet to play out.
To contrast this, the recent movement by the Turks is designed to weaken the position of the Kurds in Syria. Specifically if they are able to remove the YPG from the SDF - since it not only splinters a key US ally in the conflict against ISIS but it also has the goal of denying the group seats at the table in both sets of Peace Talks (set to begin soon in both Vienna and Sochi). The Turkish move has to be considered to be a reaction to the announcement by Washington that it was organizing a Security Force of 30,000 troops to protect that part of the border. Clearly the authorities in Ankara are fearful of any Kurdish attempt to organize any form of self-governance in Turkey. Should we expect any less in Syria?
One critical question that remains unanswered regards the presence of US Special Forces in the town of Manbij. President Erdogan has already stated that after the conclusion of the Operation in Afrin the next target for Turkish Troops will be Manbij. Will this actually lead to conflict between two key members of NATO? There have been accusations by the Turks that the US Forces are supporting terrorism. Could this be a clever negotiating tactic by Erdogan to try and have the large airfield at Incirilik under total Turkish control? That would be a tremendous move by Erdogan. He has already driven the Germans out of the base already. There is one takeaway for certain. Even though Russia is portrayed as the current deal maker (or breaker) in Syria, the Erdogan Government is attempting to place itself in a position where no event in the region can take place without the express approval of Ankara.
Solidifying a domestic political base by conducting a military operation against what is currently seen as a weaker adversary...How many times in history has this scenario been played out and the aggressive party been defeated? The Kurds are not any slouches as an effective fighting force.
(Image: Erdogan in a War Front[Ed] - EPA, via Google Images)
[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]