The news came Wednesday noon and were as brief as precise: Turkish president Erdoğan announced, that he plans to launch a military operation in North-East Syria in the coming days. Two weeks earlier, the US army was reported by a CIA-backed publication to have set up military installations, three in Tal Abyad and two in Kobane. Preparations show, that Erdoğan plans to move quickly:
- - in previous days, Turkish army has brought army personnel of the 3rd Brigade as well as supplies to the Syrian border.
- - on Wednesday, Turkish troops took down walls of the city of Ras al-Ain
- - at the same time, US forces set up an observation post near the town of Tel-Halaf west of Ras al-Ain
- - since Thursday, TV crews and production facilities are gathering on the border
Erdoğan said: "The time has come to carry out our intention to neutralize terrorists in the east of the Euphrates. The United States has been informed. We decisively want to bring peace and tranquility to civilians in the east of the Euphrates, as we have already done in other regions of Syria." The Turkish Security Council had stated earlier, that the main threat to the political settlement in Syria originates from the YPG (People's Protection Unit)-held territories. YPG is the military branch of PYD, (Democratic Union Party) - partner of the Turkish PKK under Öcalan, which is regarded as a terrorist party by western countries.
The very same western countries, however, decided, not to consider PYD a terrorist organization. Turkish Daily Sabah writes: "The U.S. is not able to function in the northeastern region of Syria while fighting Daesh forces at the same time, and to do both a local partner is needed, he (U.S. Special Representative for Syria, James Jeffrey) said. 'That local partner since 2014 has been the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is the Syrian offshoot of PKK but we have not designated it as a terrorist organization which we did with the PKK,' Jeffrey said."
Meanwhile 15'000 Syrian fighters of the FSA (Free Syrian Army) and National Army are ready to join the Turkish military offensive. Their spokesman was quoted as stating, the battle of the East Euphrates against the PKK would extend to the entire terrorist-controlled area, but they would not attack US observation points - while rejecting the justification for them to exist. This is a mere reflection of what president Erdoğan had already stated in a speech on Wednesday, namely, that Turkey's target "is never U.S. soldiers".
On the same Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman had made clear: “Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as U.S. personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern. We would find any such actions unacceptable.”
Fact is: Both countries, the US and Turkey, are maintaining troops on Syrian territory without any invitation or authorization by the legitimate Syrian government in Damascus, under president Assad. US troops in the region may number 5'000 in Iraq and 2'200 in Syria, the latter group joined by a few hundred French elite troops. In a sharp contrast to this, Russia and Iran keep troops in Syria upon invitation and with full authorization by Damascus.
Matters are further complicated by the fact, that the Putin-Erdoğan agreement of September 19, 2018, concluded in Sochi, has not been fulfilled by Ankara, the commune patrols in the demilitarized zone between the Idlib area and liberated territory not functioning. Moreover, Russia and Syria have accused Turkey of responsibility for the recent suspected poison gas attack on Aleppo on November 24, 2018, counting more than a hundred injured. But that is far from being the whole story. Turkey has from the start used its military outposts in Idlib province to undertake numerous tiny steps, resembling to an annexation attempt. That in turn could endanger the whole successful Astana process.
At this crucial juncture, analysis may be well supported by a closer look to Turkeys motivations: The Erdoğan following is driven by several lines of political perceptions. There is widespread belief in Turkey and among Turkish-born migrants, that
- - the world is ruled by global corporate and secret freemason or lodge networks - and that Turkish policies should not serve their anti-national neo-liberal agendas. This viewpoint has nothing to do with any form or appearance of anti-semitism - as may be judged from similar statements by longtime and globally famous 84-year-old UN vice-president of the Advisory Committee to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Jean Ziegler, who gained his reputation as a courageous fighter for global social justice, well-being and limitation of cartel power as Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2000 to 2008.
- - the Ottoman Empire should be revived, since Turkey is entitled to regain what was taken from it by foreign powers now losing global clout. Fact is, that this group is divided into one group, promoting unconditional expansion of Turkey's international influence, if need be violently, while others maintain, that any Ottoman renaissance should be based on peaceful procedures exclusively. The latter view the 2017 Sudan agreements as a model for further Turkish foreign policy moves. And it is this latter group, that should be talked to and be reassured, that their viewpoint is being respected - which could greatly enhance their chances to win political infighting over the more aggressive and less legally concerned "high-speed Ottomans".
Ankara maintains very correctly, that creation of a PKK-friendly army and state on its southern border with Syria, poses an unacceptable risk to its national security. Knowledge and understanding of Washington's motivations for its wheeling-dealing with PYD underline this viewpoint. Analysts understand quite well, that the YPG-dominated SDF (Syria Defense Forces) is planned and designed to form the military background to a PYD-dominated state, which would spell disaster in the region from the very first day of its existence. To fight this development, viewed widely in Turkey as a catastrophe, from the start, is therefore no less than Turkey's "national life insurance". It is in this core issue of Ankara's concern, that good and multilateral relations can be established in supporting justified Turkish moves. Acknowledging rightful security concerns however, does not relieve the Turkish partners in international relationships to look and strive for correct foreign and military policies, which in turn suggest a necessary and indispensable Turkish-Syrian accord on Turkish troop presence in Syria - and on terms of complete withdrawal. In recent days, Syria has ostentatiously halted its shelling of the Idlib area, which at times had come dangerously close to the illegal Turkish military posts in the area during the last weeks. That in itself establishes a good unilateral step ahead. Others may well follow - including from Ankara's side. Liberating Idlib may become a well-communicated extended process, in which huge refugee waves can be avoided by careful and agreement-based multilateral steps, as good neighborhood usually doesn't come by overnight parcel express delivery. There is no solution without a plan to relocate thousands of ISIS/Daesh fighters and their families. Washington has masterminded a problem - overcoming that problem needs yet another master plan, but this time: constructive and humanist, for a change. To truly include Israel's concerns cannot and need not exclude trustworthy guarantees to Hezbollah's survival or preservation of the time-honored Syrian-Iranian cooperation.
Chances are, that patience and honest perseverance on all sides may lead to a very fruitful cooperation between four sides in the area, Syria, Russia, Iran and Turkey, to establish peace and security and isolate Washington's ill-advised fostering of a terror-friendly fighting force on foreign territory, which lacks support from other Kurdish factions and establishes yet another unhappy long-term liability, further undermining US reputation globally.