Turkey is implementing a series of military operations in Syria

Syria is gradually being absorbed by the great powers. Watching this landscape, Israel will decide how to act in southern Syria.

By MIKHAIL MAGID
March 20, 2018 21:25
2 minute read.
SMOKE RISES from artillery strikes near Afrin.

SMOKE RISES from artillery strikes near Afrin.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Turkish troops are attacking Kurdish canton of Afrin in northern Syria. Fifteen thousand fighters belonging to the Kurdish YPG militia and 800 allied Shi’ite pro-Assad militiamen from the settlements Zahraa and Nubl resist them, using all the experience gained over seven years of war in Syria. The Kurdish militia fights under the full control of PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). This organization is struggling against Turkish troops not only in Syria but also in Iraq and Turkey. The PKK is fighting for the autonomy of Kurds (about a quarter of Turkey’s population).

All the militia commanders are PKK members. Looked at from this point of view, the current Turkish offensive is a part of Turkey’s total war against the PKK.

US troops and politicians protected their Kurdish partners in the other regions of Syria, but never claimed to be an influence in Afrin. America does not want to start a conflict with such an influential NATO member as Turkey.

Afrin will not receive any help from US.

But Turkey is implementing another large-scale, complicated operation in the northern Syrian region of Idlib, near the border of Afrin. The Turkish army has built bases around Idlib. Turkish troops open fire on Assad forces and their Shi’ite allies (Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds Force) when they attempt to enter Idlib. Iranian politicians have repeatedly demanded the withdrawal of all Turkish forces from Syria, but have been ignored. Such statements and clashes are an indicators of serious political cooling between Iran and Turkey.

At the same time, Turkish forces together with anti-Assad Sunni opposition units oust al-Qaida fighters (al-Qaida also uses the names Jabhat an-Nusra and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) from Idlib.

Al-Qaida claims to be an independent Sunni group.

The global community and the US will never agree to the presence of al-Qaida in Syria, so Turkey has carte blanche to clear the region of terrorists.

But at the same time, it means to transfer Idlib to the sphere of Turkish influence.


Each Turkish operation has quite delicate objectives (if we consider the Turkish refusal of a Kurdish right to autonomy a normal thing). However we must see the whole picture.

The Turkish offensives are an attempt to take these territories under control and connect them with the third Turkish-controlled enclave, Bab-Jarablus-Azaz. Thus, a zone of massive Turkish military, political and economic control would be created in northern Syria. Disloyal populations and armed groups will be squeezed out of the zone.

Here we see a serious demand for the creation of pro-Turkish Syria. The total population of all the areas in question is about three to four million, and its strategic importance is huge. The main Syrian financial, industrial and commercial center of Aleppo is currently under the control of Assad and the Iranians. Aleppo is the heart of northern Syria, but it looks like the city will be in the tight ring of Turkish forces in the near future.

This is nothing less than a partition of Syria. The central part is in the sphere of Russian and Iranian influence, and the Iranians also penetrate into the south.

The north can be engulfed by Turkey. The eastern and northeast parts of the country will become the base for PKK-affiliated Kurdistan under the protection of the US military.

Syria is gradually being absorbed by the great powers.

Watching this landscape, Israel will decide how to act in southern Syria.

The author is a Russian analyst and Middle East expert.

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