Turkey has renewed its threats of a new military offensive against the Kurds in Syria, but what can it do after failing to secure the green light from Russia and Iran?
After announcing plans to move against Kurdish forces in the Manbij and Tal Rifaat areas of northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey joined a three-way summit in Tehran this week seeking support.
Although Iran and Russia, the other two main foreign players in the Syrian conflict, have stopped it, analysts say, Turkey insisted on Thursday that it does not need anyone’s “permission” for a new campaign in Syria.
Here’s a look at what could be next.
Did Erdogan get the green light?
In Tehran, Erdogan renewed his threats against the Kurdish forces who control areas of northeastern Syria and whom Ankara considers “terrorists”.
A declaration was made at the summit pledging cooperation to “eliminate terrorist individuals and groups” in northern Syria and opposing any separatist ambitions.
Apparently, the three main foreign brokers, who have long supported opposing sides in the Syrian war, who qualified as “terrorists”, were omitted.
Moscow and Washington have repeatedly warned NATO member Turkey against a new attack on the Kurds in northern Syria and in Tehran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Erdogan that aggression would be “harmful”.
“The (Erdogan) summit did not give the green light, but Turkey has repeatedly launched military operations into Syria without a green light,” said Dareen Khalifa, a researcher at the International Crisis Group.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that Turkey “never asked and we never ask for permission” for its campaigns in Syria.
“It can happen one night, suddenly,” he said of a new military push, without specifying the scale of such an operation.
Between 2016 and 2019, Ankara launched three military offensives that it said were to dislodge the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the main component of the Kurdish de facto autonomous army, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Ankara considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has been waging an insurgency in Turkey for years.
Erdogan has threatened to attack Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria that are part of a 30-kilometer (20-mile) deep buffer zone he wants to establish along the border.
Bassam Abu Abdullah of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Damascus said he thought a Turkish attack was unlikely.
“I think the fuse of the Turkish military operation… has been completely removed,” he told AFP.
What options does Turkey have?
But even without Moscow and Tehran’s stamp of approval, Erdogan could still launch a limited offensive.
Turkish media reported that no operation would take place before the end of August or the beginning of September.
“One option now available to Turkey is to use air power to strike Kurdish targets across Syria. Erdogan has that green light,” said Nicholas Heras of the New Lines Institute.
Kurdish officials have said they are preparing for a possible attack from Turkey.
“Erdogan is desperate for permission to violate Syrian airspace to carry out his attack,” said SDF spokesman Farhad Shami.
Turkey, which has been waging cross-border operations against the PKK in neighboring Iraq for years, killed nine civilians in artillery fire on Wednesday.
Attacking densely populated Manbij would have “major humanitarian consequences”, Khalifa warned.
“Renewed conflict will inevitably lead to mass displacement and suffering,” she said.
Hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Kurds displaced by the 2018 Turkish offensive on the neighboring Afrin region live in the Tal Rifaat area.
Manbij is also a predominantly Arab town with displaced Kurds living in and around it.
Is Turkey bringing Kurds closer to Damascus?
The Syrian army has deployed reinforcements in the areas threatened by Turkey, especially in the vicinity of Manbij, to act as a buffer between Kurdish forces and Ankara.
Abu Abdullah of the University of Damascus expects even more with the deployment of the Syrian army in the area.
Moscow’s ally Damascus will “press hard in this direction,” he said, adding that Ankara “will not interfere with this at all, they are pushing to deploy the Syrian army” on the border to avoid military escalation.
“Any military operation will make the situation more complicated for everyone,” he said. “The SDF has no choice but to come to an understanding with the Syrian state.”
Kurdish forces and the Syrian regime have struggled to reach an accommodation, as the Kurds are reluctant to give up territorial gains and Damascus rejects their autonomy.
Khalifa said she doubts the two will see eye to eye.
“A Turkish attack may lead to more defense arrangements between the SDF and Damascus but may not lead to a broader agreement or settlement,” she said.
“At least it wasn’t in the past.”
Will Turkey attack Syria Kurds without nod from Russia and Iran? Source link Will Turkey attack Syria Kurds without nod from Russia and Iran?