In a word delivered before an economic conference in Istanbul shortly after his return from New York, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled some of the calculus of the Turkish command towards Syria and Iraq, perhaps explaining the ambiguity overweighing the situation on the ground in north Syria, especially in the region of a Kurdish majority, as the airstrikes on Syria entered their second week.
What Erdogan most remarkably said in that respect was that “events in Syria must be viewed not just from the perspective of terrorism, but also from the perspective of the Syrian regime.” He said that Turkey would not be outside any coalition if it targeted Syria and Iraq.
He also called for establishing a “safe zone” along borders with Syria and Iraq, with a no-fly zone over it, and staging a land war, while he took to task Germany’s decision to gear up the Kurdish Peshmergas, lest the weapons would reach the hands of the terrorist organizations, according to the Turkish categorization, just like the PKK, which he has gone too far inciting against, saying that war on terrorism shall not be only restricted to operations against ISIL, but that it should also target the PKK.
The batch of headlines Erdogan broached mirrors the mainstay of the Turkish calculus in the current stage, and which consists of considering the Syrian regime and the PKK as Turkey’s key enemies.
It is known that Erdogan demurs on gearing up the Iraqi army, because 95% of its strength are Shias, according to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. And here he is today opposing the armament of the Peshmergas, because the weapons would go to the PKK, which means that he rejects the participation in the international coalition against terrorism, but that he does not offer any alternative recipe other than the key targets of the international coalition must be the Syrian regime and the PKK.
The picture from Ankara is not clear yet, pertaining to the next Turkish steps. Ankara proposes the establishment of a “safe zone,” which is an alleviated expression of “buffer zone,” in order to contain the refugees theoretically. But this demand actually aims to control borders with Syria and to achieve two goals: the first is the control by Kurdish Democratic Union Party fighters of the Kurdish regions in Syria-something that Ankara has translated by providing logistic support for ISIS to take over Kobani-and the second is the establishment of a no-fly zone over the buffer zone, in order to prevent Syrian warplanes from bombarding the Syrian opposition and hence turning these regions into completely liberated areas in what is practically placing them under a direct or indirect Turkish occupation.
Nonetheless, the Turkish plans to establish the sought buffer zone are not likely to reap the appetite of the Arabs; and normally, they are utterly rejected by Syria and the Kurds. As a matter of fact, the statements of US Chief of Staff Martin Dempsey, according to whom the establishment of a buffer zone is part of the work plan of the international coalition, were the first clear rejection sign.
Before this Turkish failure, Ankara is seemingly working to make changes that would make it win the battle progressively instead of through a fatal strike.
Abdulkadir Selvi, writer for pro Justice and Development Party [AKP] Yeni Safak newspaper, and almost the spokesperson of Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, reflects the position of the state in that respect.
He argues that Turkey won’t have a room in any air of land war with the coalition against ISIS and that it seeks to talk the US into establishing a buffer zone. But, since lukewarm Washington shows little appetite, Turkey is trying to establish a zone “the Turkish way” under the supervision of the Turkish air force and the protection of the Turkish forces.
Here, the author says that Turkey is readying nine thousand soldiers for this purpose. They are to take charge of “cleaning” the buffer zone from mines, expelling gunmen out of it, and fixing observation and control points.
Selvi adds that attacking the Turkish forces is very likely and that Turkey has well braced for such possibility. If the plan succeeds, Turkey will transfer the refugees to this buffer zone, to get rid of their problems inside Turkey definitively. Moreover, Turkey will train the Syrian opposition on fighting ISIL.
Accordingly, the Turkish government is expected to ask the Parliament within days to allow the dispatch of troops outside Turkey, to Syria and Iraq namely, alongside other military requirements, in order that it should no longer have to wait for the House approval.
He says that all these steps will take place regardless of the international coalition troops and that this will be a new message for the Americans as per which terrorism cannot be stamped out if the Sunnites in Iraq are not given their rights and if the regime in Syria remains unchanged.
The question remains, will Turkey enter the war its way?
Journalist Oral Calislar considers, in an article published by Radikal newspaper, that the developments in Kobani town between the Kurds and ISIS lead to ask this question. But the decision is not easy, he says, clarifying that when troops are sent outside the borders, especially to a troubled area, this means to throw oneself into the conflict. No one can know what may happen afterward. The West is pressuring Turkey, indeed, but it is not working to understand what is happening; it is rather content with disciplining people. Turkey cannot remain cross-handed. Notwithstanding, if it enters the war, it will not get out of it easily.
America is far and then capable of entering and leaving effortlessly. But Turkey is different because it is the next-door neighbor of Syria and Iraq.
Calislar concludes that Turkey joining the war means its full involvement in it. He adds that if Turkey doesn’t want to remain cross-handed, this doesn’t mean that it must be a direct party of this war.
The pro AKP media has always said that the war of the international coalition against ISIL was a trap set up for Turkey. But, voilà Turkey, dragging itself into the mud the neo Inkisharis have deep knee stepped into, thus not sparing the new Constantinople the dirt.
Mohammad Noureddine – as-Safir newspaper