Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Turkey's Operation In Syria Has Multiple Aims
Getting rid of Islamic State is not the most important part of Turkey's mission, writes Sky's foreign affairs editor Sam Kiley.

11:54, UK,
Wednesday 24 August 2016

By mid-morning Turkey had shelled 81 targets 294 times in the Syrian city of Jarablus.

Two F16 jets were flying close air support to Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels as Turkish tanks and mine-sweeping vehicles moved in, as operation Shield of the Euphrates got under way.

This is the biggest military muscle move on the ground by a NATO partner in the region since Syria's civil war broke out.

As ever in the multiple conflicts raging over the same landscapes in the region, the operation has a multiple aim.

First is the task of ridding the border town of the so-called Islamic State.

The second and, for Turkey, the more important mission, is to make sure that its allies in the FSA - Arabs to a man - take the town and not Kurd forces from the YPG (People's Protection Forces).

Ankara is allergic to the notion that two large swathes of Syrian territory in the control of Kurds which are separated by the Euphrates could be joined up.

Doing so would mean that the entire border between Turkey and Syria would be in Kurdish hands and, in Turkey's view, inevitably form part of a growing Kurdish entity with demands to statehood.

The international coalition fighting the so-called Caliphate has joined the air campaign in Jarablus.

This is a clear sign that, even though the YPG are the coalition's closest ally on the ground, NATO has recognised that Turkey has profound concerns that need not only acknowledging but giving in to as part of the wider campaign against the Islamist death cult.

To drive the point home, Turkey has periodically shelled territory recently captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces which, although officially mixed, is dominated by Kurdish fighters - in a bid to drive them east of the Euphrates from the town of Manbij.

Turkey's calls for a no-fly zone to be imposed on the Damascus regime and for a safe zone to be established along the Syrian border with its own territory have been ignored for more than three years.

In Ankara, they were repeated again by ministers who ruefully cling to the notion that civilians might be better protected inside Syrian territory than flooding their own country (Turkey has absorbed three million refugees).

The incursion at Jarablus might, conceivably, usher in some kind of safe zone or talk of it may be used to justify continued Turkish presence on Syrian soil.

But the real long-term agenda will remain establishing a buffer between the two major Kurd enclaves either side of the river.

No comments: