Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-01-10
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

There is a profound conviction among a number of Arab, Russian, and Western observers that Turkey verbally undertakes to end ISIS's terrorism whereas it really aims to end the armed Kurdish movement YPG (People's Protection Units) and SDF (Syria Democratic Forces).

This view is supported by noting that Turkey has not waged a single major battle against ISIS. More importantly, they note that Ankara is well aware that ISIS has enough 'enemies' to ensure that it will be ultimately be eliminated, unlike the Kurdish movement that enjoys sufficient 'legitimacy' and has enough 'friends' in Moscow, Washington, Brussels, and a number of other capitals in the region.

Another conviction is beginning to take shape in these same circles that what is happening in Jarabulus/Idlib, in 'Afrin and its environs, and in the areas East of the Euphrates recalls that Turkey's ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) has been prone to preceding any elections or referendum with large-scale battles with the Kurds, both in Turkey and in neighboring countries. Therefore, the party looks forward to another battle with which to rally nationalist and Islamist voters on the eve of [the March 2019] municipal and local elections, especially since the AKP– which has been ruling the country since 2002 – will fight these elections alone after the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) has ended its partnership with it.

These same circles share a third conviction that Turkey is using the pretext of 'the terrorist Kurdish entity' that it has added to its black lists of terrorist organizations as the means of creating a 'permanent' presence in the entire Northern Syrian areas. This because Turkey views these areas as vital for its regional influence and role via the Syrian gate, not to say that this is an expression of certain historic expansionist schemes or of a 'neo-Ottoman' tendency.

Reports of what is happening in the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operational areas suggest that we not facing provisional Turkish arrangements that are designed to drive the 'terrorist groups' a safe distance away from Turkey's borders. In addition, the Turkish president's statements regarding 'a new army' that represents Northeastern Syria's various constituents indicate that left to its own devices, Turkey will not allow the Syrian army and state to extend their influence to the area East of the Euphrates or to impose their authority over it.

But it is not as if Ankara can realize all its desires. According to [U.S. Envoy] James Jeffrey's 'colored' maps, the U.S. may not allow Ankara to expand deep into the Kurdish areas, despite the verbal promises that Erdogan and senior members of his government have made to preserve the lives of 'those who have fought on our side' – borrowing from the American lexicon. Of course, I have no idea when the YPG or the SDF have ever fought on Turkey's side!

Moreover, Russia will not allow Ankara to take control of 30% of the Northeastern and Northwestern parts of Syria. Furthermore, backed by Iran and its allies, Damascus will not stand back with folded arms in response to Ankara and its schemes, watching it as it builds 'many mansions' inside Syria. And many Arab countries are also likely to be unhappy with such an outcome, which is why we have seen them returning to Damascus, even though this process may be slow and hesitant primarily for reasons having to do with Iran's presence in Syria.

While pursuing their efforts to fill the vacuum left by the U.S., none of the parties involved in the Syrian crisis are likely to allow their forces to clash with each other. And Syria is also most likely to witness further settlements and transitional arrangements that are meant to circumvent certain complicated and intertwining knots, sensitivities, calculations, and interests. Turkey will most likely be satisfied with a border cordon that it will be allowed to control provided that it maintains its commitment to Syria's unity, independence, and sovereignty, at least verbally. And future political and diplomatic, and perhaps military and security, rounds are most likely to erupt without anyone knowing when or how they will do so.

But these are most likely to remain proxy wars [rather than direct confrontations].