By: Hamada Al Kohly
On the 19th of this month, Turkey's Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli announced the start of the military campaign against Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) existing in the border area of Afrin, north of Syria. He said his country has no choice but to eliminate what he described as "terrorists" in northern Syria.
According to several estimates, about 20000 soldiers and many tanks capable of handling TAO missiles are participating in this battle, which started with heavy centeral artillery shelling. Turkey also installed sophisticated radar on the borders of Afrin for jamming of missiles and aircraft systems that can target Turkish forces inside and outside Syria. Additionally, the Turkish forces have installed Hawk air defenses on Rihaniyah borders, which it can attack several types of aircraft.
In terms of international positions, Turkey did not wait for reactions. As Turkey has recalled its Ambassadors to six Arab countries, include Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, to brief them on the details of the military campaign in Afrin. It aslo recalled its Ambassadors to Iran, France, Britain, China, Russia and the United States of America, to inform them of the operation's information. Turkey considers it carries out this military campaign in accordance with international law and Security Council resolutions governing counter-terrorism and the right to self-defense referred to in Article No. 51 of the United Nations Charter.
The United States called on Turkey not to attack YPG forces in Afrin, northern Syria, while Moscow, Arab capitals and Iran were almost silent.
At the UN level, the United Nations announced it follows up the developments in the northern city of Afrin, and called on the concerned parties to avoid all steps that would escalate tension in the region.
In Syria, the Syrian government had warned Turkey to launch a military operation in the area of Afrin and said it would be considered an act of aggression by the Turkish army.
In the light of Turkey's insistence on achieving specific objectives of its military operations in Afrin and the positions of the concerned countries with the Syrian crisis, there are several points becoming clear, the most important of which are:
- It is known that the Russian forces have imposed its control over the Syrian scene. Therefore, Ankara has gotten the green light from Moscow to begin this operation.
- The entry of Turkish troops in northern Syria and carrying out of such operations clearly means it rush deeply into the Syrian crisis. It will be considered as one of the key players in Syria.
- Carrying out clear and direct military operations by Turkey's forces increases opportunities for exposing Turkish territory to armed threats emanating from northern Syria. These threats began Sunday, where missiles were fired from the Syrian territory targeted a city on the Turkish borders, according to Anadolu Agency.
- One of the most important dilemmas of Afrin operation is the differences in the official positions of NATO member states. The reason is that a member state of NATO is carrying out military action against military group which is trained and armed by another NATO member. In addition, France, one of the most prominant members of NATO, called for holding an emergency meeting in the Security Council to discuss this operation. While Turkish Foreign Minister MevlütÇavuşoğlu said:"If France or any other country takes the issue to the U.N., then we will consider it as siding with a terrorist group, not with an ally".
- The international community that rejects the operation is waiting for the results on reality to build its future positions. If Ankara only strikes targets on the borders without entering into the depth of Syria, it may be understanded and the scene can be contained. However, if the Turkish intervention develops, there will be parallel moves that could lead to more tension in Syria and the region.
- Before starting the Turkish military operation in northern Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that there should be no violence in Afrin. This came in response to the circulated news about Turkish preparation for carrying out military operation in Afrin. After Lavrov's statement, Ankara rushed to send Turkish Chief of General Staff HulusiAkar and National Intelligence Organization Chief HakanFidan to Moscow. Then, the operation began hours after the visit, which means that there are Russian bargains (the most important player in Syria) offered to Ankara, which is preparing for an operation in northern Syria.Therefore, Turkey understands Russia's demands and an agreement has made between the parties that Russia should not to oppose the operation.
- In light of the current moves and the previous official positions, it is estimated that Russia has placed at the top of its demands that Ankara must fulfill the guarantee of the Turkish side's implementation of its commitments of Astana track (between the Syrian regime and the Syrian armed opposition factions) sponsored by Russia, Iran and Turkey. Turkey guarantees the agreements of reducing the escalation in areas identified in Astana talks. In this context, Moscow strongly wants to ensure security in the Idlib region, as well as eradicating Al-Nusra Front, now known as "Fatah al-Sham Front".
- In return for the Turkish obligations, Moscow guarantees that no confrontation will take place between the Turkish forces and the Syrian regime. This was reflected in the Syrian response, as the operation was preceded by official Syrian warnings. Following the first Turkish strike, the Forign Ministry of Syrian government only issued a statement condemning the Turkish move. Turkey also announced that it had informed the Syrian regime of its moves in advance, which was denied by the Syrian foreign ministry. Later, during a meeting with an Iranian delegation, the Syrian president described the Turkish operation as brutal aggression.
- One of the features of the Russian-Turkish coordination is the announcement of the Turkish government that it will participate in the national dialogue scheduled to be held in Sochi. Moscow has not invited the YPG to, which indicates the Turkish-Russian understandings in this regard. However, absence of the Kurds from the negotiations may lead to its failure.
- Moscow has ignored to comment on the Turkish move so far. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Piskov declined to answer a question on the operation, saying: "I recommend that this question should be directed to the Russian Defense Ministry".
- Ankara and Moscow are trying to thwart the American enterprise aimed at forming a new armed union on the borders with Turkey. While US Secretary of State Rex Tilerson has denied this matter, arguing that Washington's actions are aimed at protecting refugees in the region.
- This operation aims at preventing the establishment of any independent Kurdish entity, whether in Syria or Iraq. Certainly, Iran agreed on carrying out this operation because this reason, as the Kurds are imposing a real threat to Tehran's national security.
- Despite the coordination between Russa,Turkey and Iran, Moscow and Tehran will not leave room for Turkey's ambitions to increase its influence in northern Syria. Moreover, this operation will not be as easy as the Turkish army thinks. It became clear that there was agreement on the withdrawal of Turkish troops after the end of the operation. As the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that the operation in Afrin will end "in a very short time."
The Egyptian position
- Although Turkey announced its intention to launch a military operation against the Kurds in Syria, Egypt announced its position only after the start of Turkish strikes on Syrian territory. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an official statement to announce its position on this military operation. The Egyptian position was based on the following:
- Egypt considers the Syrian state and its territories, whether under the control of the Syrian regime or out of its control, as Arab lands that Egypt rejects to be attacked or threatened.
- Egypt considers that the military operation in Afrin is a violation of Syrian sovereignty, based on what is recognized by international laws and UN Charter.
- Egypt believes that the Turkish move would undermine the ongoing endeavors to reach a political solution, as well as the efforts of counter-terrorism in Syria.
- Egypt's steadfast stance towards rejecting military solutions, came in line with its position since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis based on the rejection of military solutions and foreign interventions.
- Egypt believes that the Syrian people are the only loser of these operations, which they only lead to increase their suffering.
- The statement called for involving the whole sects of the Syrian community in serious negotiations in the framework of a comprehensive and objective political process with no exclusion, while stressing on the need to preserve Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.