UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Preliminary results of the operation of Turkish troops in northern Syria can already be summed up. It became apparent that the military and political goals of Ankara at least did not materialize. And the biggest disappointment of Erdogan should be the fact that in the end his opponent, Bashar Assad, turned out to be the main gain. How did this happen?
The Turks initially set themselves the task of occupying a depth of 30 kilometers, and then clearing this territory. Apparently, they were going to drive the Kurds in the thirty-kilometer zone for an infinitely long time, but now it’s clear that a lot has gone wrong. The political goal of the operation – the creation of a sanitary zone along the Turkish-Syrian border – is already unattainable.
From a tactical point of view, Turkish troops do not show any frills. The Turks advance where they are allowed to do this after artillery shelling and airstrikes, and stop where they are ambushed. From time to time, the Turks even get involved in street fights, where the Kurds gain local superiority due to knowledge of the area.
In Ras al Ain, street battles have been going on for the fourth day with varying success with the overwhelming advantage of the Turks in technology and equipment. At Tell Abyad, the Kurds even try to counterattack. In addition, a significant amount of tasks assigned to the Turks is carried out not by the regular army of Ankara, but by paramilitary units from the former “opposition” – the Syrian People’s Army (SNA), for example.
The rapid flight of Americans from all their base positions at Manbij and Kobani also led to the rapid advancement of Syrian government units with the support of the Russian group. If the Syrian army leaves for Kobani and Kamyshly within a day (and Russian patrols have already appeared there), then the Turks will not be able to create a continuous security zone along the border. Connecting the Tell Abyad area with Gerablus also fails. Damascus, without a fight, gains control of two large sections of the border with Turkey while maintaining the Kurdish population there. In return, the Turks gain control of rural areas further east, which can hardly be considered an equivalent exchange.
To avoid the same development of events further to the east, in the Haseki region, the pro-Turkish units of the NSS, which previously stood as a reserve in the depths of Syrian territory, intensified. Now they have advanced along the M4 highway, where they begin to equip roadblocks. Thus, the M4 highway will become something like a temporary “border” of the sanitary zone, and the Kurds, who are between it and the Turkish border, should prepare for a radical change in lifestyle. Government forces cannot reach there.
If from a military point of view all this is not of particular interest, then from a political point of view it has far-reaching consequences. If the Turks managed to fix a 30-kilometer zone and clean out everything Kurdish-speaking there, then they could afford to stay there for a long time. And this, in turn, would greatly undermine the possibility of a further peaceful settlement in Syria.
Now, the stay of Turkish troops in Syrian territory can be negotiated by time limits or by assigned tasks, and then require their withdrawal from there. Turks in theory can reserve several military bases or strongholds, but there can be no talk of any actual occupation of part of Syrian territory.
In addition, government troops are gradually and without a fight moving to the east bank of the Euphrates from the already occupied Raqqa. A year and a half or two ago, with the support of the Americans, the Kurds joyfully bit off a large territory beyond their natural habitat, with the Arab and Bedouin populations, including Rakku destroyed by dust with American missiles.
Then, at the peak of their success and fraternization with the Americans, the Kurds hoped to further bargain with Damascus precisely this territory, which they were not seriously planning to settle.
In addition, the possession of part of the provinces of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor gave them the opportunity to speak no longer of mono-ethnic, purely Kurdish units, but to call themselves the Kurdish-Arab army, which turned them into a political rather than narrow-ethnic force. In reality, several militias of the Bedouin tribes, who did not have a relationship with ISIS, joined the Kurdish formations.
The position of the tribes depends on the position of the leaders, and they almost always take the side of the winner. So the “Kurdish-Arab coalition” will soon come to an end, and the Kurds will return to the state they were in before the start of a “wonderful friendship” with the United States: a narrow-ethnic armed movement, inclined to change partners, and strategically immature for an independent political game. With all due respect, the Kurds never managed to grow up, and they were fixed at the level of eternal heroic partisans with a tribal way of life. So not only independence can not be achieved, so everything can be lost.
In other words, at the end of the week of the Turkish operation in northern Syria, its results are already generally clear. Militarily, it was only partially successful. Turkish troops behave as if nothing had changed since 1945, except for the range and rate of fire of artillery. Even the Syrian government troops have already abandoned the straightforward tactics in the event that there is no reliable data on the combat effectiveness of the enemy. Turks consider the Kurds a culture of higher monkeys, which can be dealt with in one swoop.
Most likely, it was either a tactical miscalculation, or strategic arrogance. Ankara might not have expected at all that a rapid movement of troops located in the vicinity would begin and an almost instant change of political orientation by some players. Recep Erdogan believed his generals, who promised a blitzkrieg to the Euphrates in a couple of days. When such diverse and diverse forces operate in the region, one cannot count on a definite development of events. But some people do this because of the excessive “historicity” of thinking.
As a result, the Kurds will gradually lose political subjectivity in future negotiations within the framework of the constitutional assembly of Syria, which the Americans guaranteed, while supporting excessive “conquests” on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. And Ankara will have to revise the very system of creating sanitary control, which initially looked very promising for the Turks.
The undisputed gain is Damascus, which gets a huge territory without a fight, which, all other things being equal, would be very difficult to return to government control.
The situation in Syria from the very beginning of the war looked like a set of many ethnic, religious and political contradictions, which could not be resolved with one blow or one series of negotiations. Some of them looked basically insoluble, such as the security of the Shiite population or the status of the same Kurds. Now, even the Kurdish question is gradually being removed, which may allow at least some negotiations with the highlanders about their future status as part of a single Syria, and from a position of strength. And this force is not punitive (and earlier the pressure of Damascus on the Kurds was considered only in the dichotomy of oppressors / freedom fighters), but protective: the government army now really saves the Kurdish population from the Turks, who are not inclined to sentiment.
And if earlier the “democratically” inclined public criticized the mukhabarat and the shabih because they unnecessarily harshly filter the population of the areas liberated from jihadists, now Turkish raids will slightly correct this view. To relieve information pressure on Damascus due to cleansing of the liberated areas, they even had to enter the Russian military police there. The Turks will not do this, and in a week or two we will enjoy the cries of the Western progressive public about the atrocities of the Turkish military in the 30-kilometer zone.
Paradoxically, Ankara is now again interested in restoring diplomatic relations with Damascus in order to try to somehow institutionalize its stay in the 30-kilometer zone. Current contacts through intelligence are effective, but have no legal force. One must still remember that Ankara, for all her emotionality, like many others, is trying to solve the problem for herself strategically, and not just do something on the current day.
It is possible to rid the inner regions of Turkey from raids by militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party only by stabilizing the situation for a long time, and not once having bitten off part of the mountain range from Syria with a mono-ethnic hostile population. I would like to think that Ankara understands this.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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