With Ankara’s invasion of Northern Syria and the recent threatening remarks against Syrian President Assad, it might well have provoked just that I tried to avoid: a viable Kurdistan.
In the wake of the recent Turkish coup attempt, Turkey quickly launched a military intervention into Northern Syria. Officially the intervention was aimed to reduce the amount of terrorist attacks in Turkey made by ISIS and Kurdish rebel groups. The creating of a buffer zone in the North of Syria would supposedly deny access to Turkey of ISIS linked groups.
However, unofficially the goal of the Turkish intervention is just as well, to prevent the Kurd in North eastern Syria and North-Western Syria to link their territories. By seizing the land in between of these two Kurdish-controlled areas, such linking of the two parts of Kurdish controlled territory would be rendered impossible by the Turkey-oriented forces. This objective became especially clear when the US called on the Kurdish rebels to retreat over the Euphrates river such to give full control of the area to Turkey.
The Kurdish troops have, however, not been standing still of their own. After initial setbacks in the north-western Kurdish controlled areas of northern Syria, the Kurdish troops were able to halt the advance of the Turkish forces. Furthermore, both troops in the North eastern as the north western Kurdish controlled parts of Syria, have hastened their advance to link up in the area of Al-bab.
Turkey’s intervention int eh North of Syria. The invasion of Turkish forces near the Kurdish controlled areas in the North of Syria indicate how strongly the offensive is aimed at the Kurds.
Picture via: Global Research
Both Turkish as Kurdish forces are now hurling forward in order to get control of the city of Al-bab. For the Kurds, the capture of the city would signal an important step in linking the two parts of Kurdistan. If, however, Al-Bab falls into Turkish hands a strong blow would be dealt to the unification of two Kurdish controlled parts of Syria.
The Syrian government initially responded rather mildly to the Turkish intervention. Even though it condemned the invasion, a military response was rather passive. Not surprisingly, since the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has its hands full with the fight against ISIS and other rebel troops as it is. However, the situation might force Syria to change its stance towards Turkey.
Recent remarks made by Erdogan that Turkish troops will advance to the north of Syria such to include Aleppo and even that Aleppo (and Mosul) belong to Turkey, promise little good for Syria. A confrontation between the SAA and the Turkish army therefore seems eminent.
But such a confrontation is to be avoided by the SAA because of two reasons. Firstly, despite that the SAA has made significant advances recently across Syria, its position is still rather weak. Furthermore, a direct confrontation between the Syrian and the Turkish army might be used to justify an intervention of western states.
However, the SAA seems to have a trump card up their sleeves in the form of the Kurdish troops in Northern Syria. If both parts of Kurdish controlled area were to link up, a buffer would be created between the Syrian and the Turkish army. Such a move would allow the Syrian army to avoid a confrontation between the Turks and the Syrians prevention politically difficult diplomatic situations and save military resources for deployment elsewhere.
Situation in Northern Syria as of December 1 2016. Both pro-Turey forces as the Kurds and SAA are seen hurrying towards Al-bab. Image via Southfront
Syria has currently even gone so far as to launch a joint SAA-Kurdish offensive from the north-western part of Syria, to link the Kurds their compatriots to the east. This situation would be a game changer for the Kurds, for the first time a major power would be interested in the existence of a Kurdish state.
Hence, The Turkish operation Euphrates Shield might very well lead to exactly that it tried to prevent: a viable Kurdistan in the North of Syria.