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Turkish invasion: Preliminary inventory

Al-Etihad, UAE, October 25

Contrary to what has been said on international news outlets, Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria did not happen due to [US President Donald] Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from that area. Trump’s decision made the opportunity easier to pursue, but it was certainly not the motivation. Ankara had been preparing for this invasion for a long time. In fact, public opinion polls show that there is internal support in Turkey for such an invasion because many in Turkey believe that the Kurdish minority is a threat to the state, and that any support for it, even indirect, jeopardizes Turkey’s sovereignty. In other words, any gain for the Kurds in any of the neighboring countries could encourage Turkey’s Kurds to demand more rights and autonomy, which would cause major turmoil within the country. Trump’s sudden and impromptu decision is an opportunity in the sense that he cleared the way. Some in Ankara took this move as a kind of green light, especially when Trump repeatedly said that the Turkish-Syrian border is not the US border. The main question here is: What is the result of this invasion? First, Washington is really losing a lot because it seems like an unreliable ally or partner. The Kurds of Syria did a great service to US forces and the international community during the war on ISIS and captured many of its leaders, but here the US administration, instead of rewarding them, is weakening them and even handing them over to their worst enemies. Second, Ankara appears to be in a state of victory after taking over Syrian territory relatively easily. It may retain some of these lands and send a clear message to the Kurdish minority at home that they need to abide by [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s rules. But the price of this partial victory for the Turkish regime far exceeds its benefits. Relations with Turkey’s key allies are deteriorating, not just Washington or Moscow, but also partners within NATO and the European Union. President Erdogan has been accused by the vast majority of international leaders of “insanity,” and most European countries have announced a ban on sending arms to Turkey. Turkey lost much of its soft power even before this invasion, and its recent actions have officially marked the end of its dream of joining the European Union. Third, the regional situation is worsening, as ISIS militiamen, who were fleeing as a result of Kurdish strikes, are now thriving, and their leaders are fleeing prisons to restore life into their militias and support networks. Concurrently, the number of refugees and displaced people in the region is increasing. So is there a clear winner? The answer is, of course, Russia and Assad. Moscow managed to increase its foothold in Syria, and compared to the improvised approach taken by the Trump Administration, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin seems like a stable and reliable partner. The regime of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad is also benefiting from the Kurds’ decision to cooperate with him against the Turkish invasion, thus increasing his credibility in international eyes. – Bhagat Qarni (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)