0750 GMT January 18, 2019
Turkish military on Saturday announced that it launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Saturday at 5.00 p.m.
While Turkey says the operation is to eliminate terrorist from the region, Syrian government considers it as violation.
To know more about the issue, Payman Yazdani reached out to the senior member of Turkey’s Republican People's Party (CHP), Dr. Osman Faruk logoglu.
Following is the full text of the interview with him:
What is the real goal behind the US’ provocative acts in the region like creating a border security force in Syrian Kurdish region or arming SDF?
One constant in the ever-fluctuating Syrian conflict has been the rivalry between Russia and the US. For influence and a say in the now and the future of Syria, Russia has put its stakes on Bashar al-Assad and the US on the Kurds. Turkey on the other, supporting various Sunni groups — some of them regarded as terrorists by the US and others — fighting Assad, opposes both Assad and PYD/YPG and thus has a more difficult path to tread.
Further complicating the situation has been recent US acts of support to PYD/YPG despite repeated warnings from Turkey that it is aiding a terrorist organization. After supplying YPG with heavy arms, the most recent US move to create a YPG-strong “border security force” was the “last straw that broke the camel’s back” for Turkey. It was definitely an act of provocation and was perceived by Ankara as a direct threat to its national security. Obviously, domestic politics are also strongly in play here. The whole situation has enabled President Erdoğan, who is facing elections next year, to galvanize the public in support of the “Olive Branch” operation, thus bolstering his political standing at home in Turkey. These are among the reasons why Turkey started the Afrin operation at this time.
US policy is based on the mistaken premise that to retain its influence in Syria and to counter-balance Russian presence there, America must continue to support PYD/YPG. It is a mistaken premise because when eventually there is a solution, the Syrian Kurds will be part of that settlement and American influence will be limited. By driving the Kurdish wedge between Turkey and the US, Russia paints US into a corner with only the Kurds supporting the Americans. The winner will be Russia with greater influence on all the partners of the new Syria, including on the Kurds.
Is the US real goal to fight Daesh or under this pretext the US is after its own geopolitical interests?
The fight against Daesh, though not finished completely, is basically won. So it cannot really serve as a continuing priority for the international coalition despite American exhortations to this end. US administration uses this argument to justify its decision to turn the SDG into an armed force, the core of which is the YPG. The US seems to forget that states have one flag and one army only. Border security force against whom, whose border? Turkey? What the US is aiming at is to bring the Turks and the Kurds into a full scale confrontation in Syria. This is a trap Turkey must definitely avoid by first ending the military operation at the earliest point in time possible while simultaneously using all avenues of diplomacy available to bring peace and stability to Syria.
So far the US particularly in Trump’s term has not been a trustworthy ally or partner for any of the country’s allies including Turkey. Will Americans be a trustworthy partner for Kurds, too?
Especially for the Trump administration there are no permanent friends or even allies. The corollary is also true: that there are no permanent adversaries. President Trump says, “America first”. Everyone else is secondary. This was most dramatically illustrated recently with the abandonment of the Iraqi Kurds. KRG leader Barzani was given the red carpet treatment in Washington and was lead to believe that he would have American support, backing him in his independence drive. This did not happen and Barzani was left out in the cold with his referendum. The US Government decided that being on better terms with Baghdad was more important for its interests than its relations were with Erbil. US may also abandon the Kurds of Syria as well if and when Washington feels it is in its interest to do so. However, the difference between Syria and Iraq in this respect is that in Syria as there is no ‘Syrian Abadi’ option for Washington.
What is the Turkey’s goal of hitting Afrin? To what extents the US provocative acts forced Turkey to begin Olive Branch Operation?
Turkey has declared three main objectives for its Afrin operation. One is to ensure the security of its border. A second goal is to clear the area of terrorists, YPG and other terrorist organizations included. The third objective is to prevent the YPG to establish a continuous corridor of land under its control in the north of Syria. The Turkish Government has cited Article 51 of the UN Charter as the legal basis of its operation. This is the article that refers to the right of legitimate self-defense of the UN member states. It is clear that Turkey has the right to secure the safety of its citizens against terrorist attacks from Syria. Undoubtedly what in the Turkish Government’s eyes was the US failure to cooperate with Turkey in fighting the terrorists in Afrin and its latest move to establish a “border security force” compelled Turkey to undertake this operation by its own means.
How successful can this operation be? Wasn’t it better for Turkey to try to solve the issue via diplomacy first?
The military success of the operation is almost certain. Turkish armed forces have planned this operation with great care and as of this writing; things seem to be going well according to the plan. But for it to have lasting positive impact in political terms there has to be an exit strategy, one that has political, strategic as well as military components. In any case, the operation should be completed as soon as possible and all Turkish soldiers must be withdrawn from Syrian territory. However, latest statements by President Erdoğan, Chief of Staff General Akar and the AKP government spokesperson signal that the duration of the military operation will probably be extended.
The longer the operation lasts, the more encumbered it will be by unforeseen difficulties and problems. To avoid dangerous complications down the road, a major step would be for the Turkish and Syrian Governments to start cooperating for the preservation of the territorial integrity of the country.
Will Turkey’s operation affect Syria peace talks?
The Turkish operation should not affect the Syria peace talks, provided it does not last long and provided that Turkey, Iran and Russia pursue their cooperation. The issue of the participation of the Kurds will somehow be resolved. Turkey objects to the presence of the YPG as a terrorist organization. But we must assume that the issue of the participation of the Kurds in the Sochi meeting will somehow be resolved by the Russians. As for the Geneva process, Turkey has supported it and there is no change in that policy. Once its security objectives achieved, Turkey must invest all its energies in the peace process because a peaceful, stable, secure Syria is the best guarantee for Turkey’s national interests.