Turkish ATTACK on Syria

People stand together as they flee Ras al Ain town, Syria October 9, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said - RC150C998900

Turkish ATTACK on Syria

Russia-Syria Ties                                                                                                                                                   

Russia and Syria have always been strong allies in all major realms. Syria is important for Russia because of trade, political and other reasons which included stopping the proliferation of terrorism within Russian zone of influence. But, Russian support to Assad regime has been mostly logistical and political. Russia always made the bid for no military intervention in Syria but after chemical attack in Ghouta, it convinced Assad to dismantle chemical weapons. Moscow succeeded and OPCW (Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) started dismantling Syrian arsenal of chemicals weapons—In 2013, OPCW was awarded Nobel Peace Prize for this work. However, through Syrian crisis, Russia got a chance to get involved in the Middle Eastern politics. Because it’s the Syrian crisis on which the fate of the whole Middle East depends.image

US-Russia Antagonism

Russia wants US to leave Syria and it has consistently claimed that US presence in Syria is illegal. As the United States withdraws from Syria, Russia is stepping in, running patrols to separate warring factions, striking deals and helping President Assad advance. US withdrawal is being considered a great gift for Russia because Moscow perceives US President Donald Trump’s abandonment of Syria as a victory that adds greatly to its political capital.

Turkey’s Stance

Turkey is anti-Assad. It has very strong and monochromatic policy towards the Syrian crisis. It helps the rebel groups to gain control and power, and to topple Assad regime while at the same time hitting ISIS for security purpose in the region. It was quick to join anti-Assad forces and also in supplying armaments to rebels. It also formed the Syrian National Council in 2011 with an aim of getting rid of Assad.

Kurdish Factor

Kurds are a large ethnic minority. After World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. However, that promise was nullified three years later, when the Treaty of Lausanne set the boundaries of modern Turkey and made no such provision, leaving Kurds with minority status in their respective countries. Currently, between 25 and 35 million ethnic Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. As an ethnic community, Kurds have long faced persecution. As a result, a militant group, the Kurdistan Militant Party (PKK), emerged to protect the Kurds and it demanded an independent state for them in Turkey—it now calls for greater autonomy in the country, though. In the 1980, a violent conflict ensued between Turkish state and the PKK. It still regularly attacks Turkish security forces. Ankara, EU and US call PKK a terrorist group. To neutralize it, these powers established People’s Protection Units (YPG) which formed an alliance with local Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in 2015.

Before the uprising against President Assad began in 2011, most Kurds lived in cities of Damascus and Aleppo, and in three northern areas near Turkish border—Afrin in the west, Kobane (Ain al-Arab) in the centre, and Qamishli in the east.

Turkish Attack on Syria

Turkey had long threatened to launch an operation in SDF-held territory to create a 32-km-deep “safe zone” running for 480km along the Syrian side of the border. The second aim of the Turkey was to push away YPG from its borders.  On June 20, 2018, Turkey finally launched Operation Olive Branch on the ground that it was vital for its security. It also claims that it is fighting against ISIL, although this group does not exist in Afrin.pence

US urged Turkey to exercise restraint and decided to maintain a military presence in the region for unforeseeable future. This enraged the Turkish leadership. EU also warned Turkey that its offensive would undermine Geneva peace talks. Russia, though it had pulled back from Afrin, has recently renewed its ties with the YPG, while Turkey, too, has struck defence and trade deals with Russia.

Withdrawal of US forces from Syria was a green signal to Turkey as Turkish forces immediately attacked the Kurds who were erstwhile US allies. In sending its forces into Syria, the Turkish government seemed to have four primary goals: boost Erdogan’s popularity, make the establishment of a Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria impossible, destroy the YPG, and resettle Syrian refugees.GettyImages-854772816

Although Kurds were the allies of the United States in their struggle with ISIS, the latter changed its policy. First, President Trump tweeted that whoever wants to fight for Kurds is friend whether it is Russia or China. Later, he said that he would destroy Turkey’s economy. Then he tweeted that he had left the fate of Kurds with Bashar al-Assad to whom he called “our enemy” in the same breath. He held the opinion that Kurds didn’t fight with us in WWII; they fought for their land.

Russia is playing its role in settling the issue by arranging peace talks because it is now the sole problem-solver in the region. In this context, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Turkey and Russia on northern Syria was signed in Sochi last October.

Sochi Talks

After 9 October, when Turkey launched attack against Kurds, talks were held between Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia. During this rendezvous, both leaders agreed to push back Kurds from safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border. In these talks, presidents of both countries agreed on following points:

  1. The two sides restate their commitment to the preservation of the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the protection of national security of the Turkey.
  2. They emphasize their determination to combat terrorism in all forms and manifestation and to disrupt separatist agendas in the Syrian territory.
  3. In this framework, the established status quo in the current operation Peace Spring area will be preserved.
  4. Both sides reaffirm the importance of Adana agreement. The Russian federation will facilitate the implementation of Adana agreement in the current circumstances.
  5. Starting 12:00 noon of October 23, 2019, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will enter the Syrian side of Turkish- Syrian border, outside the area of Operation Peace Spring, to facilitate the removal of YPG elements and their weapons to the depth of 30km from the Turkish-Syrian border.
  6. All YPG elements and their weapons will be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifat.
  7. Both sides will take necessary measures to prevent infiltration of terrorist elements.
  8. Joint effort will be launched to facilitate the return of refugees in a safe and volunteer manner.
  9. A joint monitoring and verification mechanism will be established to oversee and coordinate the implementation of this memorandum.
  10. The two sides will continue to work to find a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict within the Astana Mechanism and will support the activity of the Constitutional Committee.


Turkey has long been expressing concerns over the attacks by the Syrian regime. Following talks between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 8, a new ceasefire has been announced between Damascus and the opposition groups in the Idlib province.

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