There is no doubt that the military operation that Turkey launched in Afrin last weekend is being carefully watched around the world. As in all military operations, there are immediate military objectives to be accomplished as well as long-term strategic goals. This operation's most important goals are to stop two terrorist organizations that carry out terrorist attacks against Turkey by using their safe havens in Afrin.
One of these terrorist groups is Daesh, against which the entire world is – supposedly – at war. Despite their recent territorial losses, Daesh is still active in Afrin and thus constitutes a threat to Turkey. The second group Turkey is targeting is the PKK-affiliate People's Protection Units (YPG). We know that many countries, including the United States, say that the fight against Daesh would be impossible without the help of YPG militants, but it is rather a pretext to hide other intentions.
Turkish authorities emphasize that the operation's aim is not to question Syria's territorial integrity, but to eliminate threats directed at Turkey from Syrian territory. In order to show Turkey's good intentions, the government notified the U.N. Security Council, and all involved countries. Turkey says that its military operation was the last option, although it was necessary. Turkey didn't encounter any problem in Syria's air space until now, so one may suggest that everyone has accepted Turkey's explanations.Turkey is not a great power that can impose its will to other players, but a regional power that has the capacity to stop other countries' game plans. In this particular example, Turkey has decided to stop the U.S. from developing closer ties with armed terrorist groups active in Syria, because Ankara has noticed that these terrorist organizations were being progressively accepted, by Washington, as political interlocutors. The worst part is, because of the actions of the PKK and YPG, Turkey was tired of being prevented from crafting constructive relations with Syria's real Kurdish population. The U.S. has committed an important mistake there, as it preferred to cooperate with Turkey's enemies, rather than with Turkey, its NATO ally for six decades. The U.S. was obsessed about limiting Iran's influence and protecting Israel, so it didn't care about Turkey's objections. Washington didn't understand, or did not want to understand, that its actions are only serving Russia's interests, after all.
Speaking of Russia, it is noteworthy that Moscow has withdrawn its military personnel from Afrin right before the start of the Turkish operation; an implicit message that Russia was accepting Turkey's right to intervene. This gesture was also a message to the Assad regime. Maybe because of the operation, Damascus will try to get closer to the YPG and even the U.S., but such a rapprochement will probably disturb Iran too much. So Assad's room to maneuver is not that large.
We'll better understand the political outcomes of this military operation in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, we can already say that U.S. President Donald Trump's attitude in Syria is only helping Russia. No matter what, once Turkey succeeds in destroying terrorist safe havens in Afrin and prevents the emergence of new autonomous regions at its border, the international community will be able to impose new cease-fire zones.
These safety zones may be put under the supervision of the United Nations. The international community may find a Dayton-like political solution that will be guaranteed by U.N. peacekeeping forces. Such a solution will probably not reassure Turkey completely, but it may at least carry the Syrian crisis once again at an inter-state level rather than a complex war between dozens of fractions.
It is high time for discussing peace scenarios for Syria instead of war plans. Instead of arming local populations and watching them kill one and other, involved countries must find ways to prevent more bloodshed in this country.
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