Ankara's fight against terror set to enter new stage
by Nur Özkan Erbay
ANKARANov 01, 2019 - 5:40 pm GMT+3
by Nur Özkan Erbay
Nov 01, 2019 5:40 pm
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan this week made two crucial announcements regarding Operation Peace Spring, Turkey's cross-border operation into Syria, which launched on Oct.9. At both a Republic Day reception, and later in his weekly announcement to Parliament, the president declared: “We will respond to attacks coming out of the safe zone in the harshest way and will expand our safe zone area if necessary.” Erdoğan explained that certain countries go about eliminating terrorist threats to their national security by combatting them wherever they can be found, adding, "This being the case, it means that they also accept that Turkey has the same rights. This includes the terrorists with whom they shake hands.” He concluded that “Hopefully, we will have some good news to deliver our people on the issue soon.” Upon being asked, following the speech, whether Mazloum Kobani, currently considered by Washington the “General” of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - a force predominantly led by the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) - would be featured in this upcoming news, the president refused to comment, but alluded that it would be a positive development for the country. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, with whom the president spoke this week, however, indicated that Turkey would continue its operation until the last terrorist in the "terror corridor" was eliminated. During a military forces inspection on the Syrian border, Akar stated that "Although the operation may have come to a pause, it is not over," adding that "Something could occur at any moment. That's why we must be ever-ready." Considering such statements, Turkey has responded to Russia's suggestion that 34,000 YPG militants withdraw from the designated safe zone, since Moscow wishes to safeguard the expulsion process. Turkey is clearly determined to clear the safe zone of all terrorist elements and, to this end, will make no concessions in its agreements with the U.S. and Russia.
On Friday, Nov. 1, Turkey and Russia launched joint patrols 10 kilometers deep into Syria, across an area which is part of the 30-kilometer safe zone from which Russia has pledged to expel YPG militants. Turkey will evaluate the credibility of this Russian pledge on the basis of the completion of these joint operations. On the other hand, Washington will likely continue to cooperate with YPG elements beyond the safe zone, despite seeming to implement its pledges in accordance with agreements made with Turkey. The U.S. is also continuing its efforts to legitimize the alleged leaders of the YPG terrorist organization by inviting them to Washington. This being the case, Turkey is understandably wary of the reliability of the U.S., President Erdoğan having set certain time limits for implementing agreements with both Washington and Moscow alike. U.S. domestic affairs have also undermined efforts to thaw Turkish-American relations. The rapid success of Operation Peace Spring has caused alarm in Washington, since few in the administration expected a Turkish intervention to take place. The aftershocks of the operation are still being felt, as can be seen in the U.S. House of Representative's recent bill on the events of 1915. The resolution has revealed a widespread attitude of hostility being felt towards Turkey within Washington, having failed to even coincide, as American discourse on the issue traditionally does, with the month of April, in which the alleged genocide is commemorated.
However, such developments will fail to prevent Turkey from continuing the struggle against terrorist groups in Syria who constitute a threat to the country's integrity. Turkey has consistently shown a strong willingness to engage in dialogue and resolve its outstanding issues with patience, persistence and diplomacy. It has also demonstrated its hard power on the ground. The strength of this determination will continue, regardless of whether its interlocutors are able to keep their promises.