The Effects of the Turkish Military Operation in Northeastern Syria

The Effects of the Turkish Military Operation in Northeastern Syria
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This article was written on 8th of October before the Turkish military operation


"We are very worried and afraid. We don't know what will happen. Should we stay or move to another city? How can Trump abandon us?" said my mother in a phone call from her house in Ras al-Ain, which is located just meters from the Turkish border.


This is the case for my family, but it is also the question being echoed by many in the affected area along the Syrian and Turkish border. My family made the difficult decision to leave Ras al-Ain for Hasakah in northeast Syria. However, many Syrians do not have this luxury. During this time of uncertainty, civilians are fearfully waiting for the Turkish incursion of their cities. This offensive will leave hundreds, if not thousands of victims at risk of human rights violations while causing major demographic changes in the region. It is not only against the Kurds but also against the Arabs and Assyrians in the area. This is exacerbated by the fact that the Sultan Murad Division is comprised primarily of Syrian Turkmen, furthering the ethnic divide.


President Erdoğan has flagged 2 million Syrian refugees for forced relocation to the formerly called ‘safe zone’ in Syria. Of those identified for relocation, 70% are not former residents of the area and do not have roots in the specified region. Many of the former residents of this area do not wish to return. They have lost faith and confidence in the governance promises provided by the Turkish-supported Syrian armed groups who have announced their intent to control the area. The situation in Afrin in northwest Syria, which continues to suffer from increased murders, rampant kidnappings, and aggravated crimes, is seen as an example of what a Turkish occupied region could become.


Turkish military operations within Syria will also have economic repercussions on the regional stabilization efforts. These incursions could negate all efforts by the United States to support stabilization. It creates a security vacuum, through which Iran and Russia will step in to control the significant oil reserves of the Syrian cities of Deir Ezzor and Qamishli. This will ease the burden of economic sanctions on Iran, the Syrian Regime, and even Russia. Turkey and its affiliates will control agricultural crops and border crossings along the Turkish border. Given the experience of the factions in Afrin, it is very plausible that these factions will loot the livelihood of civilians and make their living conditions even worse.


On the geopolitical level, it is expected that the United States withdrawal and the Turkish incursion will allow Iran to advance on Deir Ezzor and impose a security cordon dividing Syria and Iraq. This will split the Sunni tribes between Syria and Iraq, diminishing their joint strength. This will further enforce the security cordon on Syria from several geographic sides (Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan).  As Iran, with Shiite Hezbollah support, separates Zabadani, Qusayr, and Mount Qalamoun from Lebanon, it ultimately undermines the efforts of the United States and its successors in the region to contain Iran and its militias.


In terms of security, an estimated ​​30% of Syria is predicted to enter into a state of security chaos which would extend into Iraq. Turkey, and its supporting factions, will not be able to manage the increased insecurity in the region; it doesn’t have enough military and financial resources. The burden of responsibility for detained ISIS fighters will be shifted to Turkey,   which is not currently in a position, nor will be, to ensure the detention of former ISIS fighters.


Read more:

Potential scenarios following an American withdrawal from Syria


An additional security risk is the collapse of the social resistance that has been fostered as a bulwark against ISIS’s ideology, which is shared by other extremist groups. One of the primary contributing factors to ISIS’s geographic defeat has been the community resiliency fostered in the SDF controlled areas. Therefore, the collapse of the SDF and its security system will likely precipitate weakening of these communities and thus provide a ripe platform for the continued recruitment of civilians by ISIS and other extremist groups.


The solution for a stable and peaceful Syria cannot be measured solely through such factors as the changing of the dominant power structures, resolution of ISIS detainees, return of IDPs and refugees to their homes, or Turkey’s military operations on Syrian ground. The solution must come from inclusive democracy and a comprehensive political resolution that establishes a lasting peace both internally and externally. Only a true democracy can protect Syrians, be they Arab, Kurdish, Assyrian, Turkman, Christian or Muslim.


Governments that claim to support the aspirations of the Syrian people, led by the United States as an example of such a democracy, should help Syria achieve this through the implementation of international resolutions, in particular UNSC Resolution 2254. Any other action will only result in the break from one dictatorship to the widespread chaos of a country divided and at the mercy of global geo-political positioning and power lobbying.



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