“Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area”. Recep T. Erdogan
Bringing peace to the area that has witnessed one of the worst humanitarian crises, in last eight years is a highly ambitious and far-aiming claim. An almost a decade-long conflict has left very heavy damages to human life and materials that could take ages to recover from.
The only similar characteristic of Syria as before is Bashar Al Assad’s presidency, but nothing else is the same there; or in other words, Syria has drastically changed. Specially, the transformations have changed the old orders, identifying many new interests and security concerns. Therefore, the Turkish assault, indeed, affected many actors involved in Syria, actors who are surely calculating their odds for gain and loss in this very moment of the direct conflict.
In fact, the main loss of this new wave of assault is of the civilians who have just returned to their lands after defeat of the so-called Islamic State. In this incredibly important period, a regional and international consensus is needed to reconstruct the destroyed country; not only to encourage people to return to their homes, but also to prevent another wave of extremism in the crisis area. ISIS is defeated physically, but the ideology still lives, along with its militants taken prisoner, of which no country is willing to take responsibility for.
The chaos, as an outcome of Turkish military presence on Syrian soil and the security gap that was previously being filled by U.S. supported Kurds, will provide the opportunity to restart radical activities by any relevant extremist group. In confrontation with the Turkish army, Kurds will rightfully prioritize to fight or flee saving their lives rather than protecting radical prisoners; those who will escape and spread, ready to act like a time bomb. This speculation has become fact. Local officers have announced that more than 700 people linked to ISIS have escaped since the Turkish intervention begun.
The longer the Turkish military remains, so will the chaos and further instability of the region. In this matter, the European Union will be one of the main losers of this conflict because many ISIS “foreign fighters” will return back to the continent. In the meantime, the inevitable new wave of immigration will begin (which Europe is not prepared for due to the absence of adopted comprehensive immigration legislation concerning previous arrivals).
In all these, the existence vacuum of United States in the region will be filled by Russia, who is supporting Bashar Al Assad. After the failure of ISIS, the United States should have provided time and support to its allies by reaching a political solution with Turkey. Despite all the ongoing-events going at the moment, any regional actor, state or non-state will still intend to acquire or maintain an alliance with United States. However, by calculating the risks and trust issues, there will be an increased sense of conviction over accepting the alternative partnerships with Russia and China.
The justification provided by president Trump for abandoning the Kurds to face their fate is in fact a campaign promise on the premise of defeating ISIS and returning Americans soldiers home. Election-time sensitivity has seen an importance placed on the Trump administration’s “America first” policy; even though the cost of this decision would be very problematic in the near-future.
Islamic Republic of Iran, as one of the main actors in Syria and supporter of Bashar Al Assad, will be the biggest beneficiary of the Turkish assault. Even though Iran has been assisting Kurds in Syria and Iraq, the result of reduced Kurdish power in the region will be in favor of the integrity of Iran (which also has a Kurdish population). From the other side, if the presence of Turkey remains for a prolonged period with no result in reducing Kurdish power due to resistance or mediations, Turkey will face internal financial pressure and relationship issues with Europe, United States and Arab States who will favor Iran again as one of the regional competitors of Turkey.
Will the new cease fire, or “pause” as the Turks say, going to be realistic? The ambiguity of the “120 hours” stop is undebiable, since the safe zone is not clearly defined, but also, there are parties involved that may not take the pause serious and continue firing. The strong sectarian conflicts can cause many disasters with no way left to revover. The unstable region of the Middle East is not reaching toward peace, but actually facing more hard knots that are endangering international security. Once again, the region is coping with a very critical moment that will bring many regretful incidents in the future. This is a moment that could result in the return of ISIS, or another ethnic cleansing, and therefore, should not be ignored. As much as the situation seems highly complicated, there is still time for a compromise, or a proper consensus, that can certainly change all equations.
(You can read the last article by Ghazal Poorhasan here)