There are many caveats to a possible Turkish military operation in northern Syria, the most important of which is the dispute with the United States and Russia, the high cost, Turkey’s lack of air cover over Syrian territory, the internal economic situation, and the state of polarization with the opposition.
Ankara- It seems that Ankara is more determined than ever to launch a fourth military operation in northern Syria after the Turkish parliament approved the extension of the government’s authorization memorandum, in light of the instability of its areas of influence, and the Russian and international complacency in dealing with the organizations that launch their attacks on the Turkish army.
In an unprecedented decision, the Republican People’s Party voted “no” in parliament to extending Turkish operations in Syria and Iraq.
While Ankara is preparing an army that is likely to participate in a military operation in northern Syria, attention is turning to the upcoming meeting between Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Joe Biden at the end of this month, to resolve outstanding issues, foremost of which is the military operation in northern Syria.
The Turkish parliament ratified for the first time in October 2014 a mandate to send armed forces outside the country. Since that time, the Turkish army has launched a series of military operations, most notably the “Euphrates Shield” in 2016 against the Islamic State in the countryside of Aleppo, then the “Olive Branch” operation in Afrin in 2018, and the “Peace Spring” operation in eastern Syria in 2019.
And there were media reports about the Turkish army’s readiness to carry out an expected military operation in northern Syria, targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Tal Rifaat and Manbij in Aleppo, as well as Ain Issa and Tal Tamer in the Hasaka countryside.
The newspaper, “Sabah”, which is close to the government, said that Ankara is moving to form a new security belt to protect the areas it controls in northern Syria, pointing out that the Turkish intelligence and the General Staff are in contact with the active forces in the specified areas to take the necessary steps to destroy the strategic objectives within the safe line.
As for Milliyet newspaper, it indicated that the Turkish forces have become on alert, after the approval of the Turkish Parliament, noting that the military activities of the “terrorist organization” in Tel Rifaat are closely monitored.
“Turkey” newspaper, which is close to the government, quoted sources as saying that “information was exchanged with the leaders of the national army factions on the strategy and tactics of the military operation, which will be implemented by two main lines and an army of 35,000 people.”
The sources added that the locations and numbers of soldiers who will serve on the fronts of Tal Rifaat, Manbij, Ain Issa and Tal Tamer in the Hasaka countryside have been determined.
For its part, the “Khabar 7” website stated that preparations are continuing to intervene and eliminate the “terrorist corridor” in northern Syria, where a meeting was held with the leaders of the National Army, and they were briefed on the plan to implement the operation, in which 35,000 fighters will participate.
In this context, the former Deputy Chief of Military Intelligence in the Turkish Chief of Staff, Ismail Hakki, confirmed that his forces may launch an operation after the availability of weather and surrounding conditions as well, in an area of the SDF deployment, and the focus will be on bombing its supplies and centers.
The retired general told Al-Jazeera Net that “Ankara has reinforced the forces along the border line between Tel Rifaat and Afrin, and the “counter fronts” are monitored by Turkish drones to counter potential attacks, and armored vehicles have been sent to reinforce the military units there.”
According to Haqqi, “the United States and Russia are delaying the removal of the SDF forces from the border in order to pressure Turkey, despite their apparent solidarity with us when our soldiers were targeted.”
Experts said that Ankara has 6 areas that it wants to control if it launches its military operation, but it focuses mainly on 4 areas: Tal Rifaat, Manbij, Ain al-Arab (Kobani), and al-Malikiyah.
As for Tel Rifaat, from which most of the offensive operations against Turkey are launched, the latter considers it a top priority to reduce attacks and maintain sustainable stability in the opposition areas under its influence.
Controlling Tal Rifaat means controlling the last remaining enclave between Afrin and the areas of the Syrian regime, as well as limiting the Russian presence in the west of the Euphrates, in addition to ending the hopes of the PKK and SDF forces to launch military operations to restore the city of Afrin.
“If Ankara decides to launch its threatening operation in Syria, it is likely that it will be an operation with a limited ceiling, specific goals, and a short duration, and perhaps the goal of it will be to compel Moscow and Washington to the previous understandings, or to conclude additional understandings in the same direction,” said Saeed Al-Hajj, a researcher in Turkish affairs.
Al-Hajj pointed out, in an interview with Al-Jazeera Net, that the many caveats in front of the operation, foremost of which is the dispute with the United States and Russia, and the great cost and expected repercussions of any expanded and rolling operation without coordination with them or one of them. As well as Turkey’s lack of air cover over Syrian territory, the internal economic situation, and the increasing polarization with the opposition.
Opposition to the “Republican People”
For his part, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, justified his opposition to extending the operations in Syria and Iraq, by saying to Erdogan: “What did you do when 33 of our soldiers were martyred? We do not want any of our soldiers or our children to bleed. Why do you do it and for what reason do you do it?”
The newspaper, “Cumhuriyet”, which is close to the “People’s Party”, stated that it responded to the presidential memorandum regarding the extension of the operations, by asking about “the fate of the safe zone” with a length of 145 km and a depth of 30 km east of the Euphrates? What happened to the project to transfer Syrian refugees to the safe zone? And the 12 watchtowers What is the response to Russia that killed 33 of our soldiers in Syria? How will we protect our borders from the possible new wave of immigration from Syria? Do you have a plan, Erdogan?”
However, researcher Al-Hajj attributed the People’s Party’s vote, for the first time, against extending the operations, to several reasons, the most important of which is the attempt to win over the (Kurdish) People’s Democratic Party’s bases in preparation for the 2023 elections or to go to early elections.
The party also believes, according to Al-Hajj, that the authorization memorandum extends for two years, that is, beyond the end of the current president’s term. It is not known who will be the next president, according to the opposition party’s vision.