London, July 30th, 2019.
Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism is aware of Turkey’s continued importance in the Middle East, particularly as it negotiates its response to the ongoing war in Syria.
Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) which consists of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his senior military commanders is reportedly considering a military operation in northeast Syria, despite the presence there of US special forces alongside their Syrian Kurdish allies. The Syrian Kurdish groups are considered a terrorist network by the Turkish government.
Erdogan may press ahead with the military move despite the risk of punitive US sanctions, which are triggered by Congress when states purchase Russian military hardware. This would undermine Turkey’s economic recovery. But Erdogan may have calculated that the need to preserve its Turkish alliance will override US displeasure at Turkey’s military closeness with Russia.
Turkey and the US are allies in NATO but Ankara purchased a Russian antiaircraft system that Washington claims will undermine NATO security and the US has ejected Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program in response to the $2.5 billion acquisition from Russia.
Negotiations on jointly establishing a buffer zone that would remove the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the Turkish border region are ongoing between Turkey and the US. But Erdogan has suggested that those talks are considered a completely separate issue from Turkey’s option to attack the SDF, who have fought the Islamic State alongside US soldiers since 2014.
Turkey considers the SDF a national security threat because of its links to militants who have waged an insurgency since 1984 within Turkey. “Regardless of the result of the meetings with the US over establishing a safe zone along the Syrian border, we are determined to shatter the terrorist corridor east of the Euphrates River,” Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party on Friday.
President Trump has lobbied Republican lawmakers to resist punishing Turkey and has said that he he does not blame Turkey for buying Russia’s advanced S-400s. Turkey’s security has been undermined since the Syrian war began in 2011 and remains a key political issue.
Russia is happy to supply Turkey if the US boycotts sales. Russia and Turkey have cooperated, although they support opposite sides in the ongoing war. Erdogan negotiated a ceasefire with Russian President Vladimir Putin to protect Idlib province, in northwest Syria, where more than three million civilians are sheltering. But this has been put to he test since April this year, with more than 400 civilians killed and at least 440,000 displaced (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on July 25).
Syria and Russia have increased airstrikes in the area, where Tahrir a-Sham, listed as a terrorist group by the UN, is the main rebel force. Turkey controls more than 2% of Syrian land along its border after Russia allowed it to enter and capture territory from both Islamic State and Kurdish forces. Turkey is reportedly helping Russia “pinpoint” militants in northwest Syria and Ankara is being informed in advance of Russian airstrikes.
Turkey is keen to perform its key strategic function in maintaining the geopolitical balance across the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Middle East, as well as in Afghanistan. For Ankara to perform this role as well as maintain its own internal security, it will continue to maximise its position in Syria and take aggressive steps when it deems them necessary.
Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism is an independent, non-partisan, think tank. Tactics researches terrorism to identify its causes and best possible remedies, always bearing in mind the protection of individual liberties and the human rights of all those affected.
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