07.09.2016 Author: Yuriy Zinin

The Euphrates Shield as Seen From The Middle East

34523424324Turkish military intervention in Syria that is know under its codename the Euphrates Shield and its consequences have been actively discussed by media outlets and experts all across the Middle East.

The reasoning behind this operation, some commentators say, is Ankara’s intention to clear its border of ISIS elements. Additionally, experts would point out, Turkey wanted to prevent Kurdish militias from establishing a corridor that would connect the enclaves they control in northern Syria by driving them to the east of the Euphrates River.

This step also includes Turkey’s plans to create a buffer zone for the anti-government forces in Syria, that have been caught between the radical Islamists, Damascus troops and Kurds for a long time.

Some experts doubt that the Turkish intervention, even despite the fact that Ankara has the second largest army in NATO, wouldn’t be a walk in the park. According to the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera, during the assault of the Syrian city of Jarablus, ISIS militants preffered to flee instead of attempting to hold off the push. Now Turkey has entered into direct confrontation with the organization, that retains its sleeper cells all across the region, that can be put to action on most any moment.

The later stages of the Euphrates Shield will provoke a lot of problems for Turkey both in political, economic and other areas, say analysts all across the region. They underline the difference in approaches that Ankara and Washington take to the problem of Kurds and stress the impressive differences between the positions of these states in regard to the Democratic Union Party and the formation of the Kurdish People’s Defense Forces.

Thus, the Turkish elite sees no difference between ISIS and Kurdish units, calling them “terrorist, while Washington considers Kurds to be the most effective partner in the fight against ISIS.

According to the American analyst of Palestinian origin Khaled Saffuri, the United States has been looking for a loyal ally in Syria and Iraq, and Kurds have proven that they would be able to match the description. But Washington is well aware of the fact that authorities all across the region oppose the emergence of an independent Kurdish state.

Erdogan stated after the start of the operation that he would support the territorial integrity of Syria, claiming that he doesn’t want this country to be torn apart. Washington is willing to soften the territorial aspirations of the Party of Democratic Union, but does not want to alienate it in any way, in a bid to strike the balance between Ankara’s interests and Kurdish aspirations. Washington recognizes the fact that the Kurds are a great tool in the implementation of its strategy in Syria, but they cannot turn their back on old partners, and Kurds are well aware of this fact.

Against the backdrop of rapid kaleidoscopic changes in the Syrian conflict, a number of political scientists has been voicing various concerns. The loudest one is: do we regard the invasion of Syrian as a fundamental shift in Ankara’s policy or is it rather a tactical steps to cope with the problems that have been accumulating in Turkey after the failed military coup in a bid to survive the crisis? There’s a number of media reports about the discussions which are now supposedly being held in secrecy between Ankara and Damascus on mutual concessions. The alleged subject of these discussions is the control of certain regions.

The Iraqi journalist Taher Alwan is pointing out that while the countries involved in Syria are often subjected to poisonous criticism, other Arab players prefer to stand and wait for the conflict to be solved. The only thing they are willing to do to help is to send money or weapons to different waring groups. Thereby, they demonstrated their chronic disunity and antagonism, while continuing to live with the illusion that their only responsibility is to take part in various international gatherings in support of Syria, Libya or Iraq. It is unlikely that after the defeat of any of the parties anybody would ask the Arabic opinion on any matter then. The author is convinced that the Middle East is in dire need of self-criticism and must kiss such illusions goodbye.

Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

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