Syria: A confederation of terror organizations
A general review on the state of affairs around Turkey’s immediate neighborhood would plainly show that it’s surrounded with a chaotic wave, from Europe to the Balkans; from Eurasia to the Caucasus; from the Middle East to North Africa. Europe is in a deep crisis economically and socially with growing xenophobia and ultra-nationalism casting a huge shadow on its future.
Greece is going bankrupt and its collapse will deal a huge blow to the economic order on the European continent. In Eurasia, the tension between Russia and the NATO is increasing, with concerns that it could spark a hot conflict between the two. As one of the most dangerous frozen conflicts, the Nagorno-Karabakh issue between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Caucasus constitute yet another problem in the region.
However, the worst situation is in the Middle East, along Turkey’s approximately 1,300 kilometer borders with Iraq and Syria. Both countries are facing risks of disintegration: Iraq has been already divided into three parts: roughly speaking Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the middle and Shiites in the south. The central government led by Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has no control in about two thirds of the country, causing an important governance problem.
In Syria, however, the situation is becoming the worst. At the bi-monthly National Security Council (MGK) meeting in Ankara on June 29, senior government and military officials described the country’s southern neighbor “a confederation of terrorist organizations.” It was Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş who made this point on the record in a meeting July 2nd.
“Look, Iraq has come to the edge of being divided into three parts. Syria’s disintegration would be worse; it could be divided into 33 parts if things continue like this. Syria has become a confederation of numerous terror organizations. There are so many terror organizations that we do not know their names; but, of course, the worst one is Daesh [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant],” he stressed.
This assessment follows two-week long tension along Turkey-Syria border as the Turkish army visibly reinforced its existence along the frontier, particularly across the Jarablus-Mare line, a 90-kilometer long part of the border under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Having made this assessment that Syria has become a seedbed for violent extremist terrorist organizations and that ISIL’s advance to northwestern Syria is a direct threat to Turkey’s security, the Turkish officials are seemingly recalibrating their position towards Syria.
It would be said that Turkey is slowly abandoning its position, which would summarized as “Assad must go first to wipe ISIL out in Syria.” Instead, it regards ISIL as a primary concern that would put Turkey’s stability at stake by triggering a new refugee influx as they march to western parts of Syria by pushing the Free Syrian Army, especially around the Mare.
Apart from this, information floating around Russian and American capitals that the international community better get ready for an immediate collapse of the Assad regime is an additional input for Turkey’s change in its position and its taking of border security as its priority.
Another change is in Turkey’s deal with the Democratic Union Party of Syria (PYD), designated as a terror organization by Ankara, which sees the PYD as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “The PYD may be a rational actor for the future of Syria,” a high level official said last week. But it should, as soon as possible, quit the idea of establishing its own entity in northern Syria, the official added.
Today’s picture tells us two main things: Contrary to senior government officials’ efforts to put the PYD into the same basket with ISIL, the MGK has differentiated the two groups and called the Syrian Kurds a potential ally. Second, ISIL has become Turkey’s main priority, which will create a better understanding between Ankara and Washington in dealing with the Syrian quagmire. It would not be a surprise if Turkey and the U.S. would fight against ISIL together in designated areas of northern Syria.