Why is Afrin so important?
Turkey has been flexing its muscle. It has been building up its military presence on the border with Syria. High volume political rhetoric, as well as back channel diplomacy have been continuing.
In the meantime, a pro-government newspaper distributed a video clip demonizing the United States as the “new global villain,” while knowing fully well the ruling group orchestrates the public perception. This is an example showing the decision to step up the campaign of antagonism with the United States.
Why so? Bashing Israel had helped promote ruling elites for some time, but Turkey had paid a humiliating price for it. The initial harvest of the confrontation with Russia had been good, but had it not been really painful to take a U-turn from whatever had been said and done in order to achieve some sort of semi-normalization of ties? With Germany, the Netherlands and many other European Union countries and their institutions, Turkey has been on a course of crisis for a long time. How it will get out of that hurdle, no one knows.
From rampant reports and messages in between the lines in remarks or media reports, it should not be secret for anyone that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan firmly believes that the mastermind of the July 15 coup was the United States or some U.S. public establishments. Fethullah Gülen’s continued refuge in Pennsylvania, as well as the Iran sanctions busting case were what Erdoğan’s Turkey has perceived as “all elements of a hostile systematic campaign.”
Would all these and other anomalies in Turkey-West relations justify development of a confrontational rhetoric? If Turkey attacking U.S.-nourished and supported Syrian Kurdish militia might end up in a confrontation situation between the biggest and second biggest military powers of NATO, can Turkey undertake such a risk? Would the U.S. turn a blind eye to such a probability and continue aligning with the Syrian Kurds, at the expense of losing not only Turkey but perhaps risking the demise of its most important global tool, NATO?
Turkey will not allow Syrian Kurds to establish a belt along the Turkish-Syrian border, nor will it allow the Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish enclaves to connect. Turkey’s existential threat perception requires it to undertake whatever is required, including a full-fledged war, to defer such a “hostile development.”
The Syrian border town of Afrin and its continued control by the Syrian extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) separatist gang are such a high threat for Turkey for other very important reasons. First and foremost, of these of course is the fact that Afrin has been the passage point of logistical support the PKK has been receiving. Besides, the area has become some sort of new training ground for the gang. Was it not interesting that most of the arms, ammunition and weapons systems Turkey captured in operations were U.S. or Russian made? Was it insignificant that most of these reached the PKK through Afrin?
Turkey will not allow the Syrian Kurdish groups or the PKK to control its border with Syria. At the moment, Syrian Kurds control almost 65 percent of the Turkish-Syrian border. If an army of 30,000-strong is established with U.S.-support and the Syrian extension of the PKK is further consolidated, Turkey might face a far more serious existential threat.
Such a development might endanger Turkey’s territorial and national integrity. With Afrin under PKK control from Kilis to Hatay, a large area of Turkey would be under a very serious direct security threat. Under such a situation, as Turkey would lose control of the Amanos range, it would become even more difficult to stop PKK infiltrations. Worse, with Afrin under PKK control, the gang would have access to the sea and thus, direct logistic supply capability. Besides, not only PKK control of Afrin and the 30,000-strong U.S.-nourished “army of terrorism” would pose a serious threat to Turkey, such a development would be the end of hopes for Syria to emerge out of the current mess with its territorial integrity.