This time it’s different
One of these days, we will wake up to the news of a military operation by the Turkish military in northern Syria in the east of the River Euphrates. It is only a matter of time that this operation, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaled last week, starts. In official statements, Ankara’s commitment to this issue is reiterated and in news the latest details on the military preparations are reported. Analyses are being conducted on television programs.
The public had watched the two preceding operations of the military — Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch — with thrill and is now waiting for this third one with the same feelings.
Undoubtedly, every operation has its own elements. The different factors of this third operation lie within the wideness of its footprint, its topography, demographic structure, manpower and armament, as well as the political and military presence of the U.S. in the area.
As many analysts point out, the aforementioned factors increase the likelihood that the operation will be tougher and will last longer.
The critical zone
The east of the Euphrates is a territory in which the YPG became domineering and established wide and autonomous cantons after the spread of the civil war in Syria. With the support it received from the U.S., the YPG has established a large “army,” which, according to some, consists of 60,000-70,000 people.
Ankara sees the political and military structure in the east of Euphrates to be demolished as a necessity for the elimination of the threat of the YPG, which it considers to be an extension of the PKK, poses. Therefore, the aim of the operation on this front is to continue to prevail until “the last terrorist is rendered ineffective.”
Turkey, with this idea, could have cleared the YPG at its own initiative if the “U.S. obstacle” had not existed. Yet the presence of the U.S. in the region and its active support for the YPG did not make it possible. However, Erdoğan’s latest snap gave the message that Ankara would no longer wait and will act on its own.
Now the issue is how the U.S. will behave in the face of the Turkish military’s operation in the region. For instance, can the U.S. attempt to prevent the movement of Turkish jets on the basis of its air supremacy in the region? (Russia had opened its airspace to Turkish aircraft in the area over which it had control during the Olive Branch Operation).
Turkey’s expectation is that the U.S. avoids any behavior that will lead to conflict between the two ally countries on the Syrian front. This will truly be a disaster for both countries as well as NATO.
Intensive diplomatic efforts on this matter have been carried out quietly. Is it possible to think of a formula for the east of Euphrates in which the U.S. will not intervene amid the Turkish military operation? Or can there be a way to end the YPG presence in the region or exclude the threat of terror in this region? Can this way be implemented with Turkish-American co-operation?
Time is running out. Now, the upcoming hours will be decisive.