Turkey plans no imminent action into Syria

Turkey plans no imminent action into Syria

This column on Nov. 14, 2012, described Turkey’s border with Syria as the most dangerous frontier in the world, underlining the risks for the Turkish army at that time, while urging the Turkish government over provocative attempts aiming to drag it into its southern neighbor’s civil war.

It should be recalled that the al-Nusra Front was a new-born terror group at the time, along with some other minor al-Qaeda affiliated groups, and that the world had not yet been shocked with the inhumane massacres of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

Now the Syrian theater is perhaps a hundred times worse than in 2012, with dozens of armed groups involved in the ongoing civil war in line with their own ideological, religious or ethnic objectives. The number of Syrian refugees seeking shelter in neighboring countries has exceeded six million and internally displaced ones are making another few millions in a country whose cities have already been ruined because of heavy clashes. 

Moreover, ISIL has become the world’s most dangerous and leading Islamic terror gang, storming North Africa and Europe as well. The spillover of the Syrian civil war can now be observed in different corners of the world, just like it was witnessed in Tunisia, France and Kuwait on June 26. 

Today on the 911-kilometer-long Turkey-Syria border, ISIL’s flag is waving only a few meters from the Turkish border in some parts, while the pro-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) is controlling 400 kilometers of it and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has control of the rest of the frontier. 

Given this chaotic order of the border, Turkey’s senior officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have singled out the PYD’s military achievements against ISIL and in grabbing control of the strategically important town of Tal Abyad as developments against the national interest of Turkey and vowed to take all necessary military actions. The government issued a written decree to the military to have it mobilized along the border and cross into Syria if necessary. 

The pro-government media first described the PYD as more dangerous than ISIL and then reported the military action plans into Syria that would establish a buffer zone between two cantons of the Syrian Kurds so that they won’t be able to merge. 

Under these conditions Turkey’s top security board convened June 29 and discussed the situation in detail and reviewed the military’s contingency plans. As expected, given the fact that there is an interim government in power and any action into Syria could overshadow coalition talks, the government is unlikely to make an adventurous move. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu eased concerns in a televised interview dismissing claims that Turkey will hold an immediate operation into Syria.  

He also underlined that the Turkish army would never take such steps without reason, but it was its duty to reinforce the security along its borders to protect its citizens.  

It seems this two-week long campaign launched by President Erdoğan has not received enough support from the Turkish army as well as the government. This government-making process will surely witness more such surprises.