Turkey, the land of ex-combatants

Turkey, the land of ex-combatants

Let go of everything. Will the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad take Aleppo? Will the Kurds close the Azaz corridor? 

This is what is being debated in Turkey now. However, the consequences of what these developments, together with the consensus reached between Washington and Moscow on a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria, will bring to Turkey, are, somehow, not being assessed.   

Actually, the real story is different. Because as the regime and the Kurds continue to gain ground against the opposition forces, Turkey will be introduced to a brand new concept: After the refugees, the ex-combatants, the ones that fought the regime, the moderates or the jihadists, will take shelter in Turkey as they will be defeated in Syria. 

The ex-combatant concept is included in the United Nations’ program prepared for the solution of long-term armed disputes. 

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) is the most important component of the program.

Following the end of the conflict, this program is designed for militants who were members of the previously warring organizations. 

The concept, as it is, does not actually reflect all the consequences of the Syrian civil war, because the combatants who would flee to Turkey when repelled by the regime would also not desert their organizations; they would be ready to return at any moment. 

However, if we assume that Turkey would make them leave their arms on the Syrian side when they enter the country, then they would be ex-combatants. 

Well, what happens to these ex-combatants when the DDR experience is viewed? This program aims for the reintegration of these people into society. However, the total picture is full of examples of how these former warriors continue to war in other forms. 

The issue is that the Syrian civil war is a story that will keep going for at least the next 10 years, both in the refugee dimension and with its continuing spiral of violence. 

The more violence it generates, the more people will join the dispute. More young people will take arms. More people will learn to kill. While these people are named “combatants” because of the ongoing civil war in their countries, when they leave Syria for any reason, they will all adopt other titles. If they do not take up arms again, they would be considered integrated individuals. However, if they do not do it, they would be murderers; they would find another organization for themselves and become its militants or they would join organized crime to be mafia members.  

For Syria, everybody says something in terms of international relations but as a matter of fact, not too much will change politically. 

The Iran parliamentary elections on Feb. 26, the U.S. presidential elections in November and the 2017 Iranian presidential elections have joined the fates of Tehran and Washington. Both capitals will avoid taking any step to harm each other in domestic politics during the geostrategic transformation experienced in the region. 

While the Syria/Russia/Iran front is firmly standing behind al-Assad, the fragmentation of the other front will prevent the equilibrium from tilting against al-Assad. Americans prioritize the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Europeans want to stop the refugee flow whatever it takes. Turks say the prevention of the Kurdish corridor is the priority. Saudis are engaged in toppling al-Assad. Nobody should hope to extract a joint movement from this picture. 

The advancement of the Kurds is inevitable. Ankara’s proclamation to Washington of “Either us or the Democratic Union Party [PYD]” does not have any reciprocation in the field. Let us say Washington agrees, will the PYD then disintegrate? No, on the contrary, they will move their relationship with Russia, which they are trying to balance now, to a higher level and advance more rapidly.

There is no point in talking about major strategic plans as if something was going to change in Syria when nothing in any terms in Syria is proceeding in accordance with Turkey’s current position. 

It is high time to think about what disasters this conflict will cause Turkey. 

The efforts toward the “cessation of hostilities” make the issue of ex-combatants a top one…