What if Turkey enters Syria?

What if Turkey enters Syria?

Recently, during a discussion on an international news channel I asked the other participants about what would happen if Turkey attacked the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD). While the PYD is considered by Turkey an extension of the clandestine separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria, Turkey’s prime ally, the United States, has been treating it as a key and strategic partner in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The participants, among them dear friend Henry Barkey – nowadays one of the top public enemies in Turkey because of his alleged involvement in the July 15 coup attempt – quipped such a thing would be awkward and would have very serious consequences not limited to the Syrian quagmire. Obviously, attacking American interests or an American ally in Syria considered by Washington and the rest of the Western world as a key element of the fight against the enemy – ISIL – could have very serious consequences. 

For a long time since Turkey realized what a great mess former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (whether he was the sole foreign policy decision maker is another issue) landed Turkey in because of his obsessive Sunni solidarity-based regional policy, there have been efforts to move out of the quicksand Turkey was pulled into.

Yet, getting out was far more difficult than getting in. Yesterday’s good, mild Islamist boys, disgruntled Islamists are no longer controlling large areas in neighboring countries, but have acquired the capability to set off roadside bombs, car bombs and even child suicide bombers, as was last seen at the southern Gaziantep wedding tragedy. Worse, those disgruntled Islamists have been beheading and dismembering people, exploding their hostages in front of cameras. How could Turkey remain distant and not participate in a fight aimed at cleansing from this geography such a menace exploiting as well the name of Islam?

Since Turkey turned its back and started participating actively in the fight against ISIL, however, this country has become a battleground for the murderous gang. The Jan. 12 Sultanahmet blast which killed German tourists, the March 19 İstiklal Avenue attack in Istanbul, this time targeting Israeli tourists, and scores of others including the Gaziantep wedding tragedy are just some of the dreadful costs of Turkey’s participation in the fight against ISIL.

On the other hand, can Turkey allow the PYD, a Syrian extension of the PKK, to control the entire Turkish border with Syria and connect the Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish regions? Would not such a development, coupled with the almost state-like situation in northern Iraq and escalated separatist terrorism in not only Kurdish-populated regions but throughout the country, including major cities, land Turkey in an awkward situation? Right, it has been a political joke for a long time that should there be need for a Kurdish state not the Kurds but the Turks would establish it, the reality on the land demonstrates an inch by inch progress to the creation of a Kurdish state, a portion of which’s territory would include land carved out of Turkey. The top protect of such an eventuality, Turkey should do whatever possible and not allow the PYD to capture Jarabulus, for example, and complete cutting off Turkey from Syria – of course at the same time cutting the supply line of ISIL through Turkish territory.

Hosting northern Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, throwing the red (pardon, blue) carpet treatment to American Vice President Joe Biden or even delivering lofty strategic partnership statements could not mean much while on the one hand Kurds remain a potential enemy while the U.S. is considered an enemy collaborating with coup plotters whose aim was to help the Americans divide the country. How could the Turkey of 2016, an ally of the U.S. for so long, still believe that Americans were still trying to implement the Sevres Treaty designed along the Woodrow Wilson principles and under which some territory of Turkey would be given to Armenia while Kurds would be given statehood in the southeastern parts?

That Ankara squarely and officially blamed the July 15 coup attempt on the Fethullah Gülen brotherhood and many members of the cabinet, headed by the justice minister, publicly complained of CIA involvement, perhaps should also be revisited with these obsessive perceptions taken into account as well. Why, for example, has the “official Turkey” of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continued whispering into journalists’ ears that the fighter jets that downed the Russian jet last November were piloted by Gülenist pilots? Why it is being claimed that, at the time, with prior warning to Russia – which reportedly said would yell a lot but won’t take counter action—Turkey would roll tanks into Syria but the plane downing stopped the plan? Why do people now claim Turkish tanks might enter Syria and the Gaziantep blast was a preemptive warning to Turkey by ISIL not to walk such a dangerous road?

Can Turkey indeed take all the risks and enter Syria? Does anyone remember that leaked conversation between Davutoğlu, some commanders and the intelligence chief? Were they not discussing firing a few shots at Turkey from Syria and using that as a pretext to invade Syria? Is Turkey back at square one? Does going back to square one include converting “enemy al-Assad” back to “brother al-Assad”?