On October 9, 2019, Turkish President Erdogan launched a military operation code-named “Fountain of Peace”. Erdogan stated that the purpose of the military operation was to eliminate Kurdish armed and extremist organizations “Islamic State” in northern Syria. Residual forces have prevented the emergence of a “horror corridor” in southern Turkey and stressed that it will maintain Syria’s territorial integrity. Nonetheless, Turkey ’s military actions have triggered widespread criticism and condemnation from the international community. The Trump administration of the United States first stated that it “does not support or participate” and withdrew its troops from northern Syria. It was then forced by parliamentary pressure and international public opinion to change, “Strong sanctions” will be imposed on Turkey. Russian President Putin expressed concern over Turkey’s actions and stressed that Syria’s territorial integrity should be completely restored. Many EU countries have condemned Turkey ’s invasion and suspended arms sales to Turkey. As one of the major powers in the Middle East, Turkey’s military actions not only concern Turkey and Syria, but also have a profound impact on the regional situation.
Fighting Kurdish forces and establishing safe areas are top security considerations
The Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East after the Arabs, Turks, and Persians, with a population of more than 30 million, mainly distributed at the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Among them, more than 18 million Kurds in Turkey are the largest minority in Turkey. In 1978, the Kurdish Workers’ Party was formed. The organization is mainly composed of Turkish Kurds. Its goal is to establish an independent Kurdish country in the border area of the four countries. In order to achieve the goal of nation-building, the organization has waged long-term struggles with Turkish government forces through guerrilla warfare and terrorist attacks, and has been regarded by Turkish governments as an important threat to national security. After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Erdogan feared that Kurdish independence in northern Syria would trigger the rise of Kurdish separatist forces in Turkey and regarded the crackdown on Syrian Kurdish forces as the core of his Syrian policy. He repeatedly asked the United States to stop the Syrian armed forces. Military assistance, and an attempt to establish a Kurdish-free security zone in northern Syria as a buffer zone to protect the security of Turkey. However, since the outbreak of the “Islamic State” crisis, the United States has supported the Syrian Kurdish army as an anti-terrorist ally, and Trump has supported the Syrian Kurdish army to form a border security force, which has severely constrained Erdogan’s military operations. In order to prevent the Kurdish armed forces from expanding, Erdogan successively launched Operation “Shield of the Euphrates” and “Olive Branch” to control the Afrin area originally occupied by the Kurdish armed forces and forced the Kurdish armed forces to retreat to the east of the Euphrates. Since the end of 2018, as the war against the “Islamic State” came to an end, the United States ’willingness to intervene in Syria ’s affairs has greatly weakened. Trump has repeatedly expressed the idea of withdrawing from Syria and has negotiated with Turkey on the concept of a safe area. Erdogan ’s launch of the “Peace of Peace” military operation was carried out when Trump announced his withdrawal from Syria and stated his “no support or participation”. Behind it was Erdogan Tongte. The result of a compromise and trade between Lampe’s sphere of influence in northern Syria and the interests of Kurdish militants. For Erdogan, the main consideration of the military operation was to combat Syrian Kurdish forces, thereby weakening their ability to fight for autonomy or independence, and to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria to maintain security on Turkey’s southern border.
Relocation of refugees is an additional goal of this military operation
The Syrian war that broke out in 2011 caused the worst refugee wave and humanitarian crisis since World War II. As an important hub connecting Eurasia, Turkey is an important channel for refugees from the Middle East to enter the European Union. Compared with crossing the Mediterranean, it is relatively easy and safe to smuggle into the EU via the Greek-Turkish border, the Turkish-Turkish border, or the Aegean Sea. Access has severely impacted public security management and social stability in Europe. After 2015, with the defeat of the “Islamic State”, some extreme terrorists mixed with refugees and returned to Europe, posing a serious threat to the security of EU member states. In order to reduce the influx of illegal refugees, in March 2016, Turkey and the EU reached an agreement on refugee issues. According to the agreement, the EU needs to provide Turkey with financial support, speed up the process of Turkey’s accession to the EU, and provide Turks with visa facilities in exchange for Turkey’s Assistance and cooperation on refugee issues. However, the implementation of the agreement was not smooth, and Turkey often accused the EU of failing to honour the funding and policy commitments given to Turkey, and once threatened to deregulate refugees. At present, there are more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. These refugees have exacerbated Turkey’s economic burden and the originally grim employment situation. Turkish authorities have also tightened the original loose refugee policy. In July 2019, Istanbul arrested more than 6,000 refugees and announced the deportation of refugees without a residence permit. The additional goal of Erdogan’s military operation this time is to establish a security zone with a depth of more than 30 kilometers in northern Syria and plan to resettle about 2 million Syrian refugees, thereby alleviating the economic pressure and negative impact of excessive refugees on Turkey. . Of course, the resettlement of refugees is by no means an overnight success, it is just the additional goals and political chips of this military operation.
Getting public support is Erdogan’s main political concern
Since taking office in 2003, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (hereinafter referred to as the “Political Development Party”) have been in charge of Turkish politics for 16 consecutive years. Erdogan’s desire for power has been inflated with long-term governance and good economic growth. In 2017, Erdogan tried to change the Turkish political system from the parliament cabinet system to the presidential system through a referendum on constitutional amendments, and further weakened the military power in the new constitution and enhanced the role of the president in the political life of the country. The term of office of the President is five years, with two consecutive terms. Although the new constitution was passed with a slight advantage of 51.4%, and Erdogan also won the presidential election the following year, Erdogan still faces severe splits of public opinion and domestic difficulties. First of all, Turkish citizens are increasingly dissatisfied with the AKP’s long-term governance, and this dissatisfaction has been manifested in the elections. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, the Zhengfa Party won only 293 of the 600 parliamentary seats, and it must be united with the National Action Party to control the parliament. In comparison, the National League, led by the Republican People’s Party, won 190 seats, an increase of 57 compared to the last election. In the local elections of 2019, the AKP has lost mayoral elections in several important cities, including the capital Ankara and the largest city, Istanbul. Despite the Turkish authorities’ announcement that the Istanbul mayoral election is abolished, the Republican People ’s Party is still in the second Win the election. Second, there was a split within the AKP, and Erdogan’s authority was challenged by the AKP elite. Former Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu, former Deputy Prime Minister Babakan, and former Attorney General Erkin have separated from the AKP, criticizing Erdogan’s conservative policies and trying to form a new party with the AKP contend. In addition, Turkey’s poor economic situation has reduced public satisfaction with the ruling party. In recent years, the unemployment rate in Turkey has exceeded 10%, the youth unemployment rate and inflation rate have reached 20%, and food prices have soared, causing people’s dissatisfaction and protest. In December 2018, people in the Turkish capital Istanbul took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with inflation and the wealth gap, and flagged against President Erdogan. In the face of internal and external difficulties, Erdogan urgently needs to improve his personal prestige and support rate, and accumulate votes and energy for the next general election. However, in the context of the continued downturn in the domestic economy, launching an offensive against Syrian Kurds is undoubtedly the most effective way to gather domestic public opinion and increase support.
Will have a profound impact on the Syrian landscape and regional situation
First, Turkish military action will lead to a reorganization of regional forces and a change in the political landscape in northern Syria. At present, the southern part of Syria is controlled by government forces, the northwest is controlled by Turkish and Syrian rebels, and the northeast is the Kurdish territory. Under the Turkish military offensive, the Kurdish armed forces have formed an alliance with the Syrian government. The government forces have stated that they will build fortifications on the Turkish-Syrian border to resist Turkish invasion. This alliance means that the Syrian Kurds have made major compromises and concessions to the Syrian government. Its independence process will be severely frustrated; US withdrawal and Turkish involvement in northern Syria will increase Russia and Turkey ’s influence in Syria and may trigger conflict between Russia and Turkey over the Syria issue. Second, Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria will worsen the regional security situation. At present, Syrian government forces have stationed troops in the northwest, and Turkey’s invasion will most likely trigger military conflicts between the two sides. A large number of northern Syrian prisons controlled by Kurds hold a large number of “Islamic” extremists and their families. Turkish military operations will create opportunities for these extremists to escape and hide, and conflict between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish or government forces It will also provide soil for the resurgence of the “Islamic State” organization, which will pose a serious threat to regional security. In addition, the Turkish invasion has caused tens of thousands of residents in northern Syria to become homeless, and may trigger new refugee flows and humanitarian crises, adding more uncertainty to the regional situation.
At present, although the international community has widely criticized Turkish military actions, it is difficult for extraterritorial forces to effectively restrict Turkish military actions. As far as the United States is concerned, although Trump has reshuffled sanctions against Turkey, the effectiveness and determination of his sanctions are questionable because the United States has withdrawn from northern Syria. In addition, as the US-Russia Middle East game intensifies and the United States is on the defensive, Trump needs to ease relations with Erdogan to create conditions for the United States to withdraw from the Middle East and turn to the Asia-Pacific. For Russia, although Turkey ’s actions may harm the interests of Russia and its allies, the Syrian-Turkish strategic significance to Russia is very important in the context of Russia-Turkish relations, as long as Turkey ’s military action does not cross Putin’s bottom line, Russia is unlikely to take tough measures against Turkey. From the perspective of the EU, major EU countries have condemned Turkey ’s invasion of Syria, and some EU countries have suspended arms sales to Turkey, but the “refugee card” in Turkey ’s hands will affect the effectiveness of EU sanctions. For Turkey, this military operation is related to national security and popular backing, and Erdogan’s goals will never stop. Of course, given the domestic economic situation and international pressure, Turkey’s military actions will also maintain a certain limit, otherwise Turkey’s national interests will only be damaged in the end.