New Syria Escalation

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    After weeks of deadly Turkish airstrikes in northern Syria, Kurdish forces and international players are trying to gauge whether Turkey’s threats of a ground invasion are serious.

    Key Points

    • Present Scenario: 
      • Turkish President has repeatedly warned of a new land incursion to drive Kurdish groups away from the Turkish-Syrian border, following a deadly bombing in Istanbul. 
      • In the most recent development, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister flew to Turkey this week for talks on the situation in Syria.
    • Human Rights Watch:
      • It has warned that the strikes are exacerbating a humanitarian crisis by disrupting power, fuel and aid.

     

    Image Courtesy: HRW 

     

    Different Foreign Powers Angle in this Scenario

    • Turkey: 
      • Turkey sees the Kurdish forces along its border with Syria as a threat and has launched three major military incursions since 2016, taking control of large swaths of territory.
      • The President of Turkey hopes to relocate many of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to northern Syria and has begun building housing units there. 
      • The plan could address growing anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey and bolster Erdogan’s support ahead of next year’s elections, while diluting historically Kurdish-majority areas by resettling non-Kurdish Syrian refugees there.
      • There are also plans to create a 30-kilometer (19-mile) security corridor in areas currently under Kurdish control. A planned Turkish invasion earlier this year was halted amid opposition by the U.S. and Russia.
    • Kurds: 
      • Kurdish groups are pressing the U.S. and Russia, both of which have military posts in northern Syria, to once again prevent Turkey from carrying out its threats.
      • The Kurds are worried that the West will stand aside this time to appease Ankara in exchange for approval of Sweden and Finland joining NATO.
      • Kurdish groups, which fought against the Islamic State group alongside the U.S.-led coalition and now guard thousands of captured IS fighters and family members, warn that a Turkish escalation would threaten efforts to stamp out the extremist group.
    • Syria: 
      • Insurgents:
        • The so-called Syrian National Army, a coalition of Turkey-backed Syrian opposition groups with tens of thousands of fighters, would likely provide foot soldiers for any future ground offensive. 
        • In previous incursions, the SNA was accused of committing atrocities against Kurds and displacing tens of thousands from their homes.
        • SNA states that they were ordered by Turkish authorities not to speak about plans for a new incursion.
      • Government: 
        • The Syrian government has opposed past Turkish incursions but also sees the SDF as a secessionist force and a Trojan horse for the U.S., which has imposed paralyzing sanctions on the government of Bashar Assad.
        • Damascus and Ankara have recently been moving to improve relations after 11 years of tension triggered by Turkey’s backing of opposition fighters in Syria’s civil war. 
        • Damascus has kept relatively quiet about the killing of Syrian soldiers in the recent Turkish strikes.
    • US:
      • The United States maintains a small military presence in northern Syria, where its strong backing of the SDF has infuriated Turkey.
      • However, the U.S. at first said little publicly about the Turkish airstrikes, speaking more forcefully only after they hit dangerously close to U.S. troops and led to anti-IS patrols being temporarily halted.
      • U.S.’ assurances for Kurds, worried that the U.S. might abandon them to coax a NATO deal out of Turkey: There had been no changes to U.S. policy in the region.
    • Russia: 
      • Russia is the Syrian government’s closest ally. Its involvement in Syria’s conflict helped turn the tide in favour of Assad.
      • Although Turkey and Russia support rival sides in the conflict, the two have coordinated closely in Syria’s north. 
      • In recent months, Russia has pushed for a reconciliation between Damascus and Ankara.
      • Moscow has voiced concerns over Turkey’s recent military actions in northern Syria and has attempted to broker a deal. 

    Source: IE