What is Ankara's goal in Syria?

Turkish troops are still concentrating their efforts on the border region in the Syrian operation. According to President Erdoğan their objective is to fight the terrorists near the city of Al-Bab. But according to commentators the offensive also targets Kurdish militias.

Open/close all quotes
Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Free Syrian Army key to Ankara's interests

Turkey is continuing its military operation in Syria not only to free the border region of the IS but also of the Kurdish PYP, Hürriyet Daily News claims:

“Al-Bab is key for Turkey's Syria outlook. The town is currently in ISIL's hands, on the road between Manbij and Aleppo. The PYD/PKK does not want Turkish-backed forces to take al-Bab, as it would create a wedge between their regions of control, Afrin in western Syria and Kobane to the east of the Euphrates. The Americans do not favor the PYD taking al-Bab either. But they are actually not so interested in the west of Syria, because of the Russian-backed Syrian regime's continued strong influence there. FSA control of al-Bab is key for Turkey keeping both ISIL and the PYD out of the reach of its border.”

Sözcü (TR) /

Operation is also about oil and gas

Ankara's military operation against the Kurds in northern Syria is not only motivated by security concerns, the Kemalist Sözcü comments:

“Russia and the Syrian Kurds are already engaged in mind games about parallel pipelines that would transport oil and gas from northern Irak and Mossul to the Mediterranean via northern Syria. Negotiations with the Iraqi Kurds have already begun. Behind the political scenes it's being said that these pipelines could be built in one and a half to two years, as soon as the PYD/YPG has control of the necessary corridor in northern Syria. If that comes about it wouldn't just be a security problem for Turkey, it would also exclude Ankara from the energy balance in the Middle East. The Turkish military's current operation in northern Syria must also be seen from this perspective.”

Star (TR) /

US fomenting Kurdish conflict

The US has been supplying the Syrian Kurdish militia PYD, which has close ties to the PKK, with weapons and thus further fomented the Kurdish conflict in Turkey, the pro-government daily Star rails:

“[The PKK headquarters in Kandil] has shifted to northern Syria. It is a proper terrorist base and is unfortunately under the patronage of the US. … In the name of the fight against IS the PKK, in the guise of the PYD, has been legitimised and supplied with ultra-modern weapons. Thanks to this support Salih Muslim can make outrageous attacks against Turkey's elected leader and continue with his threats. … The US should finally clarify its position. If it is really Turkey's friend it should stop backing and protecting Turkey's relentless enemy.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Waiting for Russia's reaction

Turkey's military mission in Syria will no doubt provoke a response from international players in the region, political scientist Stefanos Konstandinidis warns in Phileleftheros:

“For the time being Moscow has expressed 'concern' at the developments. If the Turkish operations remain limited it is very likely that Russia will remain silent. But if they escalate, Moscow will hardly accept a Turkish presence in Syria. Also uncertain is how Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which support rival Islamist groups in Syria, will react. What we know for sure is that the Syrian Kurds will resist the Turkish invasion.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

We only want security for our country

With its military intervention in Syria Ankara is making it clear that it won't tolerate terror and border violations, the pro-government Daily Sabah comments approvingly:

“First neither Daesh nor the PYD will be allowed to toy with Turkey anymore. PYD leader Salih Muslim has said by entering Syria Turkey has entered a swamp. If Muslim was sincere in his fight against Daesh he would have been only too happy for Turkish forces to battle Daesh. Yet he never had any intention of fighting Daesh in earnest. ... Turkey has no intention of invading any foreign territory. What we want is security at our borders and the elimination of all threats from Daesh, the PKK and the PYD. Secondly Turkey has shown that it does not want the PYD in Manbij and Turkey will get what it wants. This is a clear message to the US as Vice President Joes Biden visits Ankara flashing us with his false Hollywood smile.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Erdoğan fears a Kurdish state

Turkey's Syria offensive is not necessarily aimed at achieving peace, Aftonbladet surmises:

“Yes, Erdoğan wants to fight the IS. But he himself has said that the offensive is also targeting the Syrian Kurdish fighters. Many Turkish opposition figures and foreign political analysts believe that the Kurds are the main target of the offensive. ... In most countries in the Middle East communities are formed on the basis of a religion or nationalism. This requires the complete loyalty and subservience of the population - which is why the Kurds and other minorities are suppressed. ... One in five citizens in Turkey is Kurdish. Ankara fears that after their success in Iraq the Kurds will also consolidate their position in Syria, and that in the end a Kurdish state will emerge. The Turkish invasion in Syria is not the path to peace: Erdoğan must return to dialogue and negotiation.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Only a divided Syria can bring peace

In view of Turkey's invasion of Syria the daily paper De Morgen calls for a comprehensive European peace initiative:

“Who in Europe will turn away from the short-sighted use of weapons and seek peace in Syria instead? Just as the Dayton Accords of 1995 silenced the guns in Bosnia, a multinational peace force must be deployed in Syria to draw temporary demarcation lines. If the price of stopping the bloodbath is to divide the country into Shiite-Alawite, Sunni, Christian and Kurdish zones, it must be paid. Not in the name of Allah, God or for the sake of geopolitical interests but in the name of the 8.4 million Syrian children who suffer daily from the effects of this conflict.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Turkish operation aimed at Kurds

The Turkish operation in Syria mainly targets the YPG's Kurdish militia, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung concludes:

“Suppressing the Kurdish struggle for autonomy has always been a reason of state in Turkey. It explains why the government and the generals always work together on this issue, and why Erdoğan places the YPG on a par with the IS. … If Turkey's tanks remain permanently stationed in northern Syria, conflicts with the Kurds and their protector, the United States, are inevitable. The Americans will be glad to see the Turks taking resolute military action against the IS. But they would be ill advised to abandon the forces that have so far proven most effective against the IS terrorists. The Kurds, for their part, must understand that advancing any further would be dangerous and that their expansionist tendencies must also be limited.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Washington pandering to Ankara

The US is kowtowing to Ankara on the Kurdish issue, La Repubblica criticises:

“As opposed to just a few days ago when Kurds close to the border freed Manbij from the IS's grip with the help of the US airforce, this time the US generals have declared - much to the satisfaction of the Turks - that they won't support the Kurds. On the contrary, they told them to stay away from Jarabulus, saying the city was reserved for the Turks and allied militia. This is a reconciliation gift from the US to Erdoğan, who received Joe Biden yesterday. The US vice president has also brought other gifts - or tranquillizers - to placate his host, who is obsessed with the Kurds. America's support for Ankara's intransigent position appears to be a concession: it is turning its back on the Kurds, who until yesterday were the effective infantry of the US-led anti-IS coalition.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Final phase of the Syrian war

The US may end its cooperation with the Kurdish forces in the fight against the IS now that Turkish troops have been deployed in Syria, the daily taz fears:

“As previously when Russia entered the fray in Syria, the US will now also have to come to terms with the strategy of its Nato ally Turkey. In concrete terms that means that it will force the Kurds - with whom it has cooperated closely in the fight against the IS since 2014 - to stop their advance to the west, so as to prevent a direct confrontation with the Turkish troops. If the [Kurdish] YPG militia refuses to cooperate, the US may withdraw its support - meaning the Kurds could be the first victims of the reorganisation of Syria. With Turkey's active participation in the conflict, the Syrian war could be entering its final phase. Now the zones of influence that will shape the new Syria after a ceasefire will be staked out.”

T24 (TR) /

Fear of Kurds plunges Turkey into chaos

Ankara's Kurdish policy during the Syrian war has been entirely flawed, the online portal T24 criticises:

“One of the key reasons why the Syria policy has resulted in deadlock right from the start is Turkey's hatred of the Kurds. ... If Ankara had cooperated with the [Syrian] Kurds of Rojava from the beginning, when they held out their hand to Turkey instead of cooperating directly or indirectly with the IS and other jihadist groups, the Kurdish question could have been resolved in a peaceful way and Turkey could have been strengthened in the process. And above all the hopeless destruction and actions taken against the Kurdish movement in the south-east of Turkey could have been prevented. The appalling events there in the past year came about as a result of our rulers' phobia regarding the Kurds and now threaten to turn Turkey into a second Syria.”