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Turkey Operations in Syria

Yuri Veselov

At the end of last week the Turkish Cabinet of Ministers authorized the leadership of the Ministry of Defence to independently decide to carry out cross-border military actions to ensure the safety of areas bordering with Iraq and Syria. Thus, the Turkish command is given the right to send troops to the territory of neighboring countries without the consent of their governments and conduct limited military operations against illegal armed groups.

It should be noted that these measures were actively used by the Turkish military in the late 90s in Iraq and Eastern Anatolia during the punitive actions against oppositional Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK, leader - Abdullah Ocalan) combat units. Separate actions were carried out against PKK activists in Iran.

In accordance with the governmental authorization some mechanized units of Turkish land forces were brought into Syria in a number of areas of the state border at a depth of five to ten kilometers. In the north-east they came to the outskirts of the city of Kobani, without engaging in armed clashes with the forces of Islamic militants and letting them conduct a siege of the garrison of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces for a few weeks.

The Netherlands formally joined the so-called coalition of forces, that have declared their intention to participate in the suppression of the activity of the "Islamic state" armed groups in Iraq and Syria, by sending military instructors in the region. At the same time Kurdish political leaders openly acknowledge the ineffectiveness of air strikes against targets of Islamic groups that are carried out by combat aircraft of Air Forces of the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and advocate for delivery of heavy weapons to their fighters.

Syrian Kurds accuse Turkey's leadership in the silent complicity to the actions of Islamic extremists, many of whom have had military and special training in the training centers of the Turkish army. Turkish troops blocked a possible corridor for delivery arms and ammunition to the besieged Kurds in close proximity to Kobani.

Last week, Turkish police severely dispersed protesting Turkish Kurds in several cities demanding the intervention of the national army to protect their compatriots in Syria from genocide by the Islamic international. The number of Kurdish, Armenian and Assyrian refugees who fled Kobani exceeded 180,000, most of them went straight to Turkey.

Turkish leaders were traditionally sensitive about the issue of the Kurds, who have been fighting for the right to establish their own independent state by political (or other) means, and severely suppressed all the actions of this population group. Iraqi Kurdistan, which received the status of national autonomy with wide political and other rights under Saddam Hussein, was considered by the Turks as a potential threat of withdrawing the region from Iraq.

The beginning of protests in Syria, strongly supported in Ankara, contributed to a weakening of Damascus in areas traditionally inhabited by the Kurds at the border with Turkey. Acting exclusively by diplomatic means, the Turks sought to prevent the emergence and growth of Syrian Kurdistan separatist sentiments, revitalization of ideas of independence by joining their Iraqi and Turkish tribesmen. When these sentiments appeared and began to intensify, the Turkish leadership set Islamic International in the face of the gangs of "Dzhabhat en-Nusra", later becoming a part of the "Islamic state," on Syrian Kurds to weaken the "heretics."

Under these conditions, the Syrian Kurds supported by their fellow tribesmen from Iraq inflicted a series of major defeats of Islamist International, whose troops suffered heavy losses and were forced to retreat into Iraqi territory, inhabited mostly by Sunnis, and joined the "Islamic state." This was contrary to the plans of the Turkish leadership. After the reorganization and replacement of losses they again launched an offensive against the Kurds in the northern provinces of Syria.

Thus, the current President and former Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is an ardent supporter of the violent overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was forced to announce a "crusade" against the "Islamic state" following the United States, Britain and other NATO partners. As the unfolding events in the north of Syria indicated, Turkey pursues exclusively selfish goals - to block the Syrian Kurds, to prevent the provision of assistance by government forces and the Iraqi Kurds, and to keep fighting capacity of Islamist International units.

Maintaining a constant armed conflict in the region does not threaten Turkey, allowing its leadership to freely control part of Syrian territory, to show the international community "hostility" to Islamic extremism and also adherence to a policy eliminating Assad from the political arena.

In addition, Ankara strengthens the security of oil supply channels lying here, having a considerable benefit from its sale, by its military presence in the Syrian territory. It was illustrative that in a month after the bombing of Syrian territory started, the U.S. military aviation destroyed two oil refineries which were under control of government forces. However, the oil fields in the area of responsibility of the "Islamic state" remain intact and unharmed.