2018-06-19

Turkey's new security concept may lead to a dialogue with Damascus


The pre-election race in Turkey is traditionally held in very difficult foreign policy conditions. The problems of terrorism and political instability in neighboring countries are the most discussed topics of recent years. It is not surprising that the military operation of the Turkish special forces in northern Iraq, conducted since March, became the subject of election propaganda of political forces. However, closer examination of Turkey's anti-terrorism concept of security shows that operations in Iraq sooner or later must end with the introduction of Turkish troops into Syria and the taking of an extensive zone along the Syrian-Turkish border under the control of Ankara.

The results of the upcoming June 24 elections are extremely important for the ruling party of Turkey and its undisputed leader, the current president of the country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. From the distribution of votes will directly depend on how the process of transition to the presidential form of government will go. However, only a few in the country believe that Erdogan can lose the presidential race. The politician and his supporters most popular over the past few years are afraid for the fate of the party led by Erdogan: according to opinion polls, the opposition has real chances to win a majority in the Parliament, thereby gaining the opportunity to significantly complicate Erdogan's life for the next five years.

It is in this atmosphere of uncertainty about its own chances of gaining control of the parliament that the Justice and Development Party is actively bombarding citizens with reports of the success of the military operation in northern Iraq against elements of the Turkish terrorist organization Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). On the other hand, the official media do not cease to remind us of the great significance of Turkish control over the region of the mountain chain of the Kandil mountains: on the territory of 2500-3000 sq.km since 1992, the PKK has deployed more than 50 camps for various purposes, thus turning the hard-to-reach mountain range into a protected bastion and a shelter for the organization's top command.

Against the backdrop of increased attention to the operation in Iraq and the continuing complex race for parliamentary seats, there is an increasing assertion that Erdogan is once again using the country's foreign policy in its domestic political interests, namely, trying to win additional votes among the nationalists - the most significant segment of the Turkish voters. For this electorate, a new and promising "Good Party" Meral Akshener fights as well. It was this party in its program that pointed to the need for more active counteraction to terrorism, while criticizing Erdogan's foreign policy mistakes, which was forced to negotiate with Russia and the United States on fighting Syrian Kurds. The opposition also suspects the authorities of wanting to repeat the experience of the operation in Africa, during which the ruling party could increase its popularity and, having influenced a significant number of voters, prepare the population for the idea of ​​possible early elections not in 2019, but in the summer of 2018.

Nevertheless, many experts note that the operation, although it may have an indirect relation to the elections and the desire of the government to gain additional points, is caused by objective reasons and is part of the new concept of combating terrorism. In particular, it is noted that the first reports on Ankara's plans to deploy special forces in northern Iraq began to appear in December 2017, and in March 2018 the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces announced the construction of new advanced bases in the Kandil region. The decision on early elections was announced by the Turkish authorities only in April, that is, when the operation was already in full swing.

On the other hand, it is noted that the operation in Iraq was held in parallel with the very difficult negotiations with the US leadership for the US military and political support for the fighters of the Syrian branch of the PKK, the Party of the Democratic Union. The role of the United States in the actions of Turkey in Iraq is to provide intelligence: Given the huge area of ​​the territory, the possession of accurate data on the location of the main logistics points of the PKK greatly facilitates the tasks of the limited Turkish contingent. Obviously, US assistance became part of bargaining with Turkey around the Syrian city of Manbij, against which a "soft" road map was adopted. According to the agreements within 6 months, the city of the PYD will leave the city, and the Turkish army will have the opportunity to monitor the situation in the area.

Turkey's actions in Iraq and Syria show a certain logic. The main idea is the proactive diplomatic position of Ankara in the issue of the PKK in neighboring countries combined with military operations along the entire Turkish border. On the one hand, as the actions of the Turkish army in Syrian Africa and Iraqi Sinjar and Qandil show, Ankara aims to secure the entire border, which also includes areas under the control of the PYD and the United States. On the other hand, since 2015, Turkey is building new ones and strengthening existing military bases in controlled border areas, even despite the objections of local authorities.

It is obvious that Turkey's struggle with the elements of the PKK in Iraq and Syria will not cease after the presidential and parliamentary elections. The existence of quasi-state structures on the territory of Syria compels Turkey to seek ways of pressure on the US, under whose military control are the elements of the PKK on the Turkish border. It should be borne in mind that if the ruling party wins, future cabinet will include extreme nationalists from the National Action Party, the main ally of Erdogan. It is the MHP that expresses certain circles in the security agencies of the country, wishing to extend the zone of operation to the remaining section of the Syrian border, i. throwing a direct challenge to US interests.

The role of Russia in this situation can be to create conditions acceptable for Ankara and Damascus, under which army structures could coordinate their actions in northern Syria. After all, as noted, because of the unwillingness of the US to meet the Turkish leadership, it is the position of the Syrian authorities that becomes the decisive factor for Turkish diplomacy for an independent action. The cooperation between Turkey, Syria and Russia in the issue of countering the PKK can be based, on the one hand, on the already existing Turkish-Syrian agreements on fighting the PKK. On the other hand, the Syrian side can also be connected to the mechanism of Russian-Turkish cooperation on the cleansing of Syrian territories from elements of the PKK, especially in areas under Kurdish control, where the Syrian authorities still have a significant presence.

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