Turkey is los­ing in Afrin, this is a cer­tain­ty. It is los­ing both at the mil­i­tary and the polit­i­cal lev­els against the Syr­i­an Demo­c­ra­t­ic Forces (SDF) which is made up of a major­i­ty of Kurds with Arab and Chris­t­ian ele­ments. One might doubt this assess­ment, faced as they are by an army supe­ri­or in num­bers and in equip­ment, with a con­sid­er­able advan­tage in the air and in tech­nol­o­gy.   Launched from a coun­try where there is no more oppo­si­tion, where every con­tra­dic­to­ry voice is purged, even from the army. The great dan­ger in this sit­u­a­tion is Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan’s head­long rush for­ward that risks push­ing him to extreme measures.

By Raphaël Lebru­jah, Feb­ru­ary 12 2018
“Pourquoi la Turquie est en train de per­dre à Afrin” on Rojinfo

A recap on events

Urgency forces us to sac­ri­fice the depth in our analy­ses of the bal­ance of pow­er between the oppos­ing forces. The pro­pa­gan­da machine is at work. Infor­ma­tion and dis­in­for­ma­tion are the essen­tial stakes to win the war in peo­ple’s minds. The Turk­ish state is mas­ter­ful at pass­ing off its defeats as vic­to­ries. If you lis­ten to Erdo­gan, the Turk­ish army is at the doors of Afrin. Morale is an essen­tial ele­ment in com­bat and in the upcom­ing mobi­liza­tions. Pub­lic mes­sages must be sim­ple in order to be under­sood. But in a glob­al analy­sis, there is need to take some dis­tance and look at issues in a more com­plex manner.

What are the conditions under which Erdogan has launched his offensive on Afrin?

First of all, this inter­ven­tion is poor­ly per­ceived by many actors on the inter­na­tion­al lev­el. Not that the great pow­ers feel com­pas­sion for the Kurds but, for the major­i­ty of them,  the offen­sive does not serve their interests.

There is a clear lack of con­dem­na­tion but offi­cial sup­port for the inter­ven­tion is also lack­ing. Which gives rise to calls for “restraint”. Thus, there is no clear sup­port but rather a com­plic­it silence.

The Unit­ed States let the mat­ter pro­ceed but they are embar­rassed by an attack against mil­i­tary forces they hope will be their best allies in Syr­ia against Iran, after the down­fall of ISIS.

Ger­many has sus­pend­ed arms deliv­er­ies to Turkey, embar­rassed by the use of its lat­est gen­er­a­tion tanks in the operation.

In France, the for­eign affairs min­is­ter, Mr. Le Dri­an, called for a meet­ing of the UN’s Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil fol­low­ing the Turk­ish inva­sion of Afrin, before low­er­ing his voice fol­low­ing a meet­ing with the Turk­ish ambas­sador to France. The min­is­ter of the armies, Flo­rence Par­ly, clear­ly called on Turkey to cease the fight­ing explain­ing this was harm­ing the fight against ISIS, short­ly before Pres­i­dent Macron cham­pi­oned Turkey in an inter­view in Le Figaro, call­ing France’s allies, the FDS, armed by France, “poten­tial ter­ror­ists”. With­in the pres­i­den­tial major­i­ty, deputy Paul Molac called the gov­ern­ment him­self on this ques­tion, lead­ing to the per­cep­tion that Emmanuel Macron’s posi­tion does not have the sup­port of large seg­ments of his majority.

This match­es up with pub­lic opin­ions that are large­ly favor­able to the Kurds and where the Islamist Erdo­gan is strong­ly detest­ed, as demon­strat­ed by the stances in sev­er­al media. Among the great West­ern pow­ers, only Great Britain has shown itself open­ly favor­able to the Turk­ish invasion.

The often con­tra­dic­to­ry reac­tions of West­ern states can be explained by a few key elements.

The fear that Erdo­gan send mass­es of refugees into Europe is one of them. The Euro­pean states also fear infil­tra­tion by Jihadists com­mit­ting dead­ly attacks and ruin­ing the tourist indus­try, as was the case on Novem­ber 13.

The eco­nom­ic stakes play an impor­tant role, notably with the con­struc­tion of the “Turk­ish Stream” pipeline, the con­struc­tion of which would start in Rus­sia, then pass­ing through Turkey, thus bypass­ing polit­i­cal­ly unsta­ble East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries. Of course, Turkey is a mem­ber of NATO and the West­ern States fear its clos­er ties with Rus­sia. This pres­sure pol­i­cy was used with the Sovi­ets before, by Mustapha Kemal in his day.

And yet, the SDF insure the safe­ty of both the West­ern peo­ple and states by fight­ing ISIS and Jihadists effi­cient­ly. What’s more, this is also a means through which West­ern pow­ers can return to a ter­ri­to­ry from which they were almost absent for decades: Syr­ia.   It is a ter­ri­to­ry rich in agri­cul­tur­al and oil resources, occu­py­ing a choice geostrate­gi­cal posi­tion at the very heart of the Mid­dle-East. Con­trary to Turkey, it is a reli­able part­ner. For the Turk­ish State armed the Jihadists of Al-Qae­da and of ISIS. These last expelled a good part of the pro-West­ern rebels from the Syr­i­an Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Front, in the north of the coun­try, forc­ing the big West­ern pow­ers to rely on the SDF in their fight against the Jihadists. One might as well say that sev­er­al West­ern States no longer trust Turkey who does not keep its com­mit­ments and does not hes­i­tate to betray its allies. This explains the hes­i­ta­tions, in par­tic­u­lar those of France who will not be able to strad­dle the fence indefinitely.

Rus­sia is play­ing its game with finesse. It is at the ori­gin of the green light giv­en to the inva­sion in the frame­work of a par­ti­tion of Syr­ia between the Turkey-Jihadist group and the Iran-Rus­sia- Syr­i­an regime axis, for Rus­sia is the one who con­trols the air space. For Rus­sia, this is a way of putting pres­sure on the Kurds it would like to see fall into its lap as a way to spite the Unit­ed States. At the same time, this allows it to ask for greater shares of ter­ri­to­ry from Turkey in Syr­ia, in exchange for its laiss­er-faire in Afrin.   It also dis­tances Turkey from NATO more and more. Rus­sia will be in a posi­tion to nego­ti­ate with two adver­saries-part­ners weak­ened by com­bat. On the diplo­mat­ic front, this appears like a win­ning draw for the Russ­ian. At least, almost, as we shall see later.

Among the region­al pow­ers, sev­er­al made nois­es against the inter­ven­tion, Egypt first, then Irak, but the most impor­tant posi­tion against the inter­ven­tion was that of Iran. Indeed, see­ing its main mil­i­tary com­peti­tor in the Mid­dle East carv­ing out shares from his Syr­i­an vas­sal does not agree with the Iran­ian agen­da. Iran is against the inter­ven­tion despite its open­ly hos­tile pol­i­cy toward Roja­va and the SDF. Vis­i­bly, Iran fears Turkey much more than it fears the SDF. Iran is said to have let Turk­ish army con­voys be bom­bard­ed as they took posi­tion in the Idlib region. The Syr­i­an regime has also con­demned the inter­ven­tion even if, just like Iran, it has not insti­gat­ed a large scale mil­i­tary reac­tion against the Turk­ish invasion.

The domes­tic sit­u­a­tion is far from sta­bi­lized for Erdo­gan. From an eco­nom­ic view­point, the Turk­ish lira is in a free fall and infla­tion has explod­ed. From a polit­i­cal per­spec­tive, hav­ing stripped bare the HDP, the third oppo­si­tion force (pro-Kur­dish) of its elect­ed mem­bers and mil­i­tants, the great major­i­ty of which are now locked into its gaols, it has begun the dan­ger­ous task of dis­man­tling the CHP, the sec­ond oppo­si­tion force, of Kemal­ist per­sua­sion and much bet­ter implant­ed in the coun­try than the HDP (to the repres­sion of which the CHP par­tic­i­pat­ed). In this con­text, a war is the per­fect way to trig­ger a fresh wave of purges against “ene­mies of the inte­ri­or”, and close ranks.

The date for the launch­ing of the inva­sion was care­ful­ly cho­sen with this per­spec­tive in mind: Jan­u­ary 20 is deep in win­ter­time. Snow and glac­i­ers on the moun­tains keep the PKK gueril­la from car­ry­ing large offen­sive manoeu­vers against the Turk­ish army (the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Par­ty plays a major role in the train­ing of the SDF).

The Turk­ish army itself is in great dif­fi­cul­ty and not much inclined to invad­ing Syr­i­an ter­ri­to­ry. Since the purges, its hier­ar­chy has been stripped of many com­pe­tent offi­cers, notably in the Air force from which most of the trained pilots were removed. More­over, pri­or to the purges, the for­mer Chief of Staff of the Turk­ish army, Gen­er­al Necdet Özel had declared dur­ing the sum­mer of 2015, con­cern­ing a pos­si­ble Turk­ish inter­ven­tion in Syr­ia: “Enter­ing, that’s easy, but how do we come back out again?” This shows that the deci­sion to invade Afrin may not be all that unan­i­mous in the army.

The malaise is that much greater giv­en that the “Euphrates Shield” oper­a­tion in the sum­mer of 2016 was marred by inci­dents. The oper­a­tion aimed at pre­vent­ing the junc­tion of the Kur­dish can­tons of Afrin and Kobane in the frame­work of a Putin-Erdo­gan agree­ment, in which the lat­ter would cede Alep­po in exchange for the entry of the Turk­ish army in Syr­ia. At first, ISIS ced­ed ground with­out major inci­dents until the town of Al Bab was reached and trans­formed into a ceme­tery of armored cars, Turk­ish sol­diers and Jihadist com­bat­ants fol­low­ing a deci­sion by ISIS to keep the town, prob­a­bly in order to nego­ti­ate bet­ter agree­ments with Turkey. Dur­ing this oper­a­tion, the Jihadist mer­ce­nar­ies (trans­la­tion: the Free Syr­i­an Army) at the ser­vice of Turkey demon­strat­ed very poor effi­cien­cy against ISIS, despite its being already great­ly enfee­bled. Turk­ish offi­cers resigned or put them­selves on pro­longed sick leave. Morale was poor and the loss­es, heavy. This was a direct result of the dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion caused to the Turk­ish army by the purges, and of the incom­pe­ten­cy of its auxiliaries.

Poor­ly moti­vat­ed offi­cers, a demor­al­ized army, a vast quan­ti­ty of mate­r­i­al destroyed, unre­li­able Jihadist aux­il­iaries, frag­ile inter­na­tion­al agree­ments and an iso­lat­ed Turkey, a coun­try on the brink of a finan­cial precipice and to top it off: weak­ened intel­li­gence services.

Indeed, last sum­mer, the PKK cap­tured the direc­tor of nation­al and inter­na­tion­al human resources of the MIT (Turk­ish secret ser­vices) and the man in charge of the fight against the sep­a­ratists, mean­ing against the PKK and Kurds in gen­er­al. The two “guests” began to talk in front of the cam­era on the ties between Turkey and ISIS. But they also start­ed to talk about the MIT’s inner orga­ni­za­tion, which then had to urgent­ly reor­ga­nize all its cells.

Which is the same as say­ing that the intel­li­gence pre­ced­ing the inter­ven­tion in Afrin must have been of poor qual­i­ty and as the Chi­nese war the­o­reti­cian Sun Tzu said: “An army with­out spies is like a body with­out eyes and with­out ears.” 

Also of poor qual­i­ty were the rock­ets launched by the MIT against the Turk­ish town of Kilis in order to jus­ti­fy the inter­ven­tion against the region of Afrin. Said rock­ets did not have a range suf­fi­cient to reach the tar­get­ed town from the SDF’s posi­tions. The direc­tor of the MIT had men­tioned such prac­tices in 2014, speak­ing of send­ing men to throw rock­ets at Turk­ish towns in order to jus­ti­fy an inter­ven­tion in Syr­ia. Because of its large­ly nation­al­is­tic pop­u­la­tion, Turk­ish soci­ety has reunit­ed in the face of a Kur­dish domes­tic and exte­ri­or ene­my, but how long will this last? How many coffins will it accept?

Now on the Afrin side, the inte­ri­or sit­u­a­tion is much more envi­able. Afrin and Roja­va are both large­ly paci­fied areas. Insti­tu­tions set up since July 2012 are prov­ing rel­a­tive­ly effi­cient in an extreme­ly chaot­ic environment.

Elec­tions were orga­nized, end of 2017. Approx­i­mate­ly 70% of the elec­torate par­tic­i­pat­ed. It gave a very strong major­i­ty to the PYD (Demo­c­ra­t­ic Union Par­ty, a Syr­i­an broth­er par­ty to the PKK) and to its part­ners despite the civ­il war, the short­ages and the inter­na­tion­al pressure.

Since 2012, the YPG (Peo­ple’s Defence mili­tias, main force in the SDF) and now the whole coali­tion with­in the SDF have been con­sid­er­ably rein­forced in weapons, com­bat­ants and know-how. The SDF con­trol a ter­ri­to­ry ringfenced by the Unit­ed States against the regime and against Turkey, with the excep­tion of Afrin and of the Kur­dish quar­ter of Sheikh Maq­sud in Aleppo.

The fight against ISIS has par­tial­ly pulled Roja­va out of the inter­na­tion­al iso­la­tion in which it found itself pri­or to the bat­tle and the recap­ture of Kobané. More­over, the ter­rain of wood­ed moun­tains in Afrin is per­fect­ly   adapt­ed to defen­sive manoeu­vers against mech­a­nized attack­ing forces.

Advanc­ing on Afrin implies pass­ing through val­leys cross­ing the moun­tains. Mech­a­nized forces can only progress with dif­fi­cul­ty in the heights, ren­der­ing all pro­gres­sion very per­ilous. It is very easy for the light infantry units to move through the moun­tains in order to harass the ene­my’s flanks engulfed in the val­ley. Tak­ing the moun­tains appears very com­pli­cat­ed for the Turk­ish army who would need adapt­ed infantry forces, good knowl­edge of the ter­rain and good prepa­ra­tion. Three ele­ments the Turk­ish forces will have trou­ble com­bin­ing. Not sim­pli­fy­ing mat­ters, over the past six years, the SDF have for­ti­fied the zone, cre­at­ing a defen­sive net­work of trench­es, tun­nels and bunkers in the most strate­gic spots. Thus, the SDF have the advan­tage in launch­ing assaults against the low­lands from their for­ti­fied posi­tions and cap­tur­ing their ene­my in a pin­cer move­ment.   Videos show­ing the destruc­tion of tanks give tes­ti­mo­ny to this, often show­ing the guid­ed mis­siles launched by the SDF touch­ing the flanks or the rear of the tank.

The PYD has man­aged to put in place a sys­tem of mass mobi­liza­tion, as ver­i­fied in the enor­mous demon­stra­tions across Roja­va and in Afrin in par­tic­u­lar, despite the threat of bomb­ings. Roja­va can mobi­lize vast sec­tions of its pop­u­la­tion for bat­tle. We must nev­er for­get that this is a peo­ple in rev­o­lu­tion. In the heat of the rev­o­lu­tion the (French) Jacobins had man­aged to turn around a des­per­ate sita­tion thanks to a mas­sive pop­u­lar mobi­liza­tion. The same holds true in many his­tor­i­cal exam­ples such as that of the Bolcheviks dur­ing the Russ­ian civ­il war. Anoth­er impor­tant fac­tor: the Syr­i­an regime, prob­a­bly in accord with Iran and Rus­sia, allows com­bat­ants and weapons to pass through its ter­ri­to­ry, mak­ing of Afrin an sup­plied area that is not under siege. Videos show­ing com­bat­ants leav­ing from Kobané all the way to Afrin tes­ti­fy to the fact the road is open and bare­ly masked. More­over, the sup­ply routes cross­ing through the regime’s ter­ri­to­ry on the way to Afrin do not appear to be bom­bard­ed, the Rus­sians hav­ing prob­a­bly for­bid­den fly-overs by Turk­ish planes in this zone, mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion still more del­i­cate for Turkey, poten­tial­ly fac­ing all the forces of Rojava.

As a final ele­ment, and per­haps the most imor­tant, the deter­mi­na­tion can be under­stood giv­en the stakes this con­fronta­tion rep­re­sents for both forces. For the Kurds in Afrin, resist­ing the inva­sion is a ques­tion of sur­vival. If the Turk­ish army and the Jihadist mer­ce­nar­ies reach Afrin, the Kurds  will lose every­thing. They will lose their lives, their fam­i­lies, their belong­ings. Where­as the Jihadist mer­ce­nar­ies are paid a few hun­dred dol­lars per month and have noth­ing but mea­ger per­spec­tives of loot­ing, the Turk­ish sol­diers are gal­va­nized by speech­es of a nation­al­is­tic and con­quer­ing Islam.   But what can they real­ly gain in this offen­sive apart from blood and tears? The Kurds have much deep­er moti­va­tions in defend­ing their land. In the same vein, the soci­ety of Roja­va apply­ing the par­a­digm of demo­c­ra­t­ic con­fed­er­al­ism, in los­ing their land they would also lose their life sys­tem and their belief in a democ­ra­cy to which they are deeply attached. The thought of falling under a colo­nial tute­lage again is unac­cept­able to them. On this basis, the Kur­dish com­bat­ants are large­ly accus­tomed to the idea of dying as mar­tyrs for their people.

So of course, what can deter­mi­na­tion achieve against an unfurl­ing wave of tanks, mer­ce­nar­ies and planes? The Viet­namese gen­er­al Giap had already answered this ques­tion when, in his day, he par­tic­i­pat­ed in the defeat of the Unit­ed States and of France. The author of these lignes had announced a breach toward vic­to­ry in Kobané, in Octo­ber 2014, dur­ing the dark­er hours of the bat­tle and the quo­ta­tion evoked at the time has not aged at all. It stands as a reminder of Gen­er­al Giap’s words:

« Man’s spir­it is stronger than his own machines…It will be a war between a tiger and an ele­phant. If ever the tiger stops, the ele­phant will pierce him with his pow­er­ful tusks. Except the tiger will not stop. It will hide in the jun­gle dur­ing the day only to come out at night. It will pounce on the ele­phant and rip his back into great shreds then it will dis­ap­pear again in the dark jun­gle. And slow­ly the ele­phant will die of exhaus­tion and haemorhage. This is how the war will be in Indochina.” 

Evolutions in the course of operations

Now that we know our start­ing point, we can add that numer­ous twists have occurred in the course of the oper­a­tion. The most vis­i­ble is the image giv­en off by this inva­sion. Indeed, the Turk­ish Pres­i­dent does not have a good press in inter­na­tion­al pub­lic opin­ions, the Islmaists on which he relies even less so, where­as the SDF have a pos­i­tive image since they van­quished ISIS in Raqqa and in Kobané. The Turk­ish state and the Jihadists con­tribute to the deep­en­ing of this gap. The Turk­ish bomb­ings have already caused many dead and wound­ed (in less than 3 weeks of inter­ven­tions, more than 150 dead and 330 wound­ed when these lines were writ­ten). Images of chil­dren’s bod­ies, torn and man­gled by the bombs rein­force the antipa­thy against the Erdo­gan regime. The Turk­ish army has tar­get­ed sev­er­al Arab refugee camps, bomb­ing them while offi­cial­ly inter­ven­ing in order to “hand the region back to his legit­i­mate own­ers”, which is to say the Arabs. Still in this same vein, dec­la­ra­tions aim­ing at eth­nic cleans­ing against the Kurds don’t improve the image of an inop­por­tune and unjus­ti­fi­able inva­sion in the eyes of inter­na­tion­al law, nei­ther Afrin nor Roja­va hav­ing ever threat­ened or attacked Turkey.

Added to this are the hor­rors broad­cast by the Jihadists and the Turk­ish army them­selves. Tor­ture of aged vil­lagers, beat­ings on war pris­on­ers, use of chem­i­cal weapons (con­firmed by the SOHR, the Syr­i­an Obser­va­to­ry on Human Rights), threats of exter­mi­na­tion against the Kurds of Afrin. Every­thing is on dis­play, even veer­ing to the ridicu­lous as when sev­er­al Jihadists are filmed steal­ing chick­ens and pigeons from Kur­dish peas­ants, to the cry of “Allah Akbar” (God is great). On social net­works, some took hold of the affair, using the flag of the SLA but replac­ing the red stars by chickens.

On a more dra­mat­ic note, the inter­ven­tion took a par­tic­u­lar­ly ter­ri­fy­ing turn after Jihadists them­selves showed the video of their actions on the body of of Barîn Kobané. This woman, a Kur­dish com­bat­ant vic­tim of fem­i­ni­cide, died fight­ing against the Turk­ish State and its mer­ce­nar­ies. When her body fell between their hands, they undressed it, dis­em­bow­eled it and cut off the breasts. Dur­ing the video, a Jihadist plays at touch­ing the bits of flesh left where her breasts were. These actions are a crime against all women and a threat clear­ly adressed to them. This video shocked well beyond the Kur­dish com­mu­ni­ty as can be seen by the tri­bune in Le Figaro denounc­ing it, as well as the numer­ous press arti­cles. But per­haps most reveal­ing of the malaise was the reac­tion of Turk­ish par­ti­sans them­selves. Romain Cail­let, famil­iar with the Jihadist sphere for hav­ing once belonged to it, recent­ly impro­vised him­self as a spokesman for Turkey. He inter­vened in sev­er­al tweets, claim­ing a kamikaze group had done this to the body and deny­ing the vio­lence of the Jihadists (he prefers to call them ‘Sun­nis’). Yet, the SLA had already declared it was inves­ti­gat­ing the event, acknowl­edg­ing its verac­i­ty. What is most sin­is­ter about this may be how it brings to light what the Islamists have been doing since the begin­ning of the war in Syr­ia. It reveals a pro­fond­ly bru­tal and reac­tionary men­tal­i­ty. These images, shared by the Jihadists them­selves, demon­strat­ed their feel­ing of total impunity.

The cam­paign has also giv­en rise to a major inci­dent with Rus­sia, one of its fight­er-bombers being brought down by Syr­i­an Islamists sup­port­ed by Turkey. The pilot is dead. Rus­si­a’s first mea­sure of retor­sion was to close off the air space to Turk­ish planes. Tak­ing advan­tage of this respite, the SDF fight­ers counter-attacked and took back posi­tions held by the Turk­ish army. In this con­text, they cap­tured an ACV-15 armored vehi­cle. In par­al­lel, the Syr­i­an regime attempt­ed an assult on SDF posi­tions. The Unit­ed States, whose sup­port for the SDF had been put in doubt by the lat­est events, stepped up to the plate and are said to have killed 100 of the regime’s fight­ers. A few hours lat­er, Turk­ish bomb­ings start­ed again with a vengeance against the SDF posi­tions, after Rus­sia re-opened the air space. But this reveals the Amer­i­can strat­e­gy since the begin­ning of the civ­il war in Syr­ia. The Unit­ed States want to push the SDF and the Bachar el Assad regime into a direct con­fronta­tion. This inter­ven­tion occurred when the Turk­ish planes had stopped their bomb­ing. It is far from the first incur­sion of the regime into the Kur­dish zone and reac­tions are usu­al­ly more mod­er­ate, which indi­cates an inten­tion to pass on a mes­sage. The Unit­ed States, in bomb­ing with the con­se­quences that fol­lowed, which is to say the renew­al of Turk­ish bomb­ings, are telling the SDF: we will pro­tect you against the Turks if you fight Iran’s indebt­ed one, Bachar El Assad. If you refuse, we will send the Turks after you.

Oper­a­tions on the ground have trou­ble advanc­ing. More seri­ous yet, posi­tions acquired in the day are tak­en back by the SDF dur­ing the night. At best, the Turk­ish army has pen­e­trat­ed 5 km into the front lines. Fol­low­ing the re-open­ing of the air space, two Turk­ish heli­copters were downed and Turkey is acknowl­edg­ing more loss­es. Ten­sions are appear­ing between the Jihadist aux­il­iaries and the Turk­ish army send­ing them mas­sive­ly on to their deaths. As announced, the val­leys of Afrin have become dead­ly traps for the Turk­ish army and its aux­il­iaries. Murat Karay­i­lan, com­man­der of the PKK, declared Afrin’s defend­ing forces should let Turkey enter in order to crush it. Many tanks have been pul­ver­ized, notably a Leop­ard tank 2, famed for its resis­tance, which was blown apart by the anti­tank mis­sile of the Kur­dish wom­en’s mili­tia, the YPJ.

All this to say the oper­a­tion risks being long and mur­der­ous. As more time goes by, this inter­ven­tion will rot and reveal the hideous face of con­tem­po­rary Turkey and its auxiliaries.

A few hypotheses

The inter­ven­tion may end in one of sev­er­al ways, includ­ing of course a Turk­ish vic­to­ry and its dis­as­trous con­se­quences, but recent events do not sug­gest such a sce­nario. Turkey could also become bogged down and estab­lish a sta­tus quo on any of its advances. One or sev­er­al great pow­ers might use their posi­tions to stop the inva­sion and declare a no-fly zone if it is in their inter­est to defend Roja­va and/or if pub­lic opin­ions mobi­lize against the inter­ven­tion. The third option being that, fol­low­ing a mur­der­ous war, the Turk­ish troops are pushed back with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of attempt­ing the junc­tion of the can­tons of Afrin and of Kobané in the face of weak­ened Jihadist aux­il­iaries. Abdul­lah Öcalan, the PKK’s founder, jailed in Turkey since 1999, had said that the day Turkey would attack Roja­va would see the end of Erdo­gan. In this per­spec­tive, the YPG’s spokesman declared that the lib­er­a­tion of Azaz, Jarablus and Al-Bab had arrived (towns locat­ed between Kobané and Afrin that would serve to link the can­tons) as he had also announced for Raqqa dur­ing the bat­tle of Kobané.

The Iran-Rus­sia-Syr­i­an regime axis is tak­ing advan­tage of the sit­u­a­tion to occu­py impor­tant seg­ments of ter­ri­to­ry in the Islamist rebel­lion zones of Ghou­ta and Idlib. The Jihadists being mobi­lized on the oth­er front, these ter­ri­to­ries become eas­i­er to seize.

The most uncer­tain sce­nario in all this remain­ing Turkey itself. How will the pop­u­la­tion react to an inva­sion cost­ly in human and mate­r­i­al terms? How will peo­ple react to the coffins com­ing home? How will the army react if pushed to the lim­it? Will dis­man­tling the CHP be as easy as Erdo­gan wish­es? Will the new dis­si­dent leader of the Grey Wolves (one of the main extreme Turk­ish right wing move­ments), Mer­al Aksen­er known as the she-wolf, take advan­tage of Erdo­gan’s dif­fi­cul­ties in Syr­ia? Once the snow melts, will the army be in a posi­tion to both attack Afrin and fight the gueril­la? Erdo­gan has no choice, he must push for­ward in order to impose his dic­ta­tor­ship. He can­not allow him­self a defeat and there­in lies the prob­lem. He has passed the point of no return and can­not back down. War and gen­er­al­ized repres­sion are his only means of stay­ing in pow­er. This is the most trou­bling part, an all-or-noth­ing for the dic­ta­tor. Erdo­gan knows what hap­pened to the last Islamist in pow­er in Turkey who want­ed to invade Syr­ia in the ear­ly six­ties. He was hung.

This sit­u­a­tion could push him into extreme mea­sures, as was the case for the Ottoman empire with the Armen­ian geno­cide. This geno­cide occurred in the con­text of the Ottomans’ defeat and faced with an Armen­ian pop­u­la­tion spread out over sev­er­al fron­tiers, as is the case for the Kurds. Con­cern is great, giv­en the many par­al­lels between the two sit­u­a­tions, with a Turkey sink­ing into decay and Kur­dish mas­sacres on a back­ground of neo-Ottoman­ism. To the Turk­ish pow­er’s vir­u­lent nation­al­ism is added a poi­so­nous islamism. The Kurds are now the ones who have become infi­dels and ene­mies with­in. The silence main­tained by West­ern pow­ers while Kur­dish towns were razed in Turkey speaks vol­umes on the risk to these populations.

The great­est dan­ger is not in the mil­i­tary defeat itself but in the lunge for­ward by the Turk­ish pres­i­dent at a piv­otal point in the his­to­ry of the Mid­dle-East. This is why a mobi­liza­tion by pub­lic opin­ion is more nec­es­sary than ever and why this inva­sion must urgent­ly be stopped, as must be the one who launched it.

Raphaël Lebru­jah

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
Vous pouvez utiliser, partager les articles et les traductions de Kedistan en précisant la source et en ajoutant un lien afin de respecter le travail des auteur(e)s et traductrices/teurs. Merci.
Kedistan’ın tüm yayınlarını, yazar ve çevirmenlerin emeğine saygı göstererek, kaynak ve link vererek paylaşabilirisiniz. Teşekkürler.
Ji kerema xwere dema hun nivîsên Kedistanê parve dikin, ji bo rêzgirtina maf û keda nivîskar û wergêr, lînk û navê malperê wek çavkanî diyar bikin. Spas.
You may use and share Kedistan’s articles and translations, specifying the source and adding a link in order to respect the writer(s) and translator(s) work. Thank you.
Por respeto hacia la labor de las autoras y traductoras, puedes utilizar y compartir los artículos y las traducciones de Kedistan citando la fuente y añadiendo el enlace. Gracias.
Auteur(e) invité(e)
Auteur(e)s Invité(e)s
AmiEs con­tributri­ces, con­tribu­teurs tra­ver­sant les pages de Kedis­tan, occa­sion­nelle­ment ou régulièrement…