Published On: Mon, Jan 22nd, 2018

Why is “Olive Branch Operation” in Afrin of vital importance for Turkey?

Why is “Olive Branch Operation” in Afrin of vital importance for Turkey?

Turkish Tanks in Afrin –

Turkey has started a military operation in Northern Syria to end existence of Kurdish Militants (linked to PKK terror organization very closely) in Afrin. All the relevant capitals were informed to comply with diplomatic rules. The operation is called “Olive Branch” in reference to international law, the UN Treaty, the territorial integrity of Syria, and it is also declared that the operation targets only ISIS and PYD.

As for the progress of the operation so far, it is observed that the targets to be shot are spotted and hit with success. Following the first day of air operations on which first priority targets were shot, the ground operation started on the second day.

It has been observed so far that there is no significant objection from diplomatic environments on global level.

First of all, we need to understand and explain well why it was necessary to carry out the Afrin (Olive Branch) Operation, a few months after Euphrates Shield Operation in Syria as well.

YPG (Armed Kurdish Groups) had Cizre and Kobani under its control to the east of the Euphrates and was targeting to join this area with Afrin and Menbic (under its control as well) to the west of the Euphrates so as to surround the southern border of Turkey with the goal to approach (and finally reach, obviously) the Mediterranean. This certainly was very dangerous for Turkey in terms of security and could mean for Turkey to be dependent on PKK (pro-Kurdish Terror Organization) even regarding its trade relations in/with the Middle East. Thanks to the Euphrates Shield Operation in September 2017 Turkey took an area of 2000 square kilometers under its control and cut the corridor planned by YPG (PKK). However, the presence of YPG in Afrin and Menbic is also important and the organization has enjoyed tolerance/convenience from Russia and Assad (Syria) to reach the region from the south of El Bab, freely. Now Turkey is determined to include Afrin also in the area under its control to end plans of YPG to open a corridor to the Mediterranean next to the southern border of Turkey. Time will show to what extent Turkey will be able to control this area, depending on military and diplomatic conditions to follow.

One thing is for certain for Turkey though; this operation must be accomplished successfully for the security of the country as far as today and the future is concerned. Because this way secured territory will have been expanded and PKK will have been kept away from the Mediterranean.

As for Menbic though, an operation here would be much more critical because Russia had stated that “the administration in Menbic would be transferred to the Syrian army” making things complicated. This is not to forget YPG in Menbic is strong and a major threat for Turkey as well.

On the other hand we observe that Russia has not opposed the operation in Afrin as it has withdrawn troops from this area – not to forget Russia’s tight relations with Assad and the fact Assad takes every chance to slam Turkey regarding issues in the region.

Russia is obviously trying to secure the right balance to comply its benefits in the region (not unusual in diplomacy) and is no closer to Turkey in the longer run than its own benefits would require.

As for the USA it is now known to us all that “They are in Syria to stay” (as announced by officials) to protect Israel and their benefits regarding energy resources in the region – and surely not to leave the whole region to Russia, their biggest rival. In this scope it is no secret that the States has been trying to establish an army consisting of YPG members, providing them with heavy arms and training to be used in terms of conflicts against American benefits. Thus, Turkey’s job is much more difficult in North East Syria as any intervention could mean (or lead to) a confrontation with the States as well. So, time will show the status in this region depending on Assad’s reaction towards an established YPG presence here – not to forget a secret agreement between the USA and Russia to mutually respect each other’s benefits, regardless of wishes and preferences of local administrations.

Also if we include in the picture the other parties such as Arab states in the region and Iran etc. the situation seems to be a real tough one not to be settled for many years to come.

Finally, Turkey should continue diplomacy with much attention in international law and spend effort to repair damaged relationships with neighboring countries as well as its partners in Europe to ensure a well-deserved success story is permanent.

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