Turkey is playing a dangerous political game
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Turkey’s recent operation in northern Syria has been rightfully condemned by many nations across the world. Turkey, ironically, has named the endeavour ‘Operation Peace Spring’. On 9 October, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, publicly announced its commencement.
The People’s Protection Unit (YPG) is viewed as terrorists by Turkey and this is why they are invading; to create a safe zone of 30km in Syria, beside the Turkish border. This comes just days after it was announced that the US troops were being pulled out of Syria. Even though NATO has acknowledged that the concerns that Turkey has are legitimate, the offensive operation poses a huge danger for Syria and its people.
Turkey has strategically picked this time to launch the operation. On 6 October 2019, President Donald Trump announced that the 2,000 American troops that are stationed in Syria are to be withdrawn. This came as a shock to nations across the world and the decision has been met with criticism from many high officials. The withdrawal placed Syria in a vulnerable position, for without the US troops the Syrian forces have been left weakened and more susceptible to a Turkish offence.
Civilians make up some of the worst affected by Turkey’s offence. Before Operation Peace Spring, the United Nation estimated that over 700,000 people in Northern Syria require humanitarian assistance. The offence is likely to displace thousands of people; adding to this already huge crisis. In the past, Turkey has gained a reputation for treating civilians unfairly, and the current situation will unsurprisingly resurrect such anxieties. To make things worse, the Syrians that are fighting alongside Turkey have been accused of conducting arbitrary killings of civilians. This just adds to the already dangerous situation of Syrian civilians that have now, unrightfully, been forced to choose between fleeing their homes or staying in a warzone.
Operation Peace Spring is also having a detrimental effect on the terrorist group that the SDF and the American troops had come so far in the fighting. Despite Turkey’s active contribution to national anti-terrorism, there have been accusations that forces backed by Turkey are releasing ISIS fighters held in prisons controlled by the SDF. In addition, with the conflict in play, some ISIS fighters have managed to escape from prison camps. Even though Turkey is meant to be fighting against the terrorist group, it seems they are much too preoccupied with the Kurds and gaining their safe zone. The offence will only increase the damage done to the work against ISIS terrorism that has come so far in the last few years.
The Turkish offence in Northern Syria is bound to have appalling consequences for both Syrian civilians and for the hope of defeating ISIS. The issue is complex and the fight between Turkey and the Kurdish people has occurred for over 200 years. However, Trump’s decision to remove American troops has given Turkey what it needs to launch an operation in which the outcome could be detrimental for everyone involved.