Afrin threats intended for internal and external consumption - academic

A well-known sociologist specialising in Turkish-Kurdish relations played down the chances of Turkey mounting a full invasion of Afrin, but says that making the threat sound serious may improve the government’s position both domestically and internationally.

“It is believed that increasing tensions within Turkey on the Kurdish question and over the Afrin and Syrian issues will help the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) bloc,” Professor Mesut Yeğen told the leftwing Evrensel newspaper.

He said, however, that he did not believe there would be an operation targeting Afrin city centre.

“Turkish politicians and the army will not get involved in this kind of business because it would be very expensive,” Yeğen said. “In front of us stands the memory of the last operation (Euphrates Shield). That operation, despite the help of the Free Syrian Army, lasted for months and it was a place where resistance was lower than in Afrin.”

“For that reason, I do not think that there will be an operation targeting Afrin city centre,” he said.

However, Yeğen said, threats to invade Afrin gave Turkey leverage over Russia at a crucial time.

“What we have most recently heard, if it is true, is that the (pro-Kurdish) Democratic Society Movement has been invited to (peace talks to be held at) Sochi. Consequently, it may be that the government is making a move in relation to that,” he said.

“Another possibility is that, if we want to add Erdoğan’s recent talks in the cities he has visited, there may be an upcoming election.”

According to the Turkish state’s threat perceptions, Yeğen said, Afrin poses a threat to Turkey as it could become part of a wider Kurdistan on Turkey’s southern border.

“Rojava (Kurdish-majority parts of Syria) is not only important as Rojava,” he said. “It is a place that cannot be tolerated (by the Turkish state) because of the morale it gives both Iraq’s Kurds and Turkey’s Kurds.”
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