Mar 10 2019

Ankara keeps eye on Assad with no plans to leave Syria - analyst

Turkey, which is serving as the custodian of the remnants of the armed opposition in Syria, has no plans of leaving the war-torn country and continues to keep on eye on the Syrian regime and its backers, Iran and Russia, wrote analyst Kyle Orton for Arab Weekly on Sunday.

Turkey has carved out two areas of direct control in north-western Syria with the 2016 Operation Euphrates Shield that took al-Bab and Jarablus and the January 2018 Operation Olive Branch that established Turkish control over the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin, Orton wrote, quoting Ömer Özkızılcık an analyst at Ankara’s SETA Foundation,  who said: “Until the creation of a legitimate government in Syria, Turkey will not hand over these areas.”  

Özkızılcık stressed that for Ankara, stability in Syria with President Bashar Assad is impossible and none of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would return to neighbouring Syria to live under Assad’s rule.

 Özkızılcık  also pointed out that Turkey tacitly acts as a bulwark against Iran, implementing a policy of “rivalry and cooperation,” driven by geopolitical reality.

Turkey is strongly opposed to the course some Gulf States are taking in investing in Assad, Orton quoted a senior Turkish official who chose to remain anonymous as saying, as part of an effort to curb Iranian power.

This is “highly problematic and not the way to contain Iran,” said the official. “It sends the wrong signal… and enables regime intransigence politically.”

Turkey has been criticised for having colonial designs in Syria and not investing enough in Operation Euphrates Shield and Afrin, Orton wrote, however Ankara has dismissed the claims.

Calculating Turkey’s investments in Syria has is difficult, the Arab Weekly columnist stressed, and highlighted the oft-cited figure by Turkish officials of $37 billion spent on Syrian refugees alone inside Turkey.

Some 100,000 Kurds were displaced during Operation Olive Branch of 2018 and the suffering of those in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin at the hands of local militias was Turkey’s most immediate crisis to solve, Orton wrote.