Dec 08 2017

Turkey faces choice between helping Syrian opposition and hindering Kurds

The changing dynamics of the Syrian civil war are forcing Turkey to choose between aiding the Syrian opposition in its fight to President Bashar Assad and preventing Syrian Kurdish forces from gaining permanent autonomy on Turkey’s borders, Hanaa Hasan wrote in Middle East Monitor.

“As to whether Ankara will choose to make further concessions on the part of the Syrian opposition for the sake of battling the Kurds, remains to be seen,” she said.

“One thing, though, is certain: Turkey’s priorities in Syria are set to be challenged.”

Some reports have suggested that Ankara was helping Russia to separate opposition alliance Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) from other opposition groups seen as being more moderate, Hasan said.

“This is a Russian-initiated strategy, analysts say, but one that Turkey will facilitate due to its influence with groups on the ground.”

This strategy of dividing the Syrian opposition further would favour Assad in his attempt to take back all of Syria’s territory, she said, and that would lessen the chance of the Syrian Kurdish-controlled territory becoming a permanently autonomous region.

“It is ironically with the Syrian regime that Turkey is joined most strongly in its desire to quash Kurdish independence efforts; Assad considers all forces claiming Syrian land other than the regime’s own troops to be occupiers.”

But despite tactical alliances with Russia and Iran, it is unclear whether Turkey’s leaders would be willing to compromise over their opposition to Assad remaining in power after the war ends, Hasan said.