Turkey’s incursion into Syria has rational basis - analyst

Turkey’s military incursion into Syria to battle Kurdish militants has an entirely rational basis, prompted by nearly a century of mistrust of the United States and its obsession with defeating Kurds, said Steven A. Cook, a fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The U.K., France and Russia occupied or encouraged the independence of numerous countries during the 19th century, including Greece, Egypt and Bulgaria; all part of the Ottoman Empire. Treaties signed after the empire’s collapse divided Turkey into foreign-controlled zones and detached its last remaining lands outside what is now known as Turkey, Cook said in The Atlantic.

Even after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk drove the Allies out of the country, a “profound and pronounced mistrust of foreign powers exists – even allies – in Turkey’s political culture”, he said.

“Turkish leaders have made clear that the nightmare of post-World-War-I dismemberment can never repeat itself. But it has, despite their best efforts—albeit in an updated form, involving the United States and Syrian territory that the Kurds call Rojava, or Western Kurdistan,” Cook said. “This explains why, last weekend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered his army to attack a district in northwestern Syria called Afrin.”

Still, Turkey would probably be better off if it dealt with the grievances of many of its Kurdish citizens “with an open hand rather than a clenched fist”, he said.

The rhetoric of Turkey’s leaders at rallies in support of the incursion is also “blood-curdling”, Cook added.