By Marc Ramsingh
On Wednesday, November 30th, the United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke to the Turkish Minister of National Defense, Hulusi Akar, about the United States’ “strong opposition” to a potential Turkish invasion of northern Syria. According to The Department of Defense, Secretary Austin gave his condolences and expressed the importance of de-escalation in the area after a recent air strike hit close to US personnel working with Syrian locals in an anti-terrorism operation.
Turkey has been attacked a significant amount of times since the beginning of the Syrian civil war and it has grown tired. With Turkey being a United States ally who has a stake in Syrian affairs, it is important that a Turkish response to Syria and ISIS doesn’t overstep, keeping escalation in the area to a minimum and allies content.
Why does Turkey want to potentially invade Syria?
Turkey finds itself in a difficult situation in its relations with Russia, the United States, and Syria. Being allies to both Russia and the US should lead to Turkey being very careful in how it will respond to its ongoing Syrian crisis.
Syria is a war-torn nation in an ongoing civil with weakened government terrorism spearheaded by ISIS. Turkey is a neighbor of Syria, and is on the receiving end of some of these attacks, including a recent November 13th bombing of Istanbul that killed 6 people. Since that attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar have ramped up rhetoric and actions in preparation for a potential full invasion of northern Syria in self-defense.
Turkey has experienced a significant amount of ISIS-related terrorism in its southeastern region; with a weak Syrian government unable to wrangle the amount of activity ISIS and other terrorist organizations contribute within its borders, Turkey feels that to protect itself it may need to invade Syria to lower the amount of terrorist activity on Turkish land.
Turkey has also recognized the attacks from ISIS that are also launched from Iraq, where they have also conducted military strikes. What’s key is to recognize that Turkey has been patient with Syria and Iraq for years and has done well in pleasing the US. This is why the US also won’t stop Turkey from doing this, recognizing this may be a necessary move.
What does this mean for the United States?
The US government’s position on this issue is two-sided. On the one hand, it is vital that the US keeps its long-standing ally in Turkey content, in that there is a Russo- Ukrainian war where the US has a lot at stake. To allow Turkey to make no effort in defending itself because of US-backed Kurdish lead Syrian Democratic Forces in the area would be unwise.
On the other hand, the United States does have a vested interest in the area with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. US-backed SDF forces are part of the US anti-terror operation with the goal of pushing back the Islamic forces and establishing a US-friendly democratic government. The US wants SDF in power in hopes that an SDF government can keep its foot on the neck of ISIS and eradicate it.
File Photo //Turkish Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS //