A Few Thoughts about Turkey and the Syrian Buffer Zone

Here are few thoughts about Turkey setting up a buffer zone and forming a view point about the unfolding events.

  1. Turkey has long suffered from cross border terrorism from the communist PKK and its supporters including the YPG in northern Syria. It has been a longstanding issue that has threatened the Turkish territorial integrity. Southern Turkey is home to a large amount of Kurds that could potentially demand to join onto any potential Kurdish entity that arose in the region.
  2. After the abandonment of north east of Syria by the Assad regime and the subsequent occupation of many areas by DAESH, the US armed the YPG and other militia groups to fight DAESH. After the defeat of DAESH the land east of the Euphrates came largely under Kurdish control under the name of Syrian Democratic Forces ( SDF).
  3. The SDF have largely administered the region based upon Abdullah Öcalan’s libertarian socialist ideology. In personal laws like marriage for example the sharia laws were left and in place absolute equality between men and women was enacted. In economics there have been widespread occurrences private property being transferred to communal ownership. According to the region’s “Ministry of Economics”, approximately three quarters of all property has been placed under community ownership and a third of production has been transferred to direct management by workers’ councils
  4. Instead of having the Syrian regime on its southern border Tukey now had the SDF, which became a major concern to it. Given the colonel Ralph Peters map circulated in US policy circles more than a decade ago that showed free Kurdistan and a much smaller Turkey – it became a bee in Turkey’s bonnet to protect its borders.
  5. It should be noted that since August 2016 Turkey has already established a safe zone in Syria that consists of a 3,460-square-kilometre area which encompasses around 499 settlements, including towns such SDF control over the border undoubtedly caused Turkey deep concern. as Afrin, alBab, Azaz, Dabiq, Jarabulus, Jindires, Rajo and Shaykh al-Hadid. By last July ( 2018) Turkey had built 6 military bases in the area. Turkish Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu declared in January 2019 that northern Syria is “part of the Turkish homeland” per the Misak-ı Millî of 1920.
  6. The current moves to create a 20 mile zone into Syria will now ensure that the entire southern border with Syria is free from control by other than Turkey.
  7. Erdogan has played his politics well in getting a concession from the US President Trump to withdraw American forces. Previously he nearly succeeded but Trump did a U turn. Erdogan persisted with the Turkish agenda to create the buffer zone for some time. The current green light given by Trump to Turkey seems to be at odds with the other elements of the US establishment including the military who view Trump giving the Turks permission as treachery of their Kurdish allies. that lost 11000 lives in the fight against DAESH. Congress has stated that it will push for sanctions against Turkey and Trump has said he will sign both primary and secondary sanctions against Turkey, should they need to be activated. This is probably a move by Trump to diffuse criticism that he is not doing anything about Turkey by his opponents.
  8. Internationally, the EU has said that it may impose a weapons embargo on Turkey – this would need to be agreed unanimously by all the EU member nations. France and Germany already have said that they will put an arms embargo against Turkey. Pakistan has said it supports Turkeys attempts to end terrorism in the region.
  9. The actions that Erdogan has taken are for the preservation of the Turkish state. To disrupt the threat from the PKK and expand the influence of Turkey to its south. Additionally Erdogan will in all likelihood use this as political capital as a way to address the discontent amongst the Turkish public about Syrian refugees by saying that he has provided a solution for the problem by relocating them to the safe zone in northern Syria. The added advantage being that it will dilute down the Kurdish population thus diluting the threat from the PKK.
  10. Some Muslims judge the actions of Turkey and Erdogan from the prism of hukm Shari rules. Is what Turkey is doing within the bounds of shariah or not? The fact of the matter is that Turkey does not take the basis of its actions as Islam or the sharia. Rather it undertakes actions upon what it views as necessities for it to continue as a state and its own expedient policy objectives. The point being if the basis of actions is flawed what is the point of judging that they are correct or not according to Shara. What matters is the reality of what is going on.
  11. Many Muslims are trigger happy to attack rulers as they view that accounting the rulers is an essential prerequisite to return the Khilafah. This is a flawed understanding that often dismisses the political reality in favour of rhetoric. This alienates many Muslims that agree with the restoration of the Khilafah but find the attacks against the rulers no more than shallow soundbites.
  12. Regardless of the actions of Muslim nation states the issue at hand is transforming Muslim societies so that they carry the correct view points based upon Islam. Understanding the political reality and the effects of different actions undertaken by the existing states need to be taken onboard so that the work to transform society is not viewed as impractical or theoretical by Muslims at large. This is what is meant by looking after the affairs people -a definition of politics.
  13. What Turkey is doing is securing itself as a state , strengthening its influence so that it may benefit the people of Turkey. The reality is that it is better that it does that, than become a failed state like Syria or Iraq. The work that is required is not just to account Erdogan about the actions that he undertakes but to transform the public opinion to demand the implementation of Islam and it’s rules. That is the work of political parties that are based upon Islam.
  14. As a final point it could well be that the SDF will now join hands with the Assad regime in order to repel the Turkish “invasion “, in which case Trumps red lines would be crossed it is a scenario that needs to be followed.

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