Turkish president Erdogan’s latest offensive against Syrian Kurds shows he has grown as a powerful world leader and a force to be reckoned with. Turkey can now dare to look any nation in the eyes particularly the United States. It has strengthened ties with Russia and is a player in the Middle East, while European countries are threatened that the floodgates of Syrian refugees will be opened for the continent.
As the political clout kept rising, Turkey also showed its military might by striking the Kurds in northeast Syria dubbed Operations Peace Spring. Turkey brands the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters as terrorists and wants to push them from the border to create a safezone where it can resettle millions of Syrian refugees.
However, the Kurdish-led forces were crucial US proxies in the fight against ISIS. Thousands of imprisoned radicals now risk being released and could regroup. This has created another crisis for US President Trump who has been accused of betraying his allies by withdrawing troops from the region just days before the offensive.
Erdogan had warned his country’s partners that he would not allow Syria Kurds near the border as they pose a serious threat to national security. but all these warnings fell on deaf ears. It has now being learnt that Trump wrote a casual letter to Erdogan, which was so bizarre that it was considered as fake. Erdogan was unimpressed, threw the letter, and was compelled to launch the operation as matter of self-defence.
While European countries acted impulsively and imposed sanctions, Trump dispatched his deputy Mike Pence to Ankara for negotiations with Erdogan. They agreed to a temporary but fragile ceasefire. The suspension of hostilities looked designed to help Turkey achieve its goal without fighting as air and artillery attacks continued killing several civilians.
Although the Turkish military has seized vast territory, the region has been pushed into further chaos. More than 500 people have been killed on both sides including nearly 100 civilians, while around 300,000 have been displaced.
Trump has argued that it was no longer role of the United States to ensure calm in the volatile area. Turkey maintains that the operation will be short and they have no intention of staying. There are also risks of a new conflict between Turkey and Syria as President Al-Assad has been strengthened and has sent troops to support Kurdish forces. The region is even more complicated now with no end in sight.