How to Wage War in Syria and Win an Election in Turkey

By Gönül Tol | Director of Turkey Program - The Middle East Institute | Jan 25, 2018
How to Wage War in Syria and Win an Election in Turkey

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Amid much fanfare, Turkey launched a military incursion into the northwestern Kurdish enclave of Afrin over the weekend. Mosques across the country held special “conquest” prayers for the victory of . The Ottoman military band, Mehter, performed in the border provinces as a show of support for soldiers taking part in . After the country’s top cleric’s call, thousands across the country gathered in mosques to pray for . The opposition, except for the pro-Kurdish HDP, has all lent full support to the operation. Many Turks see it as a historic opportunity to write the wrong of Western efforts to establish a Kurdish state. They think the operation will prevent the Kurds from reaching the Mediterranean and bring peace to the “oppressed people” of Afrin. Nevermind that despite the fanfare, it is a limited push into the outskirts of the city or that the United States has no presence in Afrin or that it is practically impossible for the Kurds of Afrin to reach the Mediterranean or the operation is likely to ignite Arab-Kurdish conflict let alone bring peace and stability. For the Turks, the “second war of independence” is raging in Afrin. And with that, President Erdogan has already achieved the real aim of the operation: galvanizing the nationalists ahead of critical 2019 elections.

But moving ahead might be less smooth. The operation poses serious dilemmas for Turkey. Turkish officials said the aim of the operation was to create a nineteen-mile-deep zone inside Syria, which can be used as a safe area for civilians. The zone is likely to be secured and administered by Turkey’s Syrian rebel allies. Turkish president Erdogan vowed that after establishing the safe zone, the campaign would root out the Kurdish militias and rebuild infrastructure and .

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