The Syrian crisis is entering a crucial stage that could either end in world powers agreeing that peace must be given a chance in the war-torn country – or an all-out ground invasion by foreign troops, which has been threatened by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the US. There are grounds to believe, however, that Ankara will not tolerate any peace in Syria that brings about a defeat of the anti-government forces there.
Saudi jets move to Turkish base
Saudi Arabia has been deploying military jets and personnel to Turkey’s southern Incirlik Air Base. The latest move is said to be part of the US-led effort to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The base is currently being used by the US Air Force for their planes conducting sorties in Syria.
Earlier, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE voiced their readiness to contribute troops to a ground operation in Syria on the condition that the US would lead the intervention. The Gulf states, just as the Turkish government, want Syrian President Bashar Assad to be overthrown.
Middle East experts have warned that sending Turkish and Saudi troops into Syria would bring “catastrophic”consequences, while Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev has said an intervention by foreign powers would result in “permanent”war in the region.
Turkey cracks down on Kurds, falls out with US over YPG
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has started a diplomatic row with the US over Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State extremists in Syria. Ankara has branded the Kurds as terrorists, while the US maintains they are a helpful force in fighting Islamic State.
Kurds are seen as a formidable force in the border region. They have been simultaneously fighting IS and seeking more autonomy from Syria. The YPG took full control of the IS-besieged town of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border late last June.
Meanwhile, Turkey has repeatedly been blamed for targeting Kurdish fighters in the border region rather than IS.
Ankara has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish militants in southeastern Turkey, who are fighting for the right to self-determination and greater autonomy. Since the summer of 2015, the country has seen some of its worst violence in two decades. In one of the latest incidents, Turkish police fired tear gas at thousands of people protesting in the city of Diyarbakir, while in the town of Cizre dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed in Erdogan’s military crackdown, some of them whom had taken cover in basements.
Turkey has already hinted that it could launch a ground invasion into Syria several times. The latest was Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu’s pledge to return a “historical debt” to Turkey’s “Aleppo brothers,” who helped defend the country in the early 20th century – just days after Russia had warned of Ankara’s intentions to invade Syria, as the rebels there falter.
Turkey sets up presence inside Syria
Turkey has begun building a refugee camp on Syrian territory not far from the Turkish-Syrian border.
Speculations on the development range from Ankara planning to create a “buffer zone” inside Syria, to allegations that the Turks are creating a “human shield” to prevent the recapture of border territories. Kurds are reportedly not being let into the grounds of the refugee camp.
Turkey needs ISIS oil?
Russia has repeatedly accused Turkey of benefiting from Islamic State’s illegal oil trade, which the UN is trying to crack down upon, with the Russian military directly implicating Erdogan’s family in the dirty business.
A report on IS’ illegal oil sales, compiled by Norway and leaked in December, has revealed that most of the IS-smuggled oil is trucked into Turkey, where it is sold off at very low prices.