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Turkey may face challenges amid operation against Kurdish forces in Syria

Published : 10 Oct 2019, 17:36

  DF-Xinhua Report by Burak Akinci

Photo released by Turkish Defense Ministry shows Turkish army launches a military operation into northern Syria on the Turkey-Syria border, on Oct. 9, 2019. Photo Xinhua.

Experts said Turkey may face challenges amid its ongoing military operation in northern Syria to remove Kurdish forces from the border area despite international hostility.

   The operation, code-named Peace Spring, was launched on Wednesday following withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed in the area.

   "Turkey has justified concerns regarding the presence of the YPG (People's Protection Units) which has long threatened Turkey and is linked with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party)," which Ankara considers as a terrorist movement, said Hasim Turker, coordinator at the Ankara-based Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies (BAAM).

   The military expert told Xinhua that there would likely be no major difficulties for Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, to achieve its military targets and destroy YPG bases as Syrian Kurdish fighters "don't nearly match Turkey's forces."

   However, arms and heavy weaponry provided by the United States to the YPG could cause inevitable casualties and even operational delays as Turkey will struggle to ensure the stability of the area.

   "Turkey has legitimate arguments and security concerns. However, on the other hand, it has limited room to maneuver" in the face of international hostility to its action, said Turker.

   "Turkey will face much more hostility and has a difficult path ahead" as many Western and Arab nations have denounced the Turkish military action in Syria, the third of its kind since 2016, he added.

   For Togrul Ismayil, a professor of international relations at Kahramanmaras University, Turkey has to work on its communications skills abroad as it would not be easy to "break long lasting misconceptions" about its actions.

   In his recent speech at the UN General Assembly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the objective is to carve out a large buffer zone along Syria's border with Turkey.

   According to the Turkish leader, the "safe zone" would be 480 km long and 32 km deep and host up to 2 million of the 3.6 million Syrians Turkey is hosting.

   Erdogan's plan is expected to ease the domestic headache as anti-Syrian sentiment is on the rise among Turks, which is considered one of the reasons for his ruling party to lose control of almost all major cities in the March municipal elections.

   Therefore, the military operation which gains domestic support, has managed to consolidate Erdogan's eroding popularity at home, as the public opinion has largely supported his decision to send troops to Syria.

   Meanwhile, some experts said Turkish operation is also a "godsend opportunity" for the U.S. adversaries in Syria, notably Russia, Iran and the Syrian government, as the Turkish incursion prompts a U.S. withdrawal.

   Russia, which strengthened its bilateral ties with Turkey in recent years and sold S-400 missiles to Ankara despite harsh U.S. hostility, is now the strongest foreign power in Syria.

   "Moscow has remained relatively silent on Turkey's operation," said Ismayil, adding Moscow would clearly be satisfied with any rift inside NATO and in Turkish-U.S. ties.