Turkish forces to enter Syria to create buffer zone along border

SyriaTurkish forces to enter Syria to create buffer zone along border

Published 30 June 2015

Turkey, for the first time since the war in Syria began four years ago, is preparing to send troops into Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has authorized a change in the rules of engagement which were agreed to by the Turkish parliament, and the changes would allow the Turkish army to strike ISIS and Assad regime targets. The goal of the new policy is not new: to create a buffer zone inside Syria for Syrian refugees fleeing the regime’s bombing, but Erdogan has also suggested that the main target of the intervention, if it takes place, will be to prevent the Syrian Kurds from creating a Kurdish state in the Kurdish regions of Syria.

Turkey, for the first time since the war in Syria began four years ago, is preparing to send troops into Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has authorized a change in the rules of engagement which were agreed to by the Turkish parliament, and the changes would allow the Turkish army to strike ISIS and Assad regime targets.

The goal of the new policy is not new: to create a buffer zone inside Syria for Syrian refugees fleeing the regime’s bombing, but Erdogan has also suggested that the main target of the intervention, if it takes place, will be to prevent the Syrian Kurds from creating a Kurdish state in the Kurdish regions of Syria.

The Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG (the People’s Protection Units), has established dominance in a border strip across the north of Syria in recent months. The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD (the Democratic Union Party), which is an offshoot of the PKK, a pro-independence Turkish Kurdish faction which, between 1982 and 2012, killed 42,000 Turks, most of them civilians, in a campaign aiming to gain independence for the Kurds in eastern Turkey (see “Turkish jets bomb Kurdish positions,” HSNW, 15 October 2014).

“We will never allow the establishment of a state in Syria’s north and our south,” Erdogan said in a weekend speech. “We will continue our fight in this regard no matter what it costs.”

Turkey has been pushing since 2011 for the creation of a buffer zone — protected by international forces on the ground and by a no-fly zone in the air — in north Syria to allow shelter for Sunni refugees who were fleeing the indiscriminate attacks by the Assad forces on Sunni communities. In the absence of such a buffer zone, the refugees fled into Turkey, which is now home to two million Syria refugees.

Until this weekend, however, Turkey had refused to create such a buffer zone on its own. Two developments have combined to change Turkey’s mind.

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