Will 'safe zone' planned by US-Turkey bring safety to north Syrian region?

China Military Online
Xu Yi
2019-08-13 15:56:06

By Lan Shunzheng

Turkey and the US have reached an agreement to set up a so-called "safe zone" in north Syria on August 7. According to the agreement, the US and Turkey will set up a joint operation center in Turkey for coordinated management of the planned safe zone. Not long ago, the US kicked Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program, which dealt a blow to bilateral relationship. However, the cooperation between the two sides to establish a "safe zone" indicates that the US, to some extent, gradually comes to a compromise with Turkey.

The cooperation came as Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdoğan said on August 6 that he will cross the border into Syria to crack down on Syrian Kurdish militias, while the US side determined that the action was "unacceptable" and threatened to stop it. However, neither Turkey nor the US wants to worsen bilateral relations, so it is a compromise that the two sides have reached to seek common interests and work with each other.

Turkey has considerations based on its own real interests when declaring to fight against Kurdish militias at this time. On the one hand, Syrian Kurdish militias have had a negative impact on the management of Kurds in Turkey. After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the Kurds were involved in the war and gradually grew stronger. During the armed conflict with the Syrian opposition and the "Islamic State", the Kurds eventually resisted the attacks of the Syrian opposition forces and expelled a large number of members of the "Islamic State". At present, the Kurds have controlled more than a quarter of the Syrian territory and are actually in a state of autonomy. Once the Syrian Kurdish autonomous region is legalized, Kurds in Turkey, who are not far away from Syria, may follow, posing a serious threat to the stability and security of Turkey. To this end, Turkey has successively launched the "Operation Euphrates Shield" and "Operation Olive Branch" military operations to cross the border and fight against the Syrian Kurdish forces.

On the other hand, Turkey's move is also putting pressure on the US. With Kurdish influence in Syria, using their armed forces to fight the "Islamic State" became part of the US Middle EasternWar on Terror. And the US has continued to provide materials and personnel assistance for the Kurdish armed forces. At present, Kurdish armed forces have become an important partner of the US in Syria and an important "grip" to influence the situation in the Syrian civil war and even the Middle East. A few days ago, the US once claimed to sanction Turkey and kicked it out of the F-35 supply chain over Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense missile system. Although Turkey does not care too much on the surface, the possible sanctions from the US cannot be ignored. Still hoping to buy F-35 fighter jets, Turkey is well aware of the importance of Kurdish armed forces to the US and therefore it declared strike across the border to push the US to make relevant concessions. This is a realistic choice made by Turkey.

In fact, the establishment of a "safe zone" by Turkey and the US is not just a spur of the moment. The two sides have had relevant discussions before, but they failed to reach an agreement on issues including the scope of the "safe zone" and who controls it. This time, Turkey's will to fight against Kurdish armed forces is very firm and it claimed that "with or without allies’ support", Turkey will take actions. The US found it difficult to stop Turkey and thus made concessions to the Turkish side in the "safe zone" negotiations in order to protect the Kurdish armed forces.

The US does not want to screw up its relationship with Turkey since Turkey is a member of the NATO and has an important geographical position. Even more, the US does not want Turkey to be close with its opponents such as Russia and Iran. Therefore, although the purchase of the S-400 air defense missile system in Turkey touched the bottom line of the US, Trump was still vague on imposing sanctions against Turkey and put the blame on the previous administration. Therefore, the US took the opportunity to release goodwill to Turkey at this time so it can bring Turkey back to its side, while protecting the Kurdish armed forces.

According to the agreement, Turkey and the US will set up a coordination center to coordinate and handle the establishment of the "safe zone" in north Syria, which will become a "peaceful corridor" to help Syrian refugees return to their homes. It is not difficult to see that the cooperation between the two countries is the result of mutual compromise on many issues. It remains to be seen whether the "safe zone" can really bring security to the region.

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