Detroit (GPA) – Turkey has long been on a path in Syria set by their own interests.
This reading list of Turkey Geopolitics Alert stories will help you better understand the recent history of Turkey and its involvement in the Syrian war.
Turkey geopolitics; from NATO satellite to regional power
- To start; here is a brief history of the Turkish military and deep state’s role in stifling democracy for decades via a series of coups: How The Turkish Military Lost Power by Trying to Keep it
- As well as a bit of history about Erdogan himself: Who is Recep Tayyip Erdogan and What’s at Stake in the Turkish Election?
- Simultaneous to Erdogan’s rise as a sort of Sunni Islamic figurehead to some, Turkey also saw economic growth surpassed only by China. This, combined with other factors like Turkey’s attempt to join the EU helped make Ankara a regional power rather than a NATO satellite: What’s Driving Turkey’s Recent Emergence as a Middle East Power?
- With this newfound status, Turkey has sought out independent foreign policy since the war in Syria began: Turkey Defies US, Risks Global Isolation by Attacking Syria
Erdogan’s rise to power
- It is also crucial to remember that Erdogan is the primary driver of policy in Turkey under the Presidential system which centralized state power under the office: Erdogan Looks to Change Constitution and Grant Himself Power Until 2029
- The vote for the referendum, however, was highly contested and riddled with fraud (and changed the electoral system to facilitate more fraud in the future): Turkish Election Riddled with Fraud, Intimidation, and Questions
Obama years of the Syrian war
- Working in league with US to support terror groups across Syria in order to initiate regime change in Damascus, Turkey became the main entry point for those seeking to join Jihadist organizations including the Islamic State: Leaked Audio of John Kerry Proves Obama Allowed IS to Grow
- Relations between Ankara and Washington started to wane following the downing of a Russian fighter jet over the Syria-Turkey border (as well as other factors) and NATO basically left Turkey to deal with the incident on their own. Relations also backslid with the EU and Turkey’s membership prospects now are basically non-existent: European Parliament Votes to Halt Talks on Turkey’s Membership in EU
US backs YPG as Turks go with Jihadists
- Relations further deteriorated as US increased support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG): Erdogan implies US has to choose between Turkey and YPG
- As the US began to lean more on the YPG, later the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Turkey was collaborating with extremist groups in Syria, including buying stolen oil from IS: Wikileaks Reveal Scope of Turkish Connection to IS and Media Crackdown
- Most support for terror groups continued to flow freely across the Turkish border into Syria: Former US Envoy: Most ISIS Support Comes From Turkey-Syria Border
Turkey grows closer to Russia
- Clashes with the US led to Turkey working closer with Russia on finding a solution for Syria, which resulted in Turkey being given a spot at the Astana negotiations, basically as a representative for the more longstanding rebel groups in Syria that Ankara funds: Talks on Syria to be held in Astana on September 14-15
- This also led to Turkey becoming close enough with Russia to end up buying the S-400 missile defense system: Turkey Receives First Shipment of Russian S-400 Missile System
- Turkey has been cut out of the F-35 program which they were a partner in retribution for purchasing the S-400s, which means Turkey is out a lot of time and money that went into the highly overpriced project: US May Soon Freeze Preparations for F-35 Delivery to Turkey
Turkey’s relations with Damascus and peace talks
- Growing closer to Russia made Turkey softer on Syria at some points but Erdogan continued to flip on whether the goal in Syria was to topple Assad government or not: Turkey Flips Syria Stance Once Again Stating No Role for Assad
- Turkey remains an inconsistent (but still crucial) partner in negotiations due to Erdogan’s wavering between supporting peace and allowing rebels to continue destabilization efforts: Russia Demands Turkey do More in Syria’s Idlib Region
- Syria negotiations continued in this environment through late-Obama into Trump years as rebels grew closer to Turks. Kurds were still viewed as hostile to Damascus and negotiations due to their continued US backing: Kurds, Pushing for Autonomy, Stand to Lose in Syria Negotiations
Kurds history of being abandoned by US
- Assad issued warnings to Kurds that the US would not stand by them as it became clear the regime change attempt was a lost cause and IS was no longer viewed as a credible reason for US occupation: Assad Warns Syria’s Kurds That US Will Not Protect Them
- This warning was obvious based on the history of any time the United States has backed the Kurds in regional and national conflicts: The Kurds Being Sold Out by The U.S. Isn’t Shocking If You’ve Paid Attention
- The real threat to the Kurds started coming around 2018 when Trump first started talking about withdrawing troops from Syria: Why Will The US Leave Syria Soon? The Kurds Are Waking Up
- The Kurds have mulled making deals with Damascus previously but have abandoned these ventures whenever the US decided to remain in Syria’s northeast: Kurds, Out of Options, Look to Syria’s Assad for Help
Trump’s attempt at Syria policy
- The US and Turkey’s relationship continued to crumble over the last few years between the S-400 purchase and Turkey’s support for terror groups that ended up attacking the US and Kurdish forces to Ankara breaking Iran sanctions since before the JCPOA: The Real Reasons why US-Turkey Relations Have Hit an All-Time Low
- Relations took another dive when Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch into Kurdish-controlled Afrin and occupying territory in northwest Syria (and diverting YPG/SDF forces from the Euphrates region): Afrin: Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch Is Testing the US-Kurdish Alliance
- Trump later made his first attempt to pull US troops out of northeast Syria in late 2018: Trump Starts Withdrawal of US Forces from Syria, Claims Victory Over ISIS
- There was a mass revolt in US media and government (similar to now), to a point where even John Bolton guaranteed US troops would not leave without assurance of the Kurds’ safety: Bolton: No Syria Withdrawal Until Turkey Promises Kurdish Safety
Safe zone and latest moves
- Some time after this failure to withdraw US troops away from the Turkish border, Trump finally agreed to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria: US and Turkey Agree to Establish “Safe Zone” in Northern Syria
- This plan was just as unacceptable to Damascus and allies as the previous arrangement (primarily because it is illegal): Syria Slams US-Turkey Safe Zone, Calls it ‘Blatant Aggression’
- While US troops seemed to be helping to establish this safe zone it was soon obvious Washington was stalling, which angered Ankara: US Forces Arrive in Turkey to Work on Center Overseeing Syria Safe Zone
- Finally, Trump seemingly took his easiest option to get out of Syria, and after another call with Erdogan decided to relocate the 1,000 US troops working with the YPG/SDF and clearing the way for what will likely be a lengthy Turkish occupation as Ankara works to resettle Syrian refugees back across the border: Trump Outsources Syria Destabilization to Turkey in Bid to Ease Tensions
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.