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Centre of National Security and Foreign Policy Researches|23 Ocak 2018 Tuesday

Operation Olive Branch in Afrin; Probable Outcomes, Effects and Expected Scenes

Cahit Armağan Dilek tarafından yazıldı.

In my previus articles and the TV programs in which I was invited, I clearly mentioned the necessity of focal point to be USA guided and heavily supported semi-state of PKK on the northern side of Syria to abolish the PKK aisle or the terror aisle which is located all along the southern borders of Turkey. I referred to the vitalism of the center of gravity to be the main danger; eastern side of Euphrates since including the Iraqi border, it is about 1400 km of distance which is obvious that such extent of lenght prevents the military operations on all sides at the same time thus making the priority target to be the safest shelter for PKK; the eastern side of Euphrates. I believe those estimations and advices of mine to be prevalent. I also mentioned that the other alternatives of target might prolong the prevention of the terror aisle and complicate defuse the already advanced formation of the building of a state at the eastern side of Euphrates.

However, the political and military decision makers commanded an operation on a brand new target; Afrin to abolish the forementioned aisle. The operation towards Afrin  which has been spoken for a long time commenced after the completion of the military preparations on the date of January 20th under the name of ‘‘Olive Branch’’. From now on, our responsibility is to present our support to the operation and while doing so, bring the mistakes we see in respect to the aims and approaches of other actors to the attention of decision makers.

About the Afrin operation;

Concerning all the counter reactions about the Operation Olive Branch, the reasons based on the commencement of the operation are right and justified on Turkey’s part. Turkish General Staff announced the commencement of the Operation Olive Branch to neutralize the terrorist connected to PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and ISIL to secure the borders and  build the safety and stabilization of the region and to rescue the friendly locals from the savagery and repression of the mentioned formations.

To sum up;  Turkey is on its own on the just and right operation in Afrin. To be sincere, Turkey has always been alone throughout the 35 years of conflict with PKK. We observe this once more in Afrin. While the statements coming from NATO, USA, Germany and England seem like a made up highlight of a support to the border protection right of Turkey, ‘‘calling for moderation on both of the sides’’, including norms such as ‘‘limitation of the operation in means of time and field’’, ‘‘de-escalation’’ and ‘’political solution’’ within the calls clearly shows the approaches of mentioned countries’ and their establishments’ towards the operation.

Close combat, diplomatic warfare, psychological operation, the terror

As the operation commenced, the new tableau on the field is now clear and thus, actors started to reveal their positions; and the tableau is becoming more and more appearent. Now, all eyes will be on the conductor of the operation; Turkish Armed Forces and its organs.

It wouldn’t be correct to define the Operation Olive Branch in Afrin as a war in the classical term. Because Turkey has now advanced its just cause to fight the terrorism to cross-border regions. In the most classical definition, war is the continuation of politics by other means. Keeping this definition in mind, while our soldiers will be on the field of close combat, the other important side of the fight will be on the field of politics and diplomacy.

We will see the actors - who are incapable of obstructing the tangible operation of Turkey - and their augmentation of political/diplomatic oppression based on materialising the forementioned statements. Notably UN and many other international organizations stepped in to distrupt the operation. If this does not work, other initiations will follow up. So, a stiff  struggle in the field of diplomacy is expected for Turkey.

Also, it should not be forgotten that psychological operation factors are just around the corner. Canard news channels of PKK/YPG will most certainly air the faux informations about civillian causulties. In the process of time, discourses blaming Turkey to be an occupation force will ascend.

Furthermore, it wouldn’t be a suprise to see the tabloid public attacks of PKK/YPG to put Turkey on a very difficult spot. It is also expected to see terrorist attacks from organisations like Al-Nousra Front with accusations and will of retribution directed to Turkey since the Syrian regimes operation in Idlib was a synchronous operation. To add more, the probable attacks of FETÖ are expected since its ties with mentioned terrorist organisations were revealed.

The ultimate aims of those diplomatic oppressions, psychological operations and terror attacks are to distrupt the Afrin operation, terminate before the accomplishment of the objective and if possible, drag Turkey into a dreadlock. In this way, it is planned to keep Turkey within its borders and render Turkey in such a situation where it would be impossible to intervene the recent developments in particular to Syrian regions.

What might happen? What will be the consequences and effects of the Afrin operation?

When examined the approaches of the actors before and after the Afrin operation and the way the operation is conducted, the probable scenario can be;  the actors will be within the scenario meanwhile the conductor Turkey along with USA and Russias approaches will be determinant factors. The terrorist organisation YPG-PYD, on the other hand, will most probably act upon the diplomatic warfare and psychological operation on the basis of Afrin and decide whether to resist or not or execute a terrorist attack in Turkey as a response.

For a rightful and justified cause Turkey commenced the operation.  International law, by any means, is by the side of Turkey. The way the operation is conducted clearly shows that some important lessons were taken from the Euphrates shield yet it still is not enough. The value of each and every soldier is most certainly inestimable. For that inestimable value, as an indicator of the capacity, the executed airborne operations clearly shows the professionality and plannification of the Turkish Armed Forces. The weakest link in the eyes of Turkey is FSA groups supported by Turkish Armed Forces.

Also, the operation being conducted under the consensus of which the bounds were decided by Russia will be another problematic field in the following days for Turkey. Because since Russia will act in respect to its interests, the decisions like de-limitation and contraction will be up to Russia. In short terms, in the Syrian politics, Russia exploits Turkey as a leverage.

It also wouldn’t be right to avoid the reasons that cause Russia to lean towards the Afrin operation of Turkey. Considering the pre-negotiations of the operation, Russia proposed YPG-PYD to leave Afrin to the Damascus and haul down their flag while raising the flag of Syria. This clearly shows that Russia originally was ill-disposed to the operation of Afrin. Besides, YPG-PYD being directed by USA as a sum in the east side of Euphrates and becoming an actor heavily dependent to USA made Russia choose Turkey over USA in Afrin. Russia is clearly teaching YPG-PYD a lesson.

On the other hand, by opening the floodgates of Afrin operation, Russia is most probably planning Turkey to affiliate to Russia while drifting away from USA. Grace to the Astana and Sochi, Russia succeeded to win Turkey over USA and is aware of the discomfort of USA because of this issue. While taking Turkey along, Russia is estimating to fracture the Western allaince and NATO which will result in breakdown of Turkish-American relations and USA’s power loose in relation to Syrian issue.

Statements show that Russia didn’t supply Turkey with a fully free theatre of operations in Afrin. While letting Turkey execute operations on YPG-PYD in Afrin, Russia is sending message to YPG-PYD in the east side of Euphrates. It is not certain if Russia will act in the same way  but it demonstrated that same consequences might happen to them. Furthermore, the experience of getting full support from USA to the extent of building a government under the ruling of Barzani and loosing that support on the last minute and being under the initiative of Baghdad is carved in the memory of YPG-PYD.

Russia might want to try this scenario in the region of Membij and pave the way for it. Membij is still under the control of YPG-PYD however in certain locations, there are relatively small military formations of Russia and Syria and bigger military formations of USA. If Russia continues in the same manner as observed in Membij (Demanding YPG-PYD to cede the region to Syrian regime and if responded negatively draw back the Russian and Syrian troops), Turkey might head to Membij with supported FSA forces. In such scenario, the picture will be a bit different than the one in Membij; Turkish forces versus YPG-PYD and USA troops. But this militaristic picture will force USA to take a very risky decision. Thus, while putting the red carpet to Afrin for Turkey, Russia gives the message to USA that if USA crosses the line in Syria and tries to impose a policy where Damascus and Russia is left out, a new frontier might emerge.

This means close combat between two NATO allies; Turkey versus USA. It is not certain whether USA would engage in such combat but from the point of Russia, it is a preferable scenario to weaken and afflicting USA; putting it in a very difficult position in Syria. But is the mentioned scenario, which is fairly rewarding for Russia, complies with Turkeys interests as well? This has to be analyzed elegantly and multifacetedly. After Afrin, the question of what will happen in the east side of Euphrates during the Membij operation which will take some time must be studied cautiously.

What kind of a scenario USA desires? After the indications concerning the execution of Afrin operation became clear, USA uncovered the fact that in the east side of Euphrates, USA is planning to build a border army of YPG-PYD which was without a doubt responded rigidly by Turkey. USA did change the statements to ease the heat however the main goal was not changed. Although theUSAs plans focuses mainly on the east side of Euphrates, the statements indicating a YPG-PYD army clearly directed Turkey to Afrin from the west side of Euphrates in which the forces were already ready. In a way, these statements triggered Turkeys Afrin operation. As the foreign secretary of Russia explained, it drove Turkey to a wild state and opened the way to Afrin operation.

Why would USA want this? The best answer for that question would to keep Turkey busy for a while to wait for getting Turkey in a tight corner (while applying the diplomatic and psychological oppression tools), to prevent Turkey from focusing on the USA supported work-in-progress PKK state located in the east side of Euphrates and Membij. After the commencement of operation, the statements of USA mentioning the phrases of ‘we are negotiating, collaborating and we will discuss on how to form the safe zone’ are nothing but reflection of plannings that concentrate to keep Turkey busy in the west side of Euphrates.

With the new national security strategy statement of Trump, along with the statements from the diplomats and commanders of USA, it now is obvious that USA will  remain in Syria, the number of civilians and diplomats from USA will be increased in the region of PYD, the aid agency of USA; USAID will and is doing investments in the east side of Euphrates on each and every institute required during the procedure of constructing a state. This is what USA will do in the east side of Euphrates while Turkey is engages in the west side of Euphrates; Afrin. This is nothing but state building.

Of course, with such inference (directing Turkey to be busy in Afrin), USA overtook a vital risk: If Turkey, out of the expectations of USA, succeeds in the operation in Afrin, it will then become a politically/military-wise front in Membij against USA.  This will give USAs position in Syria a big shock.

However, although USA has demonstrated in former statements and reciprocal harrasment firings on site that it efficaciously counteracts, in the event of Turkeys probable operation, USA might retreat its troops to avoid direct conflict and rather direct YPG-PYD militants to resist while supplying them with intelligence and logistic support. The probable conflicts in the region will again keep Turkey busy and will concentrate on finishing the building of the PKK state in the east side of Euphrates. Super powers like USA do not rush when they actualise their regional politics and they tend to plan for the long terms. Up untill 2014 USA had no existance in Syria; now with a minimum of 2000 troops and special forces twice the size of troops, USA controlls 25% of Syria. Now as the east side of Euphrates is already ensured, USA can now head towards the west side with new crisis. Let us not forget that USA penetrated Iraq in 1990 and left in 2003; and once more penetrated in 2011 and left in 2014. (At this point, it is best to revisit the introductory paragraph).

One other reason for USA to not interfere with Turkeys Afrin operation and furthermore, lunging in a way that leads the way is in relation to Afrin with Idlib and therefore Astana and Sochi, USA expects quarrel between Turkey and Russia. When the scheme of manoeuvres are applied, usually things doesn’t go the way they were planned to go, various problems and obstructions occur. In respect to that, we should consider that USA will collaborate with outher western countries in the process of this operation to create problems.

Surely, while effectuating all these mentioned comments, as part of long term plans USA wouldn’t want to be in a disagreement with Turkey. Considering the latest statements’ highlights of ‘we can collaborate with Turkey, we understand their concerns, we can resolve the safe zone applications together’ it is clear that USA doesn’t wish to isolate Turkey.

Without a doubt, another actor that we must take into consideration is Syria or the Damascus government. It is certain that the Damascus owes its existance to Russias military intervention that commenced on september 2015. Correspondingly, in many subject, Damascus is obliged to  adopt the policies of Russia. Although theoretically, the Damascus government did oppose to the Afrin operation of Turkey, in practice, it couldn’t be possible under the pressure of Russia. Because, as it was forementioned, Russia is the delimiter of the Afrin operation.

While Russia and USA are pursuing the mentioned plans, what can Turkey do?

From the most current official statements, it is clear that Turkey is a little confused on definitive political objectives. This can be seen from the incompatible statements made by General Staff, Office of Public Diplomacy and the President. Especially the statements from the Office of Public Diplomacy concerning the objectives of the operation are fairly problematic.

When statements’ of General Staff and the President are examined in relation to Russias support to both Turkey (in means of paving the way)  and YPG-PYD (in means of not disregarding its existence to wherret Turkey in a way that teaches a lesson as well), it is probable that a safety corridor in the northern side of Afrin can be built in order to cut the border connection between the Turkish land and Afrin.

This safe zone clearly indicates the geographical fusion of the Euphrates Shield Region which is already under Turkish control with the ongoing operation of security building location; Idlib.  Although this might be seen as a success in the Turkish perspective, in the eyes of the Damascus government, the intentions of Turkey might become questionable.

The redirection of the operation towards the center and the south side of Afrin might be politically and/or military-wise revisited when the time is right. Turkey, while considering to secure its borders, might try to direct towards Membij depending on the new equilibriums, military posture on field and the current state of relations with USA and Russia. But we do remember that the Euphrates Shield operation was stopped at that front and Turkish government couldn’t diplomatically clear the way for General Staff. Thus, the consequence of how much of a power Turkey will posses at the end of Afrin operation will be a vital factor for this decision as well.

For Turkey, there are some points to consider to be successful at the end of the Olive Branch Operation towards Afrin. Briefly;

- For the political and military wise objectives of the operation which should remain confidential, the statements and media boradcasts that might violate the safety of the operation shouldn’t be made. It is certain that the political objective of the operation should be clarified with no specific informations for persuading the community and troubleshooting the criticisms and reactions. But revealing the detailed objectives that are supposed to be known by the establishments of the state wouldn’t be correct.

- The communication strategy oriented to the operation should be revisited and rearranged within the shortest time.

- As forementioned, the uncertainties or contradictions regarding the political aim of the operation should be resolved immediately. Because the uncertainties in political objectives will effect military-wise objectives ipso facto the success of the operation.

- Concordantly, the public diplomacy should be conducted with precise and exact expressions and norms.

- Operation factors to counter the psychological operation should be effectuated.

- Intelligence and law enforcement services should focus on preventive operations against the probable tabloid attacks by PKK, ISIL, FETÖ and Al Nousra.

- Turkey must form a diplomatic relation with Syrias legitimite governance of Assad; the first link of the Turkeys incorrect Syria policy chain. While doing so, Turkey should lunge a binder motion to affiliate FSA to Syrian regime which repeteadly did announce war against Assad.

- Turkey should avoid being a part of forementioned probable Russian and American scenarios. The threat of Russia and USA placing YPG-PYD against Turkey to reach their own goals that might lead Turkey to uncertain scenes shouldn’t be ignored.

- While examining the other actors within the the scene and reforming counter arguments; journalists, experts, analysts and most importantly the government responsibles shouldn’t fall into the trap of perception management executed by the statements of mentioned actors’ representatives. As an instance, the statements that commence with positive notions and continue with problematic and  well disguised word plays and illuminations within the speech which actually shows the genuine approaches, should be analyzed carefully.

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