Category Archives: Turkey

Turkey’s Syria Policy and the Elections

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 June 2018

Turkish soldiers and their rebel dependencies in Efrin, 18 March 2018 // AFP

On June 24, for the first time in 15 years, there seems a possibility, however faint, that elections in Turkey will end in defeat for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

It is an uphill battle, not least because of the ongoing state of emergency after the 2016 attempted coup, which has exacerbated the systemic biases against Erdoğan’s political opponents. But the Turkish opposition has managed to overcome its own fractiousness and has a strategic game-plan that makes sense. One card Erdoğan still has to play is foreign policy, and there are signs in Syria and Iraq of advantageous news to come. Continue reading

Turkey’s Progress in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 31 March 2018

Turkish Armed Forces and allied Syrian Arab fighters capture Efrin city, Syria, 18 March 2018 (Reuters)

Since its incursion into Afrin began in January, Turkey has made significant progress in turning the military landscape in Syria in its favour. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signalled that further operations are to come in Syria, and perhaps in Iraq, too. These next operations would present new challenges, particularly politically, an area where Turkey has not made quite as much progress. Continue reading

Turkey’s Afrin Operation and an American Opening in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) and Oved Lobel on 20 March 2018

Turkey and Syrian rebel allies captured Afrin city in north-western Syria from the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG) this weekend. The YPG has gained notice as the partner force of the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State. But, as Pentagon spokesman Robert Manning acknowledged on March 6, the YPG has been diverting its troops from the fight against IS in eastern Syria to the war with Turkey on the other side of the country. Manning presented this as a temporary setback, but the shifting dynamics might prove to be the undoing of the Coalition’s mission in Syria. Continue reading

Syria’s Revolution Has Been Overtaken By Outside Powers

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 March 2018

Devastation in Aleppo (image source)

This week marks the seventh anniversary of the Syrian revolution. A movement that began with peaceful street protests calling for reform and—after the government responded with lethal violence—the downfall of the dictator, descended into war that has to this point cost the lives of at least 500,000 people and displaced nearly twelve million others—more than half of Syria’s pre-war population.

In any strategic sense the rebellion has been defeated—it is not able to overthrow Bashar al-Assad by force on its own—and its political cause is increasingly strained as the remnants of the armed opposition are increasingly co-opted by external actors, state and non-state. Continue reading

Crisis and Opportunity for Turkey and America: The Minbij Dispute

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 4 March 2018

A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly

The YPG/PKK Minbij Military Council (image source)

The city of Minbij in northern Syria has become a source of severe political tension between the United States and Turkey. It might also be the key to reducing tensions and normalising relations. Continue reading

Human Rights Abuses in Rojava and the Anti-ISIS War

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 March 2018

Guerrillas from the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), the name the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) uses in Sinjar, Iraq, together with operatives from the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), the armed units of the PKK inside Turkey, holding a picture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. (image source)

The American-led Coalition’s partner against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), presents itself, ideologically and in terms of the governance structure it controls, in universalistic liberal and democratic terms, emphasizing ecological and feminist themes. The reality is that the SDF is under the politico-military control of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization that has run a four-decade-long insurgency against Turkey. The PKK has brought some measure of stability to the areas it controls, but it continues to struggle for legitimacy and without locally-legitimate government IS and other jihadi-Salafists will find political room to operate. The PKK’s continued monopolization of power and abusive governance practices undermine the chances for the “Rojava” system to evolve into a long-term solution to the jihadist terrorists that have used Syrian territory to threaten the region and the wider world. Continue reading

Syria Continues to Unravel as External Powers Dominate

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 March 2018

Aftermath of a pro-Asad coalition bombing in Hamouria, in besieged Eastern Ghuta, near Damascus, 22 February 2018. (AFP)

In the summer and autumn of 2017, it was claimed Syria’s civil war was winding down, but the nearly seven-year conflict is nowhere near to finished, and recent events suggest it could even escalate. Continue reading