Jan 11 2019

Large-scale Turkish invasion of northeast Syria less likely – analyst

The prospect of a full-scale Turkish military invasion into northeast Syria to battle Kurdish militants is now less likely than a couple of weeks ago, said Jonathan Spyer, a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies.

A series of factors including a slower U.S. withdrawal, Russia’s policy towards Syria, the presence of Iranian militia and the ambitions of Damascus are conspiring against the military action, Spyer said in an analysis for the Jerusalem Post.

So long as the United States keeps forces in the region and controls its airspace, Turkey would need to get Washington’s agreement to enter, Spyer said. A big military operation by Turkey, aimed at Kurdish fighters, could also allow Iran to extend its territorial reach in the country, he said.

Turkey is also faced with a Russia keen to allow the Assad regime to regain control of the Kurdish-controlled area. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s impending visit to Moscow is probably designed to clarify that matter, Spyer said.  

Senior Kurdish military figures also say that they would prefer Assad’s forces to resume control rather than face a Turkish invasion. But so long as the U.S. presence in Syria remains ambiguous, the Kurds are unlikely to accept such a deal, Spyer said.

Lastly, Turkey may not be able to control the region it seizes – Kurdish militants continue to attack Turkish forces in Afrin, which Turkey invaded in January last year. Any further operation Erdoğan approves would require the Turks to control a far greater space, Spyer wrote.