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Turkeys safe zone may prove costly

Turkeys safe zone may prove costly
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  Published 14 Oct 2019 14:00 0 Comments Syria Turkey Trkey’s “sfe zone” my prove costly XIAOLI GUO In Ankara’s view, the intervention in Syria has been adiplomatic and military success, but an economic risk looms. Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians arrive at Tall Tamr town, in Syria’s Hasakeh province, afterfleeing Turkish bombardment along the border, 10 October 2019 (Photo: DelilSouleiman/AFP/Getty Images)    Although Turkey hasrelatively little tradedependence on the US,any US sanctions wouldhave a negative impacton the Turkish economy,and also raise furtherdoubts at home about tgovernment’s strategy. On  October, Turkey launched a military operation, code-namedOperation Peace Spring, against US-allied Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria. Ankara described the goal as creating a “safe zone”along the Turkish-Syrian border,  kilometres long and kilometres deep, stretching from the Euphrates river in the west to theIraqi border in the east. As it followed US President Donald Trump’s shocking decision towithdraw US troops from Syria, as well as a confusingconfusingconfusingconfusing confusing White Housestatement declaring that the US Armed Forces will “not support or beinvolved in the operation”, the Turkish role in the Syrian Civil War hasonce again led to heated debate.Trump has been widely criticised forabandoning the Kurdish People's ProtectionUnits (YPG), US allies who have beenfighting the Islamic State for nearly fouryears. Although Trump warnedwarnedwarnedwarned warned in a tweetthat if Turkey does anything that heconsiders “off limits”, he would “totallydestroy and obliterate the economy ofTurkey”, there is little doubt that Turkey willenjoy considerable leeway in the wake of theUS pulling back its forces.   Russia appeared to have an equally ambivalent attitude towards theTurkish military incursion. Russia made an official call for all foreignmilitary forces “with illegal presence” to leave Syria, yet Moscowrecognisedrecognisedrecognisedrecognised recognised that “Turkey has the right to defend itself”. This perhapsreflects both recent diplomatic warmth between the two countriesand a Russian view that is better to have Turkey rather than US inSyria, despite supporting opposing sides in the Syrian civil war.By contrast, Iran as a staunch supporter of the Syrian regime hasurgedurgedurgedurged urged Turkey to pull its forces out of Syria. Tehran fears excessiveethnic tensions spreading into the Kurdish-populated regions in Iran,although given its own involvement in the Syrian civil war for almostseven years, it too has acknowledgedacknowledgedacknowledgedacknowledged acknowledged Turkey’s “legitimate securityconcerns”.What these responses demonstrate is that Turkey has achievedremarkable diplomatic success in preventing any outright militaryopposition to its actions in Syria. Yet opposition in the form ofeconomic sanctions might still be forthcoming.Three major reasons are driving Turkey’s intervention, according tostatementsstatementsstatementsstatements statements by President Recep Tayyip Erdog ̆an and accounts inTurkish media.First, to secure Turkey’s border and allay a deep anxiety among theTurkish national-security community that Kurds will set up a YPG-controlled independent state in northern Syria, which wouldencourage Kurdish separatism among Kurds in Turkey, and thus affectTurkish national security.Second, to return Syrian refugees back to northern Syria, havinghosted more than . million refugees over the last eight years, in amorally justified but costly policy that was widely criticisedwidely criticisedwidely criticisedwidely criticised widely criticised at homefor jeopardising Turkish economy and deepening a national economiccrisis. The presence of the refugees also poses a political challenge for     the ruling party – former prime minister Binali Yildirim has repeatedlyrepeatedlyrepeatedlyrepeatedly repeatedlyreassuredreassuredreassuredreassured reassured the public that “Syrian refugees are present undertemporary protection status, and they will return after the war ends”.Third, and perhaps most perversely, Turkey is increasingly concernedabout the territorial integrity of Syria. While Turkey has putconsiderable effort into overthrowing the Assad regime, it gave YPGan opportunity to further strengthen its power, leaving Ankara with achoice between a consolidated Assad regime or an autonomousKurdistan in the near future – in which case it would side with Assad ina bid to contain Syrian Kurds’ ascent in the region. Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) (Photo:Kurdishstruggle/Flickr) Turkey’s military intervention in Syria, however, leaves Turkey’salready fragile economy even more vulnerable. Since , it hassuffered from high inflation, high levels of foreign-currencydenominated debt, and a tumbling currency markettumbling currency markettumbling currency markettumbling currency market tumbling currency market. Even after themilitary operation and setting up the safety zone (including thespending for hospitals, schools, and other critical infrastructure),Operation Peace Spring hardly seems a low-cost option for Turkey.      A further risk lies in potential international sanctions. Although Turkeyhas relatively little trade dependence on the US, any US sanctionswould have a negative impact on the Turkish economy, and also raisefurther doubts at home about the government’s strategy. Moreover,should the European Union, Turkey’s largest trade partner, decide topursue economic sanctions, the damage will be acute. The EU hasalready approvedalready approvedalready approvedalready approved already approved a sanctions package against Turkey in July forTurkey’s gas drilling off the Cyprus Coast.So far, Brussels has urgedurgedurgedurged urged Turkey “to cease the unilateral militaryaction”, saying a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict cannot beachieved militarily. It has not ruled out the possibility of punitive EUpolicy towards Turkey, including a suspension of cooperationagreements or the cancellation of accession funds.Thus, the strategic benefits Turkey sees from its intervention in Syriacould carry major economic costs. Ankara may have judged theeconomic risk worthwhile in comparison to its immediate nationalsecurity interests, but only time will tell. RELATED CONTENT Syria: Is Assad the solution? PREVIOUS ARTICLE   US-China trade talks: No deal yet, but NEXT ARTICLE   China and the problem with liberal    SHOW COMMENTS
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