Opinion: New war looms between Turkey and Kurds in Syria
Guest commentary by Wang Jin
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered a military operation into Syria aimed at taking the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin near the Syria-Turkish border. 
Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) ordered on January 18 for its troops on the Syrian border to increase security measures to a “high level”. According to Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, TSK is “ready to start anytime”.
The recent development actually reflects Ankara’s anger towards the United States and Russia. According to Turkey, the US and Russia are supporting the Syrian Kurds led by Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is considered by Ankara as a “terrorist group” and branch of “Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK)”, the biggest “terrorist group” inside Turkey.
During the past years since Syrian civil war occurred in 2011, Syrian Kurds led by PYD has dominated a large area in northern Syria from Qamishli in the northeast to Afrin to the northwest. Syrian Kurds led by PYD has become an important military and political ally with both Russia and the US to fight against Islamic extremist groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda military branch in Syria.
Ankara’s anger was provoked after the Pentagon put forward the plan to organize a new “army” or conventional “border guards” through training the Syrian Kurds led by PYD. 
Ankara believes the “border guards” will threaten Turkey’s internal security through encouraging the “Kurdish terrorists” inside Turkey. Erdogan blasted the US in a speech he delivered in Ankara days ago that, “Our duty is to crush this terrorist army before it is even born”. 
Meanwhile, Ankara is reportedly reinforcing its proxies in Syria under the name the National Army (Al-Jaysh Al-Watani) to fight ISIL and the YPG. Turkey’s military intervention to Afrin seems inevitable.
Turkish Army's armored personnel vehicles and military jammers deployed as reinforcement to troops at the border line are seen in the Turkish border district of Reyhanli in Hatay, Turkey on January 16, 2018. /VCG Photo

Turkish Army's armored personnel vehicles and military jammers deployed as reinforcement to troops at the border line are seen in the Turkish border district of Reyhanli in Hatay, Turkey on January 16, 2018. /VCG Photo

Meanwhile, Turkey worries that the PYD delegation will be invited to attend the upcoming Syria peace talk held in Sochi by Russia late this month. It is necessary for Turkey to take measures to express its dissatisfactions and objections for Russia’s invitation to PYD. 
Meanwhile, Turkey’s misgivings about Russia spilled over recently after attacks by Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian forces on the city of Idlib, a province of northwest Syria. The Russian and Iranian ambassadors were summoned by Ankara last week to receive a protest over what Turkey said was “the targeting of moderate opposition elements under the guise of fighting Islamic terrorist groups”.
However, Turkey may not carry out its military operation to Afrin in defiance of the US or Russia. As an important strategic area located in northwest Syria, Afrin was left as an isolated YPG enclave, and it has remained a thorn in the side of Turkey ever since. Turkey’s efforts in 2017 to take the city were, to Ankara’s surprise and annoyance, thwarted by Russia, which deployed forces there between the Turkish army and the YPG.
For the past three years, Turkey has been saying that Turkey will take Afrin and Manbij, another PYD-held town immediately west of the Euphrates, but this has not happened. On the one hand, Turkey’s military intention to take over Afrin has been criticized by Russia and United States, who both view PYD as a reliable regional ally to fight against ISIL and other extremist groups inside Syria. And Turkey’s efforts to take over Afrin and other PYD-held areas have been thwarted by Russia’s and the US’ military presence in northern Syria.
For Erdogan himself, it is not an easy decision to give the final order for an operation against Afrin over Russian and US objections. Erdogan’s remarks about the possible military intervention may just aim at boosting his image inside Turkey, given that Turkey has already started the presidential election campaign for 2019.
(Wang Jin is a PhD candidate at the School of Political Science of University Haifa and a research fellow at Syria Research Center of Northwest University. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.)