The offensive launched last January 20 against the Kurds of northern Syria appears more and more risky.
Should we see there the first sign of a possible stalemate of the Turkish army in Syria? This Saturday, February 3rd, seven Turkish soldiers were killed in the Afrin region, the equivalent of the losses endured during the first fifteen days of the operation "Olive branch". This day, the most deadly since the beginning of this offensive against the Kurdish YPG forces in Syrian territory, promptly provoked a Turkish military response: refuges and weapons caches were targeted by air strikes, says Ankara.
»READ ALSO - Worry after Turkish offensive against Kurds in Syria
Despite the losses caused, the Turkish authorities continue to display unshakable confidence. In a televised speech, broadcast on Saturday on the small screen, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was determined to continue the war against "terrorists". "There is little left to do," he said, declaring that the Turkish army and the Syrian rebels (who are fighting alongside him) had taken over some localities in the mountains and were approaching Afrine herself. But the reality is far more complex: to date, Turkey has regained control only a few parcels of territory around the border, without approaching the city of Afrine, according to analysts and observers present on the ground.
"War in the war"
As for the consequences of this "war in war", which further complicates the search for a solution to the Syrian conflict, seven years after the beginning of the anti-Assad uprising, they could prove fatal for Turkey. Erdogan. In recent days, several rockets launched from Syria have fallen on the border town of Kilis and its surroundings, pointing to a risk of overflowing Syrian conflict on Turkish territory. To date, these responses attributed to Kurdish militias have left seven dead and a hundred wounded. Military operations against Afrine are also heavy on civilians in the northern enclave of Syria: some 15,000 people fleeing the fighting have been displaced in the region, while a thousand have sought refuge in the neighboring province of Aleppo. According to Ursula Mueller, the UN's Deputy Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs.
When, on January 20, Erdogan announced the start of operations against Afrine, his ambitions are both regional and political. It intends to prevent the creation, under the auspices of Washington, of a border force in northern Syria consisting, in part, of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters dominated by the YPG (considered as an emanation PKK rebels, the Kurdistan Workers' Party). Its obsession is the junction, in the medium and long term, of the three Kurdish cantons of northern Syria, Jazira, Kobane and Afrine, at the gates of his country, and the domino effect that it could have on the independant desires of the Kurds from Turkey.
From an internal and political point of view, this military offensive also gives it the opportunity to prolong the state of emergency (constantly renewed since the failed coup d'etat of July 2016), to restore its image by making us forget financial scandals. and the authoritarian drift that is damaging his reputation, and to become a politico-military leader to one year of the double legislative and presidential elections. A partially successful bet, since its bellicose posture, which titillates the nationalist fiber of the Turkish population, is currently gaining the support of its opponents of the CHP, the Republican People's Party, while the critical voices are knowingly stifled.
But the terrain is nonetheless slippery. And the war marked by unforeseen events. An alert observer of the Syrian conflict, analyst Aron Lund lists at least three possible scenarios: the victory of the Turkish army in Afrine - but at the cost of a long and costly operation -; the bogging down of Turkish military forces, already weakened by post-coup purges, facing particularly disciplined Kurdish fighters who have the advantage of the field (mountainous); the discreet support of the Damascus regime to the YPG militia in order to drive out Turkey and replace Kurdish areas in its fold. "At this point, everything is still possible," says the researcher associated with the Century Foundation, in an article published in the World Politics Review. Because the outcome of this conflict is undoubtedly inseparable from parallel negotiations between Damascus, Moscow, Tehran and Istanbul on the future of Syria.
- Seven Turkish soldiers killed in northern Syria
- In Afrine, Kurdish fighters fiercely resist the Turkish offensive
- Worry after Turkish offensive against Kurds in Syria