How Erdogan’s aggression could seriously backfire on him
All major powers, and the majority of the region’s states, regardless of their political affiliations, have condemned the Turkish invasion of Syria.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not actually obliged to commit such a clumsy move. Even his desire to uproot the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, Qasad, is not justified. Qasad is just one of many organizations in the Syrian civil war, and some are much more dangerous, such as Iran’s militias in areas close to his country’s borders in northwest Syria.
When Erdogan invades Syria and declares that he wants to liquidate the Syrian Kurds, and get rid of two million Syrian refugees, then we are faced with a case with humanitarian, legal, and eventually political dimensions that is fateful to the region. His media justifications have failed, with Qatar’s media alone in the region that has supported the operation of dislodging the Syrians, as well as his attempts to compare himself with the Arab Coalition in Yemen. Here he is ignoring the fact that the legitimacy of the coalition stems from two sources — the legitimate Yemeni government, and the UN Security Council — just one of which is enough to justify military intervention.
Turkey’s invasion, however, is not backed by an authorization from the UN, nor by any legitimate right to self-defense from an imminent attack, which renders it an explicit aggression according to international law.
Erdogan has sent his army to occupy a large area, 500km long and 30km deep, while transferring about two million Syrian refugees to it. This will increase the suffering of the Syrian people, and make these refugees an easy target for both Syrian regime forces and Iran’s militia, as well as pushing them into conflict with this region’s inhabitants.
If Turkey does not back down and withdraw, Syria will destroy Erdogan politically inside his own country, where he has lost the majority of his supporters.
Indeed, Erdogan has admitted that he intends to use the Syrians as a human shield against armed Kurds. Seven years ago, as the world was pleading with Turkey to actively stop the Syrian regime’s slaughter and destruction in areas neighboring Turkey, such as Aleppo province, Erdogan was refusing to offer the hand of support or exert pressure on Damascus.
The Iranians and Syrians have crossed long distances to intervene, but Erdogan refused to act, although Europe and the majority of states around the world were ready to give him the necessary legal cover and logistic support. As a result, horrific massacres took place just a stone’s throw from the positions of the Turkish army, which claims that it is the fourth-strongest army in the world.
If Turkey does not back down and withdraw, Syria will destroy Erdogan politically inside his own country, where he has lost the majority of his supporters. He has already arrested journalists who criticized him.
The Turkish voices that dare to criticize him are accusing him of reverting to conquest in order to run away from his internal problems; and gain support by promising extremist Turks to get rid of the Syrian refugees, and confront the separatist Kurds.
What Erdogan is actually doing is generating instability and chaos on his country’s border; and while thinking that this would protect him, it could backfire on him, and threaten his internal security instead.
- Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed