Since the onset of the Syrian civil war, Turkey has been explaining one important fact over and over again to the world and especially to the members of NATO: this war is as much a threat to the integrity of Turkey as it is to the people of Syria.
As the war progressed, Turkey’s fears were proven right. The PKK, a terrorist group that has been carrying out acts of terrorism on Turkish soil for 40 years, claiming the lives of 40,000 Turkish citizens, and was in a bid to build a Stalinist regime in southeastern Turkey, stepped up its efforts in tandem with the escalating war. This time, its recruits were trained by professionals, their weapons supplied by the West. As the events unfolded, the coup attempt of July 15 took place in Turkey in 2016 and it became clear that the terrorist group FETO had provided support to the PKK.
The United States is still our ally, but one that failed expectations nevertheless. Turkey’s persistent protests have yielded no results.
The terrorist group plans to use this new position to gain easier access to the weapons of communist circles, and seeks to build a bloody state, which will threaten not only Turkey but also the Middle East and even the US that has been its protecting power. After getting no response to its protests and demands, Turkey was left with no choice other than launching a military campaign in Afrin, which was the center of all these plans.
Turkey started the Afrin operation, Operation Olive Branch, in line with UN Security Council resolutions 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014) on the fight against terrorism, and the 51st item of the UN Charter on the right to self-defense. All the structures that Turkey is bound to report to, as well as the countries affiliated with NATO and the UN, were informed about the campaign. Its goal is defined as eliminating the PKK/PYD threat in the region, which is getting stronger and more settled every day.
Turkey, before and during the campaign, repeatedly expressed its respect for Syria’s territorial integrity and strongly emphasized that the goal is definitely not an “occupation.” It is also clear that the campaign has taken place with the knowledge of Russia right from the onset. As a matter of fact, Syria’s territorial integrity has always been a critical point in the negotiations carried out by the two countries.
Furthermore, Turkish authorities have clearly stated that the Turkish intelligence service, MIT, is in contact with the Syrian regime to ensure the territorial integrity of the latter. During the operation, Turkish planes repeatedly dropped fliers over Afrin villages which made a call for unity to the people of Afrin and assured them, saying “Afrin belongs to the people of Afrin.”
As is well known, the Syrian war has been one mostly fought with planes by many of the involved countries. Coalition forces, most notably US fighters, have been carrying out air-strikes against the country for the past seven years, while Russia, the patron of the Syrian regime, also carries out air-strikes, as does the Syrian regime.
It is clear that Turkey, having the second biggest army in NATO, is capable of carrying out its campaign using solely jet fighters. Indeed, it is clear that the PKK/PYD would not be able to fight back against aerial bombardment and that by employing such bombardments, Afrin could be purged of terrorist groups in a matter of days, if not hours. Moreover, such an option would prevent any Turkish losses.
However, as of this article being written we have had 43 martyrs in Afrin, and every day we receive news of new one. This is because the campaign is largely a ground operation, the only reason for which is preventing civilian casualties.
The Turkish Army has clearly assured the world that all the targets are thoroughly checked before they are hit and emphasized that only terrorist targets and their shelters, positions, weapons and equipment were being destroyed, and that the “utmost care and sensitivity” was being shown so as to not harm civilians or the environment. At the same time, religious, cultural, historical and archaeological sites, as well as public facilities, have not been targeted by the Turkish Armed Forces since the very beginning of this operation.
Throughout these seven years of the Syrian war, Turkey has always been determined to protect civilians, both inside Syria’s borders and outside them. At this point, it would be useful to note that it has been Turkey that welcomed Syrian refugees, who were chased away from EU waters by EU authorities and who were kept outside of the EU by barbed wire fences.
Columnists like Robert Fisk, who is known for his aversion to Turkey, have been predictably at the forefront of the campaign against Turkey’s ongoing operation in Afrin. His recent article in The Independent is based completely on disinformation.
In the light of all these details, it is important to ask the following question: what would the Western countries do if they were in Turkey’s position? Would they sit back and watch the world’s bloodiest terrorist group found a state along their border? Or would they completely raze the place to ground within a couple of hours using their jet fighters? Or would they do as Turkey did and start a sensitive land campaign that would last several months and would no doubt lead to losses and high costs? Let’s answer this question by quoting Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin: “The Afrin operation represents a test of sincerity for Western countries.”