The sands have quickly shifted against President Recip Erdogan of Turkey and his military invasion of Syria. The embattled president revealed the true rationale for his decision to invade Syria in the August 2016 operation, Euphrates Shield. Not to fight ISIS, but to oust Assad.
In controversial remarks delivered by Erdogan at the first Inter-Parliamentary Jerusalem Platform Symposium in Istanbul, Hurriyet Daily reported Erdogan as stating his priority is not the fight against ISIS as many suspected, but the overthrow of Syria’s government led by President Bashar al-Assad.
“We entered there to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror. [We didn’t enter] for any other reason…”
His own forces are beginning to pay the price for the adventure, sustaining steady casualties. At least 17 Turkish soldiers have been killed throughout Operation Euphrates Shield. In recent developments, the Turkish government acknowledged losing contact with two soldiers occupying Syrian territory. ISIS has confirmed they are holding the two soldiers captive as the result of a raid northwest of Al-Bab.
While Turkey unmasks its true intentions in Syria, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and allied forces are conducting joint operations with the mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIS and within striking distance of Al-Bab. The rebel collapse in Aleppo will free up hundreds of thousands of Syrian government and allied forces that some expect will seek to wall off Turkey from further incursions south, with Al-Bab a key target.
Though the Syrian government and Kurdish forces have operated jointly in the past, it seems more likely now that the two will cooperate in retaking north Aleppo from rebel groups backed by Turkey and negotiate a long term accommodation.
After the recent shootdown of a Turkish fighter jet flying illegally over Syria, the invading nation has been forced to halt further air incursions.
Erdogan is lashing out against the recent successes of President Bashar al-Assad’s government as his own invasion quickly turns into an embarrassing quagmire.