Poison ivy: From Turkey's 'Peace Spring' to Baghdadi

ISIS finding space for itself in Idlib will make it harder for Turkey to maintain its stance of obstructing operations in the region. It will also cause Turkey to be openly blamed. Then it will come to organizations Turkey is openly protecting. Turkey is quickly adding more pages to its crime folder because of the militia forces it sees as substitutes to Turkish army.

The Turkish government has surrounded itself with so much poison ivy, with ambitions and inept policies both internally and externally that it is bringing down the country for its own salvation.

Ankara excels at instilling a sense of responsibility for its military actions throughout the entire country. The government claims it is waging another war of independence. Antiquated nationalist discourses are used to cover up the government's own failures. In this fraudulent game, the opposition has refrained from questioning the government.

The "Z report" of war and peace diplomacy is neither a source of pride nor does it promise victory. For people in the region, people is once again buried deep. What else but hostility can this bring?

Erdoğan says Tell Abyad and Ras'ul Ayn are "almost earned rights". He also seems to believe that the 10-point Sochi agreement memorandum signed with Russia allows Turkey to stay in the region indefinitely. Now that these two places have been secured, it is certain moves to destroy all Kurdish gains will continue. As much as Turkey can brag about this partial achievement, the situation has only become more complicated.

Since the operation began, Turkey has become more defenseless than ever against the US and Russia. On the American front, while the sanction threats have been pushed back in the Senate due of the ceasefire, they are progressing in the House of Representatives. A draft which passed on Oct. 29 with 403 against 16 looks into the assets of President Erdoğan as well as that of his family. Such sanctions and investigation files will keep hanging over Turkey like a Sword of Damocles.

Since the Sochi memorandum, Turkey's field actions are now subject to Russia's approval and coordination. The U.S. has now told Russia, to curb Turkey's advances in the north since it has much to in the south with regards to oil fields. Russia's position as a guarantor does not prevent violent confrontation between the Turkish and Syrian armies, as it happened close to Esadiye. And Erdoğan still openly expresses the intention of taking Kobane.

It could be said that the YPG's retreat 30 kilometers south and the takeover of the area by the Syrian army and the Russian police is a double victory. Yet this will change in the long-run. In the areas from which the YPG has retreated, the security and civilian units of the autonomous government are still operating. The Sochi memorandum does not include anything regarding these organizations. The agreement, which opens the way for the Syrian army to move into the area, leaves the future open to further negotiations. Moreover, the YPG cannot be eradicated easily. Unlike Turkey, Russia does not want to get rid of the Kurds. Instead, it wants to integrate Kurds into the Syrian state through negotiated formulas.

Americans redesigned their withdrawal strategy in order to sabotage this Russian scenario. President Donald Trump sent back the withdrawing soldiers with a mission to control oil fields. According to Defense Minister Mark Esper, oil will be used to finance the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Through this strategy, Americans will try to stop the SDF from joining the Syrian army. SDF Commander Mazloum (Kobani) Abdi received an invitation from Trump to come to Washington with the title "General Mazloum". This is part of the objective.

In sum, the "Peace Spring" did not break the US' partnership with the SDF. It also led Trump to re-assess his decision to withdraw from the area. The Syria state did not remain idle and invited Mazloum Abdi to Damascus.

Ankara is thus facing three things it never wanted to see happening:

The SDF could be integrated into the Syrian army as a Trojan Horse.

Mazloum Abdi could be hosted by Trump at the White House.

Even if Mazloum Abdi doesn't go to the U.S., one of his comrades, İlham Ahmed is already lobbying in Washington. YPG had to retreat from the field but won a speaking podium on the international stage.

Added to that was the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Idlib by the American forces.

The U.S. went after Baghdadi 4 months ago but never told Turkey, its NATO ally, about it so the information wouldn't leak.

The Incirlik American Base is 10 minutes away yet helicopters still take off from Erbil so Turkey doesn't get to have a say.

General intelligence regarding Baghdadi being in Idlib came from Iraq while the location, equipment, people and environment-related information came from Mazloum Abdi's men.

The Barisha village where Baghdadi was hiding is 5 kilometers from the Hayat-Reyhanlı border.

ISIS leader finds shelter and creates new cells within the protection and looking out zones of those who saye "We own Idlib". It's not new either. Actually, when ISIS was losing the fight in Manbij, Raqqa and Dair ez-Zor, Idlib was one of the main retreating points. We had known with the suicide bombings, other bombs and executions that ISIS was present in Idlib since 2018.

Even more; old ISIS members who became fierce rivals to ISIS as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) were also after Baghdadi. They even organized an unsuccessful operation. They were holding one of Baghdadi's assistants. One of their commanders says that they shared information regarding Baghdadi coming to Idlib with 'intelligence services'. Turkish Intelligence Agency (MİT) is first and foremost among secret services who had dealings with HTS in the region.

The route the U.S. took in the operation, its partnership preferences and the location Baghdadi chose to seek refuge speaks a lot:

  • Mazloum Abdi, sought with a red notice by Turkey, comes up as a partner in the fight against ISIS. This means Turkey losing ground.
  • Baghdadi being so closer to the border means ISIS passage ways are still functional.
  • The insincerity and crankiness in Turkey's fight against ISIS is once again visible.
  • It is understood that organizations in Idlib, a city which Turkey is de facto protecting with 12 observation points, are helping ISIS. The residence where Baghdadi was hiding belongs to one of Huras al-Din's men. Nothing to be surprised about. All salafi-jihadist organizations in the region, including HTS and Huras al-Din, come from the same roots. Even though they fought agains each other in the past, they suddenly become 'Muslim brothers' when it is necessary.
  • We also receive information saying that militants who left ISIS are joining other organizations protected by Turkey. We have written many times that some of the organizations who were branded as Syrian National Army have their roots in al-Qaeda and Nusra. Once tracked, some of the important names are outed easily within the Syrian National Army.

ISIS finding space for itself in Idlib will make it harder for Turkey to maintain its stance of obstructing operations in the region. It will also cause Turkey to be openly blamed. Then it will come to organizations Turkey is openly protecting. Turkey is quickly adding more pages to its crime folder because of the militia forces it sees as substitutes to Turkish army. The situation is gloomy. We need to ask again:

So, how are things in Syria?

Will there be no reaction, no questioning from the state officials, opposition, intellectuals, about how the hatred against gains of Kurds will take the state? Has everything hit rock bottom?

What will the Turkish Republic do with this jihadist militia army?

Do we have to understand "our duty list is long" from the words "our heart geography is wide"?