Turkey May Invade Syria, But to Stop the Kurds, Not ISIS

by | Jun 30, 2015


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be planning to invade northern Syria to prevent Kurds from forming their own state there.

Turkey to Invade Syria

In a speech last Friday, Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not accept a move by Syrian Kurds to set up their own state in Syria following gains against Islamic State (ISIS). “We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria,” Erdogan said. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.” He accused Syrian Kurds of ethnic cleansing in Syrian areas under their control.

Reports are Erdogan will send the Turkish army into Syria. Up to 18,000 soldiers would take and hold a strip of territory up to 20 miles deep and 60 miles long that currently is held by ISIS. It stretches from close to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in the east to an area further west held by the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups, beginning around the town of Mare. The “Mare Line” is to be secured with Turkish ground troops, artillery and air cover.

Why This Matters

— Turkey is entering the fighting in a big way. Turkey, a NATO country, is unilaterally and under dubious “defensive” standards invading another nation. Yeah, it’s 2015 that kind of thing happens pretty much all the time now, but it is still sort of worth noting.

— Turkey is fighting the Kurds, a group whom the US arms and supports as an anti-ISIS force. Anything Turkey does to weaken the Kurdish forces is in opposition to US policy, may strengthen ISIS in the long run, and may provoke some sort of political mess between Turkey and the US

— Turkish troops could easily get caught up in the general fighting now going on among ISIS, the Kurds, and Syrian government troops, stepping smartly thus into the Syrian quagmire. Retaliation attacks by ISIS and/or Kurdish militants on Turkish territory may follow.

— Kurdish forces supported by the US elsewhere in Iraq may move against Turkey. This will weaken their efforts against ISIS in Iraq (a US goal) and place additional pressure on the US over whether or not to further arm, train, and support them with air power.

— NATO troops operating US-supplied Patriot missiles near the Syrian border to shield member country Turkey against air attacks from Syria will be forced to either stand down completely, or try and discriminate in shooting back at an increasing crowded sky full of ambiguous good guys and bad guys.

— Short version: a very messy situation will be getting worse.

Reprinted with permission from WeMeantWell.com.


  • Peter van Buren

    Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well.

    View all posts