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Afrin, Afrin… #OperationOliveBranch

Afrin, Afrin… <a class="hashtagger" href="">#OperationOliveBranch</a>

Turkish officials have explained that the objective of “Operation Olive Branch” is to protect Turkey’s national interests, eradicate terrorist targets in and around the Syrian city of Afrin and to enhance a belt of stability and security along the Turkish-Syrian border.

For months, Turkey has called on the United States and Britain to stop supporting the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey has considered the Syrian affiliate of the clandestine separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). However, all of Turkey’s calls have fallen on deaf ears, as both Washington and London have continued to provide all sorts of heavy war machines and ammunition to the PYD, under the pretext of fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists. Such assistance from the U.S. has even included war machinery and drones that Washington has refused to sell Turkey so far.

Frustration could perhaps help describe the spirit in Turkish-American relations. A summary of the situation might be that “unilateral actions by the United States in Iran and Syria have infuriated Turkey” according to a statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper.

Talk that the United States might unleash an embargo program or even impose some sanctions on Turkey might indicate the worst is yet to come in Turkish-American relations. The so-called Zarrab case—the verdict of which will be delivered in April—might end up impacting relations between Ankara and Washington like a hurricane.

Turkey and the U.S. have recently come out of a three-month-long visa crisis. However, relations between Ankara and Washington have been spoiled by the continued Pennsylvania refuge of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist scholar who Turkey has blamed for masterminding the failed July 2016 coup, and indiscreet accusations from Turkish officials, including the president, that the U.S. intelligence network might have been behind the coup attempt.

Also read:  7 Questions, 7 Answers on Idlib #SyriaWar

Was Afrin a product of such a frustrated psychology in Ankara? That might be an underestimation, though “frustration with the U.S.” and a determination by the Turkish presidency to demonstrate Turkey’s capability to act alone must be underlined. The Afrin operation might be an answer from Ankara to the U.S., as well as some other NATO allies, that the Cold War era has come to an end and Turkey will no longer accept to be the subservient and dependent state of a global power.

The Americans have probably miscalculated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a factor, assuming Turks would make a lot of noise but would not undertake anything worth mentioning. Otherwise, if Turkey was a valuable ally or a “strategic partner,” then why would the U.S. ignore all calls from Turkey and continue to engage with the Syrian PYD, who Ankara considers an affiliate of the terrorist PKK?

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About The Author

Yusuf Kanli

Born in Cyprus in 1959, Yusuf Kanlı is a graduate of the English Language and Literature Department of the Faculty of Letters of the Ankara University. He started journalism with the Turkish Daily News in 1978. Until he briefly left the paper in 1985 (for military service in Northern Cyprus) he served as diplomatic correspondent, assistant foreign news editor and assistant editor. During this period he was as well one of the two co-authors of an annual reference book on Turkey, “Turkey Almanac”. After completing his military service he returned the Daily News as assistant editor. In 1989 he became executive editor and also started writing daily opinion articles. He continued to be one of the co-authors of the “Turkey Almanac” annual reference book. In February 1993, over differences with the publisher on editorial policy, he quit the paper and joined the Anatolia News Agency (AA) as deputy foreign news chief. He stayed with the Anatolia News Agency until September 1995. In this period, he covered the Armenia-Azerbaijan war over Nogorno-Karabagh, covered developments in the post-independence Central Asian republics. Because of his refusal as the duty editor to run a manipulated news story demanded by the then lady prime minister of the country, he was fired from the AA, a development that Kanlı considers as his “medal of honor” in the profession. On his return to the Daily News for a third time in October 1995, he first became an editor at large but soon assumed the responsibility of electronic publishing and established Turkey’s first daily updated English language news web site, the TDN Online on May 19, 1996 (now In January 1997, he became executive editor of the Daily News for a second time and stayed in that post until he was appointed as editor-in-chief in June 2004. In February 2007, he quit all executive duties and became a contract columnist of the newspaper. He has been also writing weekly articles in Turkish for a variety of newspapers and news portals in Northern Cyprus. He is a former chairperson and the honorary chairperson of Diplomacy Correspondents Association (DMD) of Turkey, an active member of Association of Foreign Policy Council, a member of the executive board and vice chairperson of the Association of Journalists and coordinator of the Press for Freedom project, which has been monitoring and reporting on press and freedom of expression issues in Turkey since 2013. He has been a member of several associations and foundations, mostly established by Turkish Cypriots living in Turkey or abroad. He is married to Dr. Aydan Kanlı and has one daughter, Cansu. He has Turkish, Turkish Cypriot and Cypriot triple nationality.

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