Afrin, Afrin… #OperationOliveBranch
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.
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?