Who benefits from the Turkish military operation in Syria?

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in Sochi, Russia on October 22.
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in Sochi, Russia on October 22. Alexei Druzhinin / AP

On Tuesday, 22 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reached an agreement to end "Source of Peace", Ankara's offensive on the Turkish-Syrian border against the Kurds of People's Protection Units (YPG).

The military operation has killed hundreds and thrown tens of thousands of people on the roads, and once again proves that the Syrian file and its interlocking conflicts are resetting cards in the Middle East.

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"We are definitely witnessing "Putin moment" in the Middle East. With this last dossier, the Russian has shown that he is the actor who determines the orientations and the balance of power "says sociologist Adel Bakawan, a member of the Near East Mediterranean Research and Studies Institute (iReMMO). A situation largely favored by the disengagement of Washington from the region, including the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria on October 6, three days before the launch of the Turkish offensive.

A symbol of the passage of the relay between Washington and Moscow, the Russian channel RT thus broadcast, mid-October, images of convoys of armored vehicles crossing on a road around Kobané. Others showed, later, these soldiers invest the bases left vacant by the departure of the American forces. In addition, Tuesday's agreement stipulates that joint Russian-Turkish patrols will be set up in the border areas of Syria, starting on 29 October.

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Finally, the rigid personality and authoritarianism of the Russian reassure against an erratic Donald Trump. "In this chaotic situation, this war of all against all, Mr. Putin embodies in the eyes of the parties a form of stability", summarizes Mr. Bakawan. Although the European Union has no means of putting pressure on belligerents, it can not counterbalance it.

  • An "easy" victory for Erdogan

Turkish President hailed "A historic agreement". "Erdogan does not get everything he wants, but it's an easy and cheap victory – very few of his soldiers (about ten) died during the offensive "explains the geographer Fabrice Balanche, specialist in the Middle East and research director at Université Lyon-2. Even though Ankara has not managed to take control of the 440 km border, it still retains control over a 120 km long and 32 km wide area between the city of Tall Abyad and that of Ras al-Ain.

Situation map of the Turkish offensive in Syria, on Wednesday 9 October.
Situation map of the Turkish offensive in Syria, on Wednesday 9 October. Infographie Le Monde

The agreement of 22 October also mentions a continuation of " status quo " in this region, and does not mention any date of withdrawal for the Turks. But this compromise was recognized by the United States and, implicitly, by the Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, who reported after the meeting between MM. Putin and Erdogan from a telephone conversation with the Russian.

Finally, the other goal achieved by Ankara is the lasting weakening of Kurdish forces, abandoned by their American ally, forced to an unnatural alliance with Damascus, and finally forced to withdraw.

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  • A paid offensive for Assad

Damascus's commitment to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Arab-Kurdish militia dominated by the YPG, is also a successful operation for the Syrian president. "It allowed him without a shot, no martyr, to resettle on 35% of his territory, which he had lost control"Mr. Bakawan points.

Above all, these areas are home to several camps in which international jihadists are held, the sociologist continues: "The Western countries, which have nationals on the spot, will be forced to deal with this man whom they considered a little ago as the enemy. "

Decryption: Turkish offensive raises issue of foreign jihadists detained in Syria
  • In the background, the reemergence of jihadism

Indeed, since the announcement of the withdrawal of US forces, the Kurds had reported their inability to ensure the integrity of jihadist detention sites. Some have already taken advantage of the chaos provoked by the offensive of the Turkish army to disappear in the nature, with the risk of restarting the attack.

A security threat that has been reinforced by the alliance between the Kurds and Bashar al-Assad, explains the historian and specialist in the Middle East, Jean-Pierre Filiu. The return of the regime of Damascus and its repressive apparatus in the regions conquered by the FDS on the organization Islamic State (EI) "Can only encourage jihadist backfire".

"The FDS have indeed interest to retreat to the predominantly Kurdish areas and abandon the Assad regime, its army and its police territories predominantly Arab. "

"Sunni base largely excluded from reconstruction in Syria and Iraqsays Mr. Bakawan. This creates resentment and fertile ground for this re-emergence. "

  • Kurds, "eternal losers"

"The United States has abandoned the Kurds and de facto betrayed them"summed up the Kremlin spokesman on Wednesday (October 23rd). For its part, Assad rejected the tragedy of the situation on his allies of fortune, saying that "Those with separatist designs were responsible for the events that occurred."

"We know we will have to make painful compromises", But "Between the compromises and the genocide of our people, we will choose life"said, on October 13, the top commander of the FDS, Mazloum Abdi, in a magazine stand Foreign Policy.

"Attacked by Turkey, whose army is the second largest in NATO, can no longer rely on their American allies, the Kurds found themselves unable to resist alone, summarizes Mr. Balanche. If Ankara had carried out its operation, they would have been evicted entirely from their territory in Syria; the Kurds are the eternal losers »Bakawan concludes.

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  • But the compromise seems fragile

If the agreement found between MM. Erdogan and Putin seem to focus on almost all actors in the conflict, an uncertainty remains: its sustainability. The Russian president reiterated on Tuesday "Understand the interests of national security" Turkey, while emphasizing the territorial integrity of Syria. Vladimir Putin is actually trying to convince the strong man of Ankara to reconcile with Bashar Al-Assad, the honored Syrian president, with whom relations have been at loggerheads since the beginning of the war.

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"Behind Erdogan's official speeches "The thief" and Assad "the executioner of his people", we can not totally exclude that under the aegis of Russia, the two men meet and eventually find common ground », says Adel Bakawan. A possible return of the United States in this file could it change the deal? Impossible to predict. "Donald Trump does not have a strategy, he only works on interactions", says the sociologist. Only certainty: "Washington has lost the battle of image and its diplomatic credibility. "

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