Two Reasons For Turkey’s Advance into Syria That You will Not Have Heard About

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  • October 26, 2019
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While analyses of the operation are mostly focused on the historical conflict with the Kurds and Ankara's national security concerns, the economic crisis and President Erdogan's political challenges have been overlooked.

Turkey's "Operation Peace Spring", which aims to displace Kurds and establish, what President Erdogan calls, a 20-mile 'safe zone' alongside the Turkey-Syria 400 km long border, has been internationally condemned by almost everyone.

The commentaries and analyses of Turkey's latest onslaught onto the Kurds have mostly focused on the history of the Kurdish-Turkish conflict and its relation to Turkey's national security concerns and the Syrian refugee crisis. But there are two crucial reasons that have been overlooked: The economic crisis in Turkey as well as Erdogan's political challenges at home.

Economic crisis in Turkey requires radical attempts beyond monetary solutions

One of the less highlighted rationale behind Turkey's invasion of Syria is that Turkey is seeking to lift the economy out of the ongoing economic crisis. In fact, Turkey's debt-driven economy has long been suffering from the structural pressures of currency exchange rate valuation risks and liquidity risks. The crisis has been further deepening this year, as the Turkish lira has lost value against the US dollar, the stock market has continued to decline and government borrowing costs have become more expensive than ever before.

Furthermore, as the Fitch report underlines, Turkey's current policy responses to the deepening economic crisis have fallen well short of stabilising the currency and economy, leading to predictions for a deepening recession unless Turkey could make a 'greater effort' beyond 'incomplete policy responses' to balance the large current account deficit and external financing requirements.

Crisis in the construction sector

Here, Turkey's construction industry requires particular attention as it has been the locomotive of the Turkish economy, particularly since Turkey's 2001-2002 debt crisis. Nonetheless, despite being the largest employer in Turkey and the second largest exporter � only behind China - in the world, long gone are its shining days when it had outperformed all other industry sectors in Turkey.

Turkey's construction industry has been facing an oversupply crisis, demanding new profitable spaces to explore and develop. Turkey's "safe zone" plan promises a new market worth of 26 billion US dollars for the industry, which could boost the recovery of Turkey's economy. As a matter of fact, and quite unsurprisingly, shares of cement firms in Turkey have risen for two straight days on expectations much-needed building boom, of which Erdogan has been looking forward for a long time.

"Natural security" as a handy tool to ease Erdogan's political woes at home

The second rationale that needs to be stressed here is the management of political challenges at home through a new cross-border war against Kurds. The "Kurdish question" has always been a practical tool in the hands of the ruling political elites in Turkey to maintain their political power and to ease political turbulence by reunifying right-wing nationalist civil society and political organizations under the flag of Turkish chauvinism. As we outlined previously, in the case of Academics for Peace, this handy solution has been put into practice by Erdogan particularly after the June 2015 general elections, when Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to win a majority in parliament for a single-party government.

It is clear that the same logic of practice has been put into action with Turkey's military attack on the Kurds in Syria to silence growing critical voices in the midst of a worsening Turkish economy. Nevertheless, what makes Turkey's historical anti-Kurd strategy distinctive in the case of Syria, however, is the geographical 'location' of the war. In fact, the implementation of Turkey's historical anti-Kurd doctrine beyond Turkey's border allows Erdogan to manage the political challenges faced by the regime.

Uniting with the opposition against the 'eternal enemy'

In contrast to the political and military oppression of Kurds in Turkey, a cross-border operation offers a wider political ground to establish an expanded consensus between conflicting parties, since it has been portrayed as the 'national' interest of the Turkish people that should be defended against the 'others', regardless of the differences in their political opinions and class positions. As the developments in the political spheres of Turkey have shown, Turkey's invasion of Syria has successfully united the ruling and opposition parties against the "eternal enemy" in Syria.

Building its anti-Kurd war strategy, Erdogan not only re-consolidates his declining power by recovering its coalition with the nationalist MHP, which has become more fragile, particularly after local elections in June 2019, resulting in the AKP's political loss of key metropoles, including Istanbul and Ankara. Erdogan also capitalizes on the Syrian war by forcefully "acquiring" pro-Kurdish HDP municipalities in Kurdish-majority provinces and towns in Turkey, as he simply ordered a number of Kurdish mayors to be put on trial and replaced.

It is also obvious that, by locating the frontlines of its anti-Kurd war beyond Turkey's national boundaries, Turkey minimizes unfavorable social, political and military outcomes of its anti-Kurd strategy at home. More importantly, however, Erdogan's preference for the military presence of Turkey in Syria under the pretext of 'national security' provides a guaranteed seat at the table in any future negotiations over the geopolitical future of the Middle East.

Overall, Turkey's political and military agenda in Syria cannot be understood fully by focusing solely on the Kurdish-Turkish conflict. Bigger issues are at play. The war is timely as it provides an answer to the economic and political woes at home. The geopolitical future of the whole Middle East is at stake, which vested interest in Turkey wants to be part of.

Source: English Bianet