“We might come suddenly one night.”
These are the words President Erdogan has used many times when referring to the renewed ground invasion of North and East Syria he has long sought after. They are essential in understanding that he has not been waiting for a pretext to attack our region, as he has openly expressed his intention to invade since the ceasefire agreements were made in late 2019, with his rhetoric escalating since May of this year.
President Erdogan’s calculations have been made to best serve his re-election campaign when Turks take to the polls in June 2023. Inflation and a generally poor economy have hurt his popularity at home, risking his power for the first time in years. Autocrats always look to war and foreign distractions to rally their citizens to them.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, from its inception, were created to fight in Syria and protect Syrian people from the threat of ISIS. It is an extremely diverse alliance of various units, the majority of whom are not Kurdish. The partnership between the SDF and the US-led Coalition to Defeat ISIS was started on the clear understanding that the SDF’s operations would be focused on the defeat of ISIS. There is no reason or evidence of SDF involvement in the Istanbul attack.
The only way to reach a factual conclusion about what happened in Istanbul is for there to be an international, neutral, and independent investigation of the attack. The Turkish state’s agenda in Syria prevents it from investigating the attack in a trustworthy manner. The rapid and continuing escalation in Turkish military action in Syria immediately following the attack is clear evidence of this fact.
Turkish warplanes, in the most recent attacks, have chosen interesting targets; a base of SDF anti terror forces were targetted, killing two special forces members trained by US forces, interior security forces near al-Hawl camp where close to 55,000 ISIS family members live, and internal security forces positions near an ISIS prison in Qamishli. The Turkish presidential spokesman, İbrahim Kalın, wrote a tweet as the Turkish airstrike campaign against the AANES began: “It’s payback time”. Based on Turkeys’ choice of airstrike targets, the payback is for the SDF and US defeating ISIS.