Syria Crisis

Is Turkey Getting Ready To Invade Syria?

President Erdogan is raising the tone about a "buffer zone" needed along the Turkish-Syrian border to halt a supposed Kurdish push for independence.

A Turkish military parade in Istanbul on Oct. 29, 2014.
A Turkish military parade in Istanbul on Oct. 29, 2014.
Fehim Tastekin


ISTANBUL â€" Turkey has been debating plans about a possible military intervention day and night since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the following declaration last week: “We will never allow the establishment of a state in Syria’s north and our south.”

It seems that Erdogan, who has not been able to satisfy his desires about Syria, made a deal with his Arabic friends and now needs an excuse. The Kurds are that excuse. An intervention plan is based on the conspiracy theory that the United States is forming a “Kurdish belt” from northern Iraq to northern Syria.

When Erdogan was in Riyadh in March to help establish a Sunni alliance against Iran with the new Saudi King Salman, they agreed on backing the Syrian rebel groups in a way which will actually produce results. The armed groups were reorganized for this goal. The Army of Conquest was supplied with weapons from north via Turkey, while the Southern Front was supplied across the border in Jordan.

Idlib and Jisr al-Shughur fell as a result of the Turkish-Saudi partnership. According to Arabic sources, the joint plan includes Turkey entering Syria with land forces and forming a buffer zone. However, this plan is crumbling since the last general election eliminated hopes that Erdogan's leading Justice and Development Party's (AKP) could win outright Parliament control.

Whatever may be the frame of the deal with the Saudis, Erdogan seems to be in a hurry to keep his promise. Since it will not be possible to maintain the current Syrian policy with a possible coalition government, Erdogan is set to drag Turkey into a military adventure in this transitory period.

Fabricated fears

Of course, an intervention to Syria will be presented to the domestic population as a way to prevent the forming of a Kurdish state, and to the international community as a war against the Islamic State (ISIS).

According to the pro-AKP daily Yeni Safak, 18,000 soldiers will enter 28 to 33 kilometers into Syria from Karkamis and Oncupinar to form a 110-kilometer-long buffer zone.

But Deniz Zeyrek from the daily Hurriyet wrote cautions that Turkish soldiers "entering Syria is out of the question." He says the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) are reluctant to support the Syrian opposition who fight ISIS and the Assad regime, though he doesn't rule out Turkey shelling or air bombing the ISIS fronts or logistical support for the opposition.

The intervention justifications served to the media are all fabrications: that Kurds are practicing ethnic cleansing on Arabs and Turkmens, that a Kurdish corridor is being opened which causes a threat to Turkey, that ISIS has lost Tal Abyad and is advancing to the west with Assad's support.

No, in fact, the only thread of reality can be found in the last of these explanations: if ISIS takes the border gates of Selama and Heva, the latest Turkish-Saudi “revolution” project would fall apart. In this case the pro Al-Qaeda Nusra Front, the formerly pro-Al-Qaeda Ahrar and other jihadist groups cannot receive support.

The ethnic cleansing accusations started before the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and their non-Kurdish allies recaptured Tal Abyad. This war, of which Turkey is a key actor, have caused widespread displacements of virtually every ethnic group.

Indeed, the Kurdish controlled canton Rojava is an antidote to ethnic cleansing, and a potential model of coexistence for ethnic, religious and sectarian groups. Can this be the fact that scares Turkey's rulers? The Kurds have not declared independence from Syria and they do not have such a goal.

Birth of ISIS

The Kurds are fighting to save their lands, homes, women and children from a vile terrorist organization. If Turkey had an intention to fight ISIS, a hand of friendship should have been reached to Rojava. But instead, Kurds have faced many attacks from armed forces entering Syria from Turkey as soon as they took control of the area.

Another Turkish claim that has been repeated tirelessly as a part of this so-called conspiracy is that Assad supports ISIS. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu has claimed that the regime and ISIS have met at Haseke; and the regime forces have moved out of two zones, which allowed ISIS to advance. The field intelligence of Turkey is terribly wrong and highly manipulative. It has been like this from the beginning. These were the intelligence services that believed Damascus would fall in two weeks when the civil war started. This was the intelligence used to say radical groups like Nusra were founded by Assad.

While the AKP government was organizing the Free Syrian Army, we were warning that pro-Al-Qaeda and jihadist organizations were getting stronger in Syria. The Turkish leaders were also the ones claiming that it was Assad who have released the jihadists from prisons to derail the revolution. But wouldn't you know, those released from prisons are currently leading the organizations that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia support against Assad.

Fire from four directions

If Turkey does decide to enter Syria to form a buffer zone; it will face fire from four distinct angles. First, you are entering the land of a sovereign country; this is invasion. There are those who disagree by saying that Syria cannot control this area anyway. Let Turkey close its borders to fighters and weapons transported into Syria and stop firing upon the Syrian Army when they get close to the border. Then we can see who can control what land. The buffer zone will pit the Turkish and Syrian armies against each other no matter what happens.

Second, if the buffer zone will include Cerablus, currently under ISIS control, then ISIS will start to target Turkey directly. And remember, this is not a conventional war where the clashes are limited to the front lines.

The buffer zone also means war with the Kurds if it will target the areas under YPG control. This war could also set aflame major Turkish cities. The peace process with the Kurds would be nonexistent. Why would you transform the hundreds of kilometers of peaceful border territory to a shooting range?

Who would benefit the most from Turkey's attempt at creating a buffer zone or changing the rules of engagement? The pro-Al-Qaeda and Salafi jihadist groups, of course. Let nobody talk about the Free Syrian Army or moderate opposition anymore. The funeral prayers of the moderates ended long ago.

There is no guarantee that this intervention would not turn Turkey into what Syria has become. Turkey has refused to take responsibility for what their deadly policies have cost Syria for the last four years. But now at least, it must calculate its own possible losses to come. Turkey would lose not only the Syrian Kurds but its own, too. Turkey would also lose its own domestic peace, as terrorism in Syria would become a domestic problem for Turkey.

ErdoÄŸan has lost an election as the "would-be president" if he wants to compensate this as "commander in chief" then this strategy would burn us all. Turkey would never be the same.

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]


Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos


• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.


"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.


$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.


What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️


"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."


An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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