Daily Sabah
May 25, 2022

Turkey’s new Syria operation: A message to NATO

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaled the launch of a new…operation on northern Syria on May 23, to resume efforts to create a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) wide…zone south of its border….

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Erdoğan’s announcement comes at a time when Turkey has been at the center of several regional and international debates: From Ankara’s efforts to normalize ties with several regional countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Israel, Armenia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to mediation efforts between Ukraine and Russia. Now, a new debate has also emerged: Finland and Sweden’s application for NATO membership and Turkey’s position on the issue.

As the second-largest army of NATO, Turkey has, rightly so, voiced its concerns over the two states’ membership….

Firstly, Ankara is not against NATO’s eastward enlargement, it does want to make the same mistake it did by saying an unconditional OK to Greece’s acceptance to NATO in 1980 [?] during late Gen. Kenan Evren’s term.

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The new language in diplomacy

At a deeper level, however, Turkey’s position on the membership bid signals a new debate: A new language of Turkish diplomacy is emerging and being conveyed to Turkey’s Western allies….

…For example, its ability to establish and have a relatively working relationship with Russia in Syria has led to not stepping on each other’s toes in Libya and also when Turkey provided support to Azerbaijan against Armenia in Karabakh….

In addition, its use of hard power in several successful…operations in northern Syria against the PKK/YPG and Daesh, the use of its domestically produced weapons, including Bayraktar drones, in places like Libya, Karabakh and northern Iraq, has also shown its military maneuvering capability in a region where two superpowers – and other regional actors – compete for influence.

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Evaluating Turkey’s position on Finland and Sweden’s membership bid and Erdoğan signaling a new operation on northern Syria against the abovementioned background suggests that Turkey now sees itself at a table where it has confidence in its diplomatic and military capacity, particularly highlighting its defense industry capabilities.

…The aggression will not be ignored and will face Turkey’s military muscle.

This means that decision-makers in Ankara’s foreign policy strategy and the country’s political leadership no longer accept the position Turkey was once in during the post-Cold war status quo…

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Under Erdoğan’s leadership, Turkish diplomacy has transformed from being a mere puppet of the Western agenda to one that prioritizes [its own interests], be it in Africa, the East Mediterranean region or elsewhere. Also, with Erdoğan’s famous “the world is bigger than five” motto, Turkey proposes a comprehensive reform in global governance for a more just international system. It is time Turkey’s Western allies also learn this new language and approach of Turkish foreign policy.