Turkey’s Syria invasion rapidly backfiring for Ankara amid unexpected international condemnation

Turkey’s Syrian venture is rapidly turning sour from President Erdogan’s point of view. The Turkish advance into the northeast is moving slowly, but Turkey’s military options are becoming increasingly limited as the Syrian army, backed by Russia, moves into Kurdish-held cities and towns that might have been targeted by Turkish forces. It is unlikely that Mr Erdogan will risk taking on Syrian government troops, even if they are thin on the ground, if this involves quarrelling with Russia. In the seven days since he launched Operation Peace Spring, Turkey has become more diplomatically isolated than Ankara might have envisaged when President Trump appeared to greenlight its attack.

Almost the entire world is condemning the Turkish invasion and, having achieved the objective of eliminating the Kurdish statelet of Rojava, Turkey will have great difficulty in making any more gains. “Now that the Kurds and Damascus have come to an agreement, I do not think that Ankara will dare to open a new front against Assad forces,” writes the Turkish military commentator Metin Gurcan.

This is all very different from 18 months ago when the Turkish army and Arab militiamen invaded the Kurdish-populated zone of Afrin, north of Aleppo, and ethnically cleansed its population. None of this was particularly secret and bands of al-Qaeda and Isis-linked Arab gunmen, which were under Turkish control, posted videos of themselves persecuting Kurds and looting their houses and shops. Human rights groups confirmed and publicised the abuses of the Turkish-led occupation forces, but this appeared to have little impact on the wider world.

Focus now is on the 160,000 Kurdish refugees fleeing the Turkish advance, publicity is given to the murder of prisoners by the pro-Turkish Arab militiamen, and mention is made of their Isis and al-Qaeda backgrounds. President Erdogan and Turkey are, for the moment at least, replacing President Bashar al-Assad and his regime as the leading international pariahs. Mr Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds was so blatant and public that it provoked a wave of sympathy for the Syrian Kurds that they had never enjoyed before.

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