Late last year in the Syrian uprising Syrian rebels called for a ‘no fly zone’ (an interesting announcement, as at the time as Syrian aircraft had not really been used to great effect against Syrian rebels). This call soon developed into the rebels calling for a ‘buffer’ zone being set up in northern Syria, which would be a safe area for Syrian rebels and refugees to base themselves without fear of attack from President Assad’s forces.
One of the first international actors to agree with the rebels and call for a buffer zone was Turkey. As far back as August 2011, rumours circulated that Turkey was wishing to establish a ‘buffer zone’. Since then Turkey has continued to call on the international community to establish such a zone. Last week saw more renewed calls for an internationally protected safe haven in Syria, with Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, telling the Security Council to act “without delay” to set up safe havens [in northern Syria]. According to some reports, Turkey has already formulated plans to enforce a ‘buffer zone’ 12 miles into Syrian territory, but indicated that it would not implement them until it received international support and the number of refugees in Turkey approached 100,000.
While this ‘buffer zone’ would certainly help the humanitarian situation for Turkey, and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the ‘buffer zone’ could also be a veil for more ominous intensions from Turkey, who would almost certainly play a leading role in its creation. By gaining international support to enter Syria, Turkey is likely to relish the chance to put its stamp in the Kurdish Regions in North Eastern Syria. Already gearing up for such as chance, it held a 3 day military exercise very close to the Syrian border in early August to show its muscles.
This exercise shows how worried Turkey is about the Kurdish ‘issue’. It should not be underestimated how far Turkey will go to try and stem the Kurds power (A recent example of this was seen when Turkey sent its Foreign Minister to the Kurdish Region of Iraq in early August to gain assurances that Kurds in Iraq would support Syrian Kurds that subsequently seriously damaged relations with Baghdad). Turkey will take any chance it gets to weaken the Kurdish cause, and if it can do this cloaked under a legitimate ‘buffer zone’ that is supported by the international community, Turkey would be able to do what it wants, where ever it wants in Syria.
J Robinsons – Twitter: @jprobinsons