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‘Turkish assault on Syria has all the hallmarks of creating a disastrous human tragedy’

Nader Entessar, Professor Emeritus of Political Science from University of South Alabama, says Turkey’s military operation in Syria has all the hallmarks of creating a disastrous human tragedy in the Arab country.
Nader Entessar, Professor Emeritus of Political Science from University of South Alabama.

“Syria is already facing a massive refugee crisis, both internally and outside its borders. The Turkish operations will add to the misery of Syrian civilians,” Entessar said in an interview with the Balkans Post.

He also ruled out Turkey’s claim that it would be able to control Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) terrorists, saying, “Logistically it will be very difficult to prevent the release or escape of thousands of Daesh terrorists in the chaotic atmosphere created by the Turkish operations.”

Although Turkey has claimed that its forces will control Daesh terrorists, logistically it will be very difficult to prevent the release or escape of thousands of Daesh terrorists in the chaotic atmosphere created by the Turkish operations.

The following is the full transcript of the interview:

Balkans Post: Turkey has launched a military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, shelling towns and bombing targets from the air in an operation that has forced thousands of people to flee their homes. How do you view this operation?

Nader Entessar: It is too early to judge the success or failure of the latest Turkish operations inside Syria. I think Turkey has four main goals. The first goal is to inflict a mortal blow to the Kurdish aspirations in Syria and by implications to PKK's plans in Turkey. The second goal is to create a permanent "buffer zone" in Syria where the Turkish forces can continue to destabilize Syria and its government. The third goal is to strengthen the position of Turkish allies in the Idlib Governorate. This is an area where Turkey has continuously strengthened its military strategic position inside Syria by supporting an assortment of pro-Turkey and various terrorist groups. Lastly, eastern Syria is rich in mineral and gas resources. Turkey may in fact have long-term plans to control these resources. Ultimately, the success or failure of Turkey's operations inside Syria will have to be judged based on the attainment of the aforementioned objectives.

BP: How would this operation affect Syria?

Nader Entessar: Obviously this operation has all the hallmarks of creating a disastrous human tragedy in Syria. In fact, the displacement and homelessness of large numbers of Kurdish people have already taken place. Syria is already facing a massive refugee crisis, both internally and outside its borders. The Turkish operations will add to the misery of Syrian civilians.

BP: According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 60,000 people have fled since the offensive began and the towns of Ras al-Ain and Darbasiya, some 60 km to the east, have been largely deserted as a result of the attack. What would be the consequences of these developments for the region?

Nader Entessar: As I stated in my previous answer, we are witnessing a major humanitarian disaster in the making. Ankara may have plans to settle some Syrian refugees in Turkey in the areas from where the Kurds are fleeing.

BP: Fears are growing that thousands of Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) terrorists may escape from Syrian jails, as Kurdish prison guards are reportedly leaving their posts to gear up for fighting back the Turkish military. Do you regard this as a legitimate concern?

Nader Entessar: Yes, there should be a legitimate concern about the Daesh prisoners and, in general, Daesh cells. Although Turkey has claimed that its forces will control Daesh terrorists, logistically it will be very difficult to prevent the release or escape of thousands of Daesh terrorists in the chaotic atmosphere created by the Turkish operations.

BP: In spite of widespread criticism, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not backed down. He has also hit out at critics, threatening to send more than 3 million Syrian refugees into Europe. What’s your take on Erdogan’s actions in recent days?

Nader Entessar: Of course, this was expected. We should expect more bellicose statements along these lines in the coming weeks. In the past, Turkey has used the Syrian refugee card to pressure Europe, but Europe may not be in a position to remain silent or acquiesce to the most recent Turkish moves.

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Nader Entessar is professor emeritus of political science at the University of South Alabama. He is the co-author of Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Accord and Détente since the Geneva Agreement of 2013 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), Iran Nuclear Accord and the Remaking of the Middle East (Rowman & Littlefield), and Trump and Iran: From Containment to Confrontation (Lexington Books, 2019).