A Kurdish militia with ties to an organization waging an insurgency in Turkey's southeast region violated Turkey's “red line” in Syria over the weekend by crossing the Euphrates River during an anti-ISIS operation.
The operation to take back Tishrin Dam from ISIS was staged by the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG — the military arm of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
It served as a huge blow to ISIS, which had relied on the dam to move weapons and fighters between its de-facto capital of Raqqa in Syria and the cities of Manbij and Jarablous it controls in the northern countryside of Aleppo Province.
Merve Tahiroglu, a research associate focusing on Turkey at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Davutoglu's comments “are an example of how Turkey is able to maintain its 'red line' without appearing to completely impede the anti-ISIS coalition’s efforts along its border.”
One worry in Ankara since the diplomatic crisis with Moscow last month has been Russian support for the [Kurdish] PYD and, in particular, a possible PYD movement toward the west of the Euphrates with Russian encouragement and air support.
Aykan Erdemir, a nonresident senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former member of Turkish Parliament, said he thinks Davutoglu's subdued response to the operation was his way of “accepting the inevitable.”
“A harsher response on Davutoglu's part would have been an admission of failure to guard his 'red line,'” Erdemir told Business Insider on Tuesday. “By portraying the event as crossing of the Euphrates River by Arab forces, he is attempting to reframe the embarrassing developments to make them appear less damaging.”
Still, Tahiroglu said, because the Tishrin operation was supported by the US and not Russia, it was not a complete “nightmare scenario” for Turkey.
“But the question now,” she added, “is who in the SDF will come to control this liberated land: the Arabs or the Kurds?”
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