‘Turkey Syria ops would be illegal, but intl law hasn’t been respected in war ’
RT: What do you make of Erdogan's latest statement that Turkey has a right to conduct any operations in Syria?
Alaa Ibrahim: First, we have to remember that Turkey has always been involved in the Syrian arena. We have to remember that insurgency in Syria would have never made it this far, or would have never gained the momentum it had in the past four years, without the direct assistance, support and facilities granted to them by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That being said, the statements of Erdogan’s are not out of context and it was expected ever since Turkey started voicing concerns over the advances of the Syrian Army backed by Russian air strikes and ground forces from its other allies – Iranians mainly – towards what Ankara has long considered to be the rebels heartland in the northern countryside of the city of Aleppo. The advances that are being achieved right now by the Syrian Army are changing the course of the war; many have called it a turning point in the course of the conflict.
I think we are to expect such statements from the Turkish administration or the Turkish government, which is famous for saying that they have the right to intervene in Syria. But I think we have to wait and see what they will be able to do on the ground: will they intervene and go in the ground offensive or in an incursion, as Russia has accused them of some time ago, or will they just confine to statements and artillery shelling. The upcoming days will determine the course of the battle of Aleppo, the battle for the control of the city of Aleppo, and what role will Turkey and Saudi Arabia play in case they decide to launch a ground offensive into the Syrian territories.
RT: Erdogan actually said Ankara has the right to conduct any operation it deems necessary in Syria, and on any soil. But what does international law actually say about that?
AI: First of all, we know that the international law and the Charter of the United Nations strictly prohibit any intervention in the domestic affairs of any other sovereign and independent state. But I think international law wasn’t respected throughout the five years of Syrian war. We have to bear in mind that Turkey has a history of intervening in other countries. They launched incursions into Iraq throughout the second half of the 1990’s benefiting from the weak status of the regime of Saddam Hussein at the time. Turkey is known to benefit and try to capitalize on the weakness of its neighbors. They have done so on more than one occasion, and Syria won’t be an exception. Legally speaking, obviously Turkey has no right to say it will intervene militarily in Syria. But international law is not always respected, and it hasn’t been respected especially by Turkey and other countries supporting the rebels for the past five years.
We know that Turkey has direct links with many of the organizations that are considered terrorist organizations by the UN and even by the US itself. Yet, Turkey continues to allow these organizations to move its fighters through Turkey inside Syria. Many here in Syria accuse Turkey of providing direct logistics and direct assistance to these organizations.
RT: Ankara urged Washington to choose either Turkey or the Kurds, who Erdogan considers “terrorists.” What is the Turkish government trying to achieve by such statements?
AI: We have to understand the context. President Erdogan always tries to appear as the dominating leader in the Middle East and dominating Islamic figure who’s trying to protect Islamic interests across Syria. He’s even promoting his move into Syria would be to protect the Sunni Muslims in Syria, which is untrue. Nevertheless, I think this is part of him building his image and popularity inside Turkey, saying to the Turks, “Look at me, I’m confronting and challenging the US and I’d like to force the US, the world’s first superpower to choose sides.” And, [Erdogan hopes] they’ll choose the Turkish side. It’s not a secret that the Americans are in very close contact and coordination with the Kurdish militias operating in the northern parts of Syria. It’s not a secret that Turkey has been fighting against these Kurdish militias and has been helping radical groups, including ISIS, to get an upper hand against these Kurdish militias. I think there’s a great conflict of interests between the US and Turkey on this particular issue. But I think the US will choose to play this safely and try to avoid confrontation with Turkey if it can do so.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.