Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

The SDF is now vulnerable to the full might of the Turkish army. (Photo: James Gordon/cc/flickr)

The SDF is now vulnerable to the full might of the Turkish army. (Photo: James Gordon/cc/flickr)

What to Expect from Turkey’s Coming Invasion of Syria

Erdogan’s government is preparing to enter Syria for a major military operation against the SDF.

Vijay PrashadE. Ahmet Tonak

U.S. President Donald Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, October 6, that the United States troops inside Syria would not defend the Syrian Democratic Forces, which have built an enclave inside Syria along a section of the Turkish border. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are made up largely of Kurdish factions, who set up this armed force to defend the mainly Kurdish enclave in northern Syria. When the U.S. began its attack on the Islamic State (ISIS), the SDF became the ground forces beneath the U.S. bombers. Now, the U.S. has decided to betray the sacrifice of the SDF.

Turkey has previously threatened to attack the SDF and other Kurdish groups inside Syria east of the River Euphrates. In 2014 and 2015, Turkey signaled that it would invade Syria. In August 2016, the Turkish military crossed the border with U.S. air cover. Erdogan said—at that time—that Turkey was going to attack both ISIS and the Kurdish militia group, People’s Protection Units (YPG). This operation, which was largely around the Syrian town of Jarabulus along the Syria-Turkey border, was known as Operation Euphrates Shield. The 2016 intervention opened the door to two further interventions in northern Idlib (2017) and in Afrin (2018), the last operation with an Orwellian name—Operation Olive Branch. These were targeted attacks and not an all-out war on the SDF and other Syrian forces.

Now, Erdogan’s government is preparing to enter Syria for a major military operation against the SDF. The U.S. forces have already left the observation posts at Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain—both key places where the U.S. monitored Turkish troops and shielded the SDF from Turkish attacks. That shield has now been removed. U.S. forces remain in the region, but there is every indication that they will remove themselves from the main hubs of the SDF.

The SDF is now vulnerable to the full might of the Turkish army. The political leaders of the SDF say that they would defend their enclave—known as Rojava—“at all costs.” Over the past year, Ilham Ehmed, the co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, has warned that Turkey is determined to enter this “safe zone” (or what the U.S. calls a “security mechanism”). Ehmed said—before this recent announcement—that Turkey will invade Rojava, harshly attack the SDF, and re-settle the three million Syrian refugees who are now in Turkey. These refugees are not from the area east of the River Euphrates. Not only will the Turkish government wreck Rojava, but it will ethnically cleanse the area by bringing in large numbers of non-Kurdish Syrians. It is important to recall that the population of Syrian Kurds is around two million. Ehmed has expressed her worry about this attempt to render the Syrian Kurds of Rojava extinct.

What will a Turkish invasion mean for the area?

  1. It will destroy the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Rojava. For all its great limitations, the government of Rojava has experimented with various forms of democracy, including economic and cultural democracy.
  2. It will destroy the social integrity of the cultural world east of the River Euphrates. The transport of three million Syrians—largely from the western part of Syria—will change the character of this region, which is the homeland of the Syrian Kurds. In the long run, this population transfer could annihilate Syrian Kurdish society. Besides, if Turkey does this, it would have violated Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949).
  3. It might force the Syrian armed forces to march on the region, to defend its borders. In the Iranian parliament, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Turkey should respect Syria’s borders, and that Turkey must allow the Syrian armed forces to establish their presence at the border. If the Syrian army moves on the border, it will open up the possibility of a clash between Syria and Turkey, which might lead to tensions between the armed forces of Iran, Russia, and the United States.
  4. Since 2017, Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey have been part of the Astana Group, whose purpose was to find a way to dial-down the bloody war in Syria. Turkish intervention into Syria will raise the possibility of the revival of war inside Syria. Turkey’s proxy groups that were part of the attack on the Syrian government will be emboldened to try once more to overthrow the government in Damascus.
  5. If Iranian and U.S. forces clash in Syria, will this give the U.S. another reason to open up a fuller war against Iran, including the bombardment of Iran itself?
  6. It will strengthen a greatly weakened Erdogan government.

It is worthwhile to be alarmed by these developments. The United Nations has taken the correct assessment of the situation. The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria—Panos Moumtzis—said, “We don’t know what is going to happen. … We are preparing for the worst.” So should the rest of us.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad is the Director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and Chief Editor of LeftWord Books. He is a Writing Fellow and Chief Correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He writes regularly for The Hindu, Frontline, Newsclick, and BirGün.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'All You Have to Do Is Follow the Money': Ilhan Omar Rebukes Corporate Democrats

"It is corporate greed, and the lawmakers who serve them," argues the Minnesota Democrat, "who are betraying the values of our party and the American people."

Jon Queally ·


'Outrageous and Shameful': Dems May Cut Paid Leave Due to Manchin's Opposition

Decrying the plan, advocacy groups vowed that "the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors."

Jessica Corbett ·


Open Letter Warns Trump's 'Big Lie' GOP Poses Existential Threat to Democracy

"Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the republic."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ahead of Historic House Hearing, Fresh Big Oil Misinformation Campaign Exposed

"It's always helpful to remember that big fossil fuel companies (besides being overwhelmingly responsible for carbon pollution) are also skeevy disinformation hucksters."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Very Welcome' Progress as Iran Agrees to Restart Talks on Nuclear Deal Sabotaged by Trump

One peace advocate urged all sides to reconvene negotiations "as soon as possible and with renewed urgency" to avert "disastrous" consequences for Iran and the world.

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo