YAIAR – Implications of relocation of Turkish enclave in Syria

Implications of relocation of Turkish enclave in SyriaWhen the security of the soldiers guarding the Suleyman Iah tomb, a Turkish enclave in Syria, was threatened by Islamic State (IS) fighters, Turkey had to make a difficult choice. Keeping the soldiers in their place near the village of Karakozak was an option but the accounts given by the members of the Turkish detachment showed that they were exposed to a real risk.

It had the potential of pulling Turkey into a direct clash with IS or with the regime forces. Another option was to temporarily relocate the tomb to somewhere within Turkey, but this could make it difficult to renegotiate the new place where the enclave could be relocated to after the crisis.

To minimize the security risks of the detachment, the Turkish authorities must have assessed that the most appropriate solution was to relocate it to a place close to the Turkish border but still within Syrian territory. Therefore, they chose the Syrian part of the divided village of Ashme so that it would still remain in Syrian territory.

However, this reasonable choice was not in keeping with international law. The new location is still part of Syrian territory and Turkey had relocated the tomb without the consent of the Syrian authorities.

The question will definitely come up in Turkeyand#39s relations with Syria after the crisis. Theoretically, Turkeyand#39s agreement of 1975 with Syria to relocate the Suleyman Iah tomb from Jabar Castle to the village of Karakozak is still in force.

Therefore, Turkey is theoretically entitled to bring the tomb back to Karakozak.However, if the Syrian authorities are opposed to Turkeyand#39s wish to do so, the enclave may remain in its present place, 180 meters from the Turkish border If wisdom prevails, the Syrian authorities should not oppose this idea because when the enclave is 30 kilometers away from the Turkish border, Turkish soldiers have to cross this distance within the Syrian territory as part of their monthly shift.

In the new location this distance will be only 180 meters.By relocating the enclave and eliminating the risk of harassment by IS fighters, Turkey is relieved of another fetter on its feet that was constraining its cooperation with the international community and especially with the US in their fight against IS.

However, there are two more fetters: One of them is Turkeyand#39s cooperation with the US in its train-and-equip program The other is the sympathizers, supporters or dormant cells of IS in Turkey.Train-and-equip programTurkey and the USand#39s ultimate goals in the train-and-equip program are not identical.

Turkey believes the program should be aimed at overthrowing the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria because it regards the regime as the root cause of the turmoil that gave IS the opportunity to surge in Syria Therefore, it is placing priority on overthrowing Assadand#39s regime while the US is placing priority on fighting IS.Furthermore, Turkeyand#39s constraint stemming from its vulnerability will remain an important factor in its cooperation with the US.

Despite this divergence, Turkey cannot easily dissociate itself from cooperating with the international community and the US.Ankara will continue to point out that its participation in the train-and-equip program does not entail a fight against IS.

It has already done so by pointing out that Turkeyand#39s cooperation in the fight to liberate Mosul does not involve combat missions.However, Turkey cannot easily persuade IS that its cooperation with the US in the train-and-equip program has nothing to do with fighting IS.

IS may act in a manner to indiscriminately punish any country that participates in the program in one way or another In such a case Turkey is much more vulnerable than the US and other members of the coalition because IS is present and effective in a wide area along the Turkish-Syrian border and also within Turkey.These divergent interests may help Turkey explain to the US why it insists on giving priority to the fight with the Assad regime.

In my next article in this series, I will discuss Turkeyand#39s constraints stemming from the sympathizers, supporters or dormant cell of IS in the country.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman