Turkey And Syria Clash In First Direct Conflict In Ongoing Civil War


As the Syrian Civil War enters its ninth year, the Turkish and Syrian governments clashed for the first time. On February 27th, “thirty-three of our soldiers were martyred as a result of the airstrike… by the forces of the [Bashar al-] Assad regime,” said Rahmi Dogan, the governor of a province that lies on the Syrian border in Turkey. After the airstrikes, Turkish forces commenced ground attacks and airstrikes against military strongholds in Idlib. They claim to have neutralized 309 soldiers in response. 

Points Of Contention

Turkey’s vested interest lies in the Kurdish population in Northwestern Syria. The region hosts the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which fought the government in clashes that claimed over 4,000 deaths, a tenth of which were civilian. As the War waged on, the Kurds gained territory after fighting back ISIS. Turkey then began bombing along the border, further escalating tensions. Moreover, the war spurred a mass exodus of Syrian civilians into Turkey, where they are scapegoated for economic and political problems. The international community expected Russia, a Syrian ally on good terms with Turkey, to mediate between both countries, but it has not. In fact, Assad blames Russia for the bombing, stating that “Aircraft that hit the civilian population centers in Idlib will no longer be able to fly freely.” 

Long-Term Implications And Ulterior Motives

 This escalation of violence will increase the death toll of the already devastating war. Idlib currently houses four million civilians trapped in the area, with Al-Qaeda rebels also situated in the province. As major world powers are pulled deeper into this war, it will only get more deadly. The war is currently supported by Saudi Arabia, the United States, Iran, Russia, Jordan and Turkey, each with its own interests. Turkey wants to squash the Kurdish forces, which it sees as threatening, while the United States aims to defeat ISIS, whom the Kurds drove back. This is just an example of the intensely complicated crisis, where allied countries back competing groups. The competing countries have little regard for human life and the longer the war wages on, the more immense the human suffering.