Following an abrupt change of mission in Syria from U.S. president Donald Trump, Turkey has invaded northern Syria to wage war against the Kurdish forces in the area. Many fear this attack on one of America’s key regional allies will quickly escalate into an ethnic cleansing. Credo's Topic Pages and Real-time Reference articles can help add background information and context to the events unfolding in the headlines.
Who are the Kurds?
Often called the largest ethnic group in the world without a state, the Kurds number somewhere between 20 and 40 million people who share a culture dating back to 2000 BCE. The region often referred to as Kurdistan includes parts of Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. Learn more about the Kurds and their history here:
Why is Turkey attacking them?
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan believes the Kurds in northern Syria have ties to Kurdish separatists (the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK) in Turkey. Turkey has labeled PKK a terrorist organization, and claims the invasion, known as Operation Peace Spring, is an effort to rid the region of terrorists. Read about the civil war between Turkey and PKK in the 1980’s and 90’s that resulted in 30,000 deaths and lingers in this current conflict:
What does this mean for the war in Syria?
An impossibly complicated geopolitical situation grew even more tangled with Turkey’s invasion. For example:
- Russia is supporting Operation Peace Spring, but opposes Turkish forces in the Syrian civil war to oust president Bashar al-Assad.
- The U.S. is allied with both the Kurdish fighters, and NATO member Turkey. There are reports that Turkish forces have fired on American troops in order to pin them back and keep them out of the fight.
- After having fought Assad’s forces, the Kurds will now partner with him rather than fight a war on two fronts. (Like Turkey, the Kurds are simultaneously fighting with and against Russian-backed armies.)
- Several ISIS fighters and sypathists, imprisoned in Kurdish held territories, have reportedly escaped in the attacks and confusion.
- A region that has already seen recent chemical weapons attacks, terrorism, sectarian violence, and genocide will almost certainly become destabilized further.
Read more about the war in Syria, the Islamic State, and humanitarian interventions here:
The Islamic State (ISIS)