The economic crisis is making Turkey difficult in northern Syria

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By Costas Raptis

The price of the economic, and especially the foreign exchange, crisis of the neighbor is not paid only by the Turkish citizens. The residents of those areas of northern Syria that are under the occupation of the Turkish army and its guerrilla allies after the successive military invasions that received the names “Shield of the Euphrates” (2016), “Olive Branch” (2018) and “Source of Peace” (2019).

The de facto annexation of these areas previously inhabited by Kurds has taken, among other things, the form of the introduction of the Turkish pound in transactions (as well as the operation of Turkish mobile telephony and so on). For many of the remaining residents, this change was even welcome, given the volatility of the Syrian currency. But now, as one of them explained to Euronews, the mood has changed, after the pound fell and inflation rose in Turkey. And the cost of living in places like Afrin, al-Bab or Jarablus has skyrocketed.

Shortcomings and accuracy

In response to the French Agency from the region, there is a jump in the prices of all basic items (imported, of course, from Turkey), a reduction of the real value of salaries by up to two thirds, while the head of the Al-Bab Chamber of Commerce argues that residents can not meet daily needs for food, medicine and heating.

The situation is similar, however, in Idlib, the Turkish-protected enclave of northwestern Syria, where they have taken refuge, following ceasefire agreements mediated by Russian forces, anti-government (see Islamist) rebels from across the country.

According to the Emirati website The National, there are queues in stores in Idlib due to shortages, while in the last six months it is estimated (based on testimonies, as official data are missing) that price increases have reached up to 50%. At the same time, the oil company Watad Petroleum, which operates in the region and is affiliated with the Islamist organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sam, decoupled its prices from the pound and pegged them to the dollar.

Security problem

All this, however, risks turning from an economic problem to a security problem, since the decisive factor in maintaining the status quo is the role of Turkey’s rebel allies, who are being paid in (now undervalued) Turkish pounds.

Reducing the purchasing power of these weapons has a double effect. On the one hand, it strengthens their eagerness for the launch of a new, fourth operation against the territories controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, ie the Kurdish local allies of the USA, with their eyes fixed on the expected loot. But the “green light” to be promoted in Ankara does not come from either Washington or Moscow, as has been the case in the past, with pro-Turkish armed groups intensifying looting of areas already occupied, such as Afrin. Residences and businesses abandoned by their original inhabitants, olive groves and soap factories, as well as objects of historical value, are the subject of systematic competition, despite Ankara’s declarations that it will not tolerate such behavior.

On the one hand, the whole situation is intensifying conflicts between the various armed organizations, whose leaders are already accused of being deeply involved in organized crime practices (drug trafficking, arms trafficking, kidnappings, extortion, torture, etc.). These are often people who collaborated with the Turkish secret services both to prepare for the invasions and to transport guerrillas to other international fronts, such as Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, where Ankara wanted to leverage its influence. The fact that all of them are excluded from the child or terminate their cooperation with the Turkish secret services creates an obvious gap.

Nevertheless, Turkey still feels safe enough to even take provocative actions, such as the December 25th bombing of a house with young Kurds and Arab activists in Kombani, on the Syrian-Turkish border, killing three girls and two young people. The victims were apparently accused of taking part in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist activities inside Turkey, but the reality seems to be that they were unarmed social activists. But Kombani, where Kurdish fighters of the PYD (sister organization of the PKK in Syria) heroically repulsed the Islamic State advance in 2014, forcing their alliance with US forces, has always been a nail in the coffin. Erdogan’s government and any show of force in the region is highly symbolic.

Intra-Kurdish competitions

Especially if it helps to promote intra-Kurdish rivalries and widen the traditional rift between the PKK or its offshoots and the regional government of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, which maintains cooperative relations with Ankara. Fighters on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border are already in daily conflict and the border remains closed, except, as accepted under US pressure, only for the transfer of humanitarian aid to northwestern Syria.

“Astana” was present

Turkey, despite its escalating friction with Russia over the Ukraine crisis, continues to work with other forces in the Astana Process to resolve the Syrian issue, and in particular to force PYD Kurds to accept the repatriation. in Damascus’ control of the territories they control (with US support) in the oil-producing northeastern Syria beyond the Euphrates. In fact, Turkey, Russia and Iran have just announced that they will hold a new deaf summit in February or March, depending on the epidemiological situation, which will have been properly prepared at the level of foreign ministers.

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Source From: Capital

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