Monday, February 1, 2016

The Most Dangerous Border in the World

The simple problem - Too many factions,
too many agendas
In northern Syria, there is a jagged 700 kilometer border with Turkey. The territory along the border is occupied mostly by Syrian Kurdish rebels, but also by Turkmen rebels. The Turkmen are longtime ethnic and linguistic allies of Turkey, while the Erdogan government has recently re-started its savage war against the Kurdish population. With Russian support, the Syrian Arab Army has recently been pushing north, taking rebel held cities and towns in Northern Latakia province. Russian jet fighters make daily bombing runs against Turkman positions, which brings them into close proximity with the Turkmen's ally and sponsor, Turkey. Turkish territory juts sharply into Syria near the town of Reyhanlı, and it's nearly impossible for the Russian pilots to hit targets nearby in Syria and not overfly that part of Turkey. This has resulted in one Russian jet already downed by Syria, and more threats and increasing fury in Ankara over recent additional Russian incursions.

But while the airspace violations are certainly ongoing, it's unlikely that they are the source of Erdogan's ire. The real problem is that the al-Assad regime's troops have recaptured Rabia, a Turkman held enclave in Northwestern Latakia province. It would not have been possible for the Syrian Army to advance into Rabia without Russian support, so the Turkish regime is seeking ways to push back against the mostly successful Russian intervention in support of the Ba'ath party leadership.

In the meantime, the Turks themselves are active in Syrian territory along the frontier, carrying out a series of punishing airstrikes against the Kurds who hold most of Northern Syria. After the success of the Kurds, represented by the HDP political party, won almost 10% of the vote in the August, 2014 Presidential elections, Erdogan has found it politically expedient to re-ignite the long running civil war against the Kurdish population in the region. This is, however, complicated by the international support for Kurdish resistance -against both the Syrian regime and the Jihadist factions - and the fact that no other rebel faction - with the exception, perhaps, of ISIS - has been so effective in combat.

So all of that leaves us with a dangerous, chaotic situation along the border. Particularly in the west - from the Mediterranean to Raqqa - you have Turkmen and Kurds fighting the regime and their Russian supporters, Turkish jets bombing the Kurds and Russian jets bombing the Turkmen.  As the loyalist troops move up to the border, the possibility of direct combat with the Turkish Army - a NATO member, it must be pointed out - and of Russian involvement, at least with advanced surface-to-air missiles increases exponentially.


  1. Explain to me again, how have we not managed to start WWIII?

  2. I think the really kind of amazing answer is that nobody really wants it. Which certainly doesn't preclude the possibility, it just raises the level of necessary fuckups...