While multiple parties pursue their interests in Syria, civilians continue to pay the price
Dead civilians and thousands fleeing the fighting – Turkey’s attack on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin is a new and unwelcome phase in Syria’s seven-year war, but one that was widely predicted. The only surprise is its spectacularly inappropriate name, Operation Olive Branch. Ankara’s antipathy to the prospect of an autonomous or independent Kurdish state is longstanding. But the conflict is supercharged by the ambitions and jockeying of the various powers with their hands in this crisis.
“My enemy’s enemy is my friend” is a maxim of short-term convenience, not long-term commitment. The US needed the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Defence Forces to take on Islamic State – particularly given Turkey’s lack of interest in assisting until late in the day. Ankara grudgingly tolerated the situation and sought to contain it. But with the collapse of Isis’s so-called caliphate, the kaleidoscope has shifted, and the fact that “my ally’s ally is my enemy” is in focus again.