On February 5, 2018, POMED nonresident senior fellow Howard Eissenstat wrote an op-ed for Ahval entitled, “Will Mounting Casualties Weaken Erdoğan Politically? No, and Here’s Why?“
There are good reasons to question the wisdom of the Turkey’s Afrin campaign: it endangers the relationship with the United States, puts its troops at the mercy of the short-term political calculations of Damascus, Tehran, and Moscow, empowers Salafi-Jihadi movements whose long term goals and ambitions are at odds with those of the ruling AKP, and further embitters the roughly half of Turkey’s Kurds for whom Kurdish identity is central and armed groups have at least some emotional sway.
In the long term, the strategic risks are high, but in the short term it has had at least some success, primarily in forcing the United States to take seriously Turkish concerns regarding the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin and pushing Washington to get better control over its own decision-making process in Syria.
Politically, of course, the campaign has been a stunning success. It has given new strength to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s purge of dissidents, while consolidating his own political brand. Vigor in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and facing down the United States are perhaps the two most popular things any Turkish political leader can do; Erdoğan has fully taken command of the nationalist banner. Presumed rivals can do little.
Read the full op-ed here.