Turkish forces, with US air support, entered Syrian territory and quickly occupied the border city of Jababulus. Officially, the purpose of this action was to deny the Islamic State its last border crossing into Turkey. But wait, why does Turkey need to invade Syria in order to close a border which it already controls – namely the border of its own country?
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged that Turkey’s real motive lies elsewhere, saying “the Jarabulus operation was aimed as much at the Kurdish group as at the Islamic State” (as reported by the Washington Post). In other words, the real purpose of Turkey’s incursion into Syria is to prevent the Kurdish enclave in the West (centered in Afrin) from linking with the Kurdish controlled territory of the East, resulting in a continuous Kurdish administered territory along much of the Turkish-Syrian border.
This is relevant to Syrian Christians for several reasons. Christians are present in the Kurdish-controlled territory in the East – particularly the cities of Hasakah and Qamishli (birthplace of our friend, His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church) – and Christian militias are a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces which defend this region. So Turkey’s stated enemy is the government of one of the few places in Syria where Christians can live in peace.
We are pretty confident predicting that Turkey is not going to be withdrawing its military from Syria anytime soon. More likely is that it will continue to expand the territory it occupies. And you can count on this: there will be no Christian communities allowed to exist in the Turkish controlled territory of Syria – in contrast to the Kurdish controlled territory.
Which raises the question, why is the United States supporting Turkey’s land grab?
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