Erdogan Threatens New Invasion of Northern Syria Over Kurdish Presence

Tensions are once again soaring on the Syria-Turkey border, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now declaring he has “legitimate reason” to re-invade northern Syria, and that such an option could happen “at any moment.”

This would be the latest of several invasions, and countless threats of invasions in recent years, and comes after a Russian airstrike targeted Turkish-backed rebels earlier this week. That’s part of the escalation of tone, but not being used to justify the invasion.

Instead, Erdogan is back to complaining about Kurds along the border, saying he’d been promised they’d be removed, and that they still haven’t been, and that that justifies Turkey going in and removing them themselves.

Kurds are considered a top priority for Turkey. Northern Syria is predominantly Kurdish, as is southeastern Turkey, and while Turkey can crack down on Turkish Kurds at their leisure, they want a presence of allied rebels, or whatnot, to get at those Syrian Kurds.

The US, and later Russia, have both given lip service to Turkish security needs, but in the grand scheme of things, expelling the Kurds outright is impractical. That’s why Turkey’s invasions never involve huge anti-Kurd measures when they get there.

Tying the matter to Russia’s airstrikes, Erdogan is demanding Russia follow through and remove the Kurds, or else. The Russia-Turkey truce in Idlib has been collapsing for months, and this may be Erdogan trying to start new negotiations, or it may be him trying to save face for the collapse itself.

The Syrian Kurds have broadly aligned with the Syrian government, which is aligned with Russia, so it’s unlikely Russia will do anything to force them to relocate. Rather, they’re more likely to warn Turkey to stay out.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.