How Will Turkey’s Military Operation Affect Domestic Politics?

There are two different approaches among political parties to Turkey's upcoming military operation. The AK Party, the MHP, and the Iyi Party support the military operation in Northern Syria but the CHP and the HDP are clearly against it.

How Will Turkey s Military Operation Affect Domestic Politics
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alongside leaders of other Turkish parties including Kemal Kilicdaroglu (CHP), Devlet Bahceli (MHP), Meral Aksener (IYI Party), and Mustafa Destici (BBP). October 29, 2018 AA

After long-lasting negotiations between Turkey and the United States, a cross-border military operation in Syria has been decided. Although President Erdoğan emphasized many times that Turkey would conduct a military operation in Northern Syria for the creation a safe zone, the conditions of the operation and the US’s role were ambiguous. That ambiguity ended on Sunday night when the White House Office of the Press Secretary announced that “Turkey is preparing to launch a military operation in Northern Syria, and the United States will withdraw its troops in the area ahead of the long-planned attack”. Thus, the US will not join the military operation and will not intervene, contrary to pro-YPG claims.

Since the operation was announced, there has been a lot of debate about how it will impact regional dynamics and Turkey’s foreign policy in general. How will ongoing alliances among political parties be affected by the operation? Will the operation deepen the current conflicts between the CHP and Iyi Party? What will be the early responses of political parties to the operation?

It seems that there are two different approaches to the upcoming military operation among political parties in Turkey. The AK Party, the MHP, and the Iyi Party support the military operation in Northern Syria but the CHP and the HDP are clearly against it. Three parties supporting the military operation see it as an obligation to provide regional security and protect Turkey’s interests in the region. As the members of People’s Alliance, the AK Party and the MHP already had a consensus on this issue for a long time. However, the Iyi Party, contrary to its partners in the Nation Alliance, also supports the operation. Meral Akşener, leader of the Iyi Party, has often underlined that Turkish military should take the necessary steps in Syria and Iraq to overcome threats against Turkey’s security.

When it comes to the CHP and HDP, both parties are against the military operation in Northern Syria. Indeed, the CHP’s approach towards the operation can be seen from the outcomes of their recently-conducted conference on Syria. As I stated in my latest column, the CHP regards Turkey’s efforts to create a safe zone on the border as a “demographic engineering” project and underestimates the threat of the YPG against Turkey. For the CHP, Turkey should negotiate with the Assad regime rather than conducting an operation. Despite this, the CHP does not offer any roadmap to overcome the existing threat or how the involvement of the Assad regime in the negotiation process will help to overcome these threats. The CHP’s early response to the operation also demonstrated this. CHP Group Deputy Chairman Engin Özkoç stated that Turkey should get out of the “Middle East quagmire” rather than conduct a military operation for political interests of the government.

The HDP is also clearly against the operation. According to the official statement of the party, this operation will not bring stability and peace to the region. Since the party perceived the previous military operations as “ethnic cleansing” against the Kurds in the region, it is obvious that they will have the same reaction to the recent operation, too.

How will the operation affect the alliances between the parties in Turkey? As Burhanettin Duran stated in his latest column, the variation of approaches towards the military operation of Turkey in Syria will escalate ongoing conflicts among political parties in Turkey. Thus, if the CHP choose to show the same reaction as the HDP against the military operation, it will deepen the current conflicts in the Nation Alliance since the Iyi Party has underlined that cooperation with the HDP is the Iyi Party’s redline. And the party will not stand for the rapprochement between the CHP and HDP anymore. Because of this reason, the military operation will potentially be a significant determinant for the future of political alliances in Turkey.

Hazal Duran
Hazal Duran conducted her B.A in the fields of Turkish Language and Literature and International Relations at the TOBB University of Economics and Technology in 2012. She completed her M.A in Modern Turkish Studies at Istanbul Sehir University. While continuing her doctoral studies at Bilkent University, she is currently serving as a Researcher at the SETA Ankara Directorate of Political Studies.