The Euphrates Shield from a historical viewpoint

Operation Euphrates Shield can be best understood by viewing it in context with the history of the Middle East

The Euphrates Shield from a historical viewpoint

Erhan Erken

In order to better understand the geography of the Middle East today, one of the best methods is to make reference to history. When we say history, we need to go back at least 100 years in time.

Until the first world war, nearly none of the states that exist today were in existence. Upon the collapse of the Ottoman empire, many new little states emerged in its territorial boundaries. Between the two world wars, the division in the region stabilised and in the aftermath of the second world war, the structure of the region is almost identical to what we have today. Certainly, the emergence of the state of Israel in the region, after world war tw , which was definitely non conforming to the region, drew much attention.

Considering the emergence stories of the other states, we can witness betrayal to the Ottomans, at least in the earlier stages. We sadly can see that the first action taken by most of the emerging states, was to instate as head of state either those rulers who betrayed the Ottomans or their relatives.

In the formation of the new political strutures in the Middle East, one of the factors which were taken into account, for the people of different tribes, religions and sects who for hundreds of years lived side by side in relative peace, were now brought together in such a balance that future confrontations would be inevitable. Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs , Circassians etc... and like tribes were located in surroundings whereby sectarian problems were inevitable, hence diligence was taken to make ensure Sunni groups had Alawi leaders and Alawi groups had Sunni leaders.


Why was it done or formed I say, because these formations were designed in general, by the victorious nations of the wes , in the world wars. The people who have lived on these lands were unfortunately powerless to establish their own leadership after the Ottoman empire,  so they were only able to perform the duties bestowed on them, live and move freely only on pieces of land that was allocated to them. As the losers, sadly and naturally, the people of this region have suffered the consequences and have lived in a state of pain for nearly one hundred years.

One of the bitter laws applied by the winners, during the process of fragmentation, was to separate large families and also to seperate people with natural resources, with artificial borders. For example, never in history were there so many states and borders in the region from which the Euphrates and Tigris rivers originate to the region at which they flow into the ocean.

At the time when the Ottoman empire was transformed into the Turkish republic, it was separated from the oil rich regions of Mosul and Kerkuk with such deceit that as we ponder deeply we will obtain an important example that will strengthen our ideas. Likewise, research into the formation of the state of Lebanon and ruling structure will give us another example to strengthen our theory.

Israel, which entered into the Middle East equation as a new state after the second world war, constantly threatens the peace of the region with its never ending acts of aggression. The promised lands which the Jews claim that was promised to them, is so wide that it even engulf parts of Turkey, and consequently gives us an idea about the aims of this state in regards to the borders it seeks in this region. Certainly İsrael 's dominance over Jerusalem and its actions against Al Aqsa mosque, will allways remain as a condition with a problem starting potential.


The five nations with veto rights in the UN, who influence world politics, are related first hand to the balances of the Middle East.Even though they all have their own personal agendas. In general their united aims are not wanting to have unity and tranquility on these lands as is the case of 100 years ago. It is not in their priority to have a solution of peace and tranquility in this region. Chaos and struggle are main politics of these five nations . The leaders of theese nations with chaos, need and rely on large nations, in order to maintain their power of rule. They share their nations natural resources and raw materials with these larger nations. In a constant state of chao they always need weapons and rely on arms sales from these larger nations. Hence, the nations in a state of chaos are unable to develop economically, unable to have social balance, and even though the majority of its populations are Muslim in the Middle East region , are unable to achieve a powerful state of unity. The existing potential by any means cannot be reflected onto real life conditions.

Of course in the midst of this chaos, the state of Israel constantly observes politics to enhance these disputes, and hence in any problematic area of the Middle East it has sunk its claws and is anything but discrete in stirring the pot.

Also, another nation Iran, especially after it was declared an Islamic state, takes a deep interest in the affairs of this region. However, Irans point of view is not from a perspective of a united ummah (a united muslim community) but rather from a narrow minded sectarian view and is an evident factor in the rising of tensions.


Amongst all these nations, the natural inheritors of the Ottomans, Turkey stands as a potential force that can organise this region. Turkey, which has severed its ties from this region after the world wars, has been seeking ties with this geography at heart which began somewhat slowly in the 1970's and has made advanced in the 1980's. As Turkey becomes stronger and deals with its own internal problems, it is attracting the acceptance and appreciation of the people of these lands, with every positive action it takes.

In the years since 2000  Turkey has displayed an incredible development, as well as economical development. There is a stable political structure, which has given much hope to the oppressed people which look to Turkey for hope.

As Turkey grows more powerful, so too does the scale of enemies in relations.

The most recent appearence of events including , the increase of terror in the southeast, Gezi park uprisings and 15 th July attempted coup, all of which disrupted the harmony internally as it seems, was in fact a ploy by international powers to stop and contain Turkey in its tracks. For a long time, the instigation of establishing an artificial marxist Kurdish nation, just beyond the southern borders - which is not in inclination of the demografic realities of this region - can also be viewed from the same viewpoint. Again in the borders of Iraq and Syria, a group which has appeared so suddenly, and has the backing of all opposing factions which has resulted from the wrong and careless actions of its leaders, this organisation called ISIL, is also a result of the politics that aim to split the Middle East into smaller fragments. ISIL is not a reality of this region , but rather can be viewed as an artificial formation which aims to increase disputes and further fragment the region in a lasting manner.

From Turkey's point of view, between us and the people of the Middle East, there are no degrees of historic and deep-rooted problems which cannot be solved. At the time of the world wars, as a result of the encouragement by the western forces, the treasons by some of the recruited leaders of the region, have no basis historically or socially in the eyes of the people living in the region. These can be viewed as spontaneous uprisings at times of upheavel and problems.

In recent times our stance against the acts of terrorism from the PKK and PYD, which are marxxist seperatist nationalists, should definitely not be perceived as a stance against Kurdish people and can not be accepted by any means whatsoever if anybody tries to show it as otherwise.

The reality of PKK which has lasted for many years, and the military reaction to this organisation by Turkey, which has sometimes reached  harsher levels at times, cannot be denied. This harsh response has unfortunately victimised some of our Kurdish brothers, and the PKK with its subsidaries, have tried to capitalise on the grief of victions in order to part them spiritually from the motherland. However on a more positive note, as a result of the recent politics, very important actions have been taken to mend theese mistakes and avoid the splitting up.

Currently Turkey is striving to bandage the  internal. At the same time, it doesn't want any more fragmentation and division beyond its borders in the Middle East. It stands firmly with all its might against any actions which encourage further division and fragmentation. As I have mentioned earlier for internal purposes, the same applies for PYD and YPG which are subsidiaries of PKK, just beyond our southern borders, Turkey's confrontation with these organisations cannot and should not be perceived as Turkey's struggle with the Kurds. The aim of this struggle is against a marxist organisation which uses the Kurds to create division, with the main aim to prevent further division amongst the people of the Middle East. Likewise Turkey has no problems in principle , with Arabs, Circassians, Syrians and other people of the region. Even though we may not share the same boundaries with these people, historical ties make them accepted in our hearts geography.


Turkey's most recent military advance, named Operation Euphrates Shield, beyond its borders, should be considered as an action with the same perspectives. Turkey cannot accept in principle, the formation of an autonomous marxist terrorist Kurdish leadership, just below its boundaries, that has the consent of the USA and other western nations. It also does not accept the existence of ISIL, which is another uncontrollable force, located in that region and further south. Turkey defends the unity and sovereignty of its southern neighbours.

Turkey should also see as a problem in principle any military presence, bases, in this region from USA and other western forces - Russia, Iran, and all powers in this region (Israel and China included). It should reject any direct or indirect involvement in taking sides with the struggles of this region. Even if it lacks the military might, we still place importance on the verbal propagation of these ideas.

Turkey, the heir of an empire that has ruled succesfully for hundreds of years over these regions, which has now crossed over its southern boundaries for the sole purpose of its defence, has been viewed as a problem by some nations, who have come to interfere from thousands of kilometres away with absolutely no historical ties to this region and shown their prescence and  this most certainly should be debated so that the reality and truths be on the current agenda.

In conclusion, something which has been very verbal and possibly the last straw for Turkey, is to have no advancements past the western front of the Euphrates river. For this area to be cleaned of terrorists has resulted in a military action, which may be somewhat be a little late but nevertheless a very positive decision. This action should not be restricted with the Jarabulus area and the terrorist organisation ISIL but also include driving out PYD/YPG from Manbij. Turkey's requests that the path to Aleppo should be open and cleared of terrorist organisations, are important requests. If these requests are not met then all problems arising in these areas directly reflects on our nation and hence all the problems that arise will cause to be a burden on the people of Turkey.

In addition, the fact that to the south of Hatay, the Bayirbucak Turkmens are being subjected to military attacks, in order to evacuate them from the Turkmen region, poses a great threat to the security of Turkey and to the Muslims in that region. To support theese atrocities, the PYD/YPG factions which have come to the west of the Euphrates, are aiming to join forces with the powers in Afrin, to eventually have a path to the Mediterranean (in order to enhance an autonomous structure in time being their goal) has been verbally manupilated by Western centers since the 1990's, and seen as a goal to strive for. From that time to the present, there has always been problems instigated in this region, masses have for different reasons been evicted from their homeland, and lately as a result of the civil war in Syria, the mass exodus of its inhabitants has been from their perspective an important advancement to achieve their gaols.

At the smallest weakness of Turkey, it is possibility that the nations in discussion, or the powers that are in their control, are able to make other advancements and actions at any given time in order to achieve their goals (currently, the area where the military action is taken, where Turkey's insistence to keep a safety buffer zone closed, to prevent future strikes against the Turkmen mountain).

Turkey is obligated to take defensive action in order to prevent and defend itself against any of these future possible actions that they can take. 


To live in a nation which is in the crossroads of three continents, being what is left of an empire that has in a period of time ruled over vast areas, gives Turkey very important responsibilities. The state should be powerful politically, economically and militarily. Special care should be taken at all times for political and social stability. the citizens of this nation should be ready at all times both ideologically and through their actions, in order to realise and achieve this mission. Also all of the factors that are in our hearts geography are attentively watching us and that should be in our conscience and responsibility.

On the 15th July attempted coup, the citizens and also the leadership team of this nation, have passed a good test. By the the will of God, this spirit continues from here on as well so that productive services can arise both for our nation and also for all humanity.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Eylül 2016, 07:29