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4/4/17

Turkey - Syria - USA: Analysis: What's next for Turkey in Syria? - by Birce Bora

On March 29, Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced the successful completion of the "Euphrates Shield" military operation in northern Syria, but suggested the country may launch other cross-border campaigns in the future.

Turkish analysts told Al Jazeera that Yildirim's announcement was not surprising as it came after the operation reached its "natural limits" but insisted that they do not expect Turkey to leave the region anytime soon.
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"Yildirim's announcement was merely an acknowledgement of the situation on the ground," Atilla Yesilada, a political analyst with Istanbul's Global Source Partners, told Al Jazeera. "At the moment Turkey has little room for manoeuvre in northern Syria - in both diplomatic and military terms."

At the beginning of the 216-day operation, which was launched against ISIL and Kurdish forces last August, Turkish forces took the border town of Jarablus and cleared ISIL fighters from a roughly 100km stretch of the border.

In late February, Turkey announced that it also took control of Al Bab, an ISIL stronghold.

"In practice, the Euphrates Shield came to an end nearly a month ago, when Turkey's sphere of influence in Syria - the triangle between Jarablus, Al Rai and Al Bab - was surrounded by American marines to its east, Russian soldiers to its west and the Syrian regime forces to its south," said Metin Gurcan, a Turkish security analyst and a research fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center (IPC), Sabanci University.

Turkey is now in a situation where Russians control the west of the Euphrates River and the US controls the east - and neither party seems to be supportive of Turkey's needs and interests in the region.

"Turkey will be forced to support the rebels in Idlib in a future battle against the regime, Russia and their allies," Yesilada explained. "At the end of this battle, I do not think Russia will choose to send these rebels to Syrian towns controlled by Turkey.

"It will tell Turkey to retrieve its troops from northern Syria, and take Idlib's rebel fighters into Turkey."

Read more: Analysis: What's next for Turkey in Syria? | Turkey | Al Jazeera

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