On Wednesday, October 16th the Global Policy Institute held its first Real-Time Crisis Briefing. In an effort to restore a longstanding School of IR tradition of providing USC students, staff and faculty with briefings on major international crises, GPI is relaunching these briefings.
Nearly 60 students attended the event, which discussed the current conflict in north and east Syria, and the recent decision of the United States to pull forces from the region.
The Corridor of Conflict: Implications for Turkish Intervention in North and East Syria event was led by Michael Pfonner, a POIR Ph.D. student at USC. Michael explained the background to the current conflict by detailing the differences between the four major Kurdish political orientations and the Turkish relations with each group. The current crisis is defined by Operation Peace Spring, which Michael explained as Turkey’s attempt to control land beyond the Turkish border into northeastern Syria.
The Turkish government wants to repopulate this land with the Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey in an attempt to dilute Kurdish power in the region. The current push for this territory was prompted by US President Trump’s decision to remove the “tripwire” of troops along this border which had previously prevented Turkish advancement due to NATO agreements.
Michael detailed that the disorganized US response to these events has displaced around 300,000 people and the steps moving forward remain unclear. With President Erodwen threatening to “flood Europe with refugees” if they take action, the response from the EU has been minimal. Russia has gotten involved on the side of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Kurds and is seeking to mediate peace between the three groups.
Finally, Michael discussed future implications and what students should pay attention to moving forward. Turkey faces serious economic concerns due to international sanctions and military concerns as it encounters the challenges of maintaining aging military equipment. For the entire region, Michael explained that the risk of guerrilla warfare is high especially in Iraq and Northeast Turkey which may be triggered by the race for the Syrian city of Kobani, Turkey’s main target along the border. Furthermore, the humanitarian concerns already developing will require immense resources to alleviate the crisis.
At the end of the briefing, students were given a half-hour to ask questions related to the nature of the crisis, the roots of the conflict and hypothetical scenarios that will occur in the future. Thank you to all who came out to this event.