Retired Gen. Adnan Tanrıverdi, the former chief military aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, confirmed that Turkey’s Syria strategy has been based on creating autonomous Sunni-Arab and Turkmen regions in northern Syria.
Tanrıverdi owns private military contractor SADAT, which many believe is a de facto paramilitary force loyal to the Islamist president of Turkey. He continues to advise the Erdoğan government on military matters, although he left his official position as advisor in January 2020.
Speaking to the Turkish government’s anti-Semitic and anti-Western mouthpiece Akit TV on December 14, 2015, Tanrıverdi stated that there should be autonomous Sunni-Arab and Turkmen regions in northern Syria and that Turkey would not allow a unified Kurdish structure in Syria. According to Tanrıverdi, Western countries cannot implement their Syria strategies without Turkey’s approval. During the interview Tanrıverdi defined the US and Western countries as the source of the Syrian crisis and insisted on establishing a safe zone in the region.
“As long as we object, they [Western countries] will not be able to implement their plans. They have to convince us. The tensions stem from that [conflict]. We need to put forward our minimum requirements, which are a sine qua non. There should be an autonomous Turkmen region, if there are to be autonomous and separate federative structures. The Kurdish region should not be unified and has to be kept separate. Between [Kurdish-controlled points] there should be a corridor that will connect us to Aleppo. It [the corridor] should be a Sunni region, an Arab-Sunni region,” he stressed.
Tanrıverdi announced in December 2019 that his organization SADAT, which is fully funded and supported by the Turkish government, had been working to pave the way for the long-awaited mahdi (prophesied redeemer of Islam), for whom the entire Muslim world is waiting.
Turkey’s opposition lawmakers had asked the government about the alleged role of SADAT in training Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Syrian al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusrah (al-Nusra Front) fighters and the alleged close relations between Turkish intelligence agency MİT and SADAT. Moreover, SADAT was accused of training jihadists sent by Turkey to fight for the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya.
Nordic Monitor previously released confidential military documents revealing how the Turkish military opposed Erdoğan’s unilateral military intervention plans to create a safe zone and autonomous region in northern Syria in 2016.
According to the documents Turkey’s military brass resisted President Erdoğan’s pressure for unilateral military action in Syria while giving a green light to Turkey’s participation in a safe-zone initiative that would be carried out by the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in the event a specific resolution was adopted by the United Nations.
Following a failed coup in July 2016, Turkish commanders and military members were replaced by Islamists and neo-nationalists who were loyal supporters of Erdoğan’s policies, which triggered regional instability and crisis. Using the attempt as a pretext, Erdoğan purged all generals and admirals who opposed a military adventure in Syria. It is no surprise that the first Turkish military incursion into Syria in August 2016 took place a month after the coup attempt.
The strengthening of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Syria’s Kurdish party in northern Syria, is seen as a menace to Turkey’s territorial integrity, since it is considered a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Turkish military conducted Operation Euphrates Shield to block Kurdish forces from carving out a corridor in the north of Syria.
In March 2020 Turkey launched its fourth military operation in Syria after the killing of 34 Turkish soldiers on February 27, the deadliest day Turkey has suffered in Syria since the start of the country’s civil war nine years ago.