Turkish parliament extends mandate for cross-border operations

With the votes of AKP, MHP and IYI party, the mandate for foreign operations in Syria and Iraq has been extended by two years in the Turkish parliament. The HDP and CHP deputies voted against.

The Turkish parliament has extended the mandate for foreign operations in Syria and Iraq by two years. With the votes of the AKP, MHP and IYI parties, President Tayyip Erdogan was authorized to decide until 2023 on the "limit, extent, quantity and timing" of the deployment of Turkish troops for military operations in the two neighboring countries.

Erdogan had justified the request, which he himself introduced, by citing an alleged threat to national security posed by Syria. In today’s parliamentary debate, AKP politician Ismet Yılmaz argued with the "terror threat posed by the PKK and ISIS" and stressed that Turkey was part of the global coalition in the fight against ISIS.

The CHP deputies voted against the motion. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had spoken out in favor of it at his party's parliamentary group meeting before the parliamentary debate. He said he wanted peace and not war in Syria, and that no more Turkish soldiers or police officers should become martyrs in the neighboring country. He also criticized the Turkish president's claim to power.

"Safeguarding the war policy until 2023”

The 56 deputies of the HDP also voted against the mandate. Kurdish MP Saliha Aydeniz (DBP) said in the parliamentary debate that the motion should be rejected to protect the country and the peoples from war, death, massacres of the Kurds, worsening of the economic crisis, further impoverishment of the population and from corruption.

HDP Co-Chair Pervin Buldan called the mandate an "extension of war and occupation". At the HDP's parliamentary group meeting, Buldan pointed out that the authorization for foreign missions in Syria and Iraq has so far only ever been extended for one year: "Apparently, the government is afraid that in one year there could no longer be an AKP parliamentary group. It sees for itself that its departure is approaching and wants to safeguard its war policy until 2023."

According to Pervin Buldan, the mandate is directed against the Kurds and is intended to give air to Islamist groups such as ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front in Syria: "With this mandate, the government wants to prevent a peace process from emerging in Syria. The conflicts and the resulting refugee movements are to continue in order to profit from them. That is the purpose of this mandate."

Ahead of the vote, the HDP had called on opposition parties not to give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan another war mandate and to end the "bloody cycle of violence." Numerous civil society organizations had also spoken out against the motion.

Mandate first issued in 2014

Turkey has the second largest army in the Western defense alliance NATO. Parliament first issued the foreign mandate for Syria and Iraq in October 2014 and has renewed it annually since then. Officially, it allows military operations in neighboring states against the jihadist militia "Islamic State" (ISIS) and other groups that the Turkish government classifies as "terrorist" - to "protect its own borders." As a rule, however, these operations are directed against the PKK guerrilla organizations and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Area of operations in Syria expanded

Whereas the previously adopted mandates stated that, in the case of Syria, they were only concerned with "legitimate national security interests against the YPG/PYD-PKK in the areas associated with the country's border in the east of the Euphrates River" - i.e., the zone of occupation referred to as the "security zone" - the new mandate explicitly applies to all areas in Syria.