Turkey has invaded northern Syria with massive military force in order to destroy the chances of an autonomous Syrian Kurdish region named Afrin. The situation is complex because Turkey is both an ally of the US against Pres. Assad and an enemy of the forces supported by the US, namely the Kurdish YPG and their allies the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The Turks are against the continuation of Pres. Assad in Syria and against his allies the Russians and the Iranians. But, the Turks see the formation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria, or anywhere, as a direct threat to their own sovereignty. They label any Kurdish forces as terrorist because they say they are aligned with the PKK, the Kurdish People’s Party, that indeed are considered terrorists in Turkey where they foment insurrection.
Although the situation seems murky it can all be explained as part of Pres. Erdogan’s aims to “make Turkey great again.” Turkey once controlled the whole Middle East and Iran was its main enemy. When Kemal Ataturk established the Turkish Republic after WWI as the modern embodiment of the Turkish Empire, he moved Turkey towards a sectarian Republic. But, Erdogan and his Muslim allies are in the process of trying to reverse that process and seek to reassert Turkish influence and even control over the Arab world. This will never happen, but he can at least use the threat of the Kurds as an excuse to intervene outside Turkey’s borders.
Another world leader, Pres. Putin of Russia, seeks to make “Russia great again.” His intervention in Syria has proved successful and he has propped up his puppet, Pres. Assad, and ensured his survival. But Putin and Trump, on opposite sides regarding Assad, both resent Erdogan’s military incursion into what they consider their sphere of influence. Where all this will go, with the US, Russia, Turkey and Iran all engaged in the Syrian morass, is difficult if not impossible to fathom.