Turkey’s ‘Shah Euphrates’ Operation and ISIS-YPG Conflict

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Harun Yahya explains on the recent Turkish operation to relocate the Suleyman Shah Tomb inside Syria.

suleiman-shah tomb
Turkish soldiers guard the Sulaiman Shah Tomb inside Syria, which was temporarily moved to a new site within Syria by Turkey.

The previous day Turkey’s military troops equipped with 600 soldiers 39 tanks and 57 armored vehicles, drones and F-16 fighter jets entered Syrian territory. The operation named ‘Shah Euphrates’ was immediately headlined by the world’s leading news outlets. Not a single bullet was fired in the operation that had no military target.

What did Turkish Military Troops Do on Syrian Soil?

The military troops began advancing at 21:00 and halted after moving for 35 km.  This area that is Turkey’s only land outside its borders contained a Tomb and a military guardhouse. The military unit headed out and returned on the same path along with the sacred relics, the troops that patrolled the guardhouse, and all the equipment. The tomb and remaining structures were destroyed before the return trip to prevent others from using them.

The military’s next stop on the return path was again on Syrian territory. Yet this time it was only 180 km away from Turkish soil. The military unit moved the Tomb in the Suleyman Shah mausoleum and planted the flag in this new area.

Why did Turkey feel the need for such a risky military operation?

The answer to this question lies in the identity of Suleyman Shah. Suleyman Shah is the grandfather of Ottoman Empire’s founder, Osman Bey and this site holds a special significance for the Turks.

Upon the Mongol invasion that started in 1200s in Asia, Suleyman Shah moved to Anatolia with his people that figured around 50 thousand and settled in the shores of Euphrates river. While trying to pass to the other side of Euphrates river, Suleyman Shah drowned with his guards in 1227. Suleyman Shah and his two guards are buried in Ja’bar Castle that is approximately 100 km away from the current Turkish border.

Is this an Act of Occupation? Does it comply with international law?

There is no doubt that the exclave consisting of the Tomb and its appurtenances is Turkish territory. As per article no.9 of the Ankara treaty signed between Turkey and France on October 21st, 1921, the land that covers the Tomb is considered Turkish sovereignty and Turkey is granted the right to provide guard at the mausoleum and raise a flag over it. Later on the Treaty of Lausanne that was signed on July 23rd, 1093 between Turkey and the Western countries after World War I confirmed this right.

During the French mandate of Syria, a convention of friendship and good neighborliness for Syria and Lebanon was signed between France and Turkey. This convention preserved the border and made no changes in the area, keeping it a part of Turkish territory.

Syria signed the Aleppo protocol with Turkey after the withdrawal of the French mandate on August 5th, 1956 and placed on record that the ownership of Suleyman Shah Tomb belonged to Turkey.

Where is the Real Place of the Tomb?

Until 1975 the Tomb, also known as the ‘Turkish Tomb’ and its appurtenances was on the edges of Ja’bar Castle [Qal’al Ja’bar] that was 100 km from the Turkish border. The Tomb and its appurtenances were later moved twice from its location.

The first transposition was within the castle in 1939. In the wake of its non-repairable condition and its security gaps the Tomb was reconstructed complying with its older features along the guardhouse.

Against the risk of Jabar Castle fully submerging under water due to flooding of the Tabqa Dam that Syria began constructing in 1968, the Tomb’s relocation was determined. In 1975 it was transferred to its new location to Karakozak area that is 63 km north of Ja’bar Castle and 37 km south of Turkey’s border.

In years 1995 and 2001 Syrian administration offered the transfer of the Tomb once again owing to construction of new dams, however Turkey did not accept the suggested relocation and thus did not move the Tomb.

Why did Turkey feel the need to relocate the Tomb? 

Turkey is one of the countries that is the most affected by the civil war going on in Syria. Along with the hundred thousands of Syrian refugees she welcomed and took good care of, she has also suffered losses because of the conflicts going on right close near the Turkish border. After threats relating to an attack on the Tomb appeared in the press, Turkish General Staff issued statements declaring that such an attack will be responded with an intervention. As such this military operation enabled the relocation of the Tomb and the Turkish troops guarding it in the midst of the fierce battle going on between ISIS and YPG, to a secure, easily defendable place. Turkish authorities stated that this was not a permanent relocation and that the Tomb and its appurtenances will be relocated back to its former location, once security in the region is provided.

What is the significance of the relocation of the Tomb in terms of Turkish Foreign Policy? 

Turkey’s policy regarding Syria is based on two primary foundations. The first one is not to join the coalition carrying out the operations against ISIS as an active striking partner. The second one is to maintain the integrity of Syria. The existence of the YPG terror organization on the route Turkey used to reach the Tomb does not purport a change in Turkey’s resolute attitude regarding the PKK. As a matter of fact, in their latest statements, the government authorities once more emphasized the fact that YPG is determined to be a terror organization by Turkey.

The transfer of the Tomb explicitly demonstrates that Turkey does not want to be included in the conflicts going on in Syria and that she wants to carry on with its current policy. The fact that fierce fighting started in the area right after the moving of the Tomb clearly exposes the reason why Turkey carried out this operation to relocate the Tomb from this location.

Not only Turkey, but also the Arab countries should avoid becoming a direct party of the conflicts going on in the Middle East. Bombing, burning, tearing down deepens problems rather than solving them. For that reason solutions should be sought for peacefully by means of negotiations, either under the mainframe of Arab League or the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Otherwise the civil wars that are going on today in Syria, Iraq and Yemen will soon spread to the whole Middle East and become a threat for all countries in the region.

(About the Author – Harun Yahya has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science. He may be followed at @Harun_Yahya and www.harunyahya.com)

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