The Afrin operation is closely followed by everyone, friend and foe.
The air operation the U.S. conducted in Iraq in 1991 being broadcasted live on CNN screens had stirred some emotions. Meanwhile, Turkey’s live broadcast of the air-backed Operation Olive Branch has clearly led to an image giving hope to friends and threatening enemies.
In this context, I am going to mention our Aegean neighbor, Greece.
This operation by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF), also signified a show of strength in terms of displaying the military capacity Turkey has reached. Naturally, it is not difficult to guess that Athens is not at all pleased.
Both the activity in the Aegean and the reactions reflected in some statements that were made following the operation, show that Greece is quite disturbed by the Afrin operation.
Pay attention to Greece’s minister for defense
Pannos Kammenos is Greece’s defense minister.
He is also Alexis Tsipras’s extremely nationalist coalition partner.
We remember Kammenos from the Kardak landing he attempted last week, which ended in a fiasco.
He went to leave a wreath on the Kardak reefs – which continue to be a hot topic in Turkish-Greek relations – and when he came across the Turkish Marine Forces in Aegean waters, he had to return.
It was revealed that another similar attempt aimed at escalating tensions in the Aegean had come to pass during those days in the waters of Karaburun, İzmir.
This time, a Greek patrol vessel named Machitis, carrying a Byzantine flag, made a harassment, then left.
In the statement part of it all, we have the statement made by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Davos, accusing Turkey.
He had said:
“We are compelled to deal with an aggressive neighbor in the Aegean that makes unpredictable military moves.”
When you add these up, it becomes difficult to see all this, it becomes difficult to see them as part of any kind of ordinary mobilization, provocation in the Aegean.
Yet, it is very clear that the picture of the show of strength that resulted with the Afrin operation, has quite disturbed Greece.
‘If only our economy wasn’t so bad’
At this point, I would like to make a reminder that shows that this “rise of anger” in Athens is not a new state.
Last year, in a meeting I had with a top-level military authority, we talked about a piece of intelligence that reached Ankara.
The subject of the intelligence was:
On the days following the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, Greek Defense Minister Kammenos and then-Greek chief of General Staff had a meeting regarding Turkey.
In that meeting, the conditions for launching a war against Turkey were discussed. At the end of the meeting, when the topic came to the economic crisis the country is going through, the duo said, “If only we weren’t in such a crisis,” and left the table.
My source in Ankara, whose door I knocked on once more recently, brought up this intelligence again and confirmed it.
In this case, we are faced with the reality that it is obligatory to follow Athens’ reflexes even more carefully during this process.
My personal observation is that Tsipras, who has openly complained about the defense expenses in his own country, approving such an adventure against Turkey was not expected.
I perceived Tsipras’ statement in Davos as something that was said to comfort his government’s little partner, namely the extremely nationalist Kammenos.
The Afrin operation must have spooked them
Let’s get back to Operation Olive Branch.
The resulting picture from the operation must have also changed Athens’ perception that the TAF was debilitated after July 15.
Yes, the number of pilots in the TAF might be less due to combing out the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) members, but this can very well be interpreted as a sign that after an internal cleansing, the Turkish military became more effective.
It is likely that while hawkish Greeks like Kammenos were gleefully rubbing their hands after July 15, now, after seeing the current picture, they may be pessimistic, thinking, “It wasn’t at all like what we thought.”
Yet, in any case, there is benefit in keeping Greece under the radar.
In an atmosphere which Ankara has given all its attention to its southern border, a vigilant attitude needs to be displayed against the provocations in the Aegean.