Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised the stakes for Turkey’s military incursion in Syria, better known as Operation Euphrates Shield. “At this critical time when there are attempts to restructure the world and our region, if we stop, we will find ourselves facing Sevres conditions,” he said in a speech Dec. 22. For the Turkish president, a proactive approach to regional and global affairs (especially in Syria) is the only thing that could forestall doom.
Erdogan’s comments play on a traumatic memory for Turks, the Treaty of Sevres. Signed after World War I between the defeated Ottoman Empire and victorious allies Britain, France and their partners as a “peace treaty,” Sevres aimed to dismember the remainder of Ottoman lands (most of them with a majority-Turkish population) and establish Western spheres of influence. Turkey managed to secure its present-day borders with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 after a two-year war under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.