Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria has exposed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a furious international backlash, with threats of arms embargoes, sanctions that could tank his vulnerable economy and daily, stinging condemnations from Western allies.
But in Turkey, where Erdogan’s voice dominates, the military campaign has generated little public debate.
Turkish celebrities and athletes have rallied behind the military. Opposition parties have been broadly supportive. Flag-waving Turks greet soldiers in border towns as they prepare for battle, and the news media memorializes Erdogan’s utterances in headlines.
At the same time, critical voices in Turkey have been cowed, shouted down and in some cases detained.
Erdogan has shown no sign he intends to stop the offensive or even limit its scope. To the contrary, Turkey appeared to expand the operation Monday, sending allied Syrian rebel fighters to capture the town of Manbij — miles from the area inside northern Syria where the Turkish government says it intends to establish a “safe zone.”
Foreign observers have been alarmed by Erdogan’s insistence on pursuing an operation that has upended Syria’s conflict and set off a new wave of civilian suffering. But Turkey’s government has been eyeing its domestic audience, too, and betting it could weather the international outrage, analysts said. [Continue reading…]