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Turkey may be subtly changing sides in the Syrian conflict

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 11, 2010 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, at al-Shaab presidential palace in Damascus, Syria. Within minutes of news breaking of a coup against Recep Tayyeb Erdogan, government-held areas in Syria broke out in celebratory gunfire that lasted throughout the night. In bars across the capital Damascus, revelers celebrated the news, drinking to the removal of Turkey's strongman they blame for fueling their country's five-year civil war. But Erdogan survived, and judging by the surprise reversal of rebel fortunes in Aleppo this week, so has his support for the rebels. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi, File)

Between the Syrian victory in the Battle of Aleppo in December of 2016 and the signing of the Astana Memorandum on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria in May of 2017, Turkey was one of the biggest obstacles to peace in and freedom for Syria.

The Battle of Aleppo was in many ways the Stalingrad moment in the Syrian war on al-Qaeda/al-Nusrea. It was a point of no return in respect of al-Qaeda/al-Nusrea’s long term desire to conquer and subjugate important population centres in western Syria.

It was during the interim period between the end of 2016 and the spring of 2017 that Turkey increased its own illegal war against Syria using its own jihadist proxies, the so-called FSA.

Since Turkey so-signed the Astana Memorandum in May of this year, Turkey’s position has subtly shifted.

Geo-politically, the Astana process has led Turkey to technically side with Russia and Iran, two unambiguous supporters of the rule of international law in Syria and consequently, supporters of the legitimate Syrian government.

Knowing that illegal regime change in Damascus is now all but an impossibility, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has attempted militarily to work with the US in capturing the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa. Erdogan was not only totally disregarded by the US in this respect but the US has openly aligned itself with Kurdish forces in Syria who are sworn enemies of Turkey.

With Kurds acting in manners which are increasingly hostile to not only Turkey but also to Syria, it is clear that Ankara and Damascus both have a common enemy who seek to annex parts of both Turkey and Syria. Kurds in Iraq may unilaterally declare independence in northern Iraqi regions as early as September of this year.

Iran which for years has had to deal with its own Kurdish insurgency is dead set against Kurdish nationalism in Iraq, Syria and Turkey for the obvious reason that it opposes such moves on Iranian territory.

In this sense, Turkey, Iran, Syria and indeed Iraq are all on the same page. In each instance the US is an enemy for very different reasons. Iran is a country that the US seeks to discredit, defame and possibly make war upon. Syria is a country that under President Obama, the US illegally invaded and occupied with the intent to create a Salafist state in Damascus. Under Donald Trump this plan has changed to one of more or less helping the Kurds to annex Syria east of the Euphrates, something Turkey in particular deems totally unacceptable.

Turkey of course has been in NATO since 1952 and has been a traditional US ally, but recent events may be changing this more than previously imaginable.

In backing the Kurds so heavily and openly, America is backing Turkey’s supreme regional and internal enemy. Not only is this a potential straw to break the camel’s back in respect of Washington’s relationship with Ankara, but it would have been sufficient to cause a major rift in bilateral and intra-NATO relations even without the current and most recent former US President having a personally poor relationship with President Erdogan.

In Aleppo Governorate where Kurds are attempting to make a push to the Mediterranean through Arab territory in an attempt to solidify the expansionist borders of a would-be Kurdish state, Turkish troops have shifted their focus to fighting Kurdish forces.

According to Al-Masdar, a generally reliable source for information on the ground in Syria and an outlet that is anything but pro-Erdogan, the arrival of Turkish troops in Aleppo who are now fighting Kurds, were welcomed by the local Arab population, something which would have been virtually inconceivable just two months ago.

If Turkey and Syria and indeed Iran now have a common enemy, the only thing stopping them from forming a united front is a great deal of bad blood, particularly in respect of Syria. Relations between Iran and Turkey by contrast, continue to improve.

While a formal alliance between Damascus and Ankara against Kurds still seems difficult to imagine so long as Erdogan is in power, a covert or even unspoken agreement to allow Turkey to target Kurds in Syria may well be something that could happen. The tentative groundwork for such a reality is already starting to occur, albeit more by necessity than by design.

The biggest factor here is Russia. Russia like Iran supports the Syrian government and has partnered with Syria to form an anti-terrorist coalition that is for all intents and purposes, winning the war against Salafism.

Russia unlike Turkey and Iran, does have normal relations to Kurdish forces in the region, in spite of the fact that Kurdish loyalties are now fully in-line with American interests which run contrary to that of almost every other party in Syria.

Russia has not and will not stop Turkey from fighting Kurds in Syria, nor will Russia advocate for a Kurdish state against the wishes of Syria, Turkey or Iran.

Therefore, while Russia’s position on the Kurds is more agnostic than that of Turkey, Iran or Syria, Russia will not advocate for the Kurdish cause without reason and it is unlikely that Russia ever will have a reason to do so.

It is therefore conceivable that Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia may end up on the same side of a conflict in which Gulfi money is slowly but surely being redirected out of and where America and its Kurdish proxies stand alone as the last major obstacles to a mutually agreeable peace for Syria.

Al-Qaeda has been largely decimated, the FSA can only do what Turkey allows it to do and ISIS is on its final breath in Syria.

In this sense, America will not have only failed to gain the vast majority if not all of Syria, but in the process America will have lost Turkey as an ally.

Erdogan entered the war in the most alienating fashion possible and it backfired. Now though, Erdogan’s pride and his reputation may be partly saved due to the fact that however arrogant Erdogan has behaved, America is in reality, far worse and far more dangerous to the region. The fact that America is totally foreign to the region, automatically gives Turkey more credibility even now than America has ever or ever will have.

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