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02/10/2020

Turkey’s Dilemma in Idlib

Turkey’s Dilemma in Idlib

Turkey and Syria have come over against each other…

The relations between Ankara and Moscow are tense.

The US-Israel front, which has been hollowing out Turkey since 1952, is watching the events by rubbing its hands together.

Despite the efforts, a new and a clean page in the area is not being able to open.

The results of the AKP’s incorrect policies in the past, now ties the Turkey’s hands in relations with neighbors, especially with Syria.

However, as the events in our region and in the world have shown us, we are going through a process in which we need radical solutions.

AKP’S SHACKLES

In Turkey, the government insists on Idlib. Let us list the underlying causes of this insistence:

1. AKP wants to keep the control of the groups in Idlib and within itself, until the negotiation table is set in Syria. The government aims to sit at the table with some political and military leverage and if the table is not set, it aims to maintain its influence in Syria via Idlib. Another reason for the insistence in Idlib, is that the region is seen as an operation center against the PKK/PYD/YPG.

2. A large number of the Syrian refugees scattered across Turkey are linked to anti-Assad groups that are scattered across Idlib and the rest of Syria. Besides a new wave of refugees heading to Turkey, the possible response sparked by the Syrian opposition, is the Turkish Government’s one of the most daunting issues.

3. So far, the AKP has followed policies in the Middle East, through the groups closer to the Muslim Brotherhood. Although there have been some statements on the contrary in the recent times, the insistence for this organization, particularly in Syria and North Africa, is still going on. In Turkey, the government considers taking a step back from Idlib, abandoning the Muslim Brotherhood policies.

4. Idlib is an important part of the “balance of power politics”, of which the government is trying to maintain between the United States and Russia.This policy lies under the ultimatum of inviting the United States to the region, after every operation of the Syrian army on Idlib.

Those who determine the Turkey’s policies on Syria, argue that holding on to Idlib gives Ankara the ability to pursue the flexible policies between Washington and Moscow.

 At the center of our discussion of Idlib today, lies the mistakes such as cooperating with the United States against the Assad government in Syria, and lies supporting the opposition groups in Syria and accepting millions of Syrian refugees in order to accomplish that.

In summary, the general trend does not change, as the policies on Idlib and Syria in general are based on a wrong ground, even though sometimes positive steps are being taken.

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 IS THE INSISTENCE ON IDLIB AN ‘INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY’?

The AKP’s hesitations, concerns and projections on Syria are not based on the right ground. The thing is that:

1. Insisting on Idlib is damaging the positive relations that Ankara maintained with Moscow and Tehran, against the US-Israeli front. Ankara is losing the cooperation with our neighbors, in order for Turkey to keep its political leverage.

2. Insisting on using the groups in Idlib against the PKK/PYD corridor, is pushing the Damascus administration to get closer with the PKK/PYD.On the other hand, it weakens the Iran’s will to fight the PKK in particular.

3. Ankara’s concerns about the reaction of the Syrian refugees who already live inside the Turkish borders and other possible waves of migration, are valid, in the context of the liquidation of Idlib.At this point, with Moscow’s mediation, Damascus must present a solution plan that includes political and solid steps. It is clear that the Idlib issue, cannot be solved only by military measures.

4. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, have said that “We do not have a problem named Muslim Brotherhood” in 16th January 2020.This statement was of historic importance. Putting this statement on the action, is giving up on the groups in Idlib. Turkey has the potential that can diversify its allies in foreign policy.

5. Ruling circles insist that the purpose of the “balance of power politics” between the United States and Russia, is an “independent foreign policy”.But the consequence that Turkey cannot get away with in Syria, is a result of this politics.

At the point the world has reached, we see the weakening United States is becoming more and more aggressive. The July 15th treacherous coup attempt, the murder of Qassem Soleimani, and finally the Plan to destroy Palestine signed by Trump and Netanyahu, are the products of the new kind of the US aggression.

The US actions cannot be answered by “balance of politics”, but rather with ” the revolutionary politics” that advocates the cooperation with neighbors.

It is clear that insisting on “balance of power politics” will leave Turkey isolated, just as in Ahmet Davutoglu’s “zero problem with our neighbors” policy.

 Turkey is in a process where he need to choose his side clearly, while keeping a safe distance and without getting politically dependent.

IS TURKEY DRIFTING AWAY FROM MOSCOW?

In the public opinion, a wind blows that says the situation in Idlib could mean the end of the cooperation between Turkey and Russia. Those who are willing to get swept with in the wind, are swinging in the direction the wind blows.

Today, the cooperation between Turkey and Russia has become a state policy that has surpassed the personalities of Erdogan and Putin. The two countries have taken strategic, not tactical steps in areas such as the energy and arms industries.

Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, TurkStream Projects and S-400 systems are some of them. On the other hand, in Libya, Ankara and Moscow are trying to solve a crucial crisis with cooperation.

There is a risk of which the conflict between Ankara and Damascus will deepen and therefore it will negatively affect the relations with Moscow. But let us not forget that there have been some similar situations previously and the opposing sides have settled down, in the Syrian crisis which is approaching its 10th anniversary. The relations between Ankara and Moscow have reached a depth, that could move away with the crisis.

Moreover, when Turkey and the situation in the region are investigated together, it is clear that a government that is hostile towards Russia and whose face has turned towards the United States, cannot hold on to power in Ankara.

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The way to overcome the issue in Idlib, is through the dialogue between Ankara and Damascus.

The Ankara-Damascus dialogue would also impose a balance in relations between Turkey and Russia and would normalize the political climate in the region.

It is clear that Turkey’s national interests require a cooperation, not a fight with neighbors. Actions in the opposite direction would undermine Turkey’s unity, integrity and solidarity.

 
Onur Sinan Güzaltan
Political expert, geopolitical analyst, journalist (Turkey)

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