The Idlib crisis in Syria
The martyrdom of 13 Turkish soldiers in two separate strikes by the Syrian Arab Army has increased political and the military tension between Turkey and Syria, and Russia as well.
The dialogue between Turkey, Syria and Russia alongside the involvement of US, whose special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey recently visited Ankara, has brought to mind the following question: “Is Ankara shifting its political axis away from Moscow and back toward Washington?”
Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar made a statement acknowledging NATO’s support for the Turkish Armed Forces in their fight against the Bashar Assad government, which has strengthened perceptions that Turkey is reorienting back toward Washington.
At same time, Turkish officials have made statements to the opposite effect, such as announcing that the Astana and Sochi process with Moscow and Tehran will soon be reinitiated.
The conclusion from these contradictory statements is that the ruling party in Turkey is trying to pursue a “balanced policy” between Washington and Moscow.
However, from what we can analyze on the ground, the Idlib crisis will prevent pursuing such a balanced policy.
In conclusion, the political and military events of the following days will be decisive for Turkey’s decision.
Ever since the US-supported FETO coup attempt happened on July 15th 2016, Turkey has taken proactive measures in regard to those responsible.
In the army, the bureaucracy and business circles, a number of militants from the FETO organization have been arrested. However, with several minor exceptions, there were no arrests within political parties, including of FETO members in the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP, accused the AKP and the President Erdogan of contributing to the rise of FETO in a recent statement.
At same time, the former Chief of the General Staff Ilker Basbug has criticized the government for making judicial and administrative mistakes which helped the FETO grow in the first place.
President Erdogan’s answer to Kilicdaroglu and Basbug’s statements was a firm rejoinder.
He accused Kilicdaroglu and the CHP of being the ones who actually supported FETO and harshly criticized Basbug for his negative statements.
Given the intense statements on both sides, it is likely that political tensions in Turkey will intensify even more within the coming days.