ERDOGAN’S DON QUIOXOTE SYNDROME OVER SYRIA

By Serkan Aydin

By Serkan Aydin – Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-driven approach to foreign policy  has been abortive and perpetuates to undermine the stability of the region. Now in utter isolation, Turkey has antagonistic bonds with the United States and Russia, as well as the Arab world and Europe. It is endeavouring to assure its crucial security interests against this difficult backdrop.

 

Qatar, Pakistan or Azerbaijan seem to be the only close allies yet provide Turkey with no strategic value that could empower its hand against its adversaries.

 

Is Erdogan’s sole option playing the United States and Russia against one another? Clearly he has been doing for a while, nonetheless this approach seems to have run its course as well.

 

Erdogan’s animosity in international relations and the recommendation of professional diplomats may go down well with his die-hard supporters. However remarkable number of Turkish analysts — including some former supporters of Erdogan —posit that the situation Ankara finds itself in Syria in particular is largely, if not totally, self-inflicted. Fear amounts also with regard to Libya where Turkish soldiers have also started to incur losses.

 

It was only four months ago, just before Erdogan initiated the launch of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring against the US-supported People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northeastern Syria, that there was conjecture about a prospective conflict between Turkish and US forces.

In addition, the “strategic ties” Turkey was building with Russia were being touted by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as “unshakable.” Ankara had hoped that these ties would counterbalance Turkey’s exacerbating relationship with the West, and especially with the United States.

 

Erdogan’s decision to purchase Russian made S-400 air defense systems —over the objections of Turkey’s NATO allies —was also deemed to be more of an act of defiance of the West than a coherent move based on a sound military rationale.

Erdogan’s most immense miscalculation is proving to be the reliance he placed on Russia

Even after the situation in Idlib calms down —as it is likely to do eventually (albeit most probably at a cost to Turkey) since a Turco-Russian war is not something Ankara can sustain —the cracks in the relationship will remain.

In other words, the tables in Syria have turned again for Ankara only four months since it was confronting the United States east of the Euphrates River.

Erdogan is pointing an accusing finger at Russia now and referring to it in barely shrouded terms as an aggressor. In the meantime, he has turned to the United States again for support, even urging it to deploy Patriot missiles against the Syrian-Russian threat.

It is no surprise that some cynical commentators are advising that rather than seeking US Patriots, Ankara ought to deploy the Russian S-400s to ward off the threat from Syria.

Turkey’s campaign in Idlib against the Syrian army has already cost the lives of  tens of Turkish soldiers and military contractors, some killed by Russian air power.

The casualties are expected to increase in the foreseeable future and weeks since Erdogan is determined to forge on with what the opposition believes is his, not Turkey’s, war.

This is a war that  Erdogan cannot win. Turkey’s main intentions in Syria are annihilating the Assad regime and securing a voice for radical Islamists in that country.  I do not believe these objectives are achievable.

Defeating the Syrian army, which Russia is supporting … does not appear to be within the realm of possibility,  The policies Turkey has implemented in Syria since 2011 … will all result in failure

Erdogan is irked by such chaos. So as to attain domestic support for his Syria policy, he has intensified Turkey’s engagement in Syria to the level of the Turkish War of Independence of 1919-1922.

In his address to party members Feb. 15 where he made this remark, Erdogan also repeated his ultimatum to Syria to pull its forces back to the cease-fire line agreed on with Russia in Sochi, Russia, in September2018.

He warned that if the Syrian army did not withdraw by the end of February, Turkey would force it to do so militarily. “These people are our brothers and we will not abandon them to the mercy and persecution of tyrants,” Erdogan said.

“We are prepared to die for this if need be,” Erdogan added.

 His attempt to try and equate Ankara’s engagement in Syria with Turkey’s War of Independence is not convincing everyone. Most Kemalist and opposition side underlined the gross exaggeration this analogy entails. “No offense, but it is wrong for President Erdogan to see the War of Independence prosecuted by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his friends for the liberation of the homeland, and the establishment of the republic, with what is happening in Syria and Idlib,”  

 Erdogan’s approach makes no sense since it involves military operations on another country’s territory, which, he said, poses “international legal issues according to rules set by the United Nations.”

Erdogan is, of course, justified in his concerns about a new flood of Syrian refugees. The majority of Turks are also deeply concerned about this. Turkey currently hosts up to 4 million Syrians and the burden is growing.

However, many fail to see how Erdogan expects to resolve the refugee problem by going to war against the Syrian regime when he could be talking with it to chart a rational course.

Erdogan rejects any notion of speaking to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Imbued with a firm Sunni-based ideological outlook, and an innate sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood in all its forms, Erdogan believes that talking to Assad would be a betrayal of his coreligionists. Assad is an Alawite; Alawites are an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Instead, Erdogan carries on to send reinforcements to the few sections of Idlib that Turkey still controls with the support of the Syrian National Army that it funds and supplies, and a motley crew of jihadi fighters.

 

“President Erdogan has said military operations can start any moment. Yet Turks hardly know where the country is heading except that their sons will be exposed to deadly harm if Damascus does not heed the warning,”  

Turkey’s attempt at regime change in Syria had failed, It is time for the Turkish government to climb down and face the reality on the ground.

 Withdrawal of Turkish forces from Idlib is a must and a return to the diplomatic track.

 As matters stand, Erdogan appears determined to be dragging Turkey into the quagmire.  This war total lack of national endorsement and winning this war is no less than ‘Waiting For Godot”.

IdlibSyriaTurkeyUS
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