Idlib «Gordian knot». Russian Zeitnot Turkish against a tight spot

Attack Turkish military convoys and facilities, leading to dozens of dead Turkish soldiers withdrew the military component of the Syrian opposition in Idlib region to a new level. Ankara has no choice, and Turkey responded harshly and decisively — the troops of Bashar al-Assad to bear substantial losses in manpower and equipment. Turkey, among other things received and demonstrated to the world their own experience of the mass of shock unmanned aircraft systems, what situational opponent was not ready. The world’s media and tape of social networks are full of «reports from the front,» often too exaggerated according to the likes and dislikes of the authors.

However, the escalation of yet does not significantly alter decomposed major actors on the Syrian theater. Perhaps I will disappoint many — but current events in Idlib province in the near future will not lead to a direct frontal military Russian-Turkish conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic (UAR). Despite the fact that under the control of the President of SAR Bashar al-Assad forces carried out offensive / counter-offensive operations in Idlib province, not without «approval» and without coordination with Russia. Moscow and Ankara form their starting positions for the new talks, to be held in the near future.

However, neither the Kremlin nor Ankara has not yet announced their refusal or cancellation of the Astana and the Sochi agreements. Kremlin actually interested in bringing Turkey to the Russian Federation initiated the peace process, because this should help to legitimize Russia’s efforts in the SAR. A possible direct Russian-Turkish military opposition in Idlib province — it is actually a failure formats Astana and Sochi.

It can be assumed that the leadership of Moscow and Ankara as a result of Idlibskoy issues made the following compromise: the official Damascus retains control of the highway to Aleppo plus transport routes in Latakia and areas south of it, and the government forces of ATS with their pro-Iranian allies refuse to assault the city of Idlib and further progress. Thereby fixing the new line of demarcation.

However, such an agreement, as well as other formats of the next Russian-Turkish Idlibskoy compromise on issues to be temporary, as they are unlikely to include iron items on the future CAP polity, Syrian Kurds, as well as Libya factor.

Non-overlapping interests of the players

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who opposes further advance the Syrian government forces in Idlib province, in its logic of rights, for two reasons:

  • firstly, Turkey and the EU countries are unable to take more than 1 million new Syrian refugees (the lever of pressure on the EU Ankara is already running).
  • Secondly, in the case of an official to establish control over the province of Damascus, Idlib, the rest of the Arab-Sunni and Turcoman population does not recognize the authority of Arab Alawite B.Aliyev-Assad and pro-Iranian Shiites.

Therefore, the continuation of civil conflict in the north of the SAR’s inevitable. Foreign policy of official Ankara is directly opposite the Russian SAR. Erdogan said B.Aliyev-Assad illegitimate Syrian president, and is going to change the government in Damascus at any cost under the leadership of pro-Turkish «Muslim Brotherhood.»

In Tehran, however, believe that Ankara is not only seeks to extend the Turkish geopolitical influence in the CAP, but also in the whole Middle East. Iran, with strong ties to B.Aliyev-Assad, and Turkey, obviously, compete for control of the road from Latakia to Aleppo and Damascus. Official Tehran seeks to maintain a strategic corridor in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea.

Kremlin retaining levers for the management of conflict and showing a picture that «everything is under control», in the light of the recent escalation forced to spend additional resources on their Syrian campaign. Intransigence of the Kremlin because the defeated forces B.Aliyev-Assad in the event of Turkish Armed Forces is tantamount to a geopolitical disaster for Russia. And not just in the Middle East, — This will have a direct impact on other important policy for the Kremlin regions — Ukraine, Transnistria, South Caucasus, Central Asia (CA).

The Kremlin and in the future intends to render all assistance B.Aliyev-Assad to put under the control of the entire territory of the CAP. To do this, the Russian side so far will seek to complete the defeat of the radical Islamist group «Hayat Tahrir al-Sham ‘(HTSH) in Idlib province, since jihadists pose a direct threat to Russian airbase Hmeymim and naval base of the Russian Federation in Tartus.

Liquidation HTSH the north SAR allow the Kremlin to gain a foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean area, enhance the credibility of the Russian Federation in the Arab world and to neutralize attempts to approve Erdogan Turkish hegemony in the Middle East. Therefore, the official Moscow has increased in the Eastern Mediterranean grouping of the Russian Navy, in order to neutralize the threat posed by Turkey. Among other things, two frigates of the Black Sea Fleet have already been sent to the Mediterranean Sea. Frigates «Admiral Makarov» and «Admiral Grigorovich,» equipped with missile complex «Caliber-NK», came from Sevastopol and no obstacles to their adherence was not observed. They will join the force in the Mediterranean mix of the Russian Navy. Ships «Admiral Makarov» and «Admiral Grigorovich,» has repeatedly participated in the Russian operations against militants in the SAR shores.

Acting in its logic, after the defeat of HTSH militants, official Moscow is planning to conclude with official Damascus long-term cooperation agreement. This is when a certain scenario can be seen as a geopolitical defeat of Turkey, as Moscow, not Ankara will determine the foreign policy (and not only) ATS vector.

In other words, the Kremlin is trying to complete the military operation in the SAR for the subsequent forwarding of their actions on the western borders of the Russian Federation, including Ukraine.

As part of the pressure on Ankara Kremlin can use and so-called «Kurdish question». Prior to the current events in the province of Idlib Syrian Kurds fear that the Kremlin on a background of deterrence Ankara SAR may allow Turkey to take control of the Kurdish city of Cobán on the Syrian-Turkish state border in exchange for Turkish concessions in the northern Syrian provinces. But this did not happen (as it was in 2018, when the official Moscow has agreed to capture Afrin Turkish Armed Forces).

As a result, Syrian Kurds cooperate with the Syrian government army in areas along the borders of Afrin.

In this same logic, the Moscow events Syrian Kurds in the north of the SAR, seeing the weakening of the official Ankara can start an active dialogue with the Russian Federation and the official Damascus with the obvious goal — to achieve the creation of the north of the Kurdish autonomy. Therefore Ankara before the recent escalation of forced resumed joint patrols with Russia on the Syrian-Turkish state border. The more that the Turkish Kurds in the face of the separatist «Kurdistan Workers’ Party» (PKK) in principle can receive modern weapons from the SAR authorities, which could lead to an escalation of the civil war in fact already in the territory of Turkey.

Strengthening Russian positions in the CAP and contribute to the deepening contradictions of Turkey with the European countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Contradictions between France and Turkey have increased significantly in recent years. France supports the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar, and most importantly — dissatisfied with Turkey over Ankara’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean. France openly supported Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, whose relations with Turkey today are experiencing another escalation due to Ankara’s aspirations to develop oil and gas fields located in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus. As a result of the official Paris sent for duty in the eastern Mediterranean French Navy strike group led by the nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and hopes

De facto launched presidential election campaign in the US forces official Washington to refrain until 2021 from the active military involvement in vnutrisiriyskie case. US while staying on it for themselves «supervisory» position.

The rapprochement of Ankara with the administration of the White House is dictated by only increased pressure on the Kremlin. Official Washington is not satisfied the request of the Turkish authorities to deploy two batteries of Patriot air defense system in the south of Turkey. SAM Patriot Ankara needs to start a full-scale offensive in the Syrian province of Idlib, as without the support of the Air Force offensive is doomed to failure. In other words, if Ankara really wants to support its allies, opponents B.Aliyev-Assad in Idlib province, Turkish F-16 necessary to use their fighters to support ground operations. But in this case F-16 Turkish airspace ATS meet VKS Russia. The United States can help «solve» this problem as long as a minimum, the suspension of the contract and the preservation of Russian S-400 purchased by the Turkish side.

In turn, NATO does not intend to provide military support to Turkey if the Turkish operation in northern SAR. In other words, Article 5 of the NATO Charter will not be involved. NATO considers Turkey «more than able to independently withstand, if necessary, the Syrian Army in Idlib.» But in the Alliance are concerned about the potential risks of collision Ankara allies CAP — Iran and the Russian Federation. The fact that not all European NATO nations share the goal of Turkey in the SAR, not to mention the situation in Libya. Ankara has, among other things, already violates UN Security Council resolution to ban the supply of arms and mercenaries in Libya.

Ankara also competes with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on the CAP and Libya. Today the official in Riyadh said the Turkish threat of a major challenge for the CSA — even more than Iran. For example, the League of Arab States (LAS) has recently stated that Turkey should not interfere in the affairs of Arab countries, especially when it comes to Syria.

Israel is unlikely to support a long-term military presence of Turkey in the SAR. In turn, France, CSA and other Arab countries also want to go away from the CAP and Turkey Libya. The EU decision to start co-operation for the Conservation of the arms embargo against the sides of the Libyan conflict is directed primarily against Turkey. That Ankara has been actively funneling weapons through the Mediterranean Sea and armored vehicles.

In other words, Russia, France, Britain, China and the United States on the UN Security Council will insist on the implementation of the embargo on Libya. Otherwise, the EU could offer a joint military operation in the Mediterranean against ships, smuggling weapons and armored vehicles to Libya.

Military operations of Turkish Armed Forces in the province of Idlib are intended to gain concessions from the Kremlin, the official Damascus to expand the Turkish military and political influence in the northern provinces of ATS, including in Idlib. Loss of Idlib province to Ankara is equivalent to withdrawal of Turkish forces from all Syrian cities, which Turkey controls the north of the CAP: Afrin, Ras al-Ayn and Tel Abyad.

Ankara is unlikely to be able to achieve a full transition control of the strategic highway M5 Hama-Aleppo. Therefore, Turkey will not be able to eliminate the threat from the army B.Aliyev-Assad related to the release of the Armed Forces SAR units in the way supply groups in Idlib province from Turkish territory.

Turkish Armed Forces are likely to organize a «safe zone» in Idlib province, creating a reinforced defensive positions along the front line and provide the Syrian opposition with heavy weapons, especially MANPADS. This strategy indicates the following: not so long ago, two helicopters of the Syrian army in Idlib were shot down by MANPADS. Deliveries opponents B.Aliyev-Assad MANPADS increases the risk that will be brought down and the Russian plane, so while watching.

A separate reservoir for the study — the political situation in Turkey, the development of which is one of the incentives for foreign expansion Erdogan. Here now we note that Erdogan is already facing growing domestic pressure, including, in his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Ankara can not help but fear the destabilization of the political situation in Turkey. A loss of Turkish control over the above-mentioned areas will mean a geopolitical defeat Erdogan, who got into a losing war from which the country has not received any political and economic dividends.

Against this background, it can be expected that Ankara will continue to support Ukraine in order to pressure on the Kremlin. On recognition of the annexation of the Crimea not talking at all. We can expect strengthening of requirements to restore the violated rights of the Crimean Tatars in Crimea, as well as, for example, the Circassians in Russia. Thus, Erdogan can demonstrate a threat to the Russian Federation and revitalization of «Ukrainian issue», if the Kremlin will not compromise on issues Idlibskoy.


Inconsistent (to put it mildly), Turkey’s relations with the US and other NATO member states (France, Italy, Germany, etc.) Have a negative impact on the negotiating positions of Ankara with Russia and Iran in Syria.

Yes, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has accused Syria air force and «support them» VKS Russia in the Syrian province of Idlib in the «indiscriminate air strikes.» The head of NATO called the SAR and Russia «to stop their advance, to respect international law and to support the UN’s efforts for a peaceful settlement.» J. Stoltenberg «called on all parties to facilitate deesklalatsii this dangerous situation and to avoid further deterioration of the appalling humanitarian situation in the region.»

In turn, the US Department of State, laying the responsibility on Tehran, said: «We support our NATO ally — Turkey — and continues to call for an immediate end to this heinous attack carried out by the Assad regime, Russian and Iranian-backed forces.»

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mas called the actions of the Syrian army and the Russian VKS war crimes.

The list of «concerns» can be continued, but it’s rather a «psychological support» in Ankara, has little effect on the current scenario.

Actual US and NATO refusal to provide military-technical assistance to official Ankara in Idlib province demonstrates the fallacy until Ankara’s strategy. Turkish leadership in the face of Erdogan intends to use relations with Russia in order to strengthen the image of Turkey as a global player, without which it is impossible to do in world affairs. Erdogan, however, has not yet managed to achieve from Iran and the Russian recognition of its special geopolitical interests in Syria. Therefore, Iran and Russia do not agree that the official Ankara will have a permanent SAR area of responsibility and channels of influence on official Damascus. The long-term interests of Turkey just not part of the plans of Iran, the Russian Federation, especially Syria B.Aliyev-Assad.
The United States for its part, while sending signals Tayyip Erdogan — to understand and to decide — who is still to Ankara is a more reliable partner.
Ankara, in principle, can try to transform their military and political control in the political economy, involving long-term Turkish presence in Syria. The more that two-thirds of the Syrians do not support B.Aliyev-Assad and any free vote involving all citizens CAP will lead to a regime change in Damascus, with all its consequences. Open remains the question of the tools of this transformation.
The simultaneous withdrawal of all foreign troops from the CAP or a peacekeeping operation in UN Security Council format may result in the termination of the civil war in the Arab country and the start of the post-war settlement. But this is from the category of fiction. In the case of absence of an agreement on the future of CAP in the future, one way or another suitable open armed confrontation phase in Syria with the participation of not only domestic players (official Damascus, pro-Iranian militias and the Syrian opposition), but also to support their players in the world.
Rauf Rajabov, Orientalist, Head of Analytical Center 3RD VIEW, Baku, Azerbaijan


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