Erdogan, through his calculations, aims to block any possible agreement between the Kurds and Damascus, and thus ensure the effective role of Islamists in the future Syria.
As was expected, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues his rejection of any Syrian/Russian military solution to the situation in Idlib, considering it a challenge to him and the strength of his cards in northern Syria, and in Syria in general, and he is not satisfied with this rejection, but rather takes advantage of every opportunity to attack Russia and America which supports the ‘Kurdish People’s Protection Units,’ which is an extension of the terrorist Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party, according to the classification of the Turkish state.
After Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Cavusoglu threatened Washington and appealed to it to withdraw from northern Syria, he accused it, along with Moscow, of not honoring their commitments regarding the removal of Kurdish militias from the Syrian border with Turkey. The attacks launched by Kurdish militants on Turkish forces near the city of Tal Rifaat near Afrin gave Ankara more arguments and premises to continue its current policies in Idlib and northern Syria in general.
After Erdogan spoke of his “impatience with Kurdish attacks,” he threatened Russia, America, and “the regime,” and referred to the potential for military intervention in the region. President Erdogan’s threat, which comes within the framework of the saying that “attack is the best means of defense,” Ankara wants from it to help it impose its own agenda on everyone so that no one talks about Idlib and the Turkish presence in northern Syria in general.
President Putin, who was said to have sought in the last Sochi meeting to persuade Erdogan or force him to abide by his commitments in regard to Idlib, now finds himself in front of a new reality that he wants to help him to face the pressures of President al-Assad on the Idlib issue, a topic that will help Erdogan to bargain with President Biden “to win his favor and his satisfaction” during his meeting with him in Rome at the end of this month, with the possibility that the Turkish army would take action before or immediately after that date against Tal Rifaat, Manbij, Ain Issa and Tal Tamr individually or together, which is what the pro-Erdogan media has been talking about for days.
Turkey, which entered Syria with Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24, 2016, and with Russian approval, took control of Afrin and its neighborhood in Operation Olive Branch in January 2018, also with a Russian green light, after the Kurds refused to coordinate and cooperate with The Syrian state in the region.
In Operation Peace Spring, on October 9, 2019, the Turkish forces, along with Syrian factions loyal to it, moved into the east of the Euphrates and took control of the 110 km long area extending from Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain, this time with a joint Russian-American agreement.
Operation Spring Shield came on February 29, 2020, to help Ankara mobilize large forces in the area after the Turkish army intervened to prevent the advance of the Syrian forces backed by Iran and Russia towards Idlib. It seems clear that Erdogan is seeking to close its file, and he thinks, rather he believes, that he has more bargaining chips in his challenges with both Moscow and Washington in many sensitive and complex fields and issues.
This explains, according to the Turkish vision, that President Putin evaded any serious and practical pressure on Erdogan on the issue of Idlib or to prevent him from taking any unilateral action in Syria, where the latter knows that the solution will not be easy without his consent, if not impossible, especially in light of the difficult circumstances it is experiencing in all fields, and at all external and internal levels, and Erdogan is well aware of them, thanks to his loyal followers in the north and inside Syria in general, and among the 3.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, which he believes are his supporters, thanks to the services he provided to them and to all Syrians, and still is, in the areas controlled by the Turkish army, which is about 10% of the area of Syria.
This calculation pushes President Erdogan to stick to the constitutional committee card, which he wants to help him to put pressure on Damascus, and he believes that it, that is, Damascus, will not make the concessions required of it to draft a new constitution for Syria, and thus hold parliamentary and presidential elections under the supervision of the United Nations.
Erdogan has high hopes for the possible position of Damascus in its rejecting of international pressure on the issue of the constitution and elections. He wants this rejection to help him first in postponing the Idlib file and the Turkish presence in general in northern Syria, if not closing it, and thus recognizing Turkey a key role in the negotiations of the Syrian future in general, including the determination of the fate of the Kurds east of the Euphrates in their current situation or after the Americans leave the region.
Through these calculations, Erdogan aims to block any possible agreement between the Kurds and Damascus, and thus ensure the effective role of Islamists, both civilians, and militants, in the future Syria, without ignoring the rights of the Turkmen in it, according to Erdogan’s calculations.
It seemed that all these facts were present in the Russian vision for the next stage, which prompted President Putin to send his special representative to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin to Damascus, to convey to President Assad Moscow’s view of the possible positions of President Erdogan regarding the matter about Syria in general, and Idlib in particular, especially after it became clear that the latter would not back down from his position in it, as long as it – with the Syrian and foreign gunmen present – turned into an important card that helps him impose his agenda on many regional and international parties.
Erdogan believes that “it will not be able to confront him as long as he is stronger with the tactic and strategy that has achieved his regional and international victories.” All polls have proven that no less than 70% of Turkish citizens are against his foreign policies, he wants to change this equation through nationalist and religious statements, stances, and movements of a historical dimension, to prove to everyone that “he is the only one who can revive the memories of the caliphate, the Sultanate, and the Ottoman Empire with its military, political and psychological gains.” They live in very difficult conditions, as a result of his foreign policies, which the opposition describes as “bloody adventures that threaten Turkey’s security, stability, and its entire future.”