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Erdogan and the Syrian Opposition… Between Tactics and Strategy

Turkey Erdogan and the Syrian opposition اردوغان والمعارضة السورية

Erdogan will not reconcile with Assad at the present time, for many reasons, the most important of which are his politically and ideologically complex strategic calculations, and his intertwined relations in Idlib and the areas administered by the Turks west and east of the Euphrates.

The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

A few hours after the publication of my last article entitled “Erdogan and Assad.. There is no Reconciliation Except on his Own Terms,” everyone was surprised by the statements of foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said that he “met for several minutes, in the presence of other ministers, his Syrian counterpart Faysal Mikdad, in Belgrade, on the sidelines of the Ministerial Meeting of Non-Aligned Countries.

Minister Cavusoglu’s statements received wide attention from the Turkish, Arab, and international media as if something was going to happen on the road to reconciliation between Erdogan and Assad, especially since Erdogan, two days before Cavusoglu’s statements, had said that “President Putin sought to persuade him to make a phone call with President Assad, and that he refused.” Without any of the optimists noticing that Cavusoglu said that the Belgrade meeting took place last October, and Cavusoglu did not say why he did not talk about the issue during the last period, during which there was no comment or reference from the Syrian side.

This Turkish position, that is, the statements of Minister Cavusoglu, and before him President Erdogan, seems clear that it was part of the traditional Turkish tactics in addressing the Syrian crisis, with the continuing intertwining of relations with Moscow in many areas, and the talk about Russia pumping billions of dollars into the Turkish Central Bank.

This tactic was followed by another tactic through which Erdogan wanted to tell Iran and Russia, his two partners in Astana, that he was “ready for reconciliation with Assad, but the opposition (he says the Syrian people) do not accept that, as evidenced by the demonstrations that took place in the areas of the Turkish army’s presence in northern Syria.” Several Syrian cities, including al-Bab, Azaz, Jarablus, Afrin, Idlib, Ras al-Ain, and others, witnessed demonstrations, during which the demonstrators denounced Minister Cavusoglu’s statements, and rejected “any reconciliation with the regime.”

The strange thing is that the elements of the Turkish army, security, and intelligence did not intervene to prevent these demonstrations, despite the burning of the Turkish flag (Azaz), and it was lowered from its corner and thrown on the ground (in Jarablus), which is a very sensitive issue for the Turks.

The Turkish security, which intervenes violently to prevent any labor, women, or youth demonstration, no matter how small the number, and arrests the demonstrators after beating them, has not moved a finger towards the demonstrations that threatened Turkey in areas controlled by the Turkish army, security, and intelligence with thousands of loyalists to Ankara, They contented themselves with observing the events sung by the opposition radio and television stations, which broadcast from Istanbul.

The statement of the Turkish Foreign Ministry came to help us understand these tactics after it reiterated well-known Turkish positions regarding the Syrian crisis and accused the “regime of obstructing any progress on the path to a solution to the crisis, through international resolutions and the Astana process, the most important of which is the work of the Constitutional Committee.” The statement did not forget: the “emphasizing of the continuation of Turkish solidarity with the Syrian people,” and here it means opponents of the regime in all their forms, factions, and ideological affiliations, not political ones, given that everyone follows the orders of Ankara, in which the so-called “Syrian National Army” was established in September 2019.

The statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was sufficient to “calm the situation” in the mainly quiet areas, in light of the evasion of any Turkish official from making any simple statement against the demonstrators, towards the reaction of the popular street to the burning of the Turkish flag.

The tweet of the Minister of Interior, Suleiman Soylu, on his Twitter account, confirmed what was stated in the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as he wrote, “It has become clear that the SDF, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the regime, and the inciting infiltrators were behind the recent events. And that Turkey did not and will not abandon the citizens who are groaning under the weight of the grievances of the regime and the Kurdistan Democratic Union, and it will continue to stand in solidarity with them and that it will preserve its friendships, humanity, and neighbors.”

The pro-Erdogan media ignored the entire events, in an attempt to calm the Turkish street, which is mainly charged against the Syrian refugees, after the campaigns targeting them from different circles, including those of a dangerous nationalist and racist character, exploited by internal and external circles to remind the Turkish people of “bad memories between Arabs and Turks and their historical enmities”.

All of these tactics are the fixed paragraphs of the Turkish strategy regarding the Syrian crisis, and it seems clear that Erdogan, at least, until the next elections, does not want to get involved in its complicated pitfalls as long as he benefits from its outcome. After the denunciations in northern Syria, Erdogan will defend his position of rejecting any reconciliation with President al-Assad, telling everyone who asks him to do so: “I am ready, but the Syrian people did not and will not accept that, and I cannot face 9 million Syrians, 4 of whom are in Turkey and 5 in northern Syria.”

The situation in northern Syria, with its recent developments, will be used as a “bargaining chip”, not only with Russia and Iran but also with America and the West. The situation in northern Syria, with its recent developments, will be used as a “bargaining chip”, not only with Russia and Iran, but also with America and the West if they ask him to leave the area, he will tell them, “As long as you are in the east of the Euphrates, I am in the west of it, and the Syrian people do not want me out as evident in the recent demonstrations.”

A brief comment on all these developments came from the former Deputy Prime Minister, Abdul Latif Şener, one of the most important founders of the “Justice and Development Party”, who resigned from his position in 2007 to denounce the corruption cases in which Erdogan was involved. He said, “Erdogan was not and will not be serious in his talks about solving the Syrian problem because he is its main cause.”

Şener recalled what Erdogan had said, in recent years, against the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, “Israel” and the UAE, and said, “However, Erdogan retracted all his previous statements, and rushed to reconcile them, despite all the problems with these countries. Note that Assad has not done anything against Turkey, despite everything Erdogan has done in Syria. Therefore, reconciliation with him is very easy, if Erdogan wants to, but he will not do so for many reasons, the most important of which are his politically and ideologically complex strategic calculations, and his intertwined relations in Idlib and the areas administered by the Turks west and east of the Euphrates.

The bet remains, as usual, on sudden developments in regional and international politics, which may affect Erdogan’s position in Syria, because what matters to him now is one thing, which is staying in power, and whatever it costs him and Turkey. Many at home and abroad put several calculations for it, that is Turkey, not only because of its geo-political position, but also for its active role in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and other locations, thanks to the so-called “Arab Spring” and the support of Western capitals and Arab regimes that conspired against Syria, and now it continues to do so, this time through normalization with the occupying Zionist entity, and his only concern is for Syria to remain as it is now!

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  1. Muhammad Turkmani

    Whoever told him that Syria is keen on his reconciliation is fooling him and the others, Syria has already won the war and better to reconcile with a normal Turkish government who will hold this war criminal and his regime accountable for the crimes they committed against Syria and even against Turkey itself.

    • Huda Hajjar

      Better without his reconciliation, only he will be gaining, what about the people he and his terrorists killed? Wounded? Displaced? The properties, factories, and even farmlands they looted and destroyed? The years we lost from our lives to fulfill his dream of becoming a sultan?

      To hell with him and his reconciliation.


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