Reconciliation with Damascus will mean for the Turkish President Erdogan to abandon his strategic calculations and projects.
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:
The news published by Hurriyet newspaper, loyal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on April 3, has received wide attention in most Arab media outlets, as the newspaper stated, “The Turkish authorities are conducting their discussions with the aim of dialogue with the Syrian government, in order to restore relations between the two countries to its nature.”
The media and those who wrote in it did not pay attention to what was stated in the news, as it was said that “Turkey, in all its contacts with the Syrian administration, affirms 3 basic things, namely, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, ensuring the lives of refugees returning to their country, and preventing the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party from any activity in Syria.
Contrary to what President Erdogan asserts on every occasion, Ankara controls about 10% of the Syrian territory, which contradicts the notion of sovereignty and the unity of the Syrian territory. It also provides all kinds of support to tens of thousands of militants of the so-called “National Army” established in Turkey, which it pays the salaries of all its personnel.
On top of that, Ankara’s objection to the Syrian army’s liberation of Idlib and its vicinity, without heeding the accusations leveled against it regarding the relationship with the terrorist of “Al-Nusra Front”, which includes thousands of foreign militants, and which obtains all its needs from Turkey, near Idlib.
As for the return of Syrian refugees to their homes, many, including the leaders of Turkish political parties, wrote and spoke about Ankara obstructing the return of Syrian refugees to their country, and it tells them that the living and security situation in Syria is very bad, and it meets the needs of all Syrians residing in the areas controlled by the Turkish army west and east of the Euphrates, as Defense Minister Hulusi Akar previously said that “Turkey meets the needs of 9 million Syrians, 3.5 million of whom are in Turkey, and the rest are inside Syria.”
Ankara believes that this Turkish position “contributes to the increase in Erdogan’s popularity in Syria in general.” As for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which means the “SDF” and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the Syrian arm of the PKK, everyone remembers how Ankara had a close relationship with Salih Muslim, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Union Party, and sought to persuade him until the summer of 2015 “to rebel against the Syrian state in exchange for promises to meet his demands in the new Syria after the overthrow of the regime in Damascus.”
As everyone knows, Ankara, under the pretext of the aforementioned Kurdish militias, succeeded in persuading Washington and Moscow to allow it in October 2019 to penetrate east of the Euphrates and control a border strip of 110 km in length and 30 km in depth in some areas, which helped the Turkish forces to take control of strategic locations in the region, as is the case in the Afrin region after taking control of it in March 2018.
All of this explains Ankara’s failure to abide by its commitments in the Sochi and Moscow agreements on Idlib and the Turkish military presence in northern Syria in general, despite the possibilities of a heated confrontation with the Syrian and Russian armies in the region, as happened in February 2020.
It also explains President Erdogan’s constant talk about his rejection of any solution to the Syrian crisis, without recognizing the main Turkish role in this solution, which must meet the Turkish conditions in coordination and cooperation with the Syrian opposition, both political and armed, all of which are moving according to the Turkish agenda supported by Qatar, which is what President Erdogan exploits in his overall bargaining with all parties interested in the Syrian file regionally and internationally, especially with the continuation of their current positions, which can be summed up in not rushing to take any decisive decision to close this file.
President Erdogan sees this regional and international situation as a source of strength for him, as long as the Arab capitals are not encouraged to reconcile with President Assad, and he will not think of reconciling with him until after the leaders of the main Arab countries, led by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar, reconcile.
Reconciliation in President Erdogan’s concept is for these leaders and others to contact President Assad, exchange visits with him, and open their embassies in Damascus with Israeli consent, as they all did (Erdogan as well) with the putschist Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (of Sudan), and together they abandoned Imran Khan (of Pakistan) on American instructions!
In other words, President Erdogan will not take any initiative toward Damascus as long as he sees Assad as his “subordinate governor”, and sees himself as the “Ottoman Sultan”, this is what Assad said, which President Qais Saeed (of Tunisia) reminded last week when he responded to Erdogan’s statements, who described his decision to dissolve the parliament as a “coup,” so he said: “Tunisia is not a province, and we are not waiting for a firman (from the Ottoman Sultan).”
We do not ignore President Erdogan’s efforts to reconcile with Cairo, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi, which he personally accused of plotting against Turkey, at a time when President Assad and the Syrian state did not undertake any hostile action against Turkey, which proved, through its recent actions, that it favors “Israel” with its terrorist regime over neighboring Syria, which through it, it entered the Arab region after the first visit of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul to Damascus at the beginning of 2003.
Although Gul, and even Davutoglu, who was said at the time to be the architect of Turkish foreign policy, became in the trench against Erdogan, it became clear that the prospects for Turkish reconciliation with President Assad will never be easy for the Turkish president.
Erdogan sees such reconciliation as a recognition of the defeat of his (Muslim Brotherhood) ideological project, even if he abandoned it during his bargains with “Tel Aviv” (Hamas and the Palestinians in general), Cairo (Egypt’s Brotherhood), Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
In addition, reconciliation with Damascus will mean at the same time abandoning his calculations, projects, and strategic plans, especially after he established a network of complex military, intelligence, and political relations intertwined with very wide Syrian sectors and groups, and that abandoning it will not be easy for Ankara (what will it do with tens of thousands of militants?), which sees northern Syria as an extension of Turkish geography and a strategic depth for its national security, which Turkish officials have been repeating since the beginnings of the Syrian crisis, and its main player is Erdogan, it seems clear that he will not give up this role until his last breath, as long as no one asks him to do so, and President Assad will not surprise him by visiting Ankara!
Erdogan is waiting for the positions of the Arab capitals, and more importantly, “Tel Aviv”, because he thinks, rather he believes, that it will not initiate any reconciliation with Assad, of course, if he had not agreed with Herzog and Ibn Zayed on that, otherwise reconciliation with Syria must be a priority for Erdogan and the others, this is, of course, if they are not together at the disposal of “Tel Aviv”, the only beneficiary of the years of the bloody “Arab Spring”, during which they were all together in one trench against President al-Assad, and with the confessions of Hamad bin Jassem, who is still whining because “the prey escaped from them.” and catching it again needs more than a miracle!
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Thank you in advance.
Thanks Pal. Very useful as always. A question about opposition forces in Syria. Have they been “replenished?” Surely overall numbers have fallen from their peak prior to the liberation of Aleppo Dec 2016. Thereafter, dwindling numbers have been confined to Idlib, North East and the Al Tampf areas. Outgoing forces have deserted the Syrian theatre and are now based elsewhere. Cash supplies have dried up, notably from the West and the Saudis. I note the US has injected $200 million, possibly dud notes, into the North East, recently. Do you think that is meant to keep the existing SDF/other forces flush and in place to protect their stolen Syrian oil, or is it a carrot to attract additional incoming forces? There continues to be some to and fro of forces between Syria and Turkey and Libya. I was thinking, there has been some draw down of forces from Syria headed for Ukraine. If that continues, would it undermine the opposition’s defence of Idlib and allow Damascus to retake that area? Turkey is a safe haven for opposition forces. They are a source of fighters. But are they going to make up the numbers in Idlib or to fight in Ukraine?