First Published: 2018-04-16

Erdogan Seeking Dividends from Syria’s Chaos
Developments in and around Syria keep Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the spotlight, notes Yavuz Baydar.
Middle East Online

“Turkey will soon have to make clear whether it is with the United States or with Iran,” wrote Nikos Konstandaras, a Greek colleague with the Athens daily Kathimerini.

It was an insightful comment. As Konstandaras pointed out: “Today’s impossibly complicated game may be superseded by something even more dangerous.”

Developments in and around Syria keep Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the spotlight. Erdogan’s game, from the outset of the Syrian crisis, was to ensure he had a stake in whatever emerged out of the chaos.

He has pushed Turkey’s Syria policy during the past seven years, first with the enthusiastic support of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and later on his own. Erdogan hoped the policy would cement his power at home.

It’s not clear, however, whether the need to choose between the United States and Russia entered Erdogan’s calculations. His Syria policy has been divisive and, as the Afrin incursion showed, runs counter to the policies of the anti-Islamic State coalition in Syria.

Erdogan is perceived as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fellow traveller and as serving Iran’s long-term interests in upending the regional balance of power.

This has become a hot topic of discussion, as was obvious when US President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state answered questions during the confirmation process. Secretary-designate Mike Pompeo was shown a picture of Erdogan, Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rohani at a summit in Ankara. US Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, said: “What’s wrong with this picture? The United States isn’t even present.”

Pompeo responded that the summit in Ankara had “the purpose of discussing how they were going to carve up Syria.” This meant he was accusing Erdogan — the leader of a NATO partner — of cooking up a formula that would go against Washington’s interests as well as those of NATO.

Pompeo also made clear that the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) was not over and that the United States would continue to back the Syrian Democratic Forces, whose backbone is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia.

Pompeo’s remarks came even as Washington and Paris indicated they were prepared for a military escalation in Syria.

The developments put Erdogan in a precarious position. There is Russia, which has turned a blind eye to Erdogan’s campaign against Syrian Kurdish forces, and there is the looming threat to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s hold on power. Erdogan sees the Syrian president as an archenemy.

“It is a bad time to have an ally on the fence,” commented Hannah Lucinda Smith in the Spectator. “The Turkish president has watched the Western powers, which once shared his determination to help the armed opposition overthrow Assad, lose heart with the rebels and instead back Kurdish forces to defeat ISIS.

“He has also watched the crumbling of the regional policy that he and his former Foreign Minister Davutoglu engineered, which would have made Turkey the model for a string of post-‘Arab spring’ Islamist governments and Erdogan the undisputed leader of the Sunni world. Today, the only firm Middle Eastern ally that Turkey can count on is Qatar.”

Yavuz Baydar is a senior Turkish columnist, and news analyst. A founding member of the Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) in Istanbul, he has been reporting on Turkey and monitoring media issues since 1980. A European Press Prize Laureate in 2014, he is also the winner of Germany's 'Journalistenpreis' in 2018.

© The Arab Weekly

 

Russia mulls supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria

Morocco, EU start talks on new fisheries deal

Bashir fires Sudan foreign minister

US has 'concerns' about Turkey holding fair vote under state of emergency

Saudi women embrace sports headscarves

Rouhani slams officials' 'vow of silence' in face of protests

Natalie Portman says backed out of Israel prize over Netanyahu

Rebels set to leave new area outside Damascus

FIFA to return to Morocco to check hotels, stadiums

Turkey in shock after violent Istanbul derby

Iraq pays first war reparations to Kuwait since 2014

Fiery kites adopted as new tactic by Gaza protesters

Romanian president slams plan to move Israel embassy

Western strikes on Syria bring no change whatsoever

Trump criticises OPEC for high oil prices

Syria says rebels south of capital surrender

Market has capacity to absorb higher oil prices: Saudi minister

Putin 'ready' for Trump summit

Saudi Arabia to host first public film screening

HRW criticises Lebanon for evicting Syria refugees

Saudi says intercepted ballistic missile from Yemen

Washington: Assad still has 'limited' chemical capability

European MPs urge US not to scrap Iran deal

Oil price soars to highest level in years

Two more pro-Kurdish MPs stripped of Turkey seats

Oil theft 'costing Libya over $750 million annually'

Turkey's snap polls: bold gambit or checkmate for Erdogan?

Iran arrests senior official over public concert

Bahrain sentences 24 to jail, strips citizenship

UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd's death sentence

Moderate quake strikes near Iran nuclear power plant

Syria regime forces caught in surprise IS attack

Turkey sentences 18 to life for killing ‘hero’ coup soldier

Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

Libya to clamp down on fuel smuggling

Yemen to arrest colonel for overlooking African migrant rape

Erdogan sends Turkey to snap polls on June 24

Qatar joins Gulf military exercise in apparent compromise

Saudi-Russia oil alliance likely to undercut OPEC

UN in security talks with Syria on chemical probe

Riyadh says two al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen

Record of women candidates in Lebanon, but you can't tell from TV

Sudan protests to UN over Egypt voting in disputed area

Erdogan calls Turkey snap polls for June 24

Rights watchdog say African migrants face rape, torture in Yemen