Turkish President, a.k.a. Sultan Recep Tayyip
Erdogan is about to make a high-profile visit to
Tehran – the date has not yet been set - to
essentially kick start the ATM
(Ankara-Tehran-Moscow) coalition in Syria.
much as hinting at such a massive geopolitical
tectonic shift a few weeks ago would be branded a
madman. So how did the impossible happen?
game-changer – Russia using an airfield in Iran
to send bombers against jihadis in Syria – had
already taken place, with its aftermath
misreported by the usual, clueless US corporate
there’s what Turkey’s Prime Minister, Binali
Yildirim, said last Saturday in Istanbul: “The
most important priority for us is to stop the
bloodshed [in Syria] as soon as possible.” The rest
are irrelevant “details.”
added Ankara now agrees with Moscow that Bashar
al-Assad “could” – and that’s the operative
word – stay in power during a political transition
(although that’s still highly debatable). Ankara’s
drive to normalize relations with Moscow had an
‘important share’ in this ‘policy shift’.
shift’ is a direct consequence of the failed
military coup in Turkey. Russian cyber-surveillance
aces – in action 24/7 after the downing of the Su-24
last November – reportedly
informed Turkish intelligence a few hours before
the fact. NATO, as the record shows, was mum.
minimalist optics suggests ‘Sultan’ Erdogan was
extremely upset that Washington was not exactly
displeased with the coup. He knows how vast swathes
of the Beltway despise him – blaming him for not
being serious in the fight against ISIS and for
bombing the YPG Kurds – Pentagon allies - in Syria.
The record does show Erdogan has mostly ignored ISIS
– allowing non-stop free border crossing for ISIS
goons as well as letting Turkish business interests
(if not his own family) profit from ISIS’ stolen
Washington’s attitude Moscow, on the other hand,
warning Erdogan about serious, concrete facts on the
ground in the nick of time. And for Erdogan, that
was highly personal; the putschists reportedly sent
a commando to kill him when he was still in
forward to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif’s
surprise visit two weeks ago to Ankara. Zarif and
his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu did discuss serious
options by which the budding ATM coalition could
come up with a viable exit strategy in Syria. One
week later Cavusoglu went to Tehran and talked again
to Zarif for five hours.
uphill battle – but doable. Tehran knows very well
IRGC officers as well as Hezbollah, Iraqi and Afghan
fighters were killed in the Syrian war theater, and
that shall not be in vain. Ankara for its part knows
it cannot afford to remain forever trapped in an
ideological dead end.
Rojava, where and
there’s the rub - the intractable Kurdish question.
Iran, unlike Turkey, does not face active Kurdish
separatism. A minimum understanding between Ankara
and Tehran – central to the current flurry of
meetings, face-to-face and ‘secret’, via mediators,
necessarily points toward a united, centralized
implies no Rojava – a possible independent Kurdish
mini-state alongside the Turkish border, part of a
not so hidden Washington/Tel Aviv balkanization
agenda. Actually what is now in effect official
Pentagon policy contains a mob element of Ash
“Empire of Whining” Carter’s revenge on Sultan
Erdogan; payback because Erdogan did not do enough
to smash ISIS.
brings us to the current Turkish offensive – for all
practical purposes invasion – of Jarabulus. That’s
the last fort – as in the last town that allows ISIS
back and forth from southern Turkey to Raqqa in
terms of smuggling goons and weapons.
would never allow the so-called Syrian Democratic
Forces (SDF) take Jarabulus. After all, the SDF –
fully supported by the Pentagon - is led by the
Kurdish nationalist YPG, which Ankara sees as a mere
extension of PKK separatists.
Ankara’s terror at the YPG seizing Jarabulus. They
would have crossed the ultimate Turkish red line;
closing the gap between two Kurdish cantons across
the border and for all practical purposes giving
birth to the Rojava Kurdish mini-state.
Yet even if
for Ankara an independent Rojava remains the supreme
red line, there are declinations. A Rojava might
come as quite handy if it became a dumping ground
for Turkish PKK fighters. Arguably the PKK would not
complain; after all they would have “their” state.
seems to be considering what Damascus thinks about
And no one,
for the moment, has a clue about the precise
geography of a putative Rojava. If it includes, for
instance, the recently liberated city of Manbij,
that’s a major problem; Manbij is Arab, not Kurd.
Kurds once again seem to be thrown into disarray -
forced to choose whether they are allied with
Washington or with Moscow.
its part, is crystal
clear on ISIS. It is dead set on smashing for
good, by all means necessary, any militants who
consider Russia their enemy.
certainly calculated that a rapprochement with
Russia had to include being serious against ISIS.
Extra incentive was added by the fact the bombing
this past Sunday in Gaziantep was most certainly an
Erdogan’s Syria master plan now boils down to - what
else – another wilderness of mirrors. By crossing to
Jarabulus, Ankara wants to establish a sort of
remnants of the Free Syria Army (FSA)-controlled
enclave. The Americans can't blame him because this
will be against ISIS – even though it’s mostly
against Rojava. And the Russians won’t make a fuss
because Moscow is in favor of Syria’s unity.
Got ATM, will
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, previously
of “zero problems with our neighbors” then
converted into “nothing but problems with our
neighbors” is now history. Yildirim is a
pragmatist. So the opening to Russia had to be
leads us back to the – alleged - end of Team Obama’s
obsession, “Assad must go”. He may stay,
for a while. Yildirim has confirmed this is now
Turkish official policy. Although that does not mean
Ankara – and Washington for that matter – have given
up on regime change. They will keep up the pressure
– but tactics will change.
stands, the major fact on the ground is that
‘Sultan’ Erdogan seems to have had enough of the
Americans (NATO of course included) and has pivoted
sending of certified Keystone Cop Joe Biden to
Ankara to plead “not guilty” on the military coup
(forget it; most Turks don’t believe Washington) and
to implore Erdogan not to pursue his massive purge
(pure wishful thinking).
Erdogan’s notoriously erratic record, his embrace of
ATM may be just a gigantic illusion, or may open yet
another unforeseen can of worms. But there are signs
this may be for real.
has already intimated that Ankara is aiming for a
military/technological upgrade that is impossible
under NATO’s watch. In his own words; “Unfortunately,
we see countries in NATO are a bit hesitant when it
comes to exchange of technology and joint
every reason to be quite cautious regarding myriad
aspects of Erdogan’s pivoting. After all the Turkish
military has been part of NATO for decades. As it
stands, there’s no evidence Moscow and Ankara are
looking at the same post-war Syria. But if we’re
talking about the future of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization (SCO), then it starts to get really
already a “dialog partner” of the SCO, while Iran
may become a full member as early as next year.
Moscow is certainly envisioning Ankara as a valuable
ally in the wider Sunni world, way beyond a role in
repelling Salafi-jihadis in Syria. With Ankara and
Tehran also talking serious business, this could
eventually spill out into a serious debunking of the
alleged apocalyptic Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian
divide, which is the only Divide-and-Rule
strategy spun and deployed non-stop by the US,
Israel and the House of Saud.
enticing SCO-enhancing possibility that’s freaking
Washington out big time. Russia pivoting East,
Turkey pivoting East, Iran already there, and China
now also actually involved in a stake in post-war
Syria, that’s a geopolitical reconfiguration in
Southwest Asia that once again spells out the
inevitable; Eurasia integration.