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Aug 23, 2022
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What to expect in Syria: a big Turkish offensive or reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus?

Erdogan will be able to solve his problems with the Syrian Kurds only “on the road to Damascus”

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The new, biggest Turkish invasion of all in Syria, which, on top of everything the world is experiencing, could ignite the flames of a big war in the Middle East – like the notorious Ukrainian rush to Kherson. It has been talked about for so long and a lot, it is announced by the media, but it still will not start, and perhaps it will never happen.

Separate clashes and shelling are constantly taking place along the borders of the northeastern provinces of Syria, Turkish columns enter and leave individual cities, but it is still far from a serious offensive. Turkish President R. Erdogan has repeatedly threatened that he is about to finally put an end to Rojava, controlled by the pro-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), but does not realize his threat.

Turkish President R. Erdogan

Turkish President R. Erdogan

Erdogan would need a “small victorious war” on the eve of the general parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in Turkey for June 2023. Due to the economic difficulties experienced by the country (inflation has approached 80%, the burden of maintaining about 4 million Syrian refugees is “killing” the budget), the popularity of the opposition has dangerously approached his personal ratings and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) headed by him. Its leading Republican People’s Party (CHP), headed by permanent leader K. Kılıçdaroglu, believes that it has never been as close to seizing power as it is now in recent years. Being more liberal and pro-Western oriented, the opposition coalition at the same time consistently opposes burdensome intervention in Syria and is ready to establish relations with Bashar al-Assad in order to end it. This is largely due to the fact that the main electoral base of the CHP is the Turkish Alevis (about 25% of the population), who are religiously close to the Syrian ruling clan.

K. Kılıçdaroğlu

K. Kılıçdaroğlu

Erdogan will not succeed in an easy victory in the elections; instead of a triumph, a fiasco may await him. Therefore, to ensure it, he seeks to provide favorable conditions. In recent contacts with Iranian President Raisi and Russian President V. Putin, he tried in every possible way to get carte blanche to carry out the large-scale operation he had planned against Rojava. Hence, in many respects, his games on the “Ukrainian field”: they say, they don’t like my cooperation with Kyiv, then don’t bother me in Syria. No wonder Western analysts considerwhat Syria is for Turkey, like Ukraine is for Russia. However, the Turkish leader did not receive a “green light” from Tehran and Moscow. The significant reduction in the Russian military presence in Syria, which he expected, did not happen, which could untie the hands of the Turkish army. The Khmeimim base continues to operate. He was clearly instructed that he could best solve his problems with the Syrian Kurds only “on the road to Damascus.” Syrian leader B. Assad, who still has problems in dialogue with the Kurds politically “seduced” by Washington, says that in any case he will defend the country’s sovereignty with all his might.

Americans steal Syrian oil (137 tank trucks in just one convoy)

Americans steal Syrian oil (137 tank trucks in just one convoy)

In Rojava itself, the situation for the Turkish invasion is also not easy. The Kurdish defense there is saturated with American anti-tank javelins and anti-aircraft stingers. The Kurds also have drones in sufficient numbers. From the muddy flow of weapons that Washington sent to Ukraine during this period, according to some reports, a considerable stream, with the participation of Kyiv, flowed into the arsenals of US allies in Syria. Who knows, maybe among them there are “Bayraktars” delivered by Turkey to the Ukrainians. The stalling of the Turkish military operation against the Syrian Kurds and too high losses in it could not only not give Erdogan the desired results in the elections, but also undermine his position. In addition, in Rojava, not only the Kurdish Peshmerga, but also the militia of the Arab tribes are ready to fight against the Turkish invasion. And if the Syrian government army joins them, which is also said to have smuggled part of Western military aid from Ukraine through smuggled channels, the outcome of such a campaign could be completely unexpected for the Turks. But there are also Americans behind the Kurds.

Sheikh Hamidi Daham al-Jarba

Sheikh Hamidi Daham al-Jarba

It would be a different matter if Ankara, instead of invading, helped establish Damascus’ full sovereignty over the entire northeastern part of Syria. In Rojava, for example, the most numerous Arab tribe of Shammar, formally part of the SDF, but increasingly moving away from them, supports such a prospect, and its leader, Sheikh Hamidi Daham al-Jarba, maintained contacts both with the official authorities of the country and with the Russian military on Khmeimim base. The Sheikh’s son Bandar al-Hamidi leads the Al-Sanadid combat unit of the Shammar tribe as part of the SDF. Their final withdrawal from the coalition would destroy it from the inside. The reconciliation of R. Erdogan and B. Assad, once great personal friends, could solve many problems, even without any military action, including with regard to the return of 4 million Syrian refugees. In addition to the official authorities of Syria, no part of the country controlled by pro-Turkish forces is able to take them back.

In recent days, instead of warlike speeches, sobering speeches have been heard from Ankara. Thus, the Turkish Foreign Minister met with his Syrian counterpart, after which he announced a possible reconciliation between Damascus and the opposition, making it clear that Ankara could become part of this process. True, after the attacks of the irreconcilable Syrian oppositionists in Turkey and the protests in the north and north-west of Syria (these territories are under the control of Turkish forces), he began to make reservations to what was said, but the “circles in the water” from the launched stone went.

Opposition spokesman Khurras al-Din rejects reconciliation

Representative of terrorist group Khurras al-Din rejects reconciliation

An extensive discussion unfolded in Turkish society, during which many leading figures, as well as political analysts, spoke out that reconciliation with Damascus was long overdue. It is fundamentally important that the chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party D. Bahceli, which is part of the coalition with the AKP, is unequivocally in favor of this, without whose support it will be extremely difficult for Erdogan, who has so far kept silence on this matter, in the elections. It is noteworthy that the deputy president for the party, Hayati Yazici, fully admits a direct meeting of his boss with Bashar al-Assad. The pro-government Hurriyet published an article titled: “Critical Threshold in Normalizing Relations with Assad Regime Crossed.”

R. Erdogan and B. Assad once

R. Erdogan and B. Assad once

Of course, it is impossible to say with complete certainty which path R. Erdogan will ultimately choose – “to Damascus” or “to hell.” The East is known for its unpredictability. However, if we are guided by rational considerations and elementary common sense, the emerging peaceful path is more preferable, including from the point of view of the national interests of Turkey itself.

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