Turkey's delusion in the great game of Syria

Turkey's delusion in the great game of Syria
Ankara is deluding itself that the current US involvement in the war against the IS might serve its interests.
4 min read
20 Jan, 2015
The more than 800,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey aren't going home anytime soon [Anadolu]

Since the US-led intervention against the Islamic State group, Turkey has entertained the illusion that Washington would allow Ankara to play a crucial role.

Turkey's delusions produce, in turn, delusions among parties in the Syrian opposition, who believe Turkish intervention will lead to the overthrow of the Syrian regime.

When the Action Group for Syria laid out the principles of the peace talks known as "Geneva 1" in 2013, Turkey sensed the US had reached a deal with Russia, and subsequently, Turkey had lost out on its interests in Syria.

As a result, Turkey was prompted to comply with Saudi Arabian pressure to allow violent jihadis into Syria, something it had previously rejected as it wanted to overthrow the Assad regime in favour of its own alternative, the National Council, an exile group based in Istanbul.

Turkey helped the passage of fundamentalist groups from around the world into Syria, and stepped up coordination with Saudi Arabia to "sabotage" the US-Russian accord.

Turkey versus the 'jihadis'

Erdogan is waiting for the US to become bogged down in a way that would require ground forces to break the impasse.

Turkey came to believe that it could control the violent jihadis. It was now a common sight to see fighters from the IS and the Nusra Front on Turkish soil without being arrested or otherwise harassed.

When the US declared war on the IS, Turkey thought it could impose its point of view. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president, having lost hope Bashar al-Assad would reform the regime and introduce real democracy, declared that Turkey was entitled to intervene.

In other words, Erdogan was saying that Syria was "his", and no one else's.

Because the US is no longer in a position to deploy ground forces, something the war on the IS group requires, Erdogan thought the US would need Turkey. Hence, when US action against the IS group became a certainty, he declared his conditions - the overthrow of the Syrian regime as well as the IS, and the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria (ie a no-fly zone).

Currently, Erdogan is waiting for the US to become bogged down in a way that would require ground forces to break the impasse, and is preparing for this eventuality. This is the Turkish delusion, which assumes all that remains is for the US to come to terms with the necessity of a Turkish intervention after it agrees to Ankara's conditions.

No doubt the IS has been infiltrated by many intelligence agencies, and world powers are seeking to use the example of its menace to further their own policies.

It can be argued that the US is using the group's threat to regain a foothold in Iraq and influence the course of events in Syria, or use the course of events in Syria as a bargaining chip the dialogue with Iran and Russia.

Erdogan's Turkey holds the belief that its intervention will allow it to put its preferred people in power in Damascus.

These people in turn believe this will happen, which is why they have rejected anything less than the end of Assad.

Turkey versus US interests

The US will not accept Turkey's conditions, however. To begin with, the US does not want Turkey to dominate Syria.

But in the great political game being played over Syria, the IS is almost a sideshow. The US continues to negotiate with Iran and Russia over the country's future, meaning and Turkey's focus on the IS group is misguided.

     The US believes Turkey must not be allowed to have a regional role bigger than Israel.

Even if the IS group was the only concern, the US believes Turkey must not be allowed to have a regional role bigger than Israel.

The US does not need Turkey in Syria. Washington will not agree a no-fly zone or safe zones, to Turkish intervention in the war on the IS, or to any policy that would let the regime in Syria be overthrown with Turkish help.

The US specifically wants an accord with Iran. For this reason, it will not allow Turkey in.

The Syrian crisis is moving toward a painful level of intractability. It is imperative to understand the conflict cannot end except through a political settlement. This has been clear from the outset.

Of course, the revolution and the battle cannot stop until a solution is reached, on the basis of Geneva 1, which requires Assad and his henchmen to step aside.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic website.