The West is going crazy about as to how Turkey is progressing this much. (Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 10.12.2016)
President Erdogan called the failed coup attempt as “the final curtain of the payoff [woth the West] that happened several times in the last 200 years”. Erdogan’s acidulous tongue against the West is not new to Turkish people. Whenever his political gains are in distress, nothing is easier for the President to create a combination of threats to the nation. At such moments, old enemies can turn into friends. That is what is happening between Ankara and Moscow.
While Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was busy with convincing Devlet Bahceli, the head of the Nationalist Movement Party, he was assigned to visit Moscow last week. Having called Moscow as the “natural ally“, Yildirim thanked to the Russian government for its support during the failed coup in July which was “coordinated from the NATO’s Incirlik base”. Yildirim had to refute his President and argue that the only reason of Turkish troops being in Syria was to fight against the ISIS; not to topple the Assad regime.
Well, the real question is that on what grounds did these two countries come to an agreement on Syria? According to some journalists, the Russians wanted Turks to close the borders to the jihadists and withdraw the support in Aleppo. First, Ankara’s rhetoric against the Nusra front changed and, then, the jihadists in Aleppo moved to the northern side of the town. In return, Turkish troops would pursue their strategic objectives through the ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’. Ankara’s tactical shift could have been planned to maintain its upper-hand over the Kurds because the withdrawal of the jihadists from around the al-Bab could close the only possible corridor for the Kurds to bridge Afrin and Kobane cantons. From this ‘Win-Win’ situation, Ankara has, once again, showed that the real target was the Kurds and that Moscow was an important actor for the Turks.
Now, Ankara’s mission is more challenging. On one hand, it needs to keep Moscow happy. On the other hand, it needs to urge the Americans to sideline the Kurdish fighters and to accept a joint operation in al-Bab. Two days ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it clearly: “We will continue all operations until we are sure that the YPG has withdrawn to the east of the Euphrates River.”
The critical point here is that would the Americans take the risk to loose their Kurdish allies to Moscow? What if Ankara sets its “anti-terror” front beyond its borders around Membic in case of a heavy exchange of fire? The answer to these questions will be shaped when the new American Administration’s Syrian policy is precise. Until then, Moscow will enjoy making flexible policies in Syria.