Erdogan’s Rapprochement With Assad

Erdogan’s Rapprochement With Assad

Tuesday, 18 December, 2018 - 10:00
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
The notable race over Damascus between leaderships, such as the Sudanese and Turkish, goes in tandem with political developments on the ground. It’s a mere confession to the fait accompli. Turkey’s silent rapprochement with the Syrian regime happened more than a year ago within a new policy, cooperating with Iran and abandoning the Syrian opposition.

In fact, those who actually destroyed the Syrian opposition were neither the Syrian regime’s forces nor Iran’s militias, nor Russia’s air force, but Ankara’s government. Its rapprochement with Iran and Russia and withdrawal from the previous Syrian scene led to the collapse of the political and armed opposition considering that Turkey was the major party that had embraced the armed opposition since the eruption of the revolution in 2011.

The Turkish withdrawal from supporting the opposition’s project, i.e. the national one, in order to distinguish it from armed jihadists, led to pretty much the elimination of the ground structure. All that’s left is few factions that the Turks hired to fight Kurdish organizations. It also estranged a number of Syrian political opposition leaders and kept them outside Turkey after they had been living in Istanbul.

New stances that seem shocking are being formed on the ground. Turkey has become closer to the Assad and Tehran regimes, and it’s now standing against American presence and fighting Syrian opposition members positioned east of the Euphrates. Although Turkish officials justify their new stance against the Syrian opposition there by saying that the excuse that most of it are Kurds, and that is true, but the Turkish orientation has been on so many levels based on a new alliance with Iran and Russia in the area where it’s a must to get rid of the opposition.

The US State Department warned Ankara from this, as it believes Ankara’s stances and behavior contradicts with American interests as well as with the NATO, of which Turkey is a member of. An example is that Turkey’s intention to purchase Russian S-400 missile system infuriates Washington and it’s expected to deepen the dispute between the two old allies. Turkey’s insistence regarding rapprochement with Iran and engaging in trade with it indicate the nature of Turkish orientations in the region, including in Syria.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s visit to Damascus only bears a symbolic value and comes within several moves to enhance the image of President Bashar al-Assad to respond to the Americans that reject the Russian solution of adopting the Syrian regime again. No matter how dilatory American stances are, they will accept Assad in the final round.

The situation in northeast Syria is immersed in political mud. Turkey's amity with Assad is increasing, and this is what Washington is trying to prevent but without achieving any striking success, and it may have to make concessions and allow Turkish troops to enter Manbij which President Erdogan threatened to enter against the Americans’ will. Why do the Americans rely on Syria’s Kurds and Arab tribes to confront the Assad regime although this angers Erdogan’s government?

It’s because Washington does not have other options and it thinks Ankara is responsible for the defeat after it abandoned the Syrian opposition. Turkey is fighting Americans in this area where it’s using the remnants of the Syrian armed opposition affiliated with it as a proxy to fight the American proxy that’s made up of Syrian Arab and Kurds east of the Euphrates.

Meanwhile, the Russians insist on imposing the entire Assad regime and are oblivious to the US efforts to ruin the Astana-Sochi agreement by calling for finalizing the constitutional committee and including the opposition within Syria’s new regime. However, everyone does not trust the Americans’ seriousness and think that they lack the patience for managing crises, unlike the Russians who are more persistent and successful. The Turks’ rebellion against the Americans in Syria is proof of Washington's weakness which only has 3,000 soldiers on the ground east of Euphrates.

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