Important developments ‘at the table’ and ‘in the field’ in Iraq and Syria
The developments in the 'field' have brought Turkey to crossroads in relation to its Syrian policy.
President Erdoğan went to Jordan the previous day and returned. Yesterday the Foreign Minister Cavuşoğlu was on his way to Iraq as the US Defence Secretary James Mattis was himself arriving in Turkey from there.Mattis held talks with President Erdoğan and Defence Minister Canikli in Turkey. And as for Cavuşoglu, meeting first the Iraqi Prime Minister Ibadi and Foreign Minister Ibrahim Caferi in Baghdad, he went on to meet Barzani in Erbil.
Reports also include an impending visit by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to Turkey, where regional issues, including the “procurement of S-400s,” are to be discussed.
Last week, the Chief of Iranian General Staff arrived in Turkey with a committee of nine for a visit lasting four days. Both due to the visit taking place at such highest military level and the presence of a crowded committee as well as the length of the visit, it has been interpreted as Iran holding comprehensive talks with Turkey on military matters. And the talks have also been viewed as Turkey and Iran preparing for a joint military operation against Kandil and Sinjar. Yet the reports include also both Iran’s as well as Iraq’s unwillingness to conduct a joint military operation on Iraqi soil. The Iraqi Foreign Minister Caferi stated this in the presence of Cavuşoglu yesterday. Further, that the military talks between Turkey and Iran have not gone as well as anticipated seems also to have reflected the discussions ongoing in the media.
IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS ARE TAKING PLACE ‘IN THE FIELD’
The intensification of diplomacy both in between the imperialist states intervening in the region as well as the countries of the region relates to the maturing of the developments in the field which “have reached a certain stage.”
The developments “in the field” can be summarised as follows:
1-) The issue of “the independence referendum”: To be sure, the reason for the proliferation of diplomacy over Iraq recently is the drawing closer of the date of “the independence referendum” which the Barzani administration is conducting in the Iraqi Kurdistan. The Barzani administration is adamant on “the independence referendum” despite the internal and external pressure it has been faced. Barzani reiterated the referendum date of 25 September even after talks with the Iraqi administration and with the US. Although the kind of developments the “referendum” in Iraqi Kurdistan will lead to are hard to gauge now, it is a certainty that such a referendum is to be viewed as a problem in Turkey, Iran and Iraq!
2-) The Telaferoperation against ISIS: following the capture of Mosul, the Iraqi army has turned to liberate Telafer from ISIS. Reports include the presence of Peshmerga and The People's Mobilization Forces (PMF -Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi) in the Telafer operation. Yet Turkey was vehemently objecting PMF’s inclusion in the operation against Telafer. As well as Erdoğan, Bahçeli [leader of MHP] had moved to quickly declare Telafer as “Turkish motherland” and that Turkey will be participating in any intervention there. Yet, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu who was recounting his “gladness” with the Telafer operation yesterday in Iraq seemed as though he had forgotten what was said previously!
3-) Syrian Regime’s preparations concerning Idlib: the other important development in the field is in Idlib. The defeat of Ahrar al-Sham, which had links with Turkey and the west by Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as El Nusra, due to affiliation with al Qaida, Tahrir al-Shamis viewed as terrorist by the US and Russia) in Idlib where all jihadist organisations have gathered in Syria, their subsequent capture of the Bab al Hawa Syrian-Turkish border crossing lead to attentions being turned to Idlib once again.
On the other hand, following Asad’s reinforcement of his rule through expansion in Syria, debates about Idlib being next line has become more serious. Once it is taken into account that the US and Turkey are not left with any basis for objecting the start of a new operation by the Syrian regime and Russia against Idlib after its capture by Tahrir al-Sham, an operation for this city becoming a serious item on the agenda has gained strength as a possibility. Recent reports have also been drawing attention to the significance of the forthcoming Russian attempts concerning Turkey and the US.
TWO FORCES LEFT STANDING IN SYRIA: THE SYRIAN REGIME AND SDF
Developments intensifying around the Barzani administration’s “independence referendum” attempt; Iraqi Government’s attempts to deal the final blow to ISIS in Telafer, Syrian army’s preparations to expel Tahrir al-Sham from Idlib; have strengthened the indications that the struggle in between the foreign forces and the regional reaction has reached a new stage.
These indications, while in one respect being comprised of the extraordinary intensification of diplomacy, is also the consolidation in the field of ISIS’ and jihadist organisations’defeat in Iraq and Syria. Further, no serious forces remain in the field but the Iraqi army, Syrian army and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in which PYD-YPGforces also participate. After the expulsion of Tahrir al-Sham from İdlib, jihadist forces in the region would have been dealt a high-level and certain defeat.
These developments in the “field” have brought Turkey to crossroads in relation to its Syrian policy. For, after a civil war of six years, two main forces have been left standing in Syria: the Syrian regime and SDF organised in the Rojava cantons in Northern Syria!
HOW LONG IS TURKEY TO INSIST ON THIS POLICY?
Yet both the forces are regarded as “terrorist,” “illegitimate,” “of improper position to negotiate” by Turkey. Furthermore, main forces around “the table” such as Iran, Russia, the US and the Iraqi government who are at the table in Syria and in Iraq regard these two forces as “legitimate forces” in Syria. They are obliged to agree with these forces in the resolution of the question.
And this leaves Turkey with the decision either to withdraw completely from “the table” or to give up its policy of six years and come to a reconciliation with the Syrian regime and Syrian Democratic Forces.
Yet while these are the developments in the “field” and “the table”, President Erdoğan, talking to journalists on the plane in his return from Jordan the previous day, stated “We won’t allow for a corridor of terror in the north of Syria. We will do what’s necessary whatever the cost. We will lose our temper!” thereby indicating persistence on the policy dragging Turkey from one impasse to another.
Viewed as a whole, it shows that the struggle in the region, in “the field,” and at “the table” in the forthcoming days is to intensify.