Saturday, February 22, 2020

“The Limits of Relying on Disagreement Between Moscow, Ankara”

 If you prefer irrationality, (the quality of being illogical or unreasonable) which is bizarre (strange or unusual), this is not the oped for you.  So much of the information in the oped has been covered here for many years. Including Turkey's cooperation with Syria and Russia to clear Aleppo city, back in 2016... Yup, there are a number of reports covering that reality here at PFYT's. They will be relinked. 

Sane non sensational oped from aawsat @ Akram Bunni
There has been a lot of talk about the dispute between Moscow and Ankara over influence in Syria. This talk stems from the clashes between factions aligned to each of the two sides and their contestation over the most important sites and facilities in rural Idlib and Aleppo, marking a new level of tension and escalation as Turkish military observation points were bombed by Syrian forces, probably with Russian support and cover, killing and wounding several Turkish soldiers.

Ankara retaliated by targeting a group of Syrian forces, killing and wounding dozens. The Syrian army and the Iranian militias’ successful takeover of dozens of villages and towns make matters more severe. This while Ankara hardened its rhetoric and dragged thousands of troops to protect its military sites in an attempt to pressure the regime and its allies and hinder their advances on land and try to change the scene in the last de-escalation zone.

The two sides indeed have divergent reasons for their involvement in Syria, but it is also true that they have strong shared interests that compel them to put an end to what is happening or limit it to the greatest extent possible.

Firstly, they are both classical pragmatists, opening the door to mutual readiness to make concessions and solidify an agreement, thus preventing things from going as far as they potentially could or towards a bone-breaking battle.
Agree that both Erdogan and Putin are pragmatists. (persons who are guided more by practical considerations than by ideals.) It's quite obvious in their ability to work with one another these past years and adapt to always changing circumstances.
This explains the two sides’ repeated statements on their commitment to the agreements made in Sochi and Astana, including noteworthy commitments to maintain coordination and expanding channels of communication and dialogue to avoid surprises and keep developments under control, especially that both of them are aware of the importance of each of them to the other and the major losses that they would incur if the contention were to escalate.
Just as Russia wants to avoid drowning in the swamp of an endless war, Ankara wants to avoid dragging itself into a wide-ranging battle with the regime that could lead to a losing confrontation with its two allies Russia and Iran, in light of an ambiguous American position which will most likely be limited, as usual, to verbal support.

Naturally, neither eliminating nor challenging the Kremlin's presence and role in Syria or the Levant, is a priority for the government in Ankara so long as it receives several forms of support and protection from it. Rather, what it has in mind is cooperating with Russia to curb Kurdish expansion and limit the Kurds’ abilities and the threat that they pose, find a solution to the growing Syrian refugee crisis and expand the influence it has managed to garner or at least maintain it.
It is also not in Russia’s interest to lose its alliance with Ankara so long as it can employ this alliance in its contest for influence with the West over points of tension all over the world. This does not mean that Russia is not working to curtail the agreement’s significance and use it to maximize its influence and control the region's balance of power; this includes using the agreement to threaten the regime in Damascus and shape its positions. Russia also wants to use the agreement to control what remained of the opposition and its armed factions, ensure a degree of favorability for itself among the Sunni Muslim majority and, most importantly, to curtail Iran’s ideological and military presence, which is growing further and further in Syrian society and its economic, security, and military infrastructure. Russia also wants to prepare for the possibility of the west playing a new role in Syria, compelled by the war’s developments on the ground and the possibility of progress on the reconstruction front.
If we go back to an earlier post we should recall that Putin had told Damascus to not push the Idlib issue.  Intense Battles For the Mind Are Raging! Turkish/ Russian Dissolution or Adapting to Changing Realities?
"the Russians had ‘strongly advised’ the Syrian army to halt their offensive and allow Turkey to relocate its troops"
Secondly, there’s the pair’s strong political agreements, which have accumulated over the years preceding Erdogan’s major shift towards Moscow, which began with his apology for downing the Russian Sukhoi jet-plane. This deepened their relationship and shared interests and made them interlinked and intertwined to such a degree that it is difficult to imagine either of them taking a position that is antagonistic to the other’s presence in the region or either of them being ready to cut off his relationship with the other.
This idea of Russia and Turkey's interlinked interests should be obvious to the alt crowd and yet it's not. Instead this idea of Russia and Turkey always being on the verge of war is pushed relentlessly. Why? And why aren't more consumers of this information asking why this idea is being pushed so hard?

This was strengthened further by the emergence of their mutual need for solidarity and cooperation in the face of western economic sanctions imposed on them and the agreement the pair laid down in Sochi and Astana. Before that, Turkish complicity allowed Russia and the regime's forces to control Aleppo and led to opposition militants being transferred from rural Damascus, Homs and Daraa to Idlib after the deals and reconciliations that were made there.
As was discussed years ago, here, Turkey cooperated with both Russia and Syria to clear Aleppo city of militants- This surely raised the ire of the Usrael crowd a great deal.
All in all, the signs are that Russia and Turkey are inclined to develop a blueprint on Aleppo, while leaving the US and its western allies in the cold as mere onlookers.

Quite obviously, all this is not possible without reaching a broad understanding to harmonize the two countries’ differences over the Syrian question. Such an understanding can only be at a nascent stage as of now, but the signal from the Istanbul talks is that there is political will to move forward.
The thrust to take all of Aleppo came for other – mainly three - reasons, says a well-informed contact in the Syrian armed forces.
 These three reasons are (1) the withdrawal of Turkish support for the armed opposition, (2) the collapse of the Western-backed rebels in southern Syria and  (3) the Iraqi-Western push against ISIS in Mosul.
 Turkey and Russia worked together on the clearing of Aleppo city leaving the US and it's western allies out in the cold, and definitely hot under the collar!
Opening oped continues: Russia returned the favor by turning a blind eye to Turkish forces’ incursion in Afrin, then in Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad, its purge and murder of Kurds. Subsequently, last October, Russia signed a deal with Turkey agreeing to the establishment of a safe zone in the region north and east of the Euphrates.
Can't even recall how many times the obvious Russian green lights were mentioned here?
Third, what makes the idea of reaching a mutual understanding more appealing is the depth of the shared economic interests between the two countries. The size of commercial exchange between them in 2019 reached around 30 billion dollars, while the number of Russian tourists in Turkey reached around 6 million. These numbers are very important to the stability of the relationship and on the Turkish economy that is currently facing difficulties that make cutting ties with Russia unbearable. Their relationship was made even more stable after they cooperated in the construction project of a nuclear power plant and Turkish gas pipelines to transport Russian gas to Turkey and Europe.

One should therefore not rely on a new Turkish position in confronting Russian presence only because Erdogan's tone has become sharper and more threatening. Probably, the strength of their shared interests will push them to reach a new understanding, that will be as usual at the expense of Syrian blood, interests and the suffering of refugees. This may culminate in Ankara settling for the outcome of the last battles and framing it under the Sochi Agreement of 2018 on accepting the spread of regime forces supported by Russia between Damascus and Aleppo, and between the M4 and M5 to secure the two international routes from Aleppo and Lattakia.
In the end, regardless of the nature of the struggle over influence between Russia and Turkey in Syria, its horizons are limited, which means that it is necessary to be cautious of building and relying on it. What we have observed in the last few years has shown us time and time again the bitterness of this bet,( relying on and pushing constantly the idea of disagreement) and that it is nothing more than a waste of efforts and opportunities, and has confirmed the readiness of both sides to overcome any dispute between them and that they are more often than not in agreement, and that they now see that the severity of the damage that would result from their competition and the radical divergence in interests and goals that comes with it.
Very Pragmatic.
No salivating for WW III necessary. 
Which was a bit stomach turning to observe this past week.


  1. Penny, in this confusing state of events happening in Syria...I have taken a backseat for obvious reasons. Today I found a 2011 article that has immensely helped me in understanding history. I wanted to share it with you and your readers (hopefully it's full of the buried truth which is hard to find because of the usual suspects).

    ["There is a historical “eight hundred pound gorilla” lurking in the background of almost every serious military and diplomatic incident involving Israel, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Greece, Armenia, the Kurds, the Assyrians, and some other players in the Middle East and southeastern Europe. It is a factor that is generally only whispered about at diplomatic receptions, news conferences, and think tank sessions due to the explosiveness and controversial nature of the subject. And it is the secretiveness attached to the subject that has been the reason for so much misunderstanding about the current breakdown in relations between Israel and Turkey, a growing warming of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and increasing enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iran…"]

    ["Although known to historians and religious experts, the centuries-old political and economic influence of a group known in Turkish as the “Dönmeh” is only beginning to cross the lips of Turks, Arabs, and Israelis who have been reluctant to discuss the presence in Turkey and elsewhere of a sect of Turks descended from a group of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th and 17th centuries. These Jewish refugees from Spain were welcomed to settle in the Ottoman Empire and over the years they converted to a mystical sect of Islam that eventually mixed Jewish Kabbala and Islamic Sufi semi-mystical beliefs into a sect that eventually championed secularism in post-Ottoman Turkey. It is interesting that “Dönmeh” not only refers to the Jewish “untrustworthy converts” to Islam in Turkey but it is also a derogatory Turkish word for a transvestite, or someone who is claiming to be someone they are not."]

  2. I'm familiar with that aspect of history, wallflower.
    As always others can make up there own mind.

    That said there are many, many claims made.
    All over the place. About Putin and Israel "crypto jew" Turkey and the Donmeh. Etc., Mostly I find that stuff just muddies the waters.

  3. Hi Penny: Wallflower's comment at least has caused me to take some time to finally investigate the history of Turkey. I admit, I am often at a loss to keep track of the goings on in the Middle East. I have a hard enough time remembering where I put my glasses, and the unfolding events in Canada are about all I can handle on a daily basis.

    I see Assad as an intelligent man who has done his very best for his people, whatever others may say about him in order to justify the havoc that's been wreaked on his country and to steal its resources.

    I respect the Russian administration greatly for its calm sagacity.

    I think Israel is led by a consummate egoistic criminal who has always been out for Number 1, but the hostility of Israel's people toward Palestinians being more likely rooted in profound guilt and a resulting cognitive dissonance.

    I never liked Erdogan; I felt he was some kind of lackey to the West and Israel. For one thing he literally kissed up to the Bush Admin; not shaking hands with Condoleezza when she came to visit, but kissing her as if they were dear friends. In addition, when the Mavi Marmara was attacked by Israel ...
    ... he didn't express outrage, but weakly asked for an apology. So, it seemed he didn't see it in his personal best interests to offend the Israelis.

    I can't feel certain of what kind of guy he really is (mostly he seems to lean toward any port in a storm), but I decided to finally look into the actual history of Turkey and was fascinated by the story of Ataturk:


    and by this quote attributed to him:
    “Unless a nation's life faces peril, war is murder.”

    So it seems it certainly isn't Erdogan who made Turkey what it is today, although he doesn't seem to have done undone what Ataturk began. He's not a danger to his own people in the way that Netanyahu has been. And he's able take sane advice from Putin, so I guess he can't be all bad.

    After everything's said and done, the problem still boils down to the American quest for oil domination,regardless of who is the so-called President, and of the gross cost in human life and basic freedoms. And I don't think there's a Middle East leader who is that anywhere near as depraved as the US leadership.

    Anyway, please correct me if that's too much of a simplification of the overall situation. And I want you to know that I'm very thankful for your existence.

  4. Hi Yaya:

    I think the way you describe Erdogan is the way he's being described in the oped- Pragmatic. "any port in the storm" isn't necessarily bad, if the ship runs into the danger of being smashed into the rocks. It sure makes the port a darn good place to be!

    Making Erdogan very much like Putin, both pragmatists.

    During the Mavi Marmara incident- I thought Erdogan was better then weak- But that's subjective to all anyway..

    Turkey when the Bush dynasty was in the lead is a different Turkey then now- The entire structure of the government has changed- From one like ours to one more like the US and Russia.
    There's been the coup and all the deals with Russia- alliances with Iran etc., In many ways it's an entirely different Turkey.

    Turkey had been subjected to a number of brutal coups- orchestrated by the west that resulted in a spectacular court case

    Which certainly hinted at a very deep state apparatus manipulating/string pulling to weaken or usurp the government

    By the way, during the Bush administration there were problems between Turkey and the US.

    Somehow Paul Wolfowitz got in their and finangled a new election.

    "One clue is that Turkey’s crumbling government coalition partners ­ Ecevit, and Deputy Prime Ministers Devlet Bahcheli and Mesut Yilmaz ­ decided to hold early elections by November.

    Their meeting followed the Ecevit-Wolfowitz meeting that had taken place only an hour earlier. "

    Certainly the goal was to get Turkey on board in advance of the attack on Iraq- It failed.

    2003 and the invasion of Iraq- Turkey wanted nothing what so ever to do with that invasion.- This very important point is sooo often overlooked

    Turkey's parliament failed to pass a proposal Saturday to allow more than 60,000 U.S. troops to operate from Turkish bases and ports in the event of a war with Iraq.

    The proposal has little popular support in Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied Saturday in downtown Ankara. Public opinion polls show more than 90 percent of Turks oppose a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

    This was for obvious reasons, or what should be obvious reasons. Turkey saw at the time, the writing on the wall. They knew the remake agenda had been kicked off and wanted no part of it

    The problem in the region is a bit more then just American domination- to my mind it's UK/US/Israeli domination and control of both oil and water.. In order to deny if necessary, profit when necessary, basically complete domination of the ability to grow food, warm houses, cook meals, everything.

    Combine Israel's expansionist goals with UK/US willingness to redraw borders for all concerned and the region is in the mess we see today.

  5. and yaya: I am thankful you are around as well :)

  6. I guess I'm not grossly out of line.

    You are entirely correct: it's not just the US seeking control of the global oil supply, and water would be a target as well.

    With regard to Turkey being very different now, is it just within the governmental makeup (because I was thinking more of the improvements Ataturk made in the overall freedoms and living conditions of the population), or has daily life deteriorated as well?

    I've made note of the links you provided, and will try to further educate myself. It would be nice to think that Erdogan (re the assault on Iraq) may have been influenced by Ataturk's statement that "war [of aggression] is murder"?

  7. Turkey is being hard hit by sanctions- they are taking a toll, but, I think and from what Ally said when she visited- It's much like any other western nation.


      in words and in pictures
      Oh and there have been financial hits against the Turkish Lira as well- money market machinations