Turkey is part of a new ad-hoc coalition in the Middle East

Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusolgu
Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusolgu

The assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey G Karlov, by an off-duty Turkish police officer in the Turkish capital Ankara appeared, at first glance, to be a game changer in the ongoing Syrian war. When Karlov was gunned down at a public event by Mevlut Mert Altintas, the war had already entered a new phase with the fall of Aleppo through the support of Russia and Iran. But far from bringing about the beginning of World War III, the assassination has shed light on a new power axis dominating the Middle East.

Comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the assassination is being cautiously viewed in his country as an attempt to sabotage the countries’ improved relations and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s expression of a strong wish to continue close Turkish-Russian ties, have highlighted the decisiveness of the two nations to keep cooperating – despite significant cleavages – on the slippery path towards the end of the Syrian civil war. The recent incident came at a time when Turkey and Russia have been collaborating on the evacuation of civilians in Aleppo. Its timing is critical for three main reasons.

First, the past ten days have seen a new wave of terror in Turkey attributed to TAK, the urban affiliate of the Kurdish separatist organisation known as thePKK. The attacks have increased calls for national unity against terror.

Second, Turkey has felt abandoned by its Western allies in its efforts to protect itself from spillover effects of the Syrian civil war since 2015. Turkey has recently diverged from the US in its the handling of the Syrian crisis, as well as over how best to fight Islamic State. The recently triggered crisis with the EU over the “refugee deal”, has also led the Turkish government to search for alternatives and ad-hoc coalitions for solving the Syruan crisis, in the form of Russia and Iran.

Third, the incident came the day before the planned trilateral meeting of the three regional actors involved militarily in the crisis. That meeting was the first face-to-face gathering organised independently of UN diplomatic initiatives and without the participation of the US and other regional actors, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.The meeting affirmed a strong commitment to cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Reshaping the regional calculus?

Regionally, Turkey appears to be the country most affected by the Syrian civil war. It has been a direct target for violent groups based in Syria, such as Islamic State and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), along with its military wing, YPG. The PKK has also resumed violence against the Turkish state after a three-year peace process.

On top of all this, Turkey carries the heaviest financial and social burden as host to nearly three million Syrian refugees.

Since Turkey’s Assad-centric approach to the conflict has not been supported by its Western allies, its gradual isolation in the Middle East has prevented it from pursuing a flexible and independent Syrian agenda.

The entrance of Russia into the Syrian quagmire in September 2015together with an increasing Iranian presence on the ground have served to make Turkey more vulnerable to the diffusion of the civil war.

Together, these factors appear to have pushed Turkey to revise its Syria policy, taking into consideration the changing regional balance and the strategies of newcomers, such as Russia.

Despite this revision of its regional calculus, Turkey as a long-time ally of the West and as a NATO member, has not yet changed sides in Syria. And its main reservations about the future of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remain.

The new Turkish-Russian-Iranian coalition

Worsening spillover effects from the Syrian war, combined with the Western strategy of non-engagement, does appear to have forced Ankara to return to its traditional strategy of diversifying foreign policy options and partners.

The statements of the three countries’ foreign ministers in the aftermath of the Russian-Turkish-Iranian meeting reflect their shared interests in finding a peaceful political solution to the ongoing gridlock. And the ongoing evacuation of civilians from Aleppo has offered hope for the efficiency and the functionality of the trilateral regional conflict resolution mechanism.

The reactions to the assassination can also be seen as a good indicator of the increasing interdependence between Turkey and Russia regarding Syria and other regional security problems.

In fact, America’s unwillingness to act as a peace broker in Syriaallowed Russia to take on a leading role in the crisis and reinforced its capacity to manoeuver on the ground.

Given the ambiguities of US president-elect Donald Trump’s possible Syria policy, it seems likely that regional actors will have room to more easily assume extra roles in dealing with the crisis in the coming months.

The assassination shows that prolonging the crisis would not serve anyone’s interests. The conflict has now become unsustainable for all parties concerned.

There’s now a greater need for all involved in Syria to take more responsible action with the aim of restoring security order. The assassination has proven that Russia needs Turkey – together with Iran – to shape the post-Syrian war environment in the Middle East.

Turkey’s presence in this ad-hoc coalition signifies the total failure of Western actors in Syria, and provides clues as to how the new Middle Eastern order will be designed in the future.

2735 views


More Russian news

Russia - UK: big game is on

Russia - UK: big game is on

Видео

Both see themselves as Autonomous centers of power, gravitating to different geopolitical projects

 Turkey returns to Russian gas

Turkey returns to Russian gas

Turkey continues to increase the volume of Russian gas purchases. The trend, which has been observed since the last autumn, continues to gain momentum. According to the latest data, in January-February 2017, Turkey increased Russian's gas …

The last Hero…

The last Hero…

Oleg Babak was shot in the back in the town of Yukhary-Dzhibikli

Iran, Russia call for continuation of fight against terrorism

Iran, Russia call for continuation of fight against terrorism

Yesterday President Vladmir Putin met President of Iran Hassan Rouhani in Moscow

Gazprom CEO about work on Turkish Stream gas pipeline project

Gazprom CEO about work on Turkish Stream gas pipeline project

Gazprom has set up a branch of South Stream Transport B.V. in Istanbul to coordinate work on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project in Turkey. Thus, all conditions have been created to start laying the marine part of the gas pipeline, Gazprom …

Matvienko: Russia-US relations at very low level

Matvienko: Russia-US relations at very low level

Relations between Russia and the United States are at a very low level, but Russia still hopes for a mutually respectful dialogue on bilateral and international issues, the Russian upper house speaker Valentina Matvienko said, …

Russia#039s Black Sea fleet holding missile-firing drills in Crimea

Russia's Black Sea fleet holding missile-firing drills in Crimea

The warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet are carrying out missile-firing drills in Crimea, Russia's Black Sea Fleet spokesman Vyacheslav Trukhachyov said. "In accordance with the combat training plan, …

 Russia and Turkey to discuss grain supplies

Russia and Turkey to discuss grain supplies

Russian and Turkish economy ministries will hold consultations on Russian grain supplies to Turkey soon, the Russian Deputy Economic Development Minister Alexei Gruzdev said on the sidelines of an Arctic forum. …

Russian Armed Forces to increase manpower to 1.9 mln personnel

Russian Armed Forces to increase manpower to 1.9 mln personnel

The Russian Armed Forces have been ordered by the country's President Vladimir Putin to expand its manpower to nearly two million by midyear, over a million of them service members, a decree published on the government online …

Lomonosov Moscow State University hosts international conference #039Centennial of Russian Revolution of 1917#039

Lomonosov Moscow State University hosts international conference 'Centennial of Russian Revolution of 1917'

Lomonosov Moscow State University is holding the first day of the international scientific conference titled 'The Centennial of the Russian Revolution of 1917'. The conference will continue until 31 March.the Department of History of …

more Russian news