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.

1945 views


More Russian news

Russian economy needs revolutionary reforms

Russian economy needs revolutionary reforms

Kudrin does well to make the case for change in geopolitical terms

US admits Russia major player in Middle East

US admits Russia major player in Middle East

US Republican Senator John McCain has conceded Russia is a key player in the Middle East due to efforts of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He’s played a very weak hand in the most …

 Russia and China to set joint venture to launch on-line trading - media

Russia and China to set joint venture to launch on-line trading - media

Russia's state-controlled Sberbank will most likely set up a joint venture with China's Alibaba Group to launch on-line trading, Kommersant reports. It will be a Russian legal entity, so Sberbank's share will be not …

Crimea waiting for Le Pen#039s visit

Crimea waiting for Le Pen's visit

Crimea will be happy if the French presidential candidate of the far right-wing party National Front, Marine Le Pen, visits it,  the vice-premier of the Crimean government Georgy …

Bundeswehr soldiers near Russian border

Bundeswehr soldiers near Russian border

NATO not only holds Russia back by its half-hearted measures, rather provokes it

Girl, boy and magical dragon. Magic Journey to Beijing

Girl, boy and magical dragon. Magic Journey to Beijing

This week the Moscow Chinese Cultural Center hosted a presentation of book for children and adults, which tells about the wonderful world of Chinese culture and the stories of Beijing. The author of this book is Irina Zakharova, who has …

Is ruble defeating dollar?

Is ruble defeating dollar?

The dollar exchange rate dropped today to 59.13 rubles during trading on the Moscow stock exchange. As for 14:30, according to the MICEX, the dollar was trading at a minimum of 58.95 rubles, but late increased a little. Thus, the ruble …

Peskov: Russians eat goods of domestic production instead of snow

Peskov: Russians eat goods of domestic production instead of snow

Russians do not need to eat snow, because they have delicious goods of domestic production, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, commenting on the statement of Trump's advisor Anthony …

Russian football fans detained at 2016 Euro Cup to leave France

Russian football fans detained at 2016 Euro Cup to leave France

Russians, arrested in France for fights with English football fans during the 2016 Euro Cup, will be returned to Russia on Tuesday, the Russian Consul General in Marseilles Sergei Molchanov said. "According to the …

Russian Foreign Ministry sums up 2016: fight against terrorism the only way

Russian Foreign Ministry sums up 2016: fight against terrorism the only way

Terrorism was the key global threat last year but the international community is unable to unite to fight against it, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during his annual press conference to review the results of Russian …

more Russian news