Entries with label turkey .

Increasingly distant from the Alliance, Turkey is creating discomfort among its Western partners, but is unlikely to be invited to leave.

Its strategy in the Syrian conflict, its rapprochement with Russia through the acquisition of the S-400 anti-aircraft system and its desire for projection in the eastern Mediterranean, where it is damaging Greek interests, have brought Ankara into ongoing friction with NATO over the past few years. But the Alliance is not in a position to do without Turkey. Not only is its geographic status valuable as a bridge between East and West, but without Turkey NATO would be less able geopolitically to act against terrorism or control refugee movements and its military defence capabilities as an alliance would be diminished.

meeting between the presidents of Turkey and Russia in Istanbul in January 2020 [Turkish Presidency].

meeting between the Presidents of Turkey and Russia in Istanbul in January 2020 [Turkish Presidency].

article / Ángel Martos

Relations between the Atlantic Alliance and the Republic of Turkey are at their most tense in recent history. Ankara's foreign policy has been in a state of flux given the instability of its governments since the death of the Father of the Fatherland, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The Kemalist republic projected a very different image of Asia Minor than the one we know today: the secularism and westernisation that characterised its bequest has been replaced by a moderate Islamic-tinged authoritarianism (according to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of the Republic and leader of the training AKP).

This profound evolution has been reflected in the field of International Office, as is to be expected. The doctrine of neo-Ottomanism has gained ground among its foreign policy makers. Turkey now seeks to exploit to the full its position as a bridge between Western and Eastern civilisation, while gaining influence among its adjacent states and emerging as the stabiliser of the Middle East.

In this scenario, the main headache for Western statesmen is the substantial improvement in Anatolia's relations with NATO's arch-enemy Russia. This improvement cannot be understood without recalling a series of events that have led Turkey to distance itself from the European continent: the lukewarm reaction of Western governments to the 2016 coup d'état; the reticence shown towards the continuous requests for extradition of Fetulah Gülen's refugee followers in the EU and the US; Greece's refusal to extradite military refugees after the coup; the European Commission's continuous condemnations of Turkey's domestic politics; and, above all, the truncated dream of Turkey's accession to the EU. This is why Turkey has decided to redefine its diplomacy in its own interests alone, swinging between Russia's financial aid and NATO's . The acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system and its recent operations in Northeast Syria are examples of this.

The purchase of the aforementioned long-range anti-aircraft missile system is the subject of much controversy within NATO. Turkey's urgent need for such a system is obvious as it faces potential ballistic missile threats from neighbouring countries. But the choice of the Russian S-400 system, after several years of negotiations during which it was not possible to reach an agreement on agreement for the acquisition of the US Patriot system, has caused a real earthquake and Turkey's continued participation in the F-35 fifth-generation fighter programme has even been called into question. Political considerations seem to have outweighed technical aspects in the decision, as the two systems are incompatible and, being strategic-level weapon systems, both from an operational and geopolitical point of view, their employment by an Atlantic Alliance country is problematic. The Alliance is concerned about the Kremlin's access to Alliance information through its radar technology.

The other development that raises questions about the future of Ankara's relations with NATO was the recent Turkish military operation in northern Syria. The Turkish military launched an offensive against Kurdish militias (YPG, which it considers terrorists) in northern Syria on 9 October. The attention to the Kurdish people is the major point of contention between the US and Turkey, as they are staunch allies of the superpower, but at the same time a political and security threat to the stability of Anatolia.

Ankara had been pressing the US to establish a 'safe zone' into Syrian territory and had repeatedly threatened to launch unilateral military action if Washington continued to stand in its way. In early October, the US gave the go-ahead for the operation by ordering its military deployed in Syria to withdraw from the border area. The Trump administration thus abandoned the Kurds with whom it was fighting the Islamic State to their fate, giving Turkey the leeway for greater control of its border with Syria.

The next aspect that must be mentioned when describing the complex relations between Ankara and NATO is the ongoing geopolitical struggle between Greece and Turkey. Although both have been NATO members since the 1950s, relations between these two Eastern Mediterranean countries have always been characterised by a permanent perceived tension that has some consequences for supranational military cooperation. The three main disputes that have shaped this bilateral confrontation since the late 19th century are worth mentioning here: the sovereignty of the Dodecanese archipelago, that of present-day Cyprus, and the maritime dispute over the Aegean shelf. Such was the magnitude of the dispute that the Greek government went so far as to decree its withdrawal from NATO in 1974, although it later rejoined.

While this Greek-Turkish conflict was at its height in the second half of the twentieth century, there are many ethnic and historical aspects that make the two countries seem irreconcilable, except in historically specific exceptions. This means that the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, given its proximity to the volatile Middle East area , has been a constant source of concern for NATO leaders. While Greece has managed, following its transition to democracy, to emerge as a stable NATO ally, Turkey has not followed suit. This undoubtedly works against it both in domestic politics and in its aspirations for maritime sovereignty.

Historically, it is worth noting Turkey's growing role as an inter-regional mediator between the Middle East and the West. Perhaps in response to a strategy designed by Ahmet Davutoglu, who was foreign minister under the AKP government, Turkey sought to distance itself from the US under Bush Jr. Its refusal to collaborate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq won it some sympathy in the region, which it has been able to use in countries as diverse as Iraq, Israel and Iran. However, over the years the Islamist government has repeatedly spoken out against Zionism and the threat it poses to the stability of the region.

Its estrangement from the EU and its rapprochement with Russia at subject has also marked the Turkish administration's image in the Alliance. Relations with Russia, despite having been marked by political disputes such as those over Kurdish and Chechen self-determination (antagonistically supported by both countries), are kept afloat by the hydrocarbon trade. The picture is thus more favourable to the Russian axis than the American-Israeli one in the region. This logically undermines NATO's confidence in this "hinge" country, which is no longer sample interested in acting as such but as an independent and sovereign power pursuing its own interests, seeking support from the Alliance or the East as it sees fit.

This shift away from NATO's roadmap by the Turkish government, coupled with a rapprochement in some respects with the Kremlin and the authoritarian drift of the country's presidency, has prompted analysts and international leaders to open up discussion about a possible expulsion of the Asian Minor Republic from the Alliance. However, it is unlikely that the allies will decide to ignore Turkey's strategic importance. Its geographic status makes it a bridge country between East and West. Without Turkey, NATO would be less able geopolitically to act, for example, in terms of counter-terrorism or controlling refugee movements. Moreover, Turkey has the second largest military of all NATO states: exclusion would severely affect its military defence capabilities as an alliance. On the other hand, Turkey's representations in NATO, while critical of NATO as the Trump administration has repeatedly been, have not expressed a clear desire to leave unilaterally.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

Moscow continues militarization of the peninsula to prevent other forces from entering the region

Since the turn of the century, Russia had been losing economic, political and military influence in several Black Sea littoral countries; the seizure of Crimea attempted to correct the status. The Kremlin has just deployed a new missile group on the peninsula, in the framework of a long-term rearmament program deadline that seeks to ensure that operationally the Black Sea is a Russian 'lake'.

▲Putin in Sevastopol during the 2014 celebration of the victory in World War II [Kremlin].

article / Vitaliy Stepanyuk

"The bear will not ask anyone's permission." This was the allegory used by Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a Valdai Discussion Club meeting in October 2014, to reflect that Russia will not seek anyone's permission when pursuing its national interests and those of its people.

These words were pronounced a few months after the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The process of change of government had been initiated and troops had been mobilized to the newly incorporated territory, making any subject Ukrainian intervention to regain their land impossible. Approximately four years later, the militarization of the peninsula continues its course by the Russian Federation.

Thus, the deployment of a new defense system in Crimea has just become known, an action justified by Moscow as a measure to protect the airspace over the Russian-Ukrainian border, and also to deal with continued threatening activity on the border, arising mainly from the presence of NATO.

Since the occupation of Crimea, the Kremlin has initiated a long-term rearmament program deadline to achieve a zone (A2/AD) that would prevent other forces from accessing the region. This zone would limit the freedom of both air and ground maneuver for potential invaders. Together with other missile systems in Armenia, Krasnodar and elsewhere, this establishes a truly comprehensive anti-access zone. The establishment of advanced defense systems, the update of radars, the modernization of the Black Sea Fleet and the deployment of fighter aircraft are some of the initiatives undertaken to create such a blockade zone against any outside advance. In the coming years, six new attack submarines and six new surface ships are planned to be added to that Fleet, which could operate beyond the Black Sea, even supporting military operations in Syria.

Moving away from the old satellites

The increase in NATO troops and their presence in countries bordering Russia is seen by Russia as a threat to its security. Countries such as Poland, where NATO mobilized in January 2017 about 3.500 soldiers, and others such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary see the deployment as necessary in view of the status occurred in Ukraine and Russian military exercises near their borders: a clear example is Zapad 2017, a set of strategic and military exercises carried out jointly by Russian and Belarusian troops, in Belarus, in the Kaliningrad Oblast and along the entire northern strip bordering NATO countries.

Map from Wikimedia Commons

Looking back over the recent history of the last 20 years, we can see how Russia has been losing economic, political and military influence over the territories bordering the Black Sea since the beginning of the century. Thus, in Georgia (2004) and Ukraine (2005), more pro-Russian presidents were replaced by more pro-Western ones. In addition, Bulgaria and Romania had become members of NATO, while Georgia and Ukraine were working on it.

Operations in the Black Sea area

Threatened by this status, Russia decided to do everything possible to prevent Georgia and Ukraine from becoming NATO members, while at the same time developing strategies to remove the remaining states from NATO's influence.

With the invasion of Georgia in 2008, the Kremlin showed its determination to contain NATO, maintaining to this day a B military influence in various regions of that country. The same happened in Ukraine after the flight of former President Viktor Yanukovych, when Russia invaded Crimea in March 2014. In this way, it secured control over the naval base of its Black Sea Fleet located in Sevastopol (Crimea). It also militarily supports pro-Russian separatists in the war in Eastern Ukraine, destabilizing the country.

In other countries bordering the Black Sea, Russia has acted differently. In the case of Bulgaria and Romania, the only countries bordering the Black Sea that are members of the European Union, Russian influence prevails in supporting pro-Russian political parties and establishing strong ties at subject business. However, Romania is another region that constitutes a challenge to Russian foreign policy, due to its impetus in defending NATO's presence in the Black Sea.

In the case of Turkey, which unlike several of the countries mentioned above was not part of the USSR or the Soviet bloc, the Kremlin has supported the authoritarianism carried out by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeking mainly two basic objectives: to dissociate Turkey from NATO, to which it has belonged almost since its beginnings (1952), and to ensure its friendship with the country that exercises control over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits, which allow access to the Mediterranean Sea. If Turkey were to close the straits, the Russian fleet would be isolated and unable to exert its influence beyond the Black Sea. This could happen if Turkey and Russia were to find themselves at odds with each other in a conflict. In such a case, as the second strongest military power in the region, Turkey could be a clear threat to isolated Russian troops. On the other hand, the relationship with Turkey presents numerous challenges for Moscow: one example is the disagreement over the Syrian conflict, where Turkey opposes the Assad regime, while Russia supports it. 

Importance of the Black Sea

At final, Russia seeks to strengthen its influence and dominance over the Black Sea. This is mainly due to some essential characteristics: firstly, this sea is an important strategic point, as it would allow access to the various adjoining territories; secondly, control over ports and trade routes would give the power to obstruct trade and energy supplies (it is a territory crossed by a multitude of energy transport pipelines); finally, Russia could greatly influence regions that share a common history with Russia, infringing on its relationship with NATO.

Immediate challenge

In conclusion, it is interesting to understand that the main challenge facing Russia is to maintain the status quo, according to Yuval Weber, a professor at Harvard University. To do so, Russia has to be able to maintain the separatist group in the Ukrainian war, until the Kiev government falls and can then engage in conversation with a possible puppet government that will accept a solution on Russian terms. However, maintaining such a state of affairs implies having to deal simultaneously with international intervention and Russia's own weak domestic economic status , where there is growing social dissatisfaction over wages, cutbacks in services, poverty in some regions, among other problems.

Both Russia's internal and external status , as well as that of its territories of influence, are contingent on the results of the upcoming Russian presidential elections, to be held on March 18, 2018. The World Cup is not the only thing at stake.

Categories Global Affairs: Central Europe and Russia Security and defense Articles

▲Trilateral summit of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Sochi in November 2017 [Turkish Presidency].

ANALYSIS / Albert Vidal and Alba Redondo [English version].

Turkey's response to the Syrian Civil War (SCW) has gone through several phases, conditioned by the changing circumstances of the conflict, both domestically and internationally: from giving support to Sunni rebels with questionable affiliations, to being one of the targets of the Islamic State (ISIS), to a failed coup attempt in 2016, and always conditioning its foreign policy decisions on the Kurdish issue. Despite an initially aggressive stance against Assad at the beginning of the Syrian war, the success and growing strength of the Kurdish civil service examination , such as result of its role in the anti-ISIS coalition, has significantly influenced Turkey's foreign policy .

Relations between Turkey and Syria have been fraught with difficulties for the past century. The Euphrates River, which originates in Turkey, has been one of the main causes of confrontation between the two countries. Turkey's construction of dams limits the flow of water to Syria, causing losses in its agriculture and generating a negative impact on the Syrian Economics . This problem is not limited to the past, as currently the project GAP (project of Southeastern Anatolia) threatens to further compromise the water supply of Iraq and Syria through the construction of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric dams in southern Turkey.

In addition to disputes over natural resources, Hafez al-Assad's support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the 1980s and 1990s greatly hindered relations between the two countries. However, conflict was avoided altogether with the signature of the protocol of Adana in 1998. Another source of discord between Syria and Turkey has been the territorial claims made by both nations over the province of Hatay, still claimed by Syria, but administered by Turkey, which incorporated it into its territory in 1939.

Despite the above issues, Syria and Turkey enjoyed a good relationship during the decade leading up to the Arab Spring and the revolutions of the summer of 2011. The international response to the Syrian regime's reaction to the uprisings was mixed, and Turkey was unsure of what position to take until, in the end, it chose to support the rebel civil service examination . Thus, Turkey offered protection on its territory to the rebels and opened its borders to Syrian refugees. This decision signaled the initial stage of the decline in Syrian-Turkish relations, but the status significantly worsened after the downing of a Turkish plane on June 22, 2012 by Syrian forces. This resulted in border clashes, but without the direct intervention of the Turkish Armed Forces.

From a foreign policy perspective, there were two main reasons for reversing Turkey's non-intervention policy. The first reason was a growing series of Islamic State (ISIS) attacks in July 2015 in Suruc, Central Station in Ankara and Atatürk Airport in Istanbul. The second, and arguably the most important reason, was Turkey's fear of the creation of a Kurdish proto-state in its neighboring countries: Syria and Iraq. This led to the launch of Operation Euphrates Shield (also known as the Jarablus Offensive), considered one of Turkey's first direct military actions in Syria since the SCW began. The main goal was to secure a area in northern Syria free from control of ISIS and Democratic Union Party (PYD) factions. The Jarablus Offensive was supported by article 51 of the UN Charter (the right of nations to self-defense), as well as several UN Security committee resolutions (Nos. 1373, 2170, 2178) pertaining to the global responsibility of countries to fight terrorism. Despite being successful in achieving its objectives, the Jarablus offensive ended prematurely in March 2017, without Turkey ruling out the possibility of similar future interventions.

Internally, Erdogan's military intervention and assertive posturing aimed to gain public support from Turkish nationalist parties, especially the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Grand Unity Party (BBP), as well as general public backing for the constitutional changes then being proposed. That would give Erdogan greater executive powers as president. Consequently, a foreign distraction campaign was more than welcome, given the growing domestic unrest and general discontent, following the coup attempt in July 2016.

Despite Turkey's assertiveness sample towards Syria, Turkish military intervention does not indicate strength. On the contrary, Erdogan's actual invasion of northern Syria occurred in the wake of disputes (between Syria and Iraq) that threatened to undermine Turkish objectives, both at home and abroad. Thus, limited United States (US) interference and the failure of rebel forces to topple the Assad regime meant the perpetuation of the terrorist threat; and, more importantly, the continued strengthening of Kurdish factions, which posed the most effective force against ISIS. Indeed, the Kurds' success in the anti-ISIS coalition had helped them gain worldwide recognition similar to that of most nation-states; recognition that meant increased financial support and increased provision of weapons. A Kurdish region, armed and gaining legitimacy for its efforts in the fight against ISIS, is undoubtedly the main reason for Turkish military intervention. In any case, the growing Kurdish influence has resulted in Turkey's shifting and ambiguous attitude towards Assad throughout the SCW.


▲visit of Erdogan to the command of Operation Olive Branch, January 2018 [Presidency of Turkey].


Turkey's changing stance on Assad

While Turkey aggressively supported Assad's ouster at the beginning of the SCW, this stance has increasingly taken a back seat to other more important issues of Turkey's foreign policy with its neighboring states, Syria and Iraq. Indeed, recent statements by Turkish officials openly acknowledge the resilience of the Assad government, a fact that opens the door to future reconciliation between the two sides. These statements also reinforce a very profuse view, according to which, Assad will be a piece core topic in any future agreement on Syria. Thus, on January 20, 2017, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek said,"We cannot keep saying that Assad should go. A agreement without Assad is not realistic."

This easing of rhetoric towards Assad coincides with a positive shift in Turkey's relations with the Syrian regime's allies in the conflict (Iran and Russia), in its attempts to bring about a resolution of the conflict. However, the official Turkish position towards Assad lacks consistency, and appears to be highly dependent on circumstances.

Recently, a war of words initiated by Erdogan with the Syrian president took place, in which the Turkish president accused Assad of being a terrorist. Moreover, Erdogan rejected any subject negotiations with Assad on the future of Syria. For his part, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem responded by accusing Erdogan of being manager of the bloodshed of the Syrian people. On January 2, 2018, forces loyal to Assad fired shells towards Turkish territory. Such a launch prompted an immediate response from Turkey. On January 18, Mevlüt Çavusoglu (Turkish Foreign Minister) announced that his country intended to carry out an air intervention in the Syrian regions of Afrin and Manbij.

A few days later, Operation Olive Branch was launched, under the pretext of creating a "security zone" in Afrin (in Syria's Aleppo province); although it has focused almost entirely on expelling what Erdogan calls Kurdish "terrorists," which are actually composed of Kurdish factions backed by the U.S. These Kurdish groups have played a crucial role in the anti-ISIS coalition. The operation was reportedly launched in response to U.S. plans to create a border force of 30,000 Syrian Kurds. Erdogan stated in a recent speech :"A country we call an ally insists on forming a terror army on our borders. Who can that terrorist army attack if not Turkey? Our mission statement is to strangle it before it is born." This has significantly worsened relations between the two countries, and triggered an official NATO response, in an attempt to avoid confrontation between NATO allies in Manbij.

The US is seeking a balance between the Kurds and Turkey in the region, but has maintained its formal support for the SDF. However, according to analyst Nicholas Heras, the US will not help the Kurds in Afrin, as it will only intervene in the areas of mission statement against ISIS; starting from Manbij and towards the East (thus Afrin is not under US military protection).

Impact of the Syrian conflict on Turkey's International Office

The Syrian conflict has had a strong impact on Turkish relations with a wide range of international actors; of which the most important for both Turkey and the conflict are Russia, the United States, the European Union and Iran.

The downing of a Russian SU-24 aircraft in 2015 led to a deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey. However, thanks to the Turkish president's apology to Putin in June 2016, relations normalized, ushering in a new era of cooperation between the two countries. This cooperation reached its pinnacle in September of the same year when Turkey purchased an S-400 defense missile system from Russia, despite warnings from its NATO allies. In addition, the Russian business ROSATOM has planned to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey worth $20 billion. Thus, the partnership between the two nations has been strengthened in the military and economic spheres.

However, despite the rapprochement, there are still significant differences between the two countries, particularly with regard to foreign policy perspectives. On the one hand, Russia sees the Kurds as important allies in the fight against ISIS; and considers them essential members in the post-conflict peaceful resolution (PCR) meetings. On the other hand, Turkey's priority is to bring democracy to Syria and prevent Kurdish federalism, which translates into its refusal to include the Kurds in PCR talks. Nevertheless, the ties between Turkey and Russia seem to be quite strong at the moment. This may be due to the fact that the (in Turkey's case, increasing) hostility of both countries towards their Western counterparts outweighs their differences regarding the Syrian conflict.

The relationship between Turkey and the United States is more ambiguous. As important members of NATO, both countries share important ties from work. However, looking at recent developments, one can see how these relations have been deteriorating. The main problem between Washington and Ankara has been the Kurdish issue. The US supports the People's Protection Units (YPG) militias in the SCW, however, the YPG is considered a terrorist group by Turkey. It is not yet known how their relationship will evolve, but possibly both sides will reach a agreement regarding the Kurdish issue. As of today (January 2018), the confrontation in northern Syria is at a stalemate. On the one hand, Turkey does not intend to give in on the Kurdish issue, and on the other hand, the US would lose its prestige as a superpower if it decided to succumb to Turkish demands. Support for the Kurds has traditionally been based on their role in the anti-ISIS campaign. However, as the campaign winds down, the US is finding itself in a bind trying to justify its presence in Syria in any way it can. Its presence is crucial to maintain its influence in the region and, more importantly, to prevent Russian and Iranian domination of the contested theater.

The US refusal to extradite Fethullah Gülen, a bitter enemy who, according to Ankara, was one of the instigators of the failed 2016 coup, has further strained their relations. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, only 10% of Turks trust President Donald Trump. In turn, Turkey recently declared that its agreements with the U.S. are losing validity. Erdogan subryaed that the dissolution of ties between the two countries would seriously affect the legal and economic sphere. In addition, Turkey's Zarrab was convicted in a trial in New York, for helping Iran evade sanctions by enabling a money laundering scheme, which was filtered through US banks. This has been a big problem for Turkey, as one of the defendants had ties to Erdogan's AKP party. However, Erdogan has called the trial a continuation of the coup attempt, and has dealt with potential criticism by organizing a media campaign to spread the idea that Zarrab was one of the perpetrators of the conspiracy against Turkey in 2016.

With respect to the European Union, relations have also deteriorated, despite the fact that Turkey and the EU have strong economic ties. As result of Erdogan's "purge" after the failed coup, the continued deterioration of freedoms in Turkey has strained relations with Europe. In November 2016, the European Parliament voted in favor of fail EU accession negotiations with Turkey, justifying its decision on the abuse of human rights and the decline of the rule of law in Turkey. By increasingly adopting the practices of an autocratic regime, Turkey's accession to the EU is becoming impossible. In a recent meeting between the Turkish and French presidents, French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized the ties between the EU and Turkey, but suggested that there was no realistic chance of Turkey joining the EU in the near future.

Since 2017, after Erdogan's victory in the constitutional referendum in favor of changing the system (from a parliamentary to a presidential system), EU accession negotiations have ceased. In addition, several European bodies, which deal with human rights issues, have placed Turkey on a "black" list, based a assessment, according to which the state of democracy in Turkey is in serious danger due to the AKP.

Another topic related to the Syrian conflict between the EU and Turkey is refugees. In 2016, the EU and Turkey agreed to transfer €6 billion to support Turkish reception of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. While this appeared to be the beginning of a fruitful cooperation, tensions have continued to rise due to Turkey's limited capacity to host such issue of refugees. The humanitarian crisis in Syria is unsustainable: more than 5 million refugees have left the country and only a small issue of them have received sufficient resources to restart their lives. This problem continues to grow day by day, and more than 6 million Syrians have been displaced within its borders. Turkey hosts, as of today, more than 3 million Syrian refugees and, consequently, Ankara's policies have result been greatly influenced by this crisis. On January 23, President Erdogan stated that Turkey' s military operations in Syria would end when all Syrian refugees in Turkey could return safely to their country. The humanitarian financial aid is being sent to civilians in Afrin, where Turkey launched the latest offensive against Kurdish YPG militiamen.

Regarding the relationship between Iraq and Turkey, in November 2016, when Iraqi forces arrived in Mosul to fight against the Islamic State, Ankara announced that it would send the army to the Iraqi border, to prepare for possible developments in the region. The Turkish Defense Minister added that he would not hesitate to act if Turkey's red line was crossed. This received an immediate response from Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi, who warned Turkey not to invade Iraq. Despite this, in April 2017, Erdogan suggested that in future stages, Operation Euphrates Shield would be extended to Iraqi territory: "a future operation will not only have a Syrian dimension, but also an Iraqi dimension. Al Afar, Mosul and Sinjar are in Iraq."

Finally, Russia, Turkey and Iran have cooperated in the framework Astana negotiations for peace in Syria, despite having somewhat divergent interests. In a recent call between Iranian President Rouhani and Erdogan, the Turkish president expressed his hope that the protests in Iran, which occurred in late 2017, will end. The relations between the two countries are strange: in the SCW, Iran supports the Syrian (Shiite) government, while Turkey supports the Syrian (Sunni) civil service examination . Something similar happened in the 2015 intervention in Yemen, where Turkey and Iran supported the opposing factions. This has led to disputes between the leaders of the two countries, however, such tensions have eased since Erdogan made a visit to Iran to improve their relationship. The Qatar diplomatic crisis has also contributed to this dynamic, as it positioned Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and in favor of Qatar. Although there is an enduring element of instability in relations between the two countries, their relationship has been improving in recent months as Ankara, Moscow and Tehran have managed to cooperate in an attempt to overcome their differences to find a solution to the Syrian conflict.

What lies ahead for Turkey in Syria?

Thanks to the negotiations in Astana, a future agreement peace in the region seems possible. The "cessation of hostilities" zones are a necessary first step, to preserve some areas from the violence of war, as outlined in the Turkish strategic plan from the beginning. That said, the result is complicated by a number of factors: the strength of the Kurdish factions is a major element of discord, as well as a source of conflict for the powerful who will manage the post-conflict transition.

There are two main factors that have clearly impacted Turkey's foreign policy decisions regarding the Syrian conflict. The first has to do with the long and complex history of Turkey and its Kurdish minorities, as well as its obsession with preventing the Kurds from achieving a Degree territorial autonomy. If achieved, this would embolden the Turkish Kurds and threaten Turkey's territorial integrity. Turkey unilaterally attacked positions of the Kurdish civil service examination , including some backed by a NATO ally (the US), thus demonstrating how far it is capable of going to ensure that the Kurds are not part of the solution at the end of the civil war. All this produces uncertainty and increases the chances of new conflicts in Syria.

The second factor is related to the changing nature of the government in Turkey, with a move away from the Western-democratic model towards a more authoritarian and quasi-theocratic model , taking Russia and Iran as political allies. In its pivot to the east, Turkey maintains a fragile balance, considering that its objectives differ from those of its new friends (Russia and Iran), with respect to the political result in Syria. Recent developments indicate, however, that Turkey seems to be reaching a agreement on the Assad issue, in exchange for more flexibility in dealing with the Kurdish issue (part of the anti-ISIS coalition), which it considers a threat to its national security.

Currently, in January 2018, the relationship between Turkey and the U.S. appears to be at an impasse, especially in relation to the U.S.-backed group SDF. Erdogan has stated that, after his operation in Afrin, he will continue with a move towards Manbij. Therefore, under NATO auspices, a agreement is being negotiated to clearly delineate the areas in which both countries are militarily active. There is great uncertainty as to how long such partition agreements (under the guise of an anti-ISIS coalition) can last before a new conflict breaks out. However, it seems likely that one of the two possible scenarios will occur to avoid the possible outbreak of war between the great powers in the Middle East.

There are two options. Either a agreement is reached regarding the future role of the SDF and other Kurdish factions, with Turkey's consent, or else the US will withdraw its support for the Kurds, based on the mandate that their alliance was limited to joint fighting in the anti-ISIS coalition. In the latter case, the US risks losing the political and military advantage that the Kurds give it in the region. It also risks losing the confidence of its Kurdish allies, a fact that could have serious strategic repercussions for US involvement in this region.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defense Middle East Analysis