Wednesday, 12 February, 2020 – 12:15 Washington- Elie Youssef – Asharq al Awsat MONITOR – Does the military escalation between the Turkish forces and the Syrian regime’s forces in Idlib indicate that the bridges that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan have been burned all at once?
This question has been posed in Washington with the fighting escalating and more Turks being killed. The Turkish forces responded by extensively bombing Syrian military bases while the latter appears to be continuing to execute a decisive Russian decision according to US special representative to Syria, James Jeffrey. Washington, which has reaffirmed its support for Turkey according to several officials from the Trump Administration, has apparently decided to take advantage of the crack in the wall of the Turkish-Russian relations to bring Ankara back into its regional camp, especially in Syria.
With the US Department of State announcing Jeffrey’s urgent visit to the area, a spokesperson for the Department of State told Asharq Al-Awsat that he will assure Turkey that “the US will stand by our ally in NATO and strongly condemns the unjustified on going attacks by the Assad regime, Russian, Iran and Hezbollah on the people of Idlib”.
In a press conference last week, Jeffrey had revealed that he would be “going to Turkey to explore with Turkish officials what Ankara needs to confront the attack that it is being subjected to”. He affirmed that the Turks have a capable and competent army and that they see no reason for them to withdraw from monitoring points. Jeffrey had also pointed out that the “skirmishes on the ground between Russian and American troops in North-East Syria and Russia are not helping to reactivate the constitutional committee’s meetings that have been suspended since its opening ceremony last October”.
The Senior Director of the Turkey Program at Foundation for Defense of Democracies Aykan Erdemir mentioned that Erdogan is ready to escalate the fight with pro-Regime Syrian forces in Idlib but not against Russian troops.
Barak Barfi, a senior researcher in the Washington Institute, says that “Erdogan is becoming increasingly aware that his deals with Russia on Syria were bound to fail. Despite this, he requires Russian support to guarantee that the Syrian regime will not carry out revenge attacks when it takes over its borders with Turkey. He will continue to closely coordinate with Putin, as he is his only ally in the conflict”.
Some believe that the change in tone in the Russian-Turkish relations is due to new developments brought about by the US decision to kill Qassem Soleiman, the Iranian leader of the al-Quds Forces in a message to Astana that Iran, Russia, and Turkey need to change their policies in the region, especially Turkey, that Washington is asking to take a final position on relations with NATO and its position in it.