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Who Won in Syria?

The military operation started by Ankara targeting the East of Euphrates has been canceled due to an agreement made with the US committee. The Palace (Presidential Complex of Turkey), which backed down after the sanctioning threats made by the US, has reached an agreement with the committee that was sent promptly by Trump about the 120-hour cease-fire. It has been commentated that Moscow has derived a profit after Ankara decided to suspend the operation following the invasion of Manbij and Kobane by the Russian and Damascus regime troops after the withdrawal of the US army.      

Ankara, which has been in constant dialogue with Washington about the East of Euphrates, needs to listen to Moscow henceforward. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that the situation about these two cities will be discussed according to the current channels between Turkey and Russia, and that Mike Pence had already stated “You can talk with the Russians” about the fate of these regions. The new developments might lead Ankara to a new agreement with Russia in Sochi on 22 October after the advance of Damascus regime forces to a point that is very close to TSK (Turkish Armed Forces). Moscow thinks that Ankara will be a little bit more convinced to communicate with the Damascus regime, which has been the first objective of Moscow since the very beginning. Another important fact is that the meeting with Russian President Puıtin in Sochi will correspond to the final hours of the 5-day period.         

Moscow, which successfully did not give reign to the US or Western countries by supporting the Damascus regime, reap the fruits of its elegant bureaucracy. Without a doubt, the impact of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Vice-Minister Mihail Bogdanov, who is closely monitoring Middle East, cannot be ignored. Russian Foreign Ministry has always been in close contact with the regional specialists, Arabists, and Kurdology experts. This factor is extremely important behind the consistency of the diplomats on the region.

Russia succeeded without direct intervention

The lack of dialogue with Moscow is one of the mistakes of Ankara during the beginning of the operation towards the East of Euphrates. However, Moscow has been monitoring all of the developments in the field with the experts who have access to every inch of the region. Russia tried to work up to its way by using regional factors without disturbing the Turkish decision-makers. Russia successfully managed to resolve many security issues without direct intervention in the Middle East.

Furthermore, Russia has agreed with the US partners concerning many issues. The statement of Russian President’s Special Envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, that Turkey has no right to permanently deploy soldiers in Syria, and Turkey can only occupy a 5 to 10 km depth after the Turkish border in Syria according to the previous agreements, contradicts the statements of Washington. Lavrentiev stated that the security of the Turkish-Syrian border must be provided by the Syrian forces and added: “This was the main reason we never supported the idea of Turkish soldiers being present in the region.”

Russian committees mentioned quite a few times in the Astana Talks that the actions of Turkey have the potential to disturb the fragile religion and ethnic sensitivities in northern Syria. For example, the Russian press had published in the past that especially the Kurds, Arabs, and Sunnis will not accept the people, who had not lived around them before, to be relocated in their region regarding Ankara’s plan about relocating Syrian refugees, whose numbers reached to 4 million in Turkey, in northern Syria. 

How was Ankara’s attitude reflected in Russian media?

Russian media is progressively in contact with Kurdish and Arabian news sources. Sarkis Saturyan from the Realist news agency explained the difficulties in his article, underlining that they are from a reliable source, raised by the Turkish armed forces to the people in the region. The article dictates that he got his hands on some footage where serious misconduct is being carried out, and he holds them ready in case of a lawsuit against him. 

Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union, answered the following questions in an interview: “Western countries criticized President Tayyip Erdogan’s actions in northern Syria. And then Erdogan threatened that he will send 3.6 million refugees to Europe. How do you evaluate such a statement? And what is the purpose of the operation?”

“First of all, nobody is certain about the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey. There have been immigrations to Turkey during years of scrimmages. And at least half a million children were born. Since the aids sent by the Europeans through the humanitarian channels do not reach the official authorities, they do not reach to the Syrians. And I do not think the Syrians, who are already spread throughout Turkey, will return back. 

Turkey wants to establish a secure zone on its own. It also makes pressure on the Kurds. And where will these Kurds go? Won’t they cause any trouble in the region where they will be sent to? That means an operation is not a solution. Different people they want to bring instead of them will cause different problems. Demographics engineering does not work like that. 

This is not the first time Erdogan challenges the European Union. Moreover, now there is another problem added to the relationship between the European Union and Turkey; drilling works in southern Cyprus. The EU is disturbed about this and they bring this forward in their union meetings. 

The EU’s and Russia’s approaches concerning the solutions for the problems in northern Syria tally with each other. You must solve the issues with dialogue. The EU approaches the Damascus government with caution but we, Russia, are ready for arbitration.”

Dimitri Kuznets from Medusa News portal, which has one million daily visitors per day, stated the following in his analysis: “Turkey invaded Syria but did not obtain any results. The forces of Putin and Assad won. Opposing groups that proceed with gang war tactics had stopped Erdogan’s troops. But the US supported them again and an agreement was made. The US and other Western countries request the invasion to be terminated immediately and they want to impose sanctions on Turkey. Kurdish forces were not smashed by the regime forces. In other words, one of the objectives of the TSK operations was not succeeded.”

Staislav Tarasov made another evaluation in his own column in Ragnum News Agency and stated the following: “Ankara, which has been of two minds between Washington and Moscow, is coming to an end. Erdogan now threatens with opening the borders and sending the refugees over. However, the real danger for Turkey is the fact that both Kurdish and jihadist groups will join this theatre of operation. Then, Ankara will consent to the Damascus regime stepping in.” 

Arif Asalioglu is a journalist and expert on Russian Politics.

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Arif Asalıoğlu is General Director of the International Institute of the Development of Science Cooperation in Moscow; expert in the field of Russian-Turkish relations; columnist of Informational agency REGNUM; Founder of Russian and Turkish Intellectuals Meeting.


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