Friday, October 14, 2016

"Turkey’s tilt to Russia changes dynamics of Syrian battlefield"

There is some talk that Turkey is considering quitting NATO but that doesn't make a lot of sense, membership is a major point of leverage for Erdogan.
From the Financial Times:
Erdogan has made up with Putin and now hopes to prevent Syrian Kurds from securing territory near its border

Rebel-held eastern Aleppo looks as though it will either fall or be razed to the ground in the face of relentless Russian bombardment from the air and under siege from Iran-backed militia on the ground.
President Vladimir Putin will then have got his way: saving the regime of Bashar al-Assad inside a rump Syria, with the ruins of Aleppo marking its northern perimeter, as part of his reassertion of Russia’s credentials as a regional and global rival to the US.

But it is not just Mr Putin’s ruthlessness that will bring this about. It is Turkey’s tilt towards Russia and, to a degree, Iran, which is the main change in the strategic equation on the crowded battlefield of north-west Syria.

During five years of civil war that has killed up to 500,000 Syrians and displaced half the population, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, sought to topple Mr Assad, backing rebel forces against him and allowing jihadi volunteers to use Turkish territory as a launch pad into Syria.

That sharp focus is fading out as Ankara has turned to more pressing considerations — especially since the violent attempted coup against Mr Erdogan in mid-July.

Turkey’s main goal in Syria now is to prevent Syrian Kurdish fighters from consolidating an autonomous territory below its border. Ankara fears the Syrian Kurds will link up with their Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) allies waging an insurgency in south-east Turkey from bases inside the Kurdistan Regional Government autonomous territory of northern Iraq.

Ankara has also moved to mop up Isis cells and sympathisers inside Turkey and push the jihadis away from its borders. In late August, the Turkish army launched its first real incursion into Syria, spearheading a rebel force officials in Ankara say numbered 3,000. This thrust pushed Isis out of the so-called Manbij pocket of north-west Syria, with Turkey regaining control of 98km of its porous border. But the primary aim was to prevent the Syrian Kurds fighting Isis from moving westwards across the river Euphrates to join up their eastern and western territories....MUCH MORE
Meanwhile, earlier this morning Reuters was reporting:

Exclusive: Obama, aides expected to weigh Syria military options on Friday
U.S. President Barack Obama and his top foreign policy advisers are expected to meet on Friday to consider their military and other options in Syria as Syrian and Russian aircraft continue to pummel Aleppo and other targets, U.S. officials said.
Some top officials argue the United States must act more forcefully in Syria or risk losing what influence it still has over moderate rebels and its Arab, Kurdish and Turkish allies in the fight against Islamic State, the officials told Reuters.

One set of options includes direct U.S. military action such as air strikes on Syrian military bases, munitions depots or radar and anti-aircraft bases, said one official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

This official said one danger of such action is that Russian and Syrian forces are often co-mingled, raising the possibility of a direct confrontation with Russia that Obama has been at pains to avoid....MORE