Turkey Likely to Keep Backing Syrian Rebels Despite Russia Overtures

Erdogan Govt Heavily Invested in Syrian Rebellion

The prospect of a Turkish rapprochement with Russia is something of a surprise. It was, after all, less than a year ago that Turkey shot down a Russian plane over northern Syria. But while this repaired relationship could have major regional ramifications, it probably won’t be in Syria.

The Erdogan government seems eager to get more regional allies after a failed coup last month, but has committed heavily to backing the Syrian rebellion virtually throughout the civil war, destroying what had been a long-standing relationship with the Assad government in the process.

And even though that split is a major stressor on Russo-Turkish relations, Turkey is almost certainly not going to switch sides in Syria, or even reverse its highly controversial support for al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, because they’ve got too much to lose in making enemies of such significant forces in northern Syria.

Turkey has struggled to cope with its occasion hostility with ISIS, and its intermittent attacks on the Syrian Kurds, all the while contending with an internal fight against their own Kurdish minority, and a huge society-wide purge that followed the coup. While the dreams of a pro-Turkey rebellion taking power in Syria and crushing the Kurds has long since faded, Erdogan’s policy still has too much momentum to be spun around at a moment’s notice.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.

  • Bianca

    I do not think we can predict this. Erdogan does not rule the country by himself and his dreams are not relevant. To put it more professionally his Administration –that ended with his election for president — had a strategy with a decade of track record — that worked towards extending and deepening Turkey”s position in the region –from economy and energy to solving bilateral problems. It was consistent but halting process with much oposition from internal detractors to foreign alliances. These scuttled his efforts to establish a joint Armenian and Turkish commission to jointly work on historic evuation of the period at the end of WWI to come up with joint review but to start immediatelly with open borders for trade and tourism. France and domestic politicking scuttled that. He declared amnesty for Kurdish fighters to come down from mountains and lay arms. Started very succesfly but stopped as Kurds atttacked a military post. Just two out of many — some being more successful then others. The internal pressure of a minority wing in his party advocating less Eurasian and more Atlanticist orientation culminated in Syrian conflict — with Erdogan in retreat. After losing power to Davutoglu the rise of Gulen, Soros and other structures was exponential. Only after Davutoglu lost confidence in party vote Erdogan was able to appoint new prime minister and new slate of ministers. The. very next day new policies were announced. Coup was almost inevitable as the last ditch effort to chain Turkey to strict Atlanticism — and against its economic interests. After coup failure — the failure to kill Erdogan there will be no internal oposition to changing the course. We will see a great deal of song and dance with disinformation galore. But the geopolitical map is set. Turkey will be anchored by Kazakhstan and supported by Russia, China and Iran. The only objective Turkey has in Syria is to prevent US facilitating KSA in taking control of Syria. As far as Kurdish dillema goes — they will have to decide if the regional constelation of power will give them more then remaining reliant on Western factors. If the latter expects them to remain permanent agents of regional disruption — they may not find it very attractive. We just need to pay more attention to regional needs and less to our reading tea leaves and “Erdogan dreams”.

  • Mark Thomason

    Erdogan was heavily invested in the Syrian War before the coup, working in cooperation with the US in the form of the CIA running things along the border.

    Erdogan now thinks it was exactly that CIA presence that used Gulen against him, and that they did it to get Turkey to do more to their liking in Syria.

    That changes everything. Don’t expect Erdogan to stay the course with the people who attacked him, much less to do as they wanted to get with their attack on him. He’s not that kind of lickspittle politician.

    The US is behaving arrogantly, reinforcing all the Turkish fears of US involvement. I don’t mean by protecting Gulen, I mean by what else the US government says and does.

    This story is far from over. US involvement and/or arrogant incompetence after is likely to blow up.