Turkey Likely to Keep Backing Syrian Rebels Despite Russia Overtures

Erdogan Govt Heavily Invested in Syrian Rebellion

by Jason Ditz, August 09, 2016

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.

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