Publications of experts CACDS - Southern Caucasus

Rauf Rajab: "Turkey-US: way out of the Syrian impasse?"


The perspectives and tendencies of the Turkish Republic's (TR) cooperation with the United States should be considered in the context of Ankara's intention to transform itself into a global geopolitical player.

It can be stated that since the 2016 year, TR cannot be considered a reliable US strategic partner in Washington, since official Ankara seeks to speak in the international arena with regional initiatives that do not meet the long-term US geopolitical interests.

In particular, Washington is not welcomed: the participation of the official Ankara in the Astana process on Syria and the formation of a triple alliance in the face of Turkey-Russia-Iran; de facto creation of the Ankara-Tehran-Doha axis; de facto refusal of the Turkish side to accede to anti-Russian sanctions due to events in Ukraine; the consent of the official authorities of TR to the implementation of the Russian energy project "Turkish Stream"; refusal of the Turkish government to participate in an anti-Iran coalition led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Israel. Obviously, the above formats and initiatives are at odds with the geopolitical and geo-economic interests of the US and its allies, the CSA and Israel, against the backdrop of official Washington's confrontation with the Russian Federation, China and the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).

The US is most annoyed with the timing of Turkey's global strategy. After all, official Ankara has chosen a favorable period for TR to deploy its strategy, since The USA is in a state of direct confrontation with the Russian Federation and the IRI, and the latent one is with the PRC.

Therefore, official Ankara is interested in weakening the US geostrategic position in the Middle and Middle East, the Black Sea region, the South Caucasus, and the Central Asian Region (CAR). It should be noted that the rapprochement of TR with the Russian Federation can be interpreted as an anti-American policy, which should, on the one hand, neutralize US activity in the above regions, and on the other, prevent the realization of US geopolitical interests in the Middle East and Black Sea-Caucasus regions.

The reasons for the US-Turkish confrontation

The geopolitical confrontation between the US and TR comes on the control of the strategically important Middle East region, located between Asia, Africa and Europe. The long-term geopolitical and geo-economic plans of the US, the Russian Federation, the PRC, the TR, the KSA, Israel and the IRI regarding the future of the Middle and Middle East are not compatible. For example, the above geopolitical actors have different views on addressing such important problems in the Middle East region as armed conflicts in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR), Yemen, Iraq, Libya; a complete solution to the Lebanese problem; the future of Palestinian statehood; inter-confessional conflict between IRI - KSA; the interstate conflict between the IRI and Israel; Iran's nuclear program; the Kurdish question; the struggle for regional leadership between TR and CSR; laying of gas pipelines.

For example, with the increase in natural gas consumption in Europe, the SAR was at the epicenter of the fight for two energy transport projects. One project is being lobbied by Qatar and KSA, for which increasing natural gas production becomes economically feasible if its bulk is supplied to Europe by pipe, rather than LNG tankers, whose construction and operation are not economically viable. The gas pipeline from IRI, whose export capacity is limited by the capacity of the Strait of Hormuz, is in competition with the first project. It is symbolic that both of the above projects envision Syrian Aleppo as a key point at which both gas pipelines will diverge in two directions.

It is symbolic that the Crown Prince of the KSA, Muhammad bin Salman, considers the TR to be part of the "triangle of evil" along with the IRI and Islamist groups. M. bin Salman also accused TR of trying to restore the Islamic Caliphate, which fell about a century ago after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The statement of the Crown Prince is explained by the fact that the official Riyadh is fighting official Ankara in the ideological war of political Islam "Muslim Brotherhood" against the Wahhabism of Riyadh, adhering to the principle of separation of religion and government. Moreover, official Ankara is competing with IRI for regional leadership among Muslim countries.

Against this background, for the official Washington, the future of the Middle East region involves a major reshaping of state borders; the federalisation or liquidation of a number of modern states and the creation of new states (including the Kurdish one) under American geopolitical influence. The American project is known as the Greater Middle East (BBW), where the creation of an independent Kurdish state is key.

In other words, the violation in the Middle East region of a geopolitical status quo, which has existed for decades, based on the sovereignty and inviolability of borders, including the SAR and neighboring states, leads to a confrontation between the US and the TR.

The Kurdish Question

The Syrian crisis has created a desire among the geopolitical actors and countries in the Middle East to take advantage of the situation and expand its territory and scope of geopolitical influence. Therefore, the last meeting of US and US Presidents Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington did not resolve disagreements over the purchase of the Ankara SAM C-400, which, according to the Americans, are incompatible with NATO defense and pose a threat to the stealth fighter X MartinUMUM . Obviously, they will be resolved through further US-Turkish dialogue.

D. Trump proposes to RT Erdogan to bring trade turnover between the USA and TR up to 100 billion dollars a year, ie increase it 4 times compared to the current figures. This is, first and foremost, in Ankara's interests. Moreover, excessive pressure in the form of US sanctions will lead to further rapprochement of Ankara with Moscow. And Washington does not intend to admit it.

The US-Turkish controversy is not solely confined to the Syrian problem, but is related to a different vision of official US authorities and the political map of the future of the Middle East region. In addition, the current US regional doctrine is based on the support of Kurdish fighters in the SAR.

It is obvious that the establishment of a Kurdish state on the BBV is unacceptable to official Ankara. After all, the Turkish Kurds are not only the largest ethnic minority, representing at least 20% of the TR population, but also the most active opposition political force. The Kurdish Question is a key one for the future of the TR and the entire Middle East region. And the purpose of official Ankara is to neutralize the US plan to create a Kurdish state on BBV.

Neutralization of the Kurdish threat unites the official authorities of the SAR, Iraq, TR, IRI, despite the political, ethnic and ideological differences between them. The Union of Syrian Democratic Forces (UDF) with the United States commits official Ankara to active action in the north of the SAR, since the Syrian Kurds act as a strike force on the Syrian TVD, which threatens the national security of the TR. Therefore, the Armed Forces, in cooperation with their Syrian opposition allies, represented by the SAA, will try to prevent Syrian Kurds from accessing a seaport that would allow them to create viable autonomous education.

In other words, the official authorities of TR, IRI and SAR are not interested in establishing a Kurdish Federation in northern SAR. Also, the authorities of the SAR and the IRI strongly opposed the establishment in the north of the SAR strongholds of the Proto-Turkish SAA. For example, the government forces of the SAR, supported by the IRI, are seeking to regain lost territory in the northwest of the country. After all, the return of Syrian territory in the north of the SAR under the control of official Damascus will also mean the arrival of official Tehran there.

Therefore, the Russian project on the federalization of the SAR faces a general refusal by the official authorities of the SAR, TR and IRI. For example, the government of the SAR and Syrian opposition platforms believe that the Russian project supports separatism in the Middle East region and regard it as a plan to divide the SAR, which actually meets the long-term interests of the United States. In particular, official Ankara and official Tehran will not support the emergence of Syria-Kurdistan-hostile Syria, hostile to the IRI and close to the United States. Moreover, the US strategic interests in the SAA are to control the Iraqi-Syrian state border to prevent the exit of official Tehran to the Mediterranean, passing through Damascus and the southern suburbs of Beirut (the main stronghold of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement). Although official Tehran has a traditional relationship with the PKK against the backdrop of years of armed confrontation between Turkish Kurds with government troops in the TR.

At the same time, the main objective of official Ankara and official Washington in the SAR is to remove the inconvenient US and TR President Bashar al-Assad, which will lead to the withdrawal from the SAR IRI and will significantly weaken Russia's position within the Geneva negotiation process.

In other words, US-TR official authorities, through the development of a "roadmap" for US-Turkish relations, can enhance the military-political presence of the two countries to participate in defining the future of Syrian statehood without and the IRI.

It can be assumed that the implementation of the "roadmap" will turn the Turkish and American control areas in the north-east of the SAR into a bridgehead for strikes on government forces of the SAR, which will adversely affect the arrangements within the Astana process and the Sochi Congress-held National Dialogue (CND) the ensuing consequences, including the escalation of civil war.

First, the official Ankara seeks to ensure that the positions of the Syrian Kurds - "People's Self-Defense Troops" (YPG) - are occupied by units of the opposition "Free Syrian Army" (SAA). Second, the northeastern regions of the SAR are protected by US aviation from the government army. Third, the Turkish army blocks attacks by the government of the SAR government on extremist groups in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia.


1. The stability of US-Turkish relations, including the Geneva negotiation process, and the future of the IRI, Iraq, the SAR and the TR depend on the resolution of the Kurdish issue. Therefore, the Syrian Kurds should be actively involved in the Geneva negotiation process as a partner rather than an object of reformatting the Middle East's strategic space.

2: An official Ankara may strengthen its policy of ignoring partners' interests in the Astana process, including the Russian Federation and the IRI. For example, official Ankara de facto does not pay attention to calls from official Moscow to preserve the integrity and statehood of the SAR. On the contrary, Turkey strongly states that B. al-Assad must leave.

Official Ankara is dissatisfied with the military-diplomatic efforts of the Russian Federation to bring back the control of B. al-Assad north and northwest of Aleppo province. This region is controlled by the Turkish military and the Pro-Turkish SAA, which expelled the Syrian Kurds from here. Ankara is creating a mechanism for long-term influence on official Damascus, which will be effective even if Turkish troops withdraw from the northern provinces of the SAR. It is obvious that Turkey intends to participate in the formation of power in Damascus.

3. The United States intends to control more territories in the area of ​​At-Tanf in the South African Republic. Official Washington, with a view to the long-term US military and political presence in the United Arab Emirates, will continue training militants, etc. Of the "New Syrian Army" at its military bases in the settlements of At-Tanf and Ash-Shaddadi. In addition, the US and its NSA allies can strike in the southeast of the SAR to cut off Shiite military formations from the main supply channel (the so-called Euphrates Corridor) from the IRI through Iraq, through which weapons are flowing in the area. , ammunition and manpower.

The US and TR can replace the UDF with the New Syrian Army (NSA), which is being trained by the US in the southern part of the SAR, in the At-Tanfa district. The fact is that the Arabs make up the majority in the UDF and make up a quarter of the YPG, but the leadership in the UDF remains exclusively Kurdish and the Arabs have no chance of advancing within the YPG.

Thus, the NSA will be able to act in conjunction with the NSA, which is controlled by Ankara. It may be about the replacement of the UDF in the Arab part occupied by the YPG territory of the eastern part of the SAR. This problem is already overdue because protests in the Arab cities of eastern Syria against the presence of YPG armed forces. And the introduction into these settlements of the NSA and the NSA can stabilize the situation there.

It is likely that official Ankara will not allow YPG to continue to control oil fields in the eastern part of the CAP. Moreover, it further aggravated the situation in the CAP, which is experiencing a shortage of energy resources. After all, the energy sector of the SAR was formed taking into account the fact that mainly oil and natural gas were used for the purposes of the national economy and not supplied for export. And official Damascus unsuccessfully seeks to regain control of the country's energy sector. But the US and TR understand that in their hands is an effective instrument of pressure on official Damascus amid consultations by representatives of the IRI, the Russian Federation and the TR on the constitutional commission of the SAR.

4.The United States does not extradite the Turkish side to Fethullah Gulen, the head of the Hizmet movement, citing the insufficiency of an evidence base against him, as well as the absence of an extradition treaty between the US and TR. Moreover, the acquisition by the Turkish side of the C-400 Triumph SAM means, on the one hand, the transition of the TPP to non-NATO weapons types, and on the other, the actual refusal of official Ankara to participate in NATO's joint missile defense program.

This step of the top management of the TR can be explained by the fact that RT Erdogan has set the task for the Turkish government to completely eliminate dependence on imports of defense products by the 2023 year (up to launching its own aircraft carrier), when the TR will celebrate the 100 anniversary of the Republic. Such plans by this time are unlikely to be fully implemented.

It should be noted that the US Navy Chief of Staff in an official report to the US Senate Intelligence Committee noted that if the TR succeeds in implementing the Navy's expansion plans in the coming 15 years, there will be a number of problems for the US strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, the official Ankara intends to change the international rules for the use of the Black Sea projects and to put forward Greece's claims on the rules of action of the Turkish Navy in the Aegean Sea. The implementation of official Ankara plans to strengthen the Turkish Navy will result in major geopolitical changes in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, which will affect the current deployment of forces in the region.

5. The US is likely to pressure official Ankara through the EU, the CoE and NATO, as well as the IMF, WB and the EBRD, to curb possible threats posed by the foreign policy of the TR: the future of relations, both between the NATO and NATO and the TR and the US; determining the place and role of TR in the Middle and Middle East region; TR's anti-US stance on IRI and Israel; Eurasian TR policy; TR's refusal to follow in the wake of EU foreign policy.

6. Prospects for Russian-Turkish cooperation, including depend on the degree of participation of the official Ankara in the SCO. Today, 2012 has become a partner in dialogue with the SCO. RT Erdogan suggested that the TR could become a full member of the SCO if the accession process of the EU TR is finally stalled. Therefore, the evolutionary departure of official Ankara from plans to join the EU leads to the probable entry of the SC into the SCO. All the more so as the authority and weight of the SCO grows.

7: The pipeline projects through Aleppo will be postponed indefinitely due to the ongoing war in the SAR, which suits both US LNG exporters and the Russian Federation, Algeria, Tunisia, which are the main suppliers of pipeline gas to Europe. However, Russian public and private investors believe that the necessary prerequisites for the start of a long-term and comprehensive CAP recovery program have already been created. The Russian business community believes that those companies that are not afraid of political risks and will begin to cooperate with Syrian partners now (when it is vital for the country's revival) will occupy key positions in the economy of the future SAR.

Rauf Rajabov, Orientalist, Head of Analytical Center 3RD VIEW, Baku, Azerbaijan