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Turkey’s military intervention in Syria and Iraq: Erdogan’s “crisis plan”?

There are many hypotheses and theories about why Turkey shot down the Russian Su-24 warplane over Syria. There were a wide variety of views about it: starting from Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s demarche up to scrupulously planned provocation by Turkey. Time and Ankara’s steps that followed the incident demonstrated that Turkey’s political school adheres to its traditions. Countering with Russia, Erdogan will try to play the classical political-military “multi-move game” that will take many months and, as Turkey plans, should, eventually, lead to fundamental changes in the Syrian conflict.

It is about informational legitimization of Turkey’s military intervention into the territory of a sovereign state (Syria) with further annexation of the territories near the Syrian-Turkish border and ‘rescue’ of the terrorist underworld (Daesh-ISIL) that is on the verge of inevitable destruction by the anti-terrorist coalition (Syria, Russia, and Iran). Intervention of Turkish troops into Iraq in December 2015 and into the territory of Syria quite recently is logical in view of Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman ideas that are doctrinal for Erdogan.

According to Today’s Zaman, Turkey is dispatching troops to the north of Syria, particularly to Azaza densely populated with Syrian “Turkomans.” Turkish media report that large units of the militants of Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh-ISIL terrorist organizations have been concentrated in the given region. In particular, Azaza is the mainstay of Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Abdurrahman Mustafa, the leader of the so-called Syrian Turkmen Council reaffirmed to Turkish media on January 9 that Turkish militaries allegedly fight Daesh. However, it is commonly known that “Turkomans” are fighting mainly against the military units of Kurds loyal to the Syrian government. Such coincidence is not accidental, indeed.  Most probably Turkey is implementing the so-called “crisis plan” (Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has repeatedly hinted at existence of such plan). It provides for establishment of a “grey zone” under control of Turks, and military groups of terrorists and Turkoman “self-defense” forces will be pulled to that zone. All this will be done under the guise of the Turkish army. A “neutral opposition” will probably be created and legalized there. Later, Damascus will be offered a dialogue with it exactly as told by Ankara.  

Yet long before the Russian-Turkish relations have plunged into the crisis, most experts in the Middle East were sure that the proponents of the “manageable chaos” theory (U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar) in the Middle East on the one side, and Turkey on the other side, have a certain agreement on the future role of “Neo-Ottomanism” in the envisaged redivision of the Middle East. More precisely, Turkey was considered as one of the main factors (Turks are considered just as a FACTOR, not an an independent ACTOR able to adopt decisions) of “managing” the notorious “chaos.” In exchange, Turkey would receive practical chances to increase its influence and even expand its territory at the expense of the collapsed countries that surrounded it along its southern borders - Syria and Iraq. It should be recalled that Turkey’s logistical, military and financial participation was one of the major conditions for implementation of the plan on destabilization in Syria.  However, let us try to understand the logic of the steps by Turkish strategists in the light of the developments of the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016.

There is only one conclusion. Turkey has faced a dilemma: either to launch direct/indirect military actions against regular troops of the army of the People's Republic of Syria by late February – early March or lose all the preferences and benefits on which Turkey’s political leadership spent colossal funds, military and material resources.

The frequent reports on direct involvement of the Turkish army show that Turkey and the sponsors of the Syrian crisis (U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Qatar) bring new elements into the game to destabilize the situation, which will have a direct impact on the Syrian war.

Arman Abovyan, political analyst (Yerevan)

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