Russia’s Sochi is turning into a center of global policy on Middle East. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has received leaders of so many countries there, unlike the West’s vain efforts to “isolate” Russia.
Middle East is still on the global agenda. Nevertheless, during the latest (November 22) trilateral summit, the Russian, Iranian, and Turkish leaders addressed also distribution of roles between the three countries in the future configuration of the entire Middle East.
The three leaders made a joint statement addressing several moments: namely, they agree that war against the “Islamic State” (ISIS) in Syria is almost over; economy of Syria needs to be restored and a special fund is to be set up to that end; current government system needs reform, including a new constitution; elections should be held (it is not clear yet either presidential or parliamentary ones) under observation of UN (it was exclusively Moscow’s suggestion). Besides, the three leaders urged further steps to defuse tensions in Syria and reaffirmed cooperation to fight terrorists and supported the broad intra-Syrian dialogue.
After the summit, the presidents came out with personal statements addressing the issues important to their countries. No one concealed that their views concerning the future of Syria and its current state differ. Although the summit has not resulted in any specific decisions, the settlement of Syrian crisis has got an additional impetus. As guarantors of Syrian peace talks, Iran, Russia and Turkey addressed a letter to UN secretary General and UN Security Council President on November 27 demanding their final statement in Sochi to be registered as an UN Security Council Document. Iran’s Ambassador to UN Gholamali Khoshroo and his Russian and Turkish colleagues Vasily Nebenzya and Feridun Sinirlioglu, respectively, signed the document, IRNA reports.
Recall that Turkey is not a military ally of Iran and Russia in Syria and Iraq, especially after Iran and Russia with the support of Syria and Iraq created a four-partite Military Information Center in Baghdad in 2014. In this light, the importance of the personal statements by Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani in Sochi grows unlike the one of Turkish President Erdogan. The Syrian conflict was important for U.S. and Saudi Arabia as well as for Israel to weaken Iran. Therefore, in any form, Syria should be a territory where Iran will be “burning away” its resources. Before that Yemen, where Iran was reluctant to send assistance, and Iraq were evident domains of Iran. It was for a reason that U.S. and Israel helped ISIS militants get out of the siege in Deir-ez Zor and Abu-Kemal. The secondary task of U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia was to create discrepancies in the coalition of Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and later also in the Turkey-Russia-Iran “troika.”
Hypocrites say Bashar al-Assad was “not invited” to the meeting of the president in Sochi which allegedly means that Iran, Russia and Turkey are “sharing Syria” behind its back. Meantime, al-Assad was the first whom Putin hosted in Sochi 2 days before the summit. The Syrian leader is a frequent guest in Tehran as well. He left for Damascus quite contented.
Details of Putin’s personal statement are available in the press. Erdogan’s statement that was mostly aimed against Kurds of Syria can be found in mass media as well. Here are some details of Rouhani’s statement – the main implication of the Sochi meeting. Iran asked Russia to press all the countries, including U.S. and Turkey, to withdraw the illegally deployed militaries from the territory of Syria and asked restricted airspace over Syria for all the countries, except Syria itself and Russia. Iran and Russia are the only countries to operate in Syria legally, at the request of the legitimate government of Syria.
Feeling the threat of new wars, Iran voiced the need to withdraw all the forces illegally operating in Syria. Putin and Erdogan understand that this applies to Turkey as well. Turks in Syria is just like part of “American” coalition. al-Assad did not invite them either. This was Iran’s response to the fact that Russia did not “persuade” U.S. and others to leave Syria as well as that Turkey at the request of U.S. and Israel has been asking Russia to “press” Iran throughout 2017. What U.S. and Israel demanded was full withdrawal of Iran and all Shiite rebels from Syria.
On November 24, the West, Turkey and Israel were even more frustrated.
Iranian Parliament's General Director for International Affairs Amir-Abdollahian described the Sochi meeting as "a victory for peace", adding it crushed the bones of Takfiri terrorism i.e. Sunnite fundamentalists. On the same day, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani urged enhanced relations with Russia, especially in the security field. “The terrorism issue is not over in the region,” he said. The remaining terrorists are seeking new adventures in the region, Larijani said.
This is defeat (though indirect) of U.S., Israel and Turkey in all areas related to Syria. 1) President al-Assad is “still on his post,” the positions of his clan and supporters have become stronger. 2) Iran has not weakened involving into the processes in Syria. Quite the contrary, it has got enough power to demand Russia “to persuade” the West and Israel to withdraw from Syria fully. As to Turkey, Iran hopes to “press it” on its own. 3) U.S. and Israel have failed in their efforts to create discrepancies between Russia and Iran over some tactical issues. At least, Iran is ready to tolerate as much as it will be necessary. It was for a reason that Konstantin Kosachev, Head of the RF Council of Federation Committee for International Affairs, said that U.S. and allies are extremely concerned about Iran’s growing power in the region, but they are not capable to force their conditions.
Turkey has faced a period of geopolitical fear. Turkey fears only two states. It is Russia that historically defeated it in many wars and Iran… Few people know or remember that historically there were at least nine (!) wars between Turks and Iranians and in eight (!) of them Iran defeated Turkey.
Iran’s stance is as never uncompromising – President Rouhani demanded withdrawal of all illegally deployed troops from Syria. Now, when its historical military rivals have made an alliance, Turkey has a reason to worry about. Experienced diplomats working on Iranian laws hint that the alliance with Russia is unbreakable.
Within few days, Ankara warned NATO with revision of its relations with the Alliance and later denied its warnings. Thus, speaking at a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu assured Europe and NATO that Ankara seeks rapprochement with them, not with Russia.
Addressing the leadership of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on November 28, Erdogan suddenly said Turkey and U.S. are on the same page and their dialogue may be continued shortly. One can just guess what is behind that dialogue (besides the issues that Erdogan mentioned – delivery of arms to Kurds in Syria, extradition of Fethullah Gulen, cooperation in the military and technical field etc.). Since Washington is preparing for a new phase of confrontation with Iran, it is evident that Trump will set some anti-Russian terms to Turkey. The White House corrects Erdogan’s “hopes” saying the arms supplies to the “groups fighting ISIS” will but reduced, not halted. Erdogan plans to talk to Trump once again. “Trump said he might make a phone call next week. If he doesn’t, I will make a call,” he said. It appears that these two need each other.
Comments by Yakov Kedmi, the former head of Israel special service NATIV, military and political analyst, have been published in mass media, first of all, in the Russian and Israeli ones. According to Kedmi, Turkey will not leave NATO, even after his and Ataturk’s images were featured on an “enemy chart” during NATO drills. Turkey knows its strong and weak points and sees its future with NATO first of all because of its neighbor Russia. “Despite all smiles and arrangements, Turkey has pathologically feared Russia for the last 500 years,” Kedmi says. It was Russia that damaged Turkey’s image in Europe. It was Russia that took the Caucasus from Iran. Turkey and Iran understand that they need to develop friendly relations with Russia, especially in the economic field. Russia does not threaten either Iran or Turkey, but it has preserved their historical fear. “That is why Turkey needs NATO, an organization opposing Russia,” Kedmi says.
Time works on Russia and Iran and their remote ally China. Recall that Iran has already got access to the Chinese military-naval base in Djibouti in the Red Sea. Should the need arise, Iran’s warships will get technical and material support there. This is another reason for Turkey to fear the plans of Russia and Iran to boost cooperation in all fields. What increases Turkey’s fears is that in Iraq, “on the Kirkuk issue,” the Kurdish factor is irreversibly passing to Iran. Ankara has no idea about how Iran and maybe its ally Russia will use that triumph card. That is why on November 28, Erdogan said Iran, Russia and Turkey will be meeting once in 15 days or a month on a regular basis. Being unable to influence Russia or Iran, much less its partners in the U.S.-led coalition, the Turkish president will be meeting with Putin and Rouhani here and talking to Trump there at least to be informed of their plans as much as it is possible.
Sergey Shakaryants, political analyst (Yerevan)