Russia and Syria do not put their stakes on Turkish opposition

Russia and Syria do not put their stakes on Turkish opposition | Русская весна

An international conference organized by the opposition Republican People's Party (RPP) dedicated to restoration of relations with the Syrian Arab Republic ended in Istanbul.

The information background of the event was set by the statement made by RPP leader Kemal Kylychdaroglu on the need to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Syria and stop supporting illegal armed groups on its territory.

The venue of the conference is no coincidence — in spring the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) was defeated in the municipal elections. The arrival of opposition candidates for the mayorships of Istanbul, Ankara and Antalya, as well as in general, a noticeable strengthening of the internal political positions of Erdogan's opponents, contributed to the further consolidation of the Turkish nationalist «Westerners» around the coalition with the RPP. The agenda included undermining the positions of opponents in power in the most significant areas for them.

One of them was the Syrian problem.

Opposition Turkish politicians, including those in the rank of former ministers (for instance Abdullatif Shener and Fikri Saglar), have been accusing Turkish leaders of supporting terrorist groups and inciting war on Syrian territory. At the same time, they accuse the Turkish president of doing business with Israel, oil smuggling, speculation on refugees topic, and in general try to compromise the policy of Ottomanism.

The new mayor of Istanbul, Ikram Imamoglu, supported this criticism by organizing the deportation of twenty thousand Syrian refugees from the capital, sending them to the camps in the provinces bordering Syria and calling on the rest of Turkey to follow his example. This is perhaps the most significant statement of secular Turkish nationalism against the revival of the spirit and body of the Ottoman Empire's pan-Islamic course of Erdogan since the defeat of the putschists in July 2016.

In general, Turkish opposition on the one hand consistently inspires the electorate that the social and economic crisis in the country is connected with corruption and foreign policy adventures of JDP, on the other hand — hints Damascus and its friends on readiness to restore the pre-war status quo in case of coming to power.

It seems, however, that it is obvious to both the Russian and Syrian leaders what the course of the Turkish opposition can lead to.

First of all, Erdogan's party still has the «control package» of the voters' sympaties. The results of the last municipal elections lead to this metaphor of 51% of voters who voted for JDP. In fact, this allows those of the opposition candidates who won at the local level to engage in populism at the expense of the state, holding demonstration actions in their regions such as the deportation of refugees from Istanbul and providing a solution to the problem as a whole criticized by the country's leadership.

If Turkish oppositionists were now at the helm of the state to create an enclave outside of Damascus in Zaevfratie and to throw there either 1.5 or 2.5 million Syrian citizens from Turkey, it would be no less optimal for them to solve the problem of refugees than for Erdogan, who had declared such intentions.

Another thing is that the West, or the U.S. specifically, the Turkish opposition would be preferable in this case. In the current situation, it would hardly maintain relations with Iran, buy S-400 from Russia or threaten Saudi Arabia from the north, while from the south it is threatened by Houthies and from the east by Shiites.

And in terms of control over East Syria and its wealth, Turkey, if it were under the control of the RPP, would be unlikely to compete with Western businesmen.
However, the only real force outside Damascus' control in Syria today is groups of Islamists of different degrees of radicality.

And it is the Erdogan party that has well-established relations with them. It is indicative that recently representatives of the Turkish-backed part of the Syrian opposition have started talking about the need to eliminate the domination of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTSh) in Idlib. The replacement is proposed in the form of the «Interim Government», based in the northern parts of Aleppo province occupied by Turkey, and the «National Army», under the brand of which various jihadist groups such as «Jaysh al-Islam», «Faylaq al-Sham», «Ahrar al-Sham», as well as gangs formerly known as the «Free Syrian Army» (FSA) are hiding.

Thus, if the HTSh disappears, only three local players will remain on the fields of the Syrian conflict: pro-government, pro-Turkish and pro-American forces. Moreover, the FSA has already been excluded from the ranks of the last by the Turks.

Erdogan's Islamist government, within the framework of the Astana format with Russia and Iran can more or less control its puppets. The Turks are ready to clash with the pro-American part of the game. Would it be desirable for Damascus, Moscow, and Tehran that the masses of militants belonging to pro-Turkish associations would suddenly be left without a master and would unwittingly begin to stir up or seek sponsors in the West? It os hardly so. And that could be exactly what happened, would JDP replace RPP in Turkey.

For Russia it would only be a private problem. Turkey's independence in its political and economic relations with Russia is the position of Erdogan and his party (and not all of it). Under the RPP, this would hardly be or will be possible. Its pro-Western orientation is unambiguous and unchanged.

And this implies a rejection of the southeastern turn that Erdoпan has made in Turkish foreign policy. The JDP's recipe for solving a set of demographic and economic challenges that Turkey faces at the turn of the century, under the leadership of the current Turkish president, can be described as «imperial». Territorial expansion, establishment of control over the resources of the Middle East and Northern Africa, cooperation with the extensive business networks of the entire Islamic world — these are the characteristics of this course.

But with the RPP in command all of this goes to the West and its allies. The conflict with the «Kurdistan Workers' Party» is being frozen. External Islamism is once again falling under the wing of structures such as «Nurjular» and Fethullah Gulen's organization, which, under pan-Turkish and Pan-Islamic slogans, do not focus on the Arab world, Pakistan or the region of South East Asia, but on Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, which they were most interested in until Erdogan took them «to the nail».

Therefore, no matter how sensible it may seem to someone the judgments of Turkish opposition politicians on the Syrian issue, they have no geopolitical significance whatsoever.

Pavel Krivenko, Kavkazgeoclub. Translated by “Russian Spring”.

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