Turkey's military and political leadership has drastically activated contacts with Moscow in order to stop the Syrian army's operation in the "Idlib de-escalation zone." Telephone conversations between the two presidents, ministers of defense and chiefs of general staff have taken place over the past three days.
The Turkish military and politicians close to Recep Erdogan make harsh statements condemning Russia's policy of supporting Syria. At the same time, all "negotiators" without exceptions are trying to accuse Moscow of violating the Astana agreements, assisting Damascus in unleashing military actions on the densely populated territory and creating a "humanitarian disaster."
Some influential Turkish politicians predict "the possible withdrawal of Ankara from the Astana negotiations and the resumption of direct military support to Syrian opposition units in coordination with the USA." In turn, the Turkish military demand that Moscow "immediately stops providing military support to the Syrian governmental army, winds up the operation and restore the status quo that had been before the crisis began in 2011…"
The Turkish side doesn't even hide any more that the negotiations with Russia on the "Idlib zone" are in a stalemate, and breaking this stalemate to the benefit of Ankara is no more likely or is extremely complicated. That is true. And it should be analyzed whose fault has brought up such a situation.
So, Turkey had been provoking the conflict in Syria. In February 2011, a gang of armed Turkmen attacked internal security posts near the city of Afrin, killing 18 policemen. Suspicion fell on local Kurds, evoking a wave of hundreds Syrian refugees. And the events in the Deraa province took place only in March 2011.
Starting from the autumn of 2011, Turkey had been first covertly and then openly forming at their training centers units of armed Syrian opposition composed of people who deserted the regular army, providing arms and materiel to them, and staffing them with Turkish military advisers in order to ensure centralized command of military actions. When "Islamic resistance" units consisting of militants of the banned Muslim Brotherhood appeared, Turkey managed by all means to attain that Islamic extremists played a leading role in the armed fight against the legitimate Syrian authorities.
When the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, an international terrorist organization banned in Russia) appeared on the Middle East scene, the Turkish authorities indulged the activity of hundreds gathering points of "volunteering mercenaries" on their territory and let them to the territory of Iraq and Syria to join ISIL with impunity.
Close relatives of Recep Erdogan earned multi-billion fortunes on smuggling oil that was taken from Iraqi and Syrian districts controlled by ISIL terrorists to Turkish refineries. Just remember threats and accusations that the Turkish leadership voiced with regard to Russia after it joined the war against ISIL and started to destroy routes and means of supplying stolen oil.
There are no allied relations between Russia and Turkey, and there will never be any. This is a historic fact. There should be no illusions about partnership as well, as both sides understand that it is temporary and is based on solely pragmatic and temporary beneficial political and economic conditions of the current situation. Both countries pursue absolutely different political goals. However, some important mutual interests are temporary coinciding.
Now on Astana.
Turkey joined the countries that are guaranteeing peaceful settlement in Syria as "a passenger in the last car of a leaving train." By that time, Turkish troops had crossed the state border without the invitation of the Syrian government and held Operation Euphrates Shield against Kurd units and ISIL in the Aleppo province without permission in 2016.
The group of guarantor countries (Russia, Iran and Turkey) on Syria was created in January 2017. In September 2017, the creation of the fourth de-escalation zone in Idlib was completely agreed upon. It is clearly stated in the document on the creation of the "zones" that the ceasefire doesn't cover ISIL, which is banned in Russia, and other terrorist organizations.
Turkey failed to fulfill the main agreements with Russia that were reached on September 17 in Sochi, and the Syrian army with the support of the Russian aviation started a military operation against terrorists in the "Idlib zone."
Turkey's military and political leadership hoped to keep units of Muslim extremist loyal to it in order to engage them in military actions in northeastern Syria so that to create a "security zone" controlled by Ankara, which in fact meant occupying a part of Syria's territory.
It wasn't a secret for Russia that the policy of continued military support to anti-governmental forces in the "Idlib zone" persisted. But Moscow didn't actively bring this issue to the top seeking to keep the illusion of interaction with Ankara and not to escalate the relationship. Western media brought this issue to the forefront. Noteworthy, the Turkish authorities strictly banned national news agencies from publishing any information about their support of Syrian militants or about unfriendly steps with regard to Russia…
The Turks are threatening to take the side of the USA in the Syrian conflict. What are the perils of this move to Russia?
Direct large-scale participation of the Turkish Armed Forces in actions against Syrian troops is unlikely. Although the Turkish army is large, it isn't ready for a war. During his tenure Recep Erdogan has "purged" not only the command elite but also other command levels.
The country's economy cannot bear a war, and Erdogan's reckless actions pose a risk of losing power. The Turkish president may wrap up military and economic cooperation with Russia, but again this will cast an irreparable blow on the Turkey's prosperity. There is no hope that the USA and Western Europe will pay the costs – Donald Trump will pay nothing and Europe is in crisis itself.
There is just one conclusion. Syria together with Russia should continue the Idlib operation and deliver even more strikes on terrorists. Only their complete defeat will make Turkey and the USA think that their plans to use Syria in their own geopolitical and military interests have no prospects.