Syria-Turkey caught between a rock and a hard place
President Erdogan of Turkey is well known for being forthright and articulating his thoughts and, refreshingly, he does have great courage of conviction in pursuit of justice for Islamic causes and the self-interests of Turkey. This is the reason why many western powers consider him a volatile and unpredictable quantity because they are not used to having other nations acting independently and not aping western mantras.
It is well known that the Arab and Middle East nations are being systematically targeted, emasculated and puppetised (sic) to serve the controlling interests of the US and the Europeans, and the demonic power of Israel is being armed with nuclear weapons and nurtured in their midst to enforce and Police Western interests and licensed to kill and maim scientists, generals and civilians.
The perceived potential threats to US Master Plan in controlling the Middle and Near East comprise ALL the neighbours and near neighbours of Israel and they need to be neutralised or dismantled, if necessary. The current plight of Syria is a result of this Master Plan where initially the so-called 'dissidents' were marshalled to cause dissent and internal disturbance in Syria using methods earlier employed in Iraq and Libya. The West hoped that an internal upheaval fomented by the use of fake news in Social Media would do the trick.
I was in Damascus from 2011 to 2012, helping run the biggest foreign (British) oil company in the country and most of my producing oil wells are in the far NE corner of Al-Hassakah Governorate in the corner bordering Iraq and Turkey, This is the only area the US soldiers are refusing to relinquish because of its oil wealth which is supporting the YPG Kurds and funding PKK insurgency into Turkey. Turkey is justifiably nervous because of the long-running human and military cost of keeping peace and integrity on its southern borders.
External powers have been feeding this insurgency since the formation of modern Turkey to keep it off-balance and not be able to concentrate on unifying the Muslims of North Africa, Middle East and the Turkic nations of Central Asia and the Near East into a formidable power and economic bloc that can promote its own interests.
Due to the lack of success in quelling this simmering insurgency in the southern and SE border area, Turkey may have thought that, given the fall of the previous dominoes like Iraq and Libya, it was possibly a good bet that the legitimate Syrian Government would fall too; and the best option in a fragmented region would be to support the pro-west sunni-led paid dissidents within Syria. This would possibly help them proxy-control the southern and SE border region and help them to wrest control from the Kurds which would pacify this area once and for all, despite US intentions to the contrary. But this was a flawed plan and hugely detrimental to the trade and long-term regional interests of Turkey.
When I started working in Syria in 2011, it did not take me long to determine that Mr Assad had widespread support within the country, even from the Christians and others because his party had an admirable record in preserving the identity and culture of the tribal groups that pre-dated Islam and there were prosperous villages which spoke Aramaic, even predating Christianity. In the polls, he notched up 75% of support which I readily believed because, of the 450-odd staff that we had, except for a handful, everyone chose to be bussed for a supporting march arranged for Mr Assad, and expressed freely, their support for him.
Syria could be best described as a mid-income fairly self-reliant, prosperous nation with minimal external debts, a booming economy and a powerful military. I have no doubts that the Russians knew this and they backed the party of the people. Turkey thought that possibly like Iraq before, Syria would disintegrate into tribal groups and be dismembered. They backed the wrong side which is a pity because Turkey and Turkish people were very well loved throughout Syria and if you counted the trans-national traffic to and from the Gulf, you would find that most of them were Turkish heavy lorries transporting goods.
So, in one fell swoop, Turkey lost capital with most of the Syrian people and positioned themselves with western-backed rebels in an effort to control the southern border. If they had just backed the popular Assad government and pledged to back the territorial integrity of Syria (which they do), they would have been on the right side of the conflict along with the canny Russians and enhanced their good-will with the Syrian people.
Now Turkey has the burden of a SE border still under the control of YPG kurds and with US forces stealing the oil supplies of Syria to fund this group keeping alive false expectations and causing cross-border incursions. Plus Turkey has a face-off with the Russian Air Force and the Syrian Army which I presume that they never wanted to do. All they would like would be for the Syrian Army to exert fully control of its own territory and stop any externally-supplied PKK and allied groups transgressing into Turkey.
To top this, there is now the IDLIB area with sunni-dissident forces that Turkey has assisted and who Turkey is morally-bound to absorb as permanent refugees within its borders or channel to other European states. It is the usual narrative. US and Western Europe, having started and funded the conflict, are totally disinterested in dealing with the fallout of refugees and the burden is left with the local neighbours like in Afghanistan.
And all the decades of goodwill and brotherhood with the Syrian people has been spent unnecessarily, greatly curbing Turkey's ability to forge even closer business and trade-links with the neighbours which could be a powerful economic entity. Turkey is truly caught between a rock and a hard place and very sensitive negotiations and progressive adjustments need to take place, with Syria and Russia, to come to an equitable solution and a slow re-establishment of squandered goodwill.
Dr Muhammad Tahseen is an
eminent geoscientist who has
developed technologies and worked in hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation in four continents, built Databanks and worked with carbon sequestration. He lives in London and is a regular contributor.