Security, Middle East
By galvanizing a common front of anti-U.S. sentiment in all three countries, Erdogan seeks to downplay Ankara’s escalating tension with Russia and Iran and repair ties.
In a recent statement, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States is working against the interests of Turkey, Iran and maybe Russia in northern Syria, where it is sending military aid to the Syrian Kurdish militia. “If the United States says they are sending 5,000 trucks and 2,000 cargo planes of weapons for the fight against Daesh (Islamic State), we don’t believe this,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in parliament. “It means you (the US) have calculations against Turkey and Iran, and maybe Russia.” By galvanizing a common front of anti-U.S. sentiment in all three countries, Erdogan seeks to downplay Ankara’s escalating tension with Russia and Iran and repair ties. If he pulls it off, Washington will have to deal with a less compromising Turkey shortly before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Ankara.
Erdogan’s statement comes at a time as the tension between Turkey, Russia and Iran over Syria is mounting. The three countries forged a partnership in Syria and have been leading the Syria talks in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Frustrated with the U.S.’s cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, Ankara turned to Moscow and Tehran for help. Turkey set up “observation posts” in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province—the last stronghold of the anti-Assad opposition—as part of efforts by the three countries to establish deescalation zones. But Turkey’s real intention was to rein in the YPG, which controls the Afrin region next to Idlib. Turkey hoped that it would move into Afrin and its Astana partners would look the other way. Ankara thought it got its wish when Russia, which controls the skies over Afrin, finally gave the green light to the Turkish military incursion into the Kurdish enclave. Iran and the Assad regime acquiesced to Turkey’s move.