Iqra Aziz |
The landscape of the Middle East has allowed the regional powers—Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to maneuver their moves to maximize their hegemony against the backdrop of interventions by Russia, the United Kingdom, and, later, the United States. However, the new strategy of US regarding Syria to contain Islamic State (IS) and to encompass Iran is shifting the alignments in the region. The role of Turkey is crucial in this respect which is drifting away from the US and converging with Iran and Russia.
There are reasons behind Turkey’s realignment with the revisionist powers —Tehran and Moscow. First, the ascendency of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the presidency has rolled back the secularists policies and he has empowered the religious sections in the Islamic state. Turkish president is pursuing to change the regional order on the perception that he should revive the system of “Caliphate” and he is the rightful heir of the Sunni leadership which made him an entrant against the House of Saud. Particularly the murder of Khasoggi has escalated tensions between Ankara and Riyadh.
The U.S. wants Turkey on its side as it steps up efforts to push Iran and its allies out of Syria. And it is worried that Russia is making progress in dividing NATO by selling advanced anti-missile defences to Turkey.
Concerning the region—the tussle in Persian Gulf —in which Saudi Arabia has adopted divergent approach with Qatar and the escalating tension from the Saudi behavior with Iran and Yemen has compelled Ankara to join Iran in favor of Doha. Moreover, the policy of US to support Kurdish separatist element —People’s Protection Units (YPG) to counter the ISIS in Syria has shape the foreign policy of Turkey to drift away from US in which Saudi Arabia is equally involved.
Turkish leaders view American support for the YPG as a betrayal, especially since U.S. promises to scale back support for the Kurdish fighters haven’t been fully met. The YPG serves as the backbone of an Arab-Kurdish militant coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in earlier part of the current year has provided common grounds for strategic alignment.
The Troika pledged to respect the territorial integrity of Syria, to find a diplomatic solution end the war, and to begin a restoration and reconstruction process Syria. To make it a successful alliance Erdogan has to withdraw from his plans to remove Syrian president backed by Tehran and to pull out its forces from Northern Syria. Russia and Iran have called for returning the regions conquered by the Turks to the Syrian Army.
The role of Turkey is crucial in this respect which is drifting away from the US and converging with Iran and Russia.
On the other hand Moscow wants to sustain its strong hold in the Middle East to destroy al-Qaeda and the ISIS. Russia is trying to build cleavages between Ankara and NATO. Turkey has already decreasing its support for NATO on the pretext of dispute between Greece and Cyprus over sea-based resources-gas and oil. Concerning economic side Ankara wants a natural gas pipeline from Russia and made pacts of $20 billion Russian nuclear reactor and $2.5 Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system.
Regarding Iran her major concern in Syria is to maintain a buffer between itself and her antagonist alliance —U.S, Israeli, and Saudi, which seems to be in the maiden stages of planning a war against Iran. Iran is already in a state of isolation due to the sanctions imposed by Washington in the wake of broken nuclear deal. Therefore, Iran needs a strong alliance in Middle East with-Turkey and Russia which would help her against the aggression of triple alliance-Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
For safeguarding her strategic and territorial legitimacy she has given up her desire of a Shi’ite government in post-war Syria. These developments have followed against the milieu of Syrian conflict where the United States and Saudi Arabia have remained strategic partners concerning their designs in Yemen and enmity towards Iran. For Turkey, the Iran-Russia nexus now seems to be an alternate to NATO.
The Trump administration has adopted a strategy try to restore ties and pull Turkey out of its deepening alliances with Russia and Iran. Trump administration has issued a statement: “Turkey’s alignment with Russia and Iran runs counter to Turkish interests.” The U.S. wants Turkey on its side as it steps up efforts to push Iran and its allies out of Syria. And it is worried that Russia is making progress in dividing NATO by selling advanced anti-missile defences to Turkey.
A rare alliance is emerging in the backdrop of Syrian war but the “Troika” has to overcome their suspicions based on past rivalries to achieve their goals in lieu of shared interests.
Iqra Aziz is a political analyst based in Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.