Commentary in Annahar on Turkey, Russia & Iran summit about Syria

Annahar Premium – Apr. 06, 2018

Mr. George Issa, distinguished journalist in the Lebanese newspaper “Annahar” asked my opinion on the recent meeting between the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran and the developments in Syria.

G.I.: May I ask your opinion for Annahar about the probable agreement that the Turkish, Russian and Iranian leaders could have reached in today’s summit concerning Syria?
Did they feel that after Ghouta and Afrin developments, they may begin to finalize the next crucial political phase, especially that Trump isn’t eager to engage his country in the Syrian quagmire after defeating ISIS?

EJK: What has been released from the tripartite meeting in Ankara during the press conference confirms that the talk between all parties is still at the beginning. The three countries meet in one point which is to reduce the influence of the West and especially the US in the Syrian territory in general and the East of Syria in particular. However, the points of difference between them are multiple. Turkey wants no Kurdish entity in Syria for fear of what happened in northern Iraq from the attempt to secede, while Moscow sees no harm in retaining the Kurds as a federation but within its influence and not within American influence, and Iran, which has an important lobby within the PKK through the Alawite element, does not see any harm from dragging the Syrian Kurds from the US influence in order to use them in the future as a means of pressure on Turkey. These details are known to the three leaders, which increases the mistrust between them and leads them to repeat meetings so that the plans are developed momently.

In my personal opinion, the current meeting created a tripartite consensus on two points:

  1. that the northern region of the Syrian armed opposition, extending from Jarabulus to the northern countryside of Hama, will be protected by Turkey. Turkey would increase control points along the lines of contact with the Assad regime and its allies and will prohibit any military action to break the situation of non-engagement. In addition, Ankara, through its strong influence within the Syrian armed opposition in the areas north of Homs and east of Qalamoun, and in coordination with Moscow, are seeking to find a peaceful solution that would end the Syrian armed opposition presence from the middle of Syria. Therefore, Iran, Russia and Turkey will be focusing their movements and pressures on the eastern part of the country.
  2. that the three countries will increase their cooperation in combating terrorism in the Syrian East, using it as an excuse for Iran and Russia to expand to the other side of the Euphrates, that is north of the cities of Bukamal and Deir ez-Zor. Ankara will also increase its pressure on Washington regarding the control of the city of Manbij and surrounding villages.

Trump’s assertion of his desire to get out of Syria very soon and then announce the extension of the stay of American forces for an additional time can be seen by the Russians and Iranians as a sign that the White House is prepared to withdraw if pressure on the ground increases. Nevertheless, according to information coming from the region, the Pentagon has increased the number of its forces in Syria during the past two weeks, indicating that a move initiated by Washington together with its British and French allies will cover the area between the north of the city of Bukamal to the Al-Tanf US base, thus cut the Tehran-Beirut route. This move will be linked to Trump’s imminent decision regarding the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

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