The importance of the visit of the Iranian commander Mohammad Bagheri in Ankara

Originally published in the Greek weekly newspaper “Paraskinio”, issue 593, p. 16, on August 26, 2017

“A visit of great importance”. This is how the Turkish and Iranian media describe the visit of the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Army, Major general Mohammad Bagheri to Ankara. The visit was the first since 1979 and came at the invitation of the Turkish government. Bagheri had a three-and-a-half-hour closed meeting with the Turkish Army Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar. The following day, Bagheri had another closed meeting for 50 minutes with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. At the end of this, the Iranian Chief of Staff said Iran and Turkey have a common stand against the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, scheduled to take place next month.

However, the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum was not the only issue between the two sides. My source assured me that the Syrian crisis and the Kurdish presence in northern Syria, as well as its growing influence due to support from a number of Western countries, was an important issue at the table. The same source pointed out to me that the United States was preparing a military operation in the northern part of Syria targeting Idlib province. The tool of this operation will be the Kurdish militias in the Afrin region. For this reason, the US has increased the quantities of weapons they have provided over the last two weeks. The US will support them by air on the pretext of “al-Qaeda’s elimination” in the province. The potential success of this operation will form a Kurdish entity that extends from northern Iran to the Mediterranean, preventing communication between Turkey and the Middle East, and between Iran and Turkey, which will be the beginning of a new divisional war that will redraw the map of the area. This is the main unannounced reason for this visit. The Turkish and Iranian sides recognize the gravity of the events on the Syrian north, and despite their differences in whether or not Assad should stay in power, it is certain that this visit will be a new turning point in the way both will move in Syria.

The visit comes at a time when the countries involved in the Syrian crisis are stepping up their moves. It is expected that during the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow, as well as the visit of the head of the Israeli Mossad in the US and his meeting with US President, the Syrian crisis and the Iranian presence near the northern border of Israel will be the main discussion files. The Israeli side is dissatisfied with America’s indifference to the presence of Iranian militias in Syria. In the coming days, a visit by the Russian Army Chief to Ankara is expected to renegotiate the issues between the two countries over the Syrian crisis. Finally, the US Defense Secretary’s visit to Ankara will be the last chance for the two sides to reach a consensus.

The statement by the Turkish President on the possibility of a joint military action by Turkey and Iran against terrorist organizations has confirmed that the two sides understand the gravity of the situation. As described by an important member of the Turkish media, “what is happening in the Syrian north is the biggest threat to Turkey since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.” Ankara has only a few weeks to move, otherwise in the coming winter we will witness the start of the great collapse.