2 March 2020   2 comments

Turkey has begun an offensive against Syrian forces in the province of Idlib, responding to a Syrian attack that killed 30 Turkish soldiers. Turkish forces claim to have shot down two Syrian jets and to have hit 200 Syrian regime targets with artillery and drone strikes. Under an agreement with Russia and Syria forged in 2018, Turkey has the right to maintain 12 observation sites in Syria, but those sites have come under attack by Syrian forces. The counteroffensive is a delicate operation since the Turks do not wish to engage Russian forces which are supporting the Syrian troops, but making those distinctions between Russian and Syrian forces is difficult.

On another front, Turkey is releasing Syrian refugees on its western border and many of those refugees are trying to seek asylum in Greece. Once in Greece, those refugees will try to move to other EU countries. The EU wants to avoid that influx for political reasons which have been aggravated by fears of the coronavirus. The Turkish move is an attempt to put pressure on Europe to offer support to Turkey in its confrontation in Syria. Barring a Syrian or Russian attack on Turkish soil, there is probably no way that Europe would offer military support to Turkey, particularly in light of the long-standing tensions between Turkey and the EU. But “Erdogan said Turkey, home to some 3.6 million refugees, did not plan to close the borders because ‘the (EU) should keep its promises’. He was referring to the 2016 deal with Brussels to stop the flow of refugees in exchange for billions of euros.”

Turkish President Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Russian President Putin in Russia on Thursday. They will undoubtedly discuss measures to assure that Turkish troops do not fire on Russian troops in Syria. But whether Putin can make any promises about the behavior of Syrian troops is unlikely. Russia has sent large amounts of military equipment to Syria in response to the Turkish attacks. Those weapons could be a bribe to induce Syrian President Assad to hold back. Or they could be a clear statement that Russia backs its Syrian ally wholeheartedly. Russia has sent two naval frigates armed with cruise missiles through the Bosporus Strait into the eastern Mediterranean, signaling its intent to support Syria.

Posted March 2, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “2 March 2020

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  1. Another perspective from the Guardian:
    https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/02/erdogan-turkey-syria-assad

    It is not clear to me that the author’s last assertion is a viable option. It seems like a rather weak hope, in conjunction to the rest of his analysis. Additionally, it does not appear to be a workable option in terms of ending the conflict. From my (severely limited) understanding, a western (military) response would have the opposite effect of stabilizing the region.

    Like

    • I really like Tisdall and the op-ed rings true to me. But I agree with you. Any intervention by Western powers would be a losing move. Putin has much more to lose than do the Western countries by backing down.

      Liked by 1 person

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