Putin extends his hand to Erdogan, but Assad is not convinced. Is Iran being pushed out?

Written by – Elijah J. Magnier:

Defence Ministers of Russia Sergei Shoigu, Turkey Hulusi Akar and Syria Ali Muhammad Abbas met in Moscow in the last week of 2022 to further promote the Turkish-Syrian reconciliation and establish a state of non-war between Moscow’s allies. This was the first high-level official meeting since 2011, though the Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Syria met unofficially and briefly in Belgrade last year. However, the Intelligence Services’ representatives had met on several occasions in Russia, Syria and Turkey. The prominent absentee from the defence Ministerial meeting was Iran, one of the guarantors of the Astana Agreement and the leading Syrian-Russian partner in the Levant. Was this an attempt to push Iran out of geopolitical influence, and what is President Bashar al-Assad’s position on this rapprochement?

President Vladimir Putin considers President Recep Tayyip Erdogan one of his most critical geopolitical partners at this vital stage in the Western-Russian war on the territory of Ukraine. Turkey plays a crucial role between the Middle East and Europe. It is the most significant contributor to US-led NATO forces currently immersed in this proxy war against Russia. Also, Ankara supervised and mediated a Russian-Ukrainian understanding to export millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to the (mainly rich and developed) nations.

In addition, Russia delivers gas to Turkey through the Turk Stream pipeline. Ankara and Moscow have recently agreed to establish a hub to store surplus Russian gas in Turkey, enabling European countries to buy the gas they need. The idea sprung from sabotaging Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines (no Russian responsibility) and the imposition of western sanctions on Russia’s energy exports. Russia is allowing Turkey a privileged position, offering a diplomatic way for the European nations to avoid the embarrassment they were put in when imposing a price cap on the much-needed Russian oil and gas. It will also allow the flow of foreign currency to Russia, which it needs to finance the war in Ukraine without falling back to its reserve and to maintain robust stability in the Russian economy. It is a win-win situation for both Russia and Turkey.

Turkish forces and bases are already operating and have been for years in Syria, occupying parts of the north-western cities in various border areas, the Idlib region, and its countryside. Consequently, the Turkish presence on a joint theatre of operations with the US, Russian, Syrian and Iranian military advisors, even in a relatively small area and along the Syrian-Turkish border, imposes Erdogan as a significant player in the Levant.

Moscow’s meeting of the Defence Ministers took place following Turkey’s intention to occupy an additional part of Syria and establish a buffer zone thirty kilometres deep to punish the Syrian Kurds Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK – the Syrian branch). This area is controlled by the Kurdish forces loyal to the US and NATO occupation forces in that part of north-eastern Syria. Russia has negotiated with the Syrian PKK (on the US and European terrorist lists) to withdraw from the region and restore the Syrian army’s control to prevent the Turkish invasion. However, US pressure effectively averted any Kurdish concessions due to sanctions imposed on Syria and the US determination to steal Syrian oil and cripple the Syrian economy.

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Proofread by: Maurice Brasher