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Turkey’s Move On The Syrian Chess Board

Turkey has moved its pieces into a position in which the next move could be a game changer for the Assad regime in 579167_10151509368909802_686608077_nSyria and Daesh (ISIS) in both Syria and Iraq.

The most important move is allowing the Americans access to the Turkish air base at Incirlik. This immediately allows the US to step up its air strikes in both Syria and Iraq. Its jets can get to targets more quickly than from the Gulf, they can stay longer, they can carry more firepower. This increased ability will in turn put pressure on the White House to sanction sending US forward air controllers into the battle zones to help pinpoint targets. The use of other bases cannot be ruled out.

The second move intersects with the first. Turkey has moved a huge number of troops right up to the border with Syria along a long section of territory. After years of turning a blind eye to Islamic State fighters transiting the region, Ankara has now moved to block them. That, added to the increased air power will reduce the supply of fighters at the same time as they will need re-enforcements due to the increased fatality rate they will suffer inside Syria and Iraq.

A secondary consequence of this will be a reduced ability to supply fighters with arms and money.

Partially provoked by increased ISIS activity inside Turkey Ankara has moved against the group’s network there arresting almost 250 suspects in raids across the country. ISIS has engaged in a classic case of overreach and the tide looks as if it has now turned against the group.

Turkish F-16s this week hit three ISIS targets inside Syria, and Turkish ground forces engaged in a firefight across the border.

601977_10151521957209802_1456910880_nTurkey now has a range of options. The details of the agreement with the Americans are not clear, but, according to some Turkish media reporting, may include establishing a buffer zone 30 miles deep inside Syria along a 50 mile stretch of border. If that happens it would establish a safe zone for anti Assad and anti ISIS forces to train and 542690_10151459910334802_1009081087_nresupply as well as giving civilians respite from the fighting. If such a zone were created it would require a no fly zone above it. The latter could be established even if Turkish troops do not cross the border.

However, even if neither come to pass, Turkey’s moves will have seriously alarmed both Assad and ISIS. The latter knows that it will soon be coming under even greater pressure across the region. The gains of the last year have been halted, in some cases reversed, and that it likely to continue. With ISIS at least contained, the other rebel groups, now being trained and supplied in greater numbers, can coalesce and concentrate on fighting Syrian government forces. That in turn will put pressure on Assad to negotiate a way out, or fight to the death.

Turkey was content to let ISIS flourish in the hope it would overthrow Assad, but with ISIS destabilizing Turkey it has, at last, acted.

The danger to Turkey now is that, with ISIS and Assad under so much pressure, the Kurds will continue to gain territory. To a great extent the Kurds rely on the American for support and it is likely that Ankara will have extracted a promise from Washington that the Americans will press the Kurds not to push for statehood. Any moves towards that risks further destabilizing Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, all of which have significant Kurdish minorities.

It is no co-incidence that two days after the Incirlik base agreement was confirmed the US Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, turned up on an unannounced visit to Irbil – the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan


5 Comments on "Turkey’s Move On The Syrian Chess Board"

  1. Brenda Elizabeth Cowley-Waters | 25th July 2015 at 11:44 am | Reply

    About time Turkey ‘got off the fence’

  2. Mahatmacoatmabag | 25th July 2015 at 1:40 pm | Reply

    The Turks who (along with Qatar) financed trained & hosted the original Sunni rebel groups that by & large morphed into ISIS are not actually fighting to stop ISIS, they are far more interested in stopping the flow of refugees into Turkey and attacking the Kurds to prevent them from rolling back ISIS. Turkey is a Trojan Horse inside NATO, a brutal oppressor of the Kurds, unwilling to acknowledge its genocide of the Armenians & remains in illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus some 40 years, successfully avoiding any sort of economic sanctions on Turkey by virtue of its NATO membership. Its time for the USA to recognize the independence of the Kurds & arm them but sadly this will not happen as the US under Obama has embarked on empowering Iran to topple the Sunni Arab regimes of the Mid-East whilst building nuclear weapons to attack & destroy Israel & Saudi Arabia with. Thus the Turkish move into the fight should not be seen as welcome but a further complication to prolong it to Turkeys advantage.

  3. I like the way you put IS and assad in same the sentance if it wasn’t for President Assad and SAA Syria would of collapsed totally. Theses anti Assad forces you speak about, which ones are you talking about the organ eating ones or the ones shelling Cities because they can’t push the army out?? I expected better from you Tim

  4. David, they are in the same sentence because they are both going to feel the effects of the Turkish move. Putting them in the same sentence does not reflect a for or against sentiment – eg – ‘Santa Claus and the Devil are both figments of our imagination’ That does not make a case for or against either.

  5. Mahatmacoatmabag | 25th July 2015 at 4:48 pm | Reply

    ‘Santa Claus and the Devil are both figments of our imagination’
    Tim, Toys R-Us are going to be pretty upset come Christmas time if your revelation becomes widely known & sales of toys plummet.
    Ditto for the Catholic church, for 2,000 years they have made a fortune out of selling insurance against the Devil & ” Admit One” tickets into the Kingdom of Heaven so you better not take any more swipes at the Vatican’s money big money earners because you never know just when to expect the return of the Spanish Inquisition……………tdmmmm………

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