Erdoğan in Syria quagmire may be turning back to West – op-ed

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarianism and ideologically driven foreign policy have opened large rifts between Turkey and its Western allies, and the country’s involvement in the Syrian conflict has widened those rifts, Middle East Political Information Network director Eric R. Mandel wrote in an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post.

But the partnerships Turkey has been forming with U.S. adversaries like Russia and Iran are built on shaky ground and are likely to break down, Mandel said.

With the United States backing Kurdish-led groups in Syria that Turkey views as terrorists for their links to insurgents at home, Erdoğan has collaborated more closely with Russia and Iran in the Syrian conflict, even though they support opposing sides of the civil war.

Since Ankara and Tehran share a similar opposition to U.S. influence in the region, Turkey has likewise collaborated with Iran to help prop up Qatar in its conflict with other Arab states and by helping launder billions of dollars for the Iranian government to bypass U.S. sanctions, Mandel said.

As the war dragged on in Syria and President Bashar Assad’s forces, with support from Iran and Russia, clawed back control of most of the country, the opposition fighters backed by Turkey were driven back to enclaves in the north of the country.

With almost all of the opposition and millions of displaced civilians now concentrated in Idlib province near the border with Turkey, Erdoğan needs Russia to help rein in Assad’s forces and prevent a huge wave of migrants from heading to his country, Mandel said.

But the two countries are not natural allies, and their partnership has been tested by Assad’s continuing offensive in Idlib, he said.

“One possible American strategy to deal with Erdoğan would be to wait him out and hope that in future decades a new leadership emerges,” said Mandel. “But the Syrian civil war has created opportunities and dangers that will test American administrations who just want to get out of the Middle East.”