What's Behind the Rising Turkish-U.S. Tensions and Turkey's Incursion into Northwest Syria?
by Matthew RJ Brodsky
Perspectives with Tracy Alexander / i24News
October 9, 2017
Matthew RJ Brodsky joined Tracy Alexander on i24News "Perspectives" to discuss the latest escalating scrum between Turkey and the United States, and Turkey's latest moves in northwest Syria. Brodsky contends that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has learned a lot from the Iranian model, the latest example is taking American citizens hostage.
Like Iran, Erdoğan is becoming an authoritarian and religious Islamic state masking this reality with the false veneer of of a democracy. Both countries would like to become the Middle East hegemon and feed on anti-semitism. While the Islamic Republic of Iran denies the Holocaust and wishes to wipe Israel from the map, the Republic of Turkey calls Israeli Nazis. While Iran used the abortive Green Revolution to further crack down on dissidents, Erdoğan has used the attempted coup to accelerate his authoritarianism, lock up journalists, role back democracy, and punish his opponents.
Latest rift over visas stems from the U.S. finally deciding there was a limit to how much they were willing to look the other way as the balancing act between problematic and pragmatic behavior has recently tilted heavily toward problematic without a reason to believe such behavior will change. On September 28, the U.S. State Department updated its travel advice for Americans, saying they should "carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time."
At the same time, in northwest Syria, Turkey is making advances into Idlib province, ostensibly to combat terrorists but in reality, it just wants to secure a seat for itself in Syria and push back on Kurdish gains. That requires Erdoğan to not only work with Iran—a country it has gone to war with 11 times in the last half-millenia—but with Russia as well, with whom the Turkish president shares a newfound affinity as both would like to restore their lost empires.
Turkish forces have massed along the border in recent weeks and on Saturday bulldozers took down border walls to allow for the passage of military vehicles. Rather than fighting against the al-Qaeda offshoot, Hayat al-Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Turkey has cooperated with it and has established three checkpoints in Darat Izzat, west of Aleppo, in coordination with HTS. According to Agence France-Presse, HTS has been weakened recently by a string of defections. It happens to coincide with the launching of what appears to be yet another Islamist terrorist group in northwest Syria calling itself, Jamaat Ansar al-Forkan fi Bilad al-Sham. They portray themselves as more true to the original aims of al-Qaeda and the al-Nusra Front.
The axis of Russia and Iran, in which Turkey is a junior partner is unlikely last. Like Ankara's step too far against the U.S., it's backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and long playing a double game with terrorists in Syria, Erdogan will again find himself holding the short end of the stick after betting yet again on the wrong horse.