When the Astana trio first initiated their peace process for Syria in late 2016, many felt that the allegedly competing interests of Russia, Turkey and Iran would lead to the failure of the group in respect of achieving positive results for Syria. Instead, it is the Astana trio whose de-escalation zones have preserved an otherwise fragile peace throughout all parts of Syria except for those under the control of the United States and the YPG/PKK terror group. Beyond this, it has been the Astana trio’s diligent work to bring the appropriate parties to the table in order to draft a new constitution for Syria which will serve as the basis for fresh elections. This trilateral effort will help to at long last draw the military phase of the Syria conflict to an end.
With this in mind, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has commented on how the Astana trio can help to coordinate a unified response to the presumed US withdrawal from north-eastern Syria so as to not allow terrorist groups such as the YPG/PKK to fill a power void. According to the Foreign Minister:
“We see that the U.S. has some difficulties while withdrawing [from Syria]. After being so intertwined and engaged with a terrorist organisation[the YPG/PKK], it is not that easy to leave that terrorist organisation”.
Çavuşoğlu then proposed a workable way to move forward in spite of the US partnership with the YPG/PKK. He said:
“We want to coordinate this process [the US withdrawal] jointly with Russia and Iran, with which we had arranged work in the framework of the Astana process. [It is needed] in order for terrorist organisations not to fill in the void [following the US pullout]”.
Turkey retains close and meaningful partnerships with Iran and Russia both within and in the long term more importantly outside of the scope of the Astana format. In respect of Turkey’s proposal for an Astana trio led process to meet the challenges of a possible terrorist power vacuum being created upon a poorly coordinated US withdrawal from north-eastern Syria – this is clearly indicative of Turkey-US bilateral cooperation on the matter breaking down in the aftermath of US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s recent reckless statements.
Prior to his visit to Ankara which was cut short after Turkey’s President refused to meet him, Bolton spoke from Israel and stated that the US would not withdraw from Syria unless Turkey vowed not to neutralise the YPG/PKK terror group which continues to operate in eastern Syria. Turkish authorities were furious that after Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had reached an agreement for an orderly US withdrawal to be supplanted by a Turkish zone of anti-terror operations in Syria, Bolton acted to unilaterally change US policies towards its Turkish NATO partner – seemingly as a result of Israel’s leader telling Bolton to do so.
In respect of Israel’s meddling in the wider Middle East, the Middle East Eye has confirmed a secret meeting between Mossad head Yossi Cohen and the intelligence heads of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. At the meeting, it was agreed that Turkey presents an even bigger challenge to the de-facto Israeli-GCC(minus Qatar)-Egypt alliance than does Iran. According to Middle East Eye
“The officials also agreed at the meeting that they considered Turkey, rather than Iran, to be their major military rival in the region, and discussed plans to counter Ankara’s influence.
The Israelis told the meeting that Iran could be contained militarily, but that Turkey had a far greater capability. In the meeting Cohen is reported to have said: ‘Iranian power is fragile. The real threat comes from Turkey.”
The report further states,
“The fourth measure agreed on at the meeting was to support Syria’s Kurds against Turkey’s attempts to expel the YPG and its political counterpart, the PYD, from the Turkish border right up to the Iraqi border”.
The intelligence meeting between Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt therefore confirms three important factors, all of which were accurately predicted in previous analysis from Eurasia Future:
1. Israel’s rivalry with Turkey goes far beyond rhetoric over Palestine but is instead the result of a systematic military, economic and petro-political rivalry in the Eastern Mediterranean region in which Israel has conspicuously aligned itself with traditional rivals/enemies of Turkey.
2. Israel’s support for radical YPG/PKK terrorism and other forms of politically extreme ethno-nationalist Kurdish separatism movements is part of a wider attempt to threaten Turkey’s long term regional security. At the same time, the US based Israel lobby has formed an anti-Turkish alliance of convenience with the US based Kurdish, Armenian and Hellenic lobbies – all of whom are traditionally anti-Turkish.
Just how much Israel has influenced John Bolton’s pro-YPG/PKK stance becomes even more obvious when one views an interview he conducted with Fox News during the Obama era in which he correctly stated that the US YPG/PKK alliance is very alarming and symptomatic of poor leadership:
John Bolton is probably forgetful. While calling these days for the protection of the #YPG militia, he has attacked the support of the Kurdish militia last year as a remnant of Obama's "inadequate" foreign policy. In addition, the YPG is linked to the PKK, he said. pic.twitter.com/LlopfzSdVD
— Ali Özkök – علي أزكوك (@Ozkok_) January 8, 2019
Thus, after his meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, Bolton contradicted not only a clear message from Donald Trump that the withdrawal of US troops will be done in coordination with Turkey, but he also contradicted his own statements from the recent past.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that Turkey seeks to use the weight of the Astana partnership to counter-balance US attempts to further provoke Turkey by sending insultingly mixed signals regarding the future of Washington’s relationship with the YPG/PKK.
While Turkey’s frustration with Washington provides for the interesting optics of reminding the US that Turkey is both a partner to Iran and to the United States simultaneously, more importantly in respect of gaining clarity on anti-YPG/PKK actions in the region is the fact that Russia is a partner of Turkey, Iran and Israel. Therefore, Israel’s meddling in Syria on behalf of the YPG/PKK terror group is now largely a matter for Russia insofar as Turkey is concerned. This is the case as Russia is the only country with an open ear to both Turkey’s security concerns and to the Israeli leadership. In this sense, Turkey has realised which regional power is influencing the likes of John Bolton and is therefore pivoting itself closer to the only power operating in Syria that is able to have any influence on Israel.