The big question of 2019: Who will come out on top east of the Euphrates River in Syria? - MEHMET ACET

The big question of 2019: Who will come out on top east of the Euphrates River in Syria?

I occasionally meet up with an acquaintance who works at Iran’s Ankara embassy and concentrates on politics and regional issues due to his profession and we brainstorm ideas and thoughts together.

The same person came to visit me the other day, and this time we mostly discussed the developments taking place east of Euphrates River in Syria.

Thanks to this discussion I have become acquainted with Tehran’s approach toward issues such as the “safe zone” discussions, the future of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and what Iran and Turkey might do together in the future.

I already knew that in their correspondences with Turkish authorities the Iranians raised a question with “the hope” of influencing Ankara’s policies in northern Syria.

The question was: “Do you want the Syrian state or PKK at your border?”

I asked this Iranian official who visited me other questions in reference to this one. I stated my opinion that such an option may be included in the equation if the Damascus regime eliminates the PKK, if necessary by means of arms.

He, in turn, told me about the negotiations held between PKK/YPG terrorists and the Assad regime which, for now, have failed. He added that the regime has rejected YPG’s federation and autonomy demands, but that they have given a “guarantee to protect” the Kurds in northern Syria.

I responded that I presumed that even if it was limited to the “guarantee to protect”, Ankara would not tolerate the YPG’s presence.

My respondent told me that the U.S. is not going to withdraw from the region and even if it does, it is not going to do it in the way Turkey expects. He also made the following suggestion:

“With a quadripartite structure consisting of Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq, a formula that will make everyone happy may be found.”

In the end, our job is not to decide but to observe and comment.

As far as it seems, Ankara is determining its direction in the context of east of the Euphrates in reference to Moscow and Washington. One way or another, keeping such suggestions in mind might be useful in case America “scams” Turkey once again.

Eventually, there is probably no one who doesn’t understand that what lies behind Turkey’s move to cooperate with Iran and Russia and become a part of Astana process is that the U.S. is the master of deception.

On the other hand, with U.S. President Trump’s decision to withdraw, cards are being reshuffled and now Turkey has the upper hand and it has better action and negotiating power. When you ponder this issue more deeply the following question comes to mind:

“Who will draw the Kurd card?”

This question, brings additional questions such as, “Who will be the protector of the Syrian Kurds?” and “Who will establish a new order in northeastern Syria?” to minds.

From Ankara’s point of view, what we ascertained from President Erdoğan’s article published in the New York Times, which had a tremendous impact, was that the issue is not only about the eliminating PKK/YPG threat.

If you take a look at the entire article, you can see that Ankara is not only making an argument to push YPG away from Turkey’s borders, but it also declares that it wants to be the “protector of the Kurds.”

Suggestions such as the establishment of local parliaments which provide the opportunity for fair representation in accordance with the demographic structure, the transfer of Turkey’s skills and experiences in service sectors such as healthcare, infrastructure, municipality, as well as its suggestion to unite Kurdish children who were forced to take up arms, with their families actually promises the creation of a peaceful “environment” in northeastern Syria.

In this respect, Turkey can give more to the Kurds than the Damascus regime which had not even issued ID cards to them until the civil war broke out.

The fact that during the administration of Justice and Development (AK) Party, and therefore during Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration, assimilation policies had ended and steps were once again taken by the Erdoğan administration for their fundamental rights and democratization which it still sticks by might be a reference point for the future of the Syrian Kurds.

This is for sure; however, Ankara doesn’t have an ally in playing this role and in putting its demand to construct a peaceful future into practice.

At this point, notions such as exerting authority and preserving influence become much more valuable.

We are keeping ourselves busy with an equation where it is difficult to obtain the possible without considering the impossible.

In the following three or four months, we will be witnessing very important negotiations and bargains.

Each actor is making their move on the chessboard.

A new era where those who can guess their opponent’s next move and make their move accordingly will come out on top is approaching.


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