How America Can Win Turkey Back from Russia by Using Syria

How America Can Win Turkey Back from Russia by Using Syria

Nicholas Morgan

Security, Middle East


Here’s the plan.

Syria’s civil war is entering yet another phase with the regime of Bashar al-Assad continuing its quest to re-conquer every inch of his country that rebelled over eight years of civil war. Now the fighting has focused on the final stronghold of Syria’s resistance, Idlib. Located in Syria’s northwest on the border with Turkey, Idlib province is home to over three million civilians and thousands of rebels, moderates and extremists alike, who oppose the Assad government. 

Since September 2018, the province has been subject to a ceasefire agreed upon by Russia,and Turkey, the main benefactors for each side. For months the agreement worked to reduce violence in Idlib, but this all ended in May when Damascus, with Russian support, launched a ground offensive to reclaim the province. Since May, the fighting has killed thousands on both sides and displaced over 450,000 civilians from their homes, raising the specter of a new wave of refugees heading to Turkey for safety. 

Turkey has found itself in a precarious situation since entering Syria’s quagmire. Turkish forces at observation posts set up under the ceasefire arrangement have found themselves under fire from the regime and their appeals to Moscow have done little. Officials at Russia’s Foreign Ministry have increasingly provided cover for the regime through repeatedly reiterating it’s sovereignty in response to Turkish operations across Syria. Echoing Syrian officials, Russian diplomats called on Turkey to request Damascus’ permission for any future operations on its territory and that other Turkish holdings have to be returned to the regime. This remark was pointedly directed at the cantons Turkey seized as part of its anti-YPG Operation Euphrates Shield which Russia previously greenlighted. 

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