BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
At the Turkey-Russia-Iran trilateral summit held in Tehran, a decision was made to fight terrorism in Syria.
In a statement published jointly by President Erdogan, Russian Leader Putin and the host, Iranian President Raisi, the three countries expressed their determination to fight terrorism in just a few paragraphs.
So far, everyone’s ideas seem compatible. However, the problem is that the three countries have diametrically opposed ideas about “who is a terrorist and who is not” in Syria. Turkey sees the PYD-YPG, which actually controls the east of the Euphrates, as an extension of the PKK terrorist organization. However, Russia’s view is not the same. The active PYD office in Moscow is proof of this.
Likewise, Turkey does not like the Shiite armed groups trained and equipped by Iran in Syria.
On the other hand, opposition armed groups active in the region controlled by the Turkish Armed Forces, which Turkey refers to as the “Syrian National Army,” are not welcomed by both Iran and Russia.
The Assad administration, on the other hand, describes all armed groups in the areas under Turkey’s control as “terrorists.”
As such, the promises of cooperation made in the joint statement on the “fight against terrorism” do not reflect the reality on the ground.
RUSSIA IS TRYING TO TURN TURKEY’S NEW OPERATION THREAT IN FAVOR OF ASSAD
Another prominent element in the joint statement was that the three countries stated that they were “against illegitimate self-government attempts” in Syria. It is clear that what is meant by the expression “illegitimate self-government” here is in the PYD-YPG region. Turkey’s cross-border operation threat is already on the table for this region.
Obviously, by signing such a statement, the Russians are trying both to please Turkey and to push the PYD-YPG to “sit at the table with Assad against the threat of a Turkish military operation.” They’re killing two birds with one stone.
It should not be forgotten that the Syrian Foreign Minister is also in Tehran. Iran, which is trying to bring the Assad regime in Syria to the table with Turkey, perhaps succeeded this time. As a matter of fact, the fact that the head of MIT, Hakan Fidan, who carries out contact with Syria, is also in Erdogan’s delegation in Tehran, and the fact that there are elements related to humanitarian issues such as prisoner exchange in the joint statement brings to mind potential Ankara-Damascus contact.
NO GREEN LIGHT FROM IRAN FOR THE TURKISH OPERATION
It is possible to say that the biggest wish by the AK Party government in Tehran did not come true. That is, the “green light” was not received for a new cross-border operation in Syria. While the Iranians expressed this very clearly through Supreme Leader Khamenei, Russia made its objection more cautious and implicit.
Erdogan pointed to Tel Rıfat and Manbij for the cross-border operation. At Iran’s clear objection, the Turkish armed forces’ operation in Tel Rifat, where Shiite militants were active, became difficult. The possibility of Manbij remained. However, considering that the Assad administration has massed soldiers there, it does not seem easy. The probability of Turkish soldiers, who will enter the region to end PYD-YPG operations, coming face to face with Russian-backed Assad forces increases day by day.
RUSSIAN AND IRANIAN GAINS
It is also noteworthy that the effect of the Ukraine war on the Astana format created by Turkey-Iran-Russia emerged in the Tehran summit statement.
In the joint declarations of the tripartite summits, there was previously no explicit reference to Israel’s pinpoint attacks on critical targets in Syria. Obviously, Iran’s suppression has yielded results, and both Russia and Turkey have endorsed the condemnation of Israel in a joint declaration.
The Russian response to the condemnation of Israel was that it took Iran, which had been neutral in the Ukrainian war until now, onto its side; The most concrete proof of this change of attitude in Tehran is that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Khamenei, said in his meeting with Putin that “Ukraine, not Russia, started the war.” Will this be followed by the sale of Iranian drones to Russia? Probably.
THERE IS “PROGRESS” ON THE GRAIN BUT NO RESULTS
Another expectation of Turkey from the Tehran summit was to finalize the mechanism to export Ukrainian grain by sea. As of the time of writing, this still has not been finalized.
However, Putin’s statement that there is “progress” also shows that there is still a possibility for a solution to be found in the near future.
It should be noted here that this grain bargain between Turkey and Russia was made with the “full support” of the West. The statement, “We support Turkey’s efforts,” made by the White House after the Erdogan-Putin meeting is proof of this.
ENERGY AT THE FORE
The topic that came to the fore in Tehran and which indirectly concerns Turkey was the energy issue. It is obvious that the agreement regarding the operation of Iranian oil and gas fields worth 40 billion dollars by Iran and Russia will create great discomfort in the West, which is experiencing an energy bottleneck due to the Ukraine war. Russia received the right to develop two natural gas and six oil fields in Iran. In return, Russia promised technical assistance to Iran to extract oil and natural gas.
Thus, the plans by the American administration to achieve the nuclear agreement and to engage Iran in the supply of gas and oil to the West came to an end before they even started.
In a world that is rapidly moving towards a bipolar system, the subject that will mark the coming period will be oil and natural gas diplomacy.
Now it’s time for the OPEC-Plus meeting on 3 August. Let’s see what decisions will emerge there.