Six years into the Syrian crisis, will Turkey be a game changer?

Published October 17th, 2016 - 09:38 GMT
A Turkish tank heads towards the Syria border as Turkey launched operation "Euphrates Shield" aimed at ridding the area of Daesh extremists. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)
A Turkish tank heads towards the Syria border as Turkey launched operation "Euphrates Shield" aimed at ridding the area of Daesh extremists. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)

More than six years into the Syrian crisis, it appears that neither a political nor a military solution is unattainable.

Still, the military situation is not completely against the Syrian army and its Russian ally.

Strategically, the real change on the ground was made by Turkey's recent position.

Analysts say Turkey can be considered the real source of destabilisation in Syria; therefore, a change in its policy affects any equilibrium there.

Since the attempted military coup, Ankara has shifted its position. Turkey can become the real game changer in the Syrian crisis.

Turkey vainly attempted to effect change in Syria, and this affected it negatively; the result was the spread of extremism and the risk of a Kurdish state on its borders. Turkish politics are very pragmatic, and Erdogan seems to be a real survivalist.

The less harsh tone Turkey adopted vis-à-vis Syria is a practical change that guarantees a win for Turkey.

The Turkish-Russian relations are a long-term cooperation in which Turkey enjoys a very privileged position in the hugely strategic energy sector.

After the attempted coup, Turkey stood to gain much from its rapprochement with Russia, as this new relation guarantees that Turkey is the protagonist in the gas industry scene in the region.

On the other hand, the Turkish-Israeli agreement is another important step for Turkey.

Having the major role in rebuilding Gaza, controlling the shores of the strip, extracting natural gas and building the gas pipeline for Israel are vital strategic projects that made Turkey change some of its policies.

The shift in Turkish politics guarantees that Ankara has huge benefits. Therefore, if the cost of its rapprochement with Russia was a changed position on Syria, Turkey paid it willingly.

Turkey is a real game changer in the region today; its politics decide what way the crisis goes, especially because Turkey was the driver of escalation in Syria.

The major challenge for Turkey now is to create a national consensus and reassure the international community that its policies are not harming international peace and stability in two crucial fields: refugees and extremism.

The Turkish political role in the Middle East might grow bigger, depending on the Turkish rulers' ability to meet the challenges and see that there are more common interests with other protagonists.

By Amer Al Sabaileh


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