Apart from unwisely escalating tensions with Russia, Ankara has followed destructive and divisive policies in Syria from the very start of the country’s conflict in 2011. While blockading the secular and democratic territory of Rojava since 2012, for example, Turkey has allowed freedom of movement across its borders for both Daesh and other jihadi forces.
Without Turkish soil being available for the indiscriminate use of jihadis since 2011, the conditions that gave rise to IS would have not taken hold in northern Syria, and IS would have not grown strong enough to become a major security threat for the whole world.
Without Turkey, then, the USA’s plans for destabilising Syria (in place since at least 2006) may not have turned into the quagmire that currently engulfs the country.
Increasing alliance with Wahhabi states
According to an unnamed Turkish source, Turkish President Erdoğan’s first presidential campaign in 2014 had been supported by a “gift” of $10bn dollars from Saudi Arabia. If true, we should read a lot into this. The conditions of this friendship were almost certainly related to the creation of a bloc of pseudo-religious chauvinist powers in the Middle East.
Sputnik, meanwhile, notes that:
Turkey’s training centers for Syrian Islamists have been funded by Erdogan’s close friend Yasin al-Qadi, a Saudi banker close to the Saudi royalties, member of the Muslim Brotherhood and financier of Osama bin Laden since the 1980s.
On 3 January 2016, Al Hayat’s Raghida Dergham spoke about how:
The strategic cooperation council [recently] established by Saudi Arabia and Turkey is one step above a bilateral alliance
This promised to create “deeper coordination” between the two powers.
In early February, suggestions arose that Saudi Arabia and Turkey would provide direct support to anti-Assad groups in Syria if a ground operation took place. Ankara had both invited Saudi Arabian jets onto its bases and begun to mobilise ground troops on the Turkish/Syrian border in coalition with Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Turkey has also forged a stronger alliance with Qatar. On 27 January, Middle East Eye spoke about how a new military pact between the two countries was part of a “major strategic alliance” of “expansionism” against the Russia-Iran-Syria bloc. This move essentially began to bring into the open Ankara’s:
“hidden policy” of taking out Assad, breaking the PKK and PYD, and promoting a fundamentalist Sunni Islam that matches the orientation of the [ruling] Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Blockading Rojava and supporting Daesh
If the current regime Ankara were at all sensible, it would focus its efforts on dealing with issues like ending the Syrian Civil War, protecting refugees, solving the Kurdish Question, or ending child labour. In reality, it is completely focused on both keeping the conflict in Syria alive – in a stubborn geopolitical tug of war with Assad – and on suppressing the rise of Kurdish autonomy in both Syria and Turkey.
For example, Turkish forces have prevented dead citizens who fought for the YPG/J in Rojava from returning home for their funerals, while trying to provoke the Kurdish-led militias into retaliating by breaching Rojavan air space. And as Turkey keeps digging trenches on its border with Rojava, it shoots people coming towards the border and prevents food, humanitarian aid, and medicine from getting across.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Daesh was involved in a “migration operation” between Tel Abyad and Turkey from December 2014 to March 2015 (which Turkish authorities did little or nothing to stop). And even on 1 February, there were claims that Daesh was “still seeping through Syria-Turkey border” at points where Daesh was in control. The HDP’s Mahmut Togrul, who says “this human trafficking has become a lucrative source of income” for people living on the Turkish side of the border, therefore insists that the AKP’s struggle against Daesh “is not sincere”.
What is very sincere, however, is Ankara’s desire to increase its anti-democratic influence in the Middle East whilst destroying any hopes of an alternative democratic system emerging from the Syrian Civil War.