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Erdogan: Bluffer or Potentate? By Steve Brown

While the US concentrates on the crimes of its depraved political class, public exposure and the bright light thrown on their heinous crimes seems to have provided a window to get real work done, opposing corrupt US influence elsewhere, especially in Syria. Syrian security forces are making progress in cutting supply routes to terrorist-held regions, especially versus Jaysh al-Ahrar and Ahrar al Sham … (at least that is what they call themselves at this hour, their names could change next hour).

But in light of the recent Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terror offensive in Idlib, the informed observer must ask who is arming HTS and the motley crew of assorted ever-morphing terrorist groups still present and on the offensive in Idlib.

Based on intel and news sources it appears that Saudi and Israel are arming these groups with weapons sourced through a third party. As usual US weaponry supplied to “good rebels” is appearing in the hands of these motley terror groups, but most alarming of all, Turkey is continuing to destabilize the situation.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (RTE) seems emboldened by his experience in Afrin but Erdogan’strue motives are known only to himself. Prima facie Erdogan seems to be playing both sides against each other, with regard to the major powers, ie Russia v US and vice versa. That’s a very dangerous game to play, as Yanukovych discovered in 2014.

However, RTE has proven himself to be a canny operator so far, narrowly escaping a coup attempt in 2016, but the major political problem Erdogan has now — in tandem with some popular loss of support in the capitol — is linked to the 4 million or so war refugees present in Turkey, most of them from Syria.

The refugees are there largely due to the US and its great ability to subvert and destabilize wherever and whenever it so pleases, with Secretary of State Clinton’s 2011 “Arab Spring” igniting a powder keg in Syria, to the great joy of Israel.

According to reports, Erdogan would like to send back at least 700K of these refugees to Syria’s northeast province held by the SDF. Turkey seems to have forced some concession from the former United States to allow a safe zone along the Kurdish western front, west of Manbij, to take the Syrian refugees back, but how this will work in reality is another mystery. Meanwhile RTE continues to push the envelope with the US and will need deeper ties with Russia to continue playing this double game.  That’s because Turkey cooperated with Washington to arm terrorists around Idlib in exchange for Washington allowing Erdogan to slide on sanctions over the S-400 deal.

Turkey’s agreement to arm the NLF and terrorists in Idlib may have placated Washington, but has upset the Russian leadership in their attempt to assist the SAA in cleaning up this pocket of terrorists. Complicating the issue is a cooperative Syrian Army presence near the southeast Turkish border, where Syrian forces cooperate with the SDF and joint forces maintain some Syrian governmental authority over those border towns, example Qamishli.

For now the United States is taking no chances with a Turkish invasion of the northeast and has reinforced the SDF with more US weaponry, lightly reported in the west. Since the US is known mainly for its duplicity and treachery, Erdogan must be cautious on how he plays off the United States versus all others, and the concept of a shooting war between Turkish and US troops seems pretty far out at this point.

Another view, Trump’s fake promise to remove US forces from Syria – who are illegally in the country by international law to whit the US does not subscribe– was overturned by the US generals who foresaw potential issues arising with Turkey’s intent to confront the PKK in Syria. That is of course besides the US-Israeli intent to aggressively destabilize Syria.

In Libya, Turkey seems somewhat confident its alliance with the GNA and appropriating cheap Misurata oil…  as can be seen from the conflict map, Libya is relatively quiet at this time. Taken together, the above has allowed Turkey to posture and bluff, amassing forces and weaponry here and there, taking just enough action to keep Turkey in the game as a regional actor.  

So, what is Erdogan truly up to? Is he a bluffer or a potentate? He seems to be bluffing, but the US leadership enjoys that game as well, so we are “trending sideways” for now. And we are not quite to brinksmanship yet, even with Erdogan’s threat to invade the Northeast (of Syria).

Personally, in this author’s opinion Iran is the true key to the Syrian issue (overall) and look for the situation with Iran to warm up again very soon. It would indeed be ironic if Iran were the deuce in the pack to finally call Erdogan’s bluff…. not to mention that of the United States.

Steve Brown

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