Rather than igniting World War III, the Monday assassination of Russia’s ambassador in Turkey could usher the beginning of a beautiful Russo-Turkish friendship — with the United States left out in the cold.
Moscow hosted foreign ministers from Turkey and Iran Tuesday, sealing a new plan for the future of Syria. Phase one, according to Russia’s wily foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov: “Turkish-Russian-Iranian cooperation ensures the evacuation of civilians and armed groups from eastern Aleppo.”
Wait, what? Isn’t Sunni Turkey the sworn enemy of Shiite Iran? And wasn’t Monday’s dramatic assassination of Ambassador Andrey Karlov, President Vladimir Putin’s personal friend, supposed to put Turkey and Russia on the outs?
After all, the shooter, Mevlut Mert Altintas, was a member of Turkey’s police force. Using that access, he got close enough to shoot Karlov in the back, shouting “Allahu Akbar” and vowing to never forget Aleppo, where Russia assists Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s butchery of Sunni civilians.
And yet Russia and Turkey have found some common ground in blaming America.
In Turkey, the government-friendly media (none other remains) insist the assassin is part of the network led by Fethullah Gulen — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top nemesis who lives in Pennsylvania — and his CIA backers.
In Moscow, Putin said Tuesday that the Ankara assassination was “without a doubt a provocation aimed at spoiling the normalization of Russo-Turkish relations.”
Who’s the spoiler? The West, of course. According to Russia Today, Putin’s English-language mouthpiece, “Atlanticists are appalled that Moscow, Ankara and Tehran are now fully engaged in designing a post-Battle of Aleppo Syrian future, to the graphic exclusion of” NATO and its Gulf allies.
Thus, Turkey’s drift toward Putin, the region’s favorite strongman, continues undeterred by the ambassador’s assassination.
“Erdogan is walking a tightrope: He needs to appease his Islamist followers, while at the same time maintaining his relationship with Russia,” says Aykan Erdemir, a former member of the Turkish parliament who is now with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The solution? Erdogan’s Islamist followers are being fed Anti-Western conspiracy theories to distract them from Putin’s butchery, and to redirect their anger. At the same time, Ankara’s making deals with Moscow over Syria, benefitting both authoritarian leaders.
As Erdemir and others see it, these are the likely outlines of a Russia-Turkey deal: Turkish forces will help Russia evacuate Sunni civilians from Aleppo. Putin then can claim the mantle of Mr. Humanitarian. In return, Russia will ignore Turkey’s ongoing takeover of northern Syria, meant to create a wedge at the heart of an emerging Kurdish statelet and increase Turkey’s regional influence.
Meanwhile, even as Erdogan fans anti-Shiite sentiments at home, Turkey is increasing its secret (and some not-so-secret) energy and trade deals with Iran, laying the groundwork for a mutually beneficial entente between the two sectarian rivals. Iran, in turn, is pitching in overseeing the Aleppo evacuation.
What about America? As those who have a stake in Syria overcome their differences to enhance their regional interests, we’re left whining at the United Nations.
This week, after an effort led by France and backed by the United States, the Security Council mandated UN supervision of the evacuation of Aleppo, where 50,000 civilians remain trapped. After coming to an agreement with Syria over the boundaries of the evacuation zone, the UN supervisors will eventually get to the destroyed city. By then, though, Russia, Turkey and Iran will have taken credit for saving the people of eastern Aleppo. And then they’ll carve up the rest of Syria.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s new alliances will undermine Turkey’s old ones. The further he tightens relations with Russia and Iran, the more he drifts away from NATO. Turkey boasts the second-largest military of all NATO states, and Turkey’s geographical location at the heart of a region in turmoil is more crucial than ever.
But President Obama has decided (and President-elect Donald Trump largely agrees) to subcontract Syria to other powers. Losing friends and not influencing people is the price a superpower has to pay for a decade of refusing to be one.
And even as it cedes geopolitical influence, the West remains a top bogeyman, fueled by not just Islamist propaganda but by Russian and Turkish lies. So even as our global power diminishes, Islamists will target our streets for bloodshed.
Source: Nypost.com by Benni Avni