In Turkey, Erdoğan fans an Islamic nationalism to build Ottoman-style influence



SHIFT IN THOUGHT: Fifteen years into his rule, Erdoğan has gradually turned his country away from the secular tradition of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He has also moved away from democratic norms, complicating ties with the West.






FEBRUARY 22, 2017 ISTANBUL, TURKEY—They portray themselves as the “average Joes” of Turkish politics: a builder-handyman and his fiancée, a cleaner, who both work for the same small Istanbul company that has been going through tough times.

Harun Demir, whose hands bear the signs of hard work, wears a small beard and an easy smile; Seniz Kaya’s long thick curls are fashionably dyed, and very visible since she doesn’t wear a headscarf.

The couple could not look less religious, or less political. Yet they are the face of a new politics in Turkey, a staunchly held view of Islamic nationalism deliberately and painstakingly carved by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 


They believe – like many of their fellow Turks – that Mr. Erdoğan’s heavy hand on everything from press freedom to engineering unprecedented presidential power is justified as the best path to solve Turkey’s constellation of problems. The country was convulsed by 30 attacks last year, faces a struggling economy, and is at war in southeast Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.

They also echo officials when they say that Turkey is in the process of restoring its historical Ottoman influence as a leader of the Islamic world. Those references point to a moderate, inclusive form of Islam, but also authoritarian rule in the form of a sultan.

Indeed, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım last month portrayed Erdoğan as a descendant of a well-regarded Ottoman-era sultan. Last fall, a local AKP official controversially posted on his Facebook page that Erdoğan “will be the Caliph of the Presidency,” and that in 2023 – when the Turkish republic reaches its 100th birthday – “Allah will finish the light.”

“Now there seems to be a new pattern of leadership: Erdoğan, Russian President [Vladimir] Putin, and Trump. They are not dictators, they are strongmen,” says Mr. Demir, approvingly. Erdoğan “is talking to people, he is doing it for the people. Maybe he is twisting some arms, but it is for a good cause."

Turks should be patient and have faith in the changes, says Ms. Kaya: “For it to work, you must have trust [in Erdoğan]. It’s our role as Turkish citizens to trust our leader.” 

That is a perspective Erdoğan is happy to feed. While critics charge that his largely unfettered rule has dragged Turkey into a domestic quagmire of social division, anti-Western sentiment, financial troubles, and multiple conflicts abroad, the president has promoted a much more flattering narrative, casting even the escalating attacks by the so-called Islamic State and Kurdish militants as a response to his country’s resurgent greatness.

Fifteen years into his rule, Erdoğan has gradually turned his country away from the secular tradition of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who founded the modern state from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. And there is little room for any competing views as the once ardently secular eastern anchor of NATO, which has aspired to membership in the European Union, weakens once-promising linkages with the West, promotes the role of religion in public life, clamps down on opponents and the media, and moves ever more firmly away from democratic norms. 

“Turkey is under very serious attack both inside and outside,” Erdoğan said on Jan. 10. “It is not because we are a weak country, but because we are a stronger and stronger country.”
Religious majority

Demir and Kara could not agree more. And recent polls indicate that Turkey’s conservative, religious political bloc, to which they belong, is a majority that will shape Turkish politics for the foreseeable future.

“They think that Turkey is facing big troubles – and they are correct on that – but they think those troubles are created by malicious forces conspiring against Turkey. That’s Erdoğan’s narrative, they buy into that,” says Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish analyst of politics and culture, and author of the new book “The Islamic Jesus.”

“They think this conspiracy will only be undone by a very powerful, defiant leader, which is of course Erdoğan himself,” says Mr. Akyol, currently a senior fellow of the Freedom Project at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

“That political propaganda is in your face every day, every single moment. If you turn on TV, if you open newspapers, 70 to 80 percent of them almost will be telling that to you,” says Akyol, noting that Erdoğan’s opponents have been “marginalized, silenced, jailed, exiled.”

For decades, the military served as a self-declared bulwark of Turkish secularism – mounting four coups since 1960 to block Islamists from governing – but AKP rule has since neutered the military’s role in politics, and made many changes in Turkish society in the name of religion.

On Wednesday, for example, female Army officers and cadets were officially allowed to wear headscarves as part of their uniforms. The move is the culmination of years of AKP chipping away at a decades-long headscarf ban that saw a similar ruling for policewomen last year, and in 2013 for civil servants and in schools.

In another sign of AKP reshaping, last week ground was broken on a new mosque on the edge of Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square, after years of controversy.

There has “always been a xenophobic, paranoid nationalism, but since it was based on Atatürk, it was also a secular nationalism and maybe didn’t [sit well] with the conservative Islamic camp,” adds Akyol. “But now it is nationalism [with] a heavy dose of Islam, so it appeals to religious conservatives very strongly.” 

Ruling party operatives have sometimes pushed too hard, as did an AKP youth leader in the southern coastal city of Mersin. Last week, he tweeted that, “if only [Atatürk] did not exist,” and suggested that the father of the nation should not be considered a Turk because he was born in Ottoman-era Thessaloniki, in modern-day Greece, and “doesn’t look Turkish.”

“History is being written,” tweeted Hasan Baki. “It’s not a revolution of enlightenment or wannabe Westernization, it is the revolution of the Islamic case.” The AKP asked him to resign, and opposition party officials are taking him to court for “insulting Atatürk.” 

Post-coup nationalism

The trend of Islamic nationalism has only accelerated since an attempted coup last July, in which Erdoğan’s call to loyalists to take to the streets to stop putchist soldiers brought the coup attempt to a swift end. Nightly rallies across the country for a month organized by the AKP blended nationalist and Islamist imagery with strident messages of unity. 

A state of emergency has been renewed twice so far, and some 125,000 people have been purged and nearly 50,000 arrested, according to some estimates, for suspected links to the coup attempt. In the political whirlwind, the AKP has convinced one opposition party to join it in rewriting the Constitution to realize Erdoğan’s dream of creating an unassailable executive presidency – to its critics, the post of a modern-day sultan.

Ahead of a national referendum in April, an annual poll by Kadir Has University found a deeply divided society, but one with an ever-coalescing majority.

“The facts are very obvious,” Hasan Bülent Kahraman, the vice president of Kadir Has, told Hürriyet Daily News. “There is a 70 percent majority in Turkey and it is their way of thinking, their ideological thinking, that is already dominating and will dominate in the future.” 

Giving religion a higher profile has been part of the Islamist-rooted AKP’s agenda from the start, and signs have taken hold everywhere, from the increase in the number of women wearing headscarves – in concert with gradual lifting of the ban in government institutions – to the build-up of mosques in the country from 78,608 in 2006 to 86,762 in 2015, according to the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

It has also been manifest in a national campaign by the directorate. “Mosque Week” was declared the first week of last October, and slogans for the year-long campaign include: “We are going to the mosques, we are reading [the Quran]”; and “Let the voice that echoes in your heart be found in the mosque.”

“We are trying to make religion more in social life, to be practiced in homes and make it a more vital part of life,” says Aydin Yiğman, the mufti of the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, a ranking official expert in the Turkish state religious authority. He wears a suit and tie, not religious garb, and is clean-shaven, in keeping with Turkey’s secular custom for officials since the 1920s. 

“We don’t want people to think of the mosque only on Friday,” says Mr. Yiğman. “We want to spread awareness of religion, so when people hear the call to prayer they are more aware…. It is not something bad or under pressure. We want to build this upon love, so people are receptive to God’s call, because it is God’s call.”

He suggests these days there is no greater religiosity among Turks, yet the scene appears different from years past, as the faithful these days spill onto the streets around mosques in some Istanbul districts during Friday prayers. The new Sunday morning prayer meetings for youth attract up to 250 people a time, though even if there were one-tenth the number, he says, “we would be happy with that.”

He notes that the number is small, in a district with 100 mosques and 250,000 residents, but says progress is being made. “The goal of this education is so people learn the correct Islam,” says Yiğman.

Anecdotally, such efforts are visible. In recent weeks, for example, as frigid cold gripped Istanbul, a van drove through one district announcing free tea at a local mosque, and a program about Ottoman history with a reading of the Quran. And overheard on a bridge crossing the Golden Horn, one headscarf-wearing woman suggested to her mixed group of young men and women that they “hang out at the local mosque.” 
'A different kind of Turkey'

That would be no surprise to Demir and Kaya, who shy away from the term “Islamic nationalism,” but say that “Turkey is more diverse and needs religion to tie everyone together.

“Some people think he is more authoritarian, that he is more dictatorial. But look at where Erdoğan has brought us,” Demir says. “It’s a different kind of Turkey.”

For Demir, Turkey under Erdoğan can shape an Islamic form of government that differs from the austere practices that Saudi Arabia promotes, through money and funding religious schools and mosques, to Muslim countries around the world.

“Our hope for 2023 is that we want to be educated, cultured, and Muslim. We are redefining Islam, and what it is today,” says Demir. “It’s in our genes. The Islam that has been exported from Saudi Arabia and northern Africa failed to work, because of lack of education. We have Ottoman culture to be open and moderate.”

Former AKP Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in 2015 that Turkey “will re-found the Ottoman state,” in just one example of officials portraying themselves as rightful heirs of the Ottoman legacy.

“Turkish religious conservatives have always had this feeling that Turkey was the standard-bearer of Islamic civilization,” says author Akyol. They say, “‘Turks were the leaders, and that unfortunately collapsed…and that has to be corrected. Turks once again should lead the ummah [Islamic community] as the new Ottomans.’”

“That’s a dream in the religious conservative camp for decades, that is not something new,” he says. “Erdoğan is now giving the message: ‘I am now realizing this.’ That creates a big sentiment around him, from people with Islamic conservative leanings.” 

“The problem is we are not living in Ottoman times, we are not living in the era of sultans,” says Akyol. “We’re living in the era of liberal democracy, and Turkey’s not heading there.”

Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution


by CJ HOPKINS  | FEBRUARY 21, 2017


Berlin.

So the global capitalist ruling classes’ neutralization of the Trumpian uprising seems to be off to a pretty good start. It’s barely been a month since his inauguration, and the corporate media, liberal celebrities, and their millions of faithful fans and followers are already shrieking for his summary impeachment, or his removal by … well, whatever means necessary, including some sort of “deep state” coup. Words like “treason” are being bandied about, treason being ground for impeachment (not to mention being punishable by death), which appears to be where we’re headed at this point.

In any event, the nation is now officially in a state of “crisis.” The editors of The New York Times are demanding congressional investigations to root out the Russian infiltrators who have assumed control of the executive branch. According to prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, “a foreign dictator intervened on behalf of a US presidential candidate” … “we are being governed by people who take their cues from Moscow,” or some such nonsense. The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Politico, Mother Jones, et al. (in other words virtually every organ of the Western neoliberal media) are robotically repeating this propaganda like the Project Mayhem cultists in Fight Club.

The fact that there is not one shred of actual evidence to support these claims makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. As I wrote about in these pages previously, such official propaganda is not designed to be credible; it is designed to bludgeon people into submission through sheer relentless repetition and fear of social ostracization … which, once again, is working perfectly. Like the “Iraq has WMDs” narrative before it, the “Putin Hacked the Election” narrative has now become official “reality,” an unchallengeable axiomatic “fact” that can be cited as background to pretend to bolster additional ridiculous propaganda.

This “Russia Hacked the Election” narrative, let’s remember, was generated by a series of stories that it turned out were either completely fabricated or based on “anonymous intelligence sources” that could provide no evidence “for reasons of security.” Who could forget The Washington Post‘s “Russian Propagandist Blacklist” story (which was based on the claims of some anonymous’ blog and a third rate neo-McCarthyite think tank), or their “Russians Hacked the Vermont Power Grid” story (which, it turned out later, was totally made up), or CNN’s “Golden Showers Dossier” story (which was the work of some ex-MI6 spook-for-hire the Never Trump folks had on their payroll), or Slate‘s “Trump’s Russian Server” story (a half-assed smear piece by Franklin Foer, who is now pretending to have been vindicated by the hysteria over the Flynn resignation), or (and this is my personal favorite) The Washington Post‘s “Clinton Poisoned by Putin” story? Who could possibly forget these examples of courageous journalists speaking truth to power?

Well, OK, a lot of people, apparently, because there’s been a new twist in the official narrative. It seems the capitalist ruling classes now need us to defend the corporate media from the tyrannical criticism of Donald Trump, or else, well, you know, end of democracy. Which millions of people are actually doing. Seriously, absurd as it obviously is, millions of Americans are now rushing to defend the most fearsome propaganda machine in the history of fearsome propaganda machines from one inarticulate, populist boogeyman who can’t maintain his train of thought for more than fifteen or twenty seconds.

All joking aside, the prevailing mindset of the ruling classes, and those aspiring thereto, is more frightening than at any time I can remember. “The Resistance” is exhibiting precisely the type of mindlessly fascistic, herd-like behavior it purports to be trying to save us from. Yes, the mood in Resistance quarters has turned quite openly authoritarian. William Kristol captured it succinctly: “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, [I] prefer the deep state to the Trump state.” Neoliberal Rob Reiner put it this way: “The incompetent lying narcissistic fool is going down. Intelligence community will not let DT destroy democracy.” Subcommandante Micheal Moore went to the caps lock to drive the point home: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going on: TRUMP COLLUDING WITH THE RUSSIANS TO THROW THE ELECTION TO HIM,” and demanded that Trump be immediately detained and renditioned to a secure facility: “Let’s be VERY clear: Flynn DID NOT make that Russian call on his own. He was INSTRUCTED to do so. He was TOLD to reassure them. Arrest Trump.”

These a just a few of the more sickening examples. The point is, millions of American citizens (as well as citizens of other countries) are prepared to support a deep state coup to remove the elected president from office … and it doesn’t get much more fascistic than that.

Now I want to be clear about this “deep state” thing, as the mainstream media is already labeling anyone who uses the term a hopelessly paranoid conspiracy theorist. The deep state, of course, is not a conspiracy. It is simply the interdependent network of structures where actual power resides (i.e., the military-industrial complex, multinational corporations, Wall Street, the corporate media, and so on). Its purpose is to maintain the stability of the system regardless of which party controls the government. These are the folks, when a president takes office, who show up and brief him on what is and isn’t “possible” given economic and political “realities.” Despite what Alex Jones may tell you, it is not George Soros and roomful of Jews. It is a collection of military and intelligence officers, CEOs, corporate lobbyists, lawyers, bankers, politicians, power brokers, aides, advisers, and assorted other permanent members of the government and the corporate and financial classes. Just as presidents come and go, so do the individuals comprising the deep state, albeit on a longer rotation schedule. And, thus, it is not a monolithic entity. Like any other decentralized network, it contains contradictions, conflicts of interest. However, what remains a constant is the deep state’s commitment to preserving the system … which, in our case, that system is global Capitalism.

I’m going to repeat and italicize that to hopefully avoid any misunderstanding. The system the deep state primarily serves is not the United States of America, i.e., the country most Americans believe they live in; the system it serves is globalized Capitalism. The United States, the nation state itself, while obviously a crucial element of the system, is not the deep state’s primary concern. If it were, Americans would all have healthcare, affordable education, and a right to basic housing, like more or less every other developed nation.

And this is the essence of the present conflict. The Trump regime (whether they’re sincere or not) has capitalized on people’s discontent with globalized neoliberal Capitalism, which is doing away with outmoded concepts like the nation state and national sovereignty and restructuring the world into one big marketplace where “Chinese” investors own “American” companies that manufacture goods for “European” markets by paying “Thai” workers three dollars a day to enrich “American” hedge fund crooks whose “British” bankers stash their loot in numbered accounts in the Cayman Islands while “American” workers pay their taxes so that the “United States” can give billions of dollars to “Israelis” and assorted terrorist outfits that are destabilizing the Middle East to open up markets for the capitalist ruling classes, who have no allegiance to any country, and who couldn’t possibly care any less about the common people who have to live there. Trump supporters, rubes that they are, don’t quite follow the logic of all that, or see how it benefits them or their families.

But whatever … they’re all just fascists, right? And we’re in a state of crisis, aren’t we? This is not the time to sit around and analyze political and historical dynamics. No, this is a time for all loyal Americans to set aside their critical thinking and support democracy, the corporate media, and the NSA, and CIA, and the rest of the deep state (which doesn’t exist) as they take whatever measures are necessary to defend us from Putin’s diabolical plot to Nazify the United States and reenact the Holocaust for no discernible reason. The way things are going, it’s just a matter of time until they either impeach his puppet, Trump, or, you know, remove him by other means. I imagine, once we get to that point, Official State Satirist Stephen Colbert will cover the proceedings live on the “Late Show,” whipping his studio audience up into a frenzy of mindless patriotic merriment, as he did in the wake of the Flynn fiasco (accusing the ruling classes’ enemies of treason being the essence of satire, of course). After he’s convicted and dying in jail, triumphant Americans will pour out onto the lawn of Lafayette Square again, waving huge flags and hooting vuvuzelas, like they did when Obama killed Osama bin Laden. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t attend. Flying home may be a little complicated, as according to The Washington Post, I’m some kind of Russian propagandist now. And, also, I have this problem with authority, which I don’t imagine will go over very well with whatever provisional government is installed to oversee the Restoration of Normality, and Love, of course, throughout the nation.


C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (US). He can reached at his website, cjhopkins.com, or at consentfactory.org.

SOURCEhttp://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/21/goose-stepping-our-way-toward-pink-revolution/

Geneva talks doomed: Turkey’s changing position in Syria is pushing Russia into more aggression


By Elijah J. Magnier  | 23 Feb 2017

The US- Russia relationship over Syria will be blown apart and pushed into opposition
Erdogan is hiding behind Saudi Arabia and mimics the US hostility towards Iran
The Sukhoi return is expected more aggressive than ever



After the collapse of 9 months of peace negotiations, Geneva hosts today a meeting about Syria amid differences between the main regional influential players and an unclear US stance, which will inevitably be reflected in the results of the talks. The main player, Turkey, with troops on the ground in northern Syria, is constantly changing position and plans, creating not only confusion but renewing hostility in the country: a warning of the pessimistic outcome to come.


The US stand:

President Donald Trump’s foreign policy is still unclear, and towards Syria in particular. The US administration has expressed its will to fight terrorism, but mentions only the “Islamic State” (ISIS) group in Syria, and disregarding al-Qaida who are represented by “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (ex-Nusra). Moreover, Trump is expressing his wish to form “safe zones” in the north, asking the Gulf countries to pay for these “zones”. He is also sending military equipment and special forces support for training and guidance to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). His aim is to push the Kurds, working alongside and leading the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), towards the ISIS Syrian capital in north-east Syria: Raqqah. Nevertheless, the US plan is unclear and doomed for several reasons:
Declaring “war on terrorism” can’t be limited to ISIS. Al-Qaida is well-established and announced its presence in all the Syrian fronts with two-thirds of the forces on each front. The group is against democracy or any election run by the UN or any other establishment. It is also against any peace talks and has already attacked and split the Syrian rebels, leaving these no choice but to join its ranks or join Ahrar al-Sham, the second biggest rebel groups in Syria.

The US can’t combine a support for the YPG and the Turkish forces and an interest in Syria at the same time, specially in relation to the forthcoming attack against Raqqah. Turkey considers the YPG to be a Syrian affiliation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). This organisation (not the YPG) is considered terrorist by Turkey as well. The PKK is waging a ruthless military campaign against Ankara, claiming the right to a Kurdish autonomous state within Turkey.

The US plan to “liberate” Raqqah with 10.000 or 20.000 Kurds and Arabs is not a feasible plan. In Mosul, Iraq is pushing forces between 50.000 to 60.000 strong, supported by Iraqi and coalition helicopters and jets to retake Mosul. The battle for Mosul is far from being a piece of cake, any more than Raqqah, even if that Syrian ISIS city is much smaller than the Iraqi one and holds less than half a million civilians.

The US is promoting “safe zones” for immigrants to stay in Syria and refrain from travelling to Europe or the US. Actually, there is no need for a safe zone or zones because the number of displaced Syrians is no longer increasing and quite static at the moment, following the battle of Aleppo. Any safe zone is considered to be part of an American plot to occupy the north-east of Syria and to establish military bases in the country. Such a step will be faced with a harsh response from Damascus and its allies who would be more than happy to revive the 1983 Beirut barracks and attack the American forces, similar to the 2003-2011 Iraq occupation.


Turkey:


Several months ago, the key for the success of any political talks in Syria was the Turkish involvement, due to Ankara’s influence over rebels and jihadists. This is what pushed Iran and Russia to restore their relationship with Ankara and bring it into the Asatan (Kazakhstan) negotiation. Nevertheless, Turkey was unable to bring to the table one of the biggest rebel groups in northern Syria, Ahrar al-Sham.

Following the coup of al-Qaida against groups who participated in the Astana talks, the rebels are more divided than ever, afraid of any move that could increase their partition and make them easy to overwhelm by the Syrian Army and its allies. Nevertheless, Turkey continues its attack on al-Bab (the ISIS stronghold), unable to get a quick victory. But Turkey is changing position and turning its political guns against yesterday’s allies. Ankara understands today that Trump is aggressive toward Iran and gave his blessing to Saudi Arabia. Therefore Erdogan is taking a new position: hiding behind Saudi Arabia, mimicking the US hostility towards Iran and, in consequences, declaring himself once more against the Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Turkey has harshly attacked Iran, considering it to be the source of terrorism in the region. This shows a real u-turn in Turkish policy that will definitely be reflected in the situation on the ground in Syria. In fact, Damascus and Iran, along with their allies, are pushing forces to counter al-Bab and prevent any expansion of territory of the Turkish forces toward Raqqah.

Turkey is applauding the US plan of “safe zone(s)” only to offer its forces inside the US Trojan horse. This upsets Russia and Damascus, confirming that Turkey, no longer a partner, is disrespectful of the previous commitment to keep Syrian away from partition. Establishing safe zone(s) can only lead to dividing Syria and disrupting the Russian plan to establish itself in a stable united country. Such a move will have serious practical repercussions on the advance of the Turkish forces and their allies in Syria.

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that his forces “will liberate the Syrian town of Manbij”, already liberated from ISIS by the US-backed SDF and YPG Kurdish forces last year. Erdogan’s verbal intention is considered “a pipe dream” by the Syrian government and Russia. Russia considers the Syrian Kurds as potential allies and Damascus is certain that, once the war is over, it will be possible to reach a win-win deal with the Syrian Kurds, keeping the country safe from partition. Damascus will, not only oppose Turkey in this manoeuvre, but is ready to fight back any force advancing towards its army in the north of Syria, particularly the Turkish forces and their proxies at this moment since, as we have seen, Turkey is shifting its policy, veering towards the unknown.

Turkey offered to the US to go to Raqqah: such a plan is far from being possible. The distance between al-Bab and Raqqah is over 200km, and the territory is controlled by the Syrian Army, ISIS and the Kurds (who are considered by Ankara to be terrorists). The performance of the Turkish forces and their proxies in al-Bab is far from being encouraging. Therefore, the Turkish offer to go to Raqqah is unrealistic and unrealisable.


Syria:

The Syrian Army and its allies considered the Astana talks premature but went along with Russia, believing it was possible to reach a global cease-fire and split al-Qaida from other rebels who will join the peace talks. Turkey was unable to bring Ahrar al-Sham around the negotiation table and al-Qaida turned the table on everybody, forcing a return to the combat.

The Syrian Army is moving today on several fronts:

  • from al-Bab toward deir-Hafer, to create a demarcation line with Turkey and its proxies and cutting the road toward Raqqah, preventing Turkey and its proxies from occupying further land in northern Syria;

  • Palmyra (Tadmur) to regain control of the ancient city and push toward Deir-ezzour and Raqqah from the east. Again, the aim is to prevent any force from reducing the geographic seize of Syria as its is known today;

  • Gathering forces on the rural Aleppo fronts to enlarge the control of its forces toward tel el-Eiss and Fua/Kefraya and move toward Idlib, the al-Qaida stronghold.

All this indicates that Russia will find itself engaged in a broad combat before forcing the rebels to sit at the negotiation table and shift Turkey out of its unrealistic “multi-front dream”. Turkey is showing that it is not an adequate partner for Russia and Damascus. It is unstable in its strategy in Syria and its shifting alliance making it untrustworthy. Therefore, a more aggressive Syrian Army will be seen in the coming months on several fronts with the return of the Sukhoi more active than ever. Russia is waiting to see how Trump’s policy materialises in Syria. The Kremlin is refraining from being the initiator of further hostilities so as to avoid a rapid US blow back.

The US policy in Syria seems frantic and far-fetched without efficient powerful allies on the ground, and is unable to retake cities from ISIS with its Kurdish proxies alone. And the “honeymoon” between Washington and Riyadh will certainly have a substantial negative effect on the war in Syria. This will increase the closeness between Russia and Iran, but the tension between US and Russia is also expected to increase: one side (the US) wants the partition and the other (Russia) wants a unified Syria without al-Qaida and ISIS, and without Turkey occupying the north of Syria and a Saudi Arabia return to the Bilad al-Sham. At this stage one can only speculate on what this clash of incompatible objectives will produce on the ground in Syria.