The simultaneous visits of the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East, to Tehran have been seen as highly significant. Focusing on the Syrian crisis, the political institutes have suggested that these two visits indicate that Tehran is in process to establish a regional balance of power which would go in favor of Syria. Such a role could only be taken by Iran, they add. A couple of points need to be considered concerning the issue.
1. Having in mind that in the past Iran and Turkey have been at loggerheads over the crisis in Syria, Davutoglu’s visit to Tehran shows that the viewpoints of the two countries are getting close on this important case. Upon returning from his Iran trip, Turkey’s PM has told the journalists that Ankara was making efforts to put an end to the “brotherly war” in Syria, adding that his country was against any plan which would come out with split of Syria. Though not certain, the evidences suggest that the Turkish government now has willingness to play a constructive role in the Syrian crisis. Turkey’s opposition to partition of Syria and the Turkish PM’s remarks which recognize Damascus’ government as legitimate reflect the fact that Ankara is forsaking a strongly held stance on Syria which has drawn abundant criticism to the government inside Turkey.
2. The Turkish PM’s visit to Tehran was considered a blow to the plans which have been proposed in the recent days by some of the Security Council’s powers, therefore, it must be said that while many of the analysts have said that amid the US-Russia closeness Turkey has been pushed to the sidelines, Davutoglu’s visit to the Iranian capital shows that Ankara would not stay actionless in the face of the conditions which undermine its national interests. Davutoglu has made it clear that Turkey had agreed with Iran over the most significant segments of the Syrian crisis’ case, including rejection of split of Syria. Such an agreement would be importantly influential in finding a settlement to Syria’s conflict and improving the Turkish security conditions at home.
Turkey’s reaching an accord with Iran would, willy-nilly, mean standing against a possibly secret Russian-American deal for partitioning Syria. Furthermore, it would mean that once again the regional game would beat a transregional game concerning the Syrian case. The Iranian officials in the recent days have reiterated that the crisis solution in Syria was political and it was to be found by the Syrian parties. They showed that Iran would not risk forgetting to support its ally under the influence of the transregional political games.
3. Davutoglu’s Tehran visit was a clear signal that Turkey has detached itself from the positions of Saudi Arabia which is a key ally of Ankara in the Syrian crisis. The Saudi officials have emphasized use of force to topple the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Even the news spread that the Saudi fighter jets have violated the Syrian airspace and bombed some places there. Despite the fact that soon after returning from Tehran the Turkish PM has said that Turkey still supported Saudi positions on Syria, everyone knows that the Turkish top official had signed an accord in Tehran which insisted that the current Syrian government would stay in power. Earlier, when Turkey’s Davutoglu has travelled to Riyadh, the media reports suggested that Ankara had yielded too many of Saudi Arabian demands on Syria. Moreover, a Turkish official has said that Saudi Arabia had sent fighter jets to Incirlik air base in Turkey but later it turned out that no Saudi fighter jets had been deployed to the Turkish air base, as no Saudi military forces had been sent to Turkey. But, on the other hand, Turkey has reached an agreement with Iran and this could open a window for prospects of wide-ranging Turkish-Iranian cooperation. Referring to a group of 160 businessmen accompanying the Turkish PM in his Iran visit, some circles in Turkey have noted that the Turkish ties with Iran were improving very quickly as the two sides have set to develop their trade transactions to make them touch $30 billion. The Islamic Republic’s reception of the Turkish political and commercial delegation shows that Tehran is also interested to mend and boost ties with Ankara.
4. But Iran has made it clear that it does not want to choose between the two options: Russia and Turkey. Actually, there is no reason for that. Iran is willing to engage actively in relations with both of its large neighbors Turkey and Russia as it seeks to see the two neighbors having better relations with one another. In fact, it is in Iran’s best interests that Moscow and Ankara settle their problems and get close to each other. Meanwhile, Tehran has several times shown that it values ties with Moocow, therefore, during the recent years, especially the past two years, different Iranian delegations have paid visits to Russia as in return Tehran has received the Russia President Vladimir Putin and may other Russian top officials. Meanwhile, Iran’s critics have maintained that in a time that some divides have appeared between Russia and Iran over the timing, the covered areas and the terms of ceasefire in Syria, Iran, through accepting Davutoglu, wants to notify the Russians that it was sensitive over Moscow-Washington agreement and it could not turn a blind eye to its negative repercussions on Syria. But the fact is that Russia and Iran are not divided over the qualitative terms of Syria’s truce and this could not push Iran to take revenge on Russia. At the same time, some Russian officials’ remarks show that Moscow knows the strategic value of the accords with Tehran and it does not want to damage the high-level good will between the two sides. Putin’s amendment of an earlier comment concerning federalization of Syria as well as his saying that once again that Russia was against any foreign intervention on the fate of the Syrian president in any political solution in the future are indicative of the fact that Russia is still stands firmly on the previously reached agreement with Iran. During Bogdanov’s visit to Tehran, the Iranian officials have maintained that it was impossible to talk about any settlement model before end of the clashes in Syria, adding that it was a Syrian domestic issue and it could be decided upon only when the conditions were stable in the country.
5. The Americans have proposed what they called a Plan B, aiming at putting the Syrian government in a tight corner on the one hand and dig a void between Russia and Iran on the other hand. This could harm both the Iranian and Russian powers at the same time. The US-proposed Plan B is actually a scheme for splitting Syria and re-drawing the country’s current borders. The plan eyes breaking Syria into small countries one having Damascus as its center, one in south, one in northwest and also one in the east. But the smart remarks of Ahmet Davutoglu, who said that they have borne the pains of Sykes-Picot Agreement for 100 years and so they could not make way for emergence of new Sykes-Picot, have shown that what some political circles had said about the US’ Plan B was actually true.
Unfortunately, exactly when Washington has publicized its Plan B, Moscow has talked about its proposal for federalization of Syria as the only way out of the country’s security crisis. But a federal system of governing could be discussed only if there is a chance of dialogue and agreement between the influential groups. How is it possible to talk about transformation of Syria’s political system while two Syrian provinces are still held by ISIS terror group and four others are captured by al-Nusra Front and other cities are still experiencing destabilizing factors? When in response to the US’ Plan B Russia has proposed its federalization plan, some of the region’s people and governments have thought that Iran along with the relevant governments and movements have approved of Moscow’s plan, but all of the speculations turned wrong. In reaction, some Russian officials have stepped in, saying that federal system in Syria was a controversial issue and needed proper time for discussion. This Moscow’s position was considered as remedial.
6. Without doubt, Syria is in need of truce but it should not aim at giving a fresh breath to forces which over four years damaged Syria’s security. The snap and uncoordinated ceasefire which has taken effect in Aleppo’s southern and western regions last Saturday was more in favor of the armed groups than in favor of Syria’s government. Now there are concerns that the terrorists could use the ceasefire opportunity to once again infiltrate the areas which have been liberated under the Syrian army’s Operation Nasr 2. At the same time the truce could disrupt cleansing the newly recaptured areas because it is not yet specified which armed groups are included and which groups are excluded. Furthermore, without previous preparations and intelligence gathering it is practically impossible to decide which forces are adhering to the deal and which sides are not.
7. The Turkish PM’s visit to Tehran would prepare the regional atmospheres in favor of stability. Additionally, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that a common position with Iran was needed to put an end to the sectarian tensions. This Turkish position, following a Russian-Iranian military agreement, is one more step towards settling Syria’s case, albeit it was the success of the Operation Nasr 2 that has pushed the countries to re-calculate with new developments ahead of them.