President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud are two gamblers. They have during the course of the Syrian war gambled highly by throwing their weights behind Al-Qaeda linked terrorists in a bid to overthrow the Syrian government. Last year, after the Saudi-Turkish project (Jaysh Al Fateh) was formed, things were looking promising as the new Islamist coalition, heavily boosted by arms and funds captured almost the entire Idlib province in a massive offensive. However, their fortunes have started to run out as the Syrian Arab Army and their allies, backed by Russian airstrikes are making huge advances amidst an Islamist collapse in the northern parts of the country.
This is a process that has been going on for a couple of months now. The Syrian Army has been advancing rapidly in both the Latakia and Aleppo provinces, and through every step along the way, Ankara and Riyadh have been trying to undermine the effort. The SU-24 shootdown in November by Turkey, the constant accusations of “Russia bombing the wrong terrorists” by Washington and it’s allies, the non-stop influx of fresh Al-Qaeda recruits through the Turkish border are just a few examples of these attempts at sabotaging and undermining the Syrian-Russian efforts to combat terrorism and extremism. I could go on further and mention the never ending illegal ISIS-Turkey oil trades that for any thoughtful observer of the Syrian war, was rather obvious long before the Russians exposed them.
Recently, realizing that their proxy foot-soldiers are about to be defeated, Washington, along with it’s regional allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey, wanted to reach a solution through “peace talks”. I mentioned in my previous article that these “peace talks” were just part of a foul plan to extort the Syrian government into submission as there were never any serious attempts by “the other side” to even try to reach a political settlement. Preposterous preconditions were set in order to rescue the crumbling Islamist forces, under heavy attack by the Syrian Army. When Washington and it’s allies realized that the Syrian government has no intention to back down to their demands, the “peace talks” broke down.
With the Aleppo supply line recently cut, the Islamists are without their vital supplies coming in from Turkey. The only way to save face now is an outright invasion to try to stop the Syrian Army and it’s allies from complete victory in Aleppo.
Earlier this week, the Saudi defence ministry expressed that it was “ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition may agree to carry out in Syria.” This comes at a rather convenient time for the Saudis, as their proxy forces in northern Syria are being battered. Some day before this announcement, Russia exposed illegal activities near the Syrian border by the Turkish armed forces who were going to lengths to conceal their movements, as they also cancelled an agreed Russian observation flight over its territory. On Friday, the Bahraini Ambassador to Britain expressed that Bahrain would send ground forces to Syria under Saudi leadership, this apparently also included the UAE to send troops.
All these statements are a cause for suspicion, whether the Syrian & Iranian government officials take them seriously or not. Of course the Saudi threat is hardly as serious as the Turkish one as observed by the tragic Saudi intervention in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia even lost ground inside it’s own territory to the Yemeni forces. This fact coped with the fact that Saudi Arabia suffers from a financial drainage makes their threat rather ridiculous.
Sources in Ankara have denied such plans, however Erdogan and his fanatic inner circle are hardly reliable people and any statement coming from Ankara is therefore not trustworthy, considering the fact that Erdogan also keeps a tight leash on the Turkish media.
A regional war?
Although Turkey stands as a long time NATO member, it remains a very unpopular member these days. President Erdogan has several times proven himself to be a loose cannon in the eyes of several NATO members.
Let’s not also forget that member states such as Greece, Bulgaria, Romania for example would hardly want to enter a potential war against Syria, and thereby Russia as well, a country they share a religious kinship with, for the sake of a country they share centuries of animosity with.
Internal divisions within the NATO, similar to those within the EU is the last thing Washington would need. In case of a Turkish-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) invasion of Syria, Washington might have to adopt another case of the “lead from behind” strategy in order to justify their stance, similar to the catastrophic Saudi war on Yemen, where Washington is highly involved in the blockade against the Yemeni people, while not actually engaging in combat with the Yemeni Army and their Houthi allies.
This is of course all speculation and only time will tell what will happen. What is certain is that such action would raise the stakes to some dangerous levels, as it could potentially lead to a huge regional war, and even at worst case, World War.
As the Syrian Army continues it’s march towards victory in Aleppo, the most important embattled city in the Syrian war, their enemies and their foreign backers become more desperate in their race against time. Syria’s enemies won’t just back down without a fight, and if the gamble of an invasion is what it takes to sort out the mess, the irrational gamblers Recep Tayyip Erdogan & Prince Mohammad bin Salman will surely raise the stakes rather than folding, admitting a bitter and embarrassing defeat.
Desperate times surely will call for desperate measures.
Aram Mirzaei is an Iranian MA Candidate writing his dissertation titled “The Syrian Conflict – A Struggle of Interests”.