SEMİH İDİZ > Lavrov’s chilling Syrian prediction

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been waiting for Russia to blink on Syria. The expectation is that Moscow cannot continue to support such a bloody regime and will have eventually to relent and cooperate with Turkey against President Bashar al-Assad.

Certain recent remarks by President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have also left officials in Ankara trying to gauge if Moscow’s support for al-Assad, if not for his regime, is waning. Al-Assad’s demise, political or otherwise, has become a fixation for the Erdoğan government.

Despite Ankara’s expectations, however, Moscow has not taken any steps that could alter the situation in Syria. On the other hand, a Turkish proposal for a broadly based Syrian transitional government, but which has al-Assad leaving, was reportedly being mulled over by Russia. But it is not clear how seriously Russia is doing this.

Meanwhile, remarks by Lavrov to reporters, while flying back from an EU Summit in Brussels on Dec. 22, appeared to be chillingly realistic in view of the latest report by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria. According to the report what began as protests for political reform have turned into a sectarian war with “Entire communities at risk of being forced out of the country, or of being killed inside the country.”

Indicating that “al-Assad is not going anywhere, no matter what anyone says, be it China or Russia,” Lavrov was reported by Russian RT channel as adding prophetically that “no one is going to win this war.” That, however, is not what Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu want to hear.

Ankara has come around to accepting that elements of the regime will probably have to remain in place during a transition period in Syria. But to say that “al-Assad is not going anywhere,” and to suggest that “no one is going to win this war,” is hard to swallow given the strong position the Erdoğan government has committed itself to on Syria.

What complicates matters further for Ankara is that while the conflagration grows in Syria, the West’s reluctance to intervene is still discernible, a fact that Lavrov also alluded to. “No one has any appetite for intervention. Behind the scenes, I have a feeling they are praying that Russia and China go on blocking intervention, as sanctioning it would mean they must act – and they are not ready” Lavrov was quoted by RT as saying.

There are even diplomats in Ankara who argue that the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey is not an act of escalation by NATO vis-a-vis Syria, as Russia is claiming, but just the opposite. Through this deployment, they argue, NATO is saying that this is the most it will do in this crisis, namely meet a member’s minimum defensive requirements, but go no further.

While Erdoğan’s and Davutoğlu’s positions on Syria appear firm, Volkan Bozkir, a key deputy from the ruling party, and the head of Parliament’s Commission on Foreign Relations, is the only one close to the government arguing that any settlement to the Syrian crisis will have to satisfy Russia’s traditional interests in that country.

Far from supporting such a view, Prime Minister Erdoğan has strongly criticized Moscow for backing the Syrian regime. Admitting that Russian interests in Syria have to be acknowledged would be out of tune with his expectations for the “New Syria.”

What Moscow expects to happen in Syria, however, is in turn out of tune with what Erdoğan appears to be expecting, namely an administration dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and which is dependent on Turkey.

Yet, what Lavrov is saying appears to be correct. It does look increasingly like there can be no winners in this sectarian war, which is only going to get messier with or without al-Assad. Closer cooperation, and not rivalry, between Ankara and Moscow would contribute to stability in a region of vital interest to both countries that is increasingly marked by chaos.


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Notice on comments

ilker avni

12/28/2012 12:21:32 AM

@Rimon Tree Thats why "ATATURK" said "i have NO religion and at times i wish all religions to the bottom of the sea". @ Blue Dotted The Russians are pulling out their military advisers out of Syria,they to are leaveing the sinking ship like rats.The Americans have welcomed the Muslim brotherhood, rather then a Shiite dominated ME under Irans influeance, whose doctrin and ambition is to wipe out the Jewish state of Israel..Patriots deployment are to counter Irans threats to attack Nato bases.

Faruk Timuroglu

12/26/2012 12:11:32 AM

Russia knows well, US Trojan-Horse in the ME the Muslim Brotherhood would take the power, if Bashar Assad were gone. That would give the magical wand to US led west to open all treasures of the greater ME. In this scenario, Russia and China would be the big losers. RTE and his FM try to convince Putin with a candy bar, which is called strategic depth, ironically.

Blue Dotterel

12/25/2012 7:10:47 PM

More importantly some 2000 foreign troops and 6 missile batteries are coming to Turkey to be placed on the Turkish Syrian border. This is for two purposes, to help set up a no-fly zone to bomb Syria, or to defend ısrael after it or the US attacks ıran. The problem in the former case is that Russian military advisers are manning Syria's most sophisticated air defense systems. Russian and NATO casualties could lead to a very different war. One that no one will win. Stop the US and its NATO allies

Blue Dotterel

12/25/2012 6:24:38 PM

İlker hasn't any idea what is happening. Al-Assad is far from losing, as NATO's missile batteries being placed in Turkey indicate. The US and NATO have two choices: intervene; or keep the fire burning. Remember this is not about Syria. This attack on the Syrian people and its secular state, is to remove Syria from the Iran equation, so that Israel (or the US) can attack Iran without a major counter-attack from Syria (or Hezbollah). This is Western corporate capitalist imperialism at its worst.

Rimon Tree

12/25/2012 1:32:39 PM

@ Ilker the opposition is not united as we have experienced already in other countries. The moment they should win, they will start fighting each other along the sectarian differences. Only way to avoid it would be to banish religion from politics, an idea to which the Muslims are not mature enough so far.

ilker avni

12/25/2012 4:38:07 AM

The oppostion controlls nearly sixtyfive per cent of the Country,Assad,s end is near,foreign forces are not needed,as time goes by the number defecting the Syrian army goes up.No Army can defeat the will of the people,they will win allways.Russia will never be forgiven by the Syrian people.They have been killed by Russian made tanks and planes.

sid solo

12/25/2012 4:37:28 AM

The obvious, it seems, needs to be printed out these days. Nevertheless, as usual a brilliant analysis by Mr Idiz.
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