Dangerous escalation

Dangerous escalation

The summer of 2019 conceives important diplomatic and security issues for Turkey. There are plenty of questions to be answered and problems to be solved.

But Turkey alone cannot find solutions to them because the issues threatening Turkey are part of regional and global problems. The solutions are bound to the will and capacity of other actors, not only Turkey’s.

Turkey faced and overcame a wave of great terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 and straightened its security situation on a large scale.  But this recovery has not been reflected in regional diplomacy and politics as Turkey expected.

Turkey’s clearance of its borders from ISIS and PKK-YPG terrorist threats by launching Euphrates Shield and Olive branch operations was realized simultaneously to the Russian-Syrian advance to the Euphrates River in 2017. At the same time, the United States and its small allies like SDF were able to control the whole area east of the river. In other words, Turkey’s solutions to its security problems took place within regional dynamics. Today, Turkey needs similar regional dynamics to proceed.

As we approach the summer of 2019, it can be said that Syria is moving away from a chaotic environment, which was created by small armed groups and made it difficult for bigger actors to take action towards stability.

Now, there is an environment in which global and regional actors like the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Iran can come together (in theory) and bargain.

The issues and questions are clear: What kind of order will be established in Syria? What will be the role of Ba’ath in the future? How much weight will the forces of change have in the government? What kind of a constitution will be written for
Syria? Where will the SDF, which is affiliated with YPG be in this big picture?

These are the questions which must be addressed by the relevant actors to find a way in Syria.

But there is no sign of starting such negotiations.

Turkey’s desire to establish a safe zone in the northern tier of Syria, lack of clarity about U.S. strategy in Syria, insistence by Russia on keeping Mr. Assad in power, Iran’s efforts to keep its military power active in the country, all further complicate the matter.

Moreover, American policy against Iran is increasing the tension in the region. The Trump administration’s decision to end oil waivers to eight countries including Turkey, and designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization are complicating the situation not only around Hormuz but in the whole region.

Turkey has the experiences of 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars, which deteriorated Turkey’s economy and security.

Tension between Iran and the U.S. can bring additional and heavy diplomatic and security problems to Turkey. The possibility of another wave of refugees and the slowing down of trade and tourism will be intolerable for Turkey. 

It will not be surprising if Iran resists this pressure, and Russia supports Tehran against the U.S. Closure of Hormuz by Iran will export a possible months-long crisis to the whole world. 

Customers of Gulf oil - China, Japan, S.Korea and India - will also be vulnerable to such a crisis. 

Apart from Syria and Iran, Egypt and Libya are sources of tension. The U.S. intention to designate Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization is another problem. 

This may force political Islamist groups out of the legitimate political system and lead to the formation of a loose alliance between Iran and these groups against the U.S. It is not hard to predict that the target of such an alliance would probably be Arab kingdoms which are operating with the U.S. and Israel. 

The U.S. is also implementing this controlled escalation elsewhere in Latin America. The Trump administration is increasing pressure against President Maduro of Venezuela. Two countries under simultaneous American pressure, Iran and Venezuela, have 38 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.

According to OPEC, they have 449 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. This is an important amount for the global economy and for the continuation of people’s daily lives, meaning if the control of this escalation is lost it will have consequences for the whole globe.

Everybody needs to be prepared for a very hot summer in the region, especially Turkey. If the actors do not opt for dialogue and continue their hawkish policies, the consequences will be heavy.

Bora Bayraktar,