Erdogan has announced that neither Turkey nor his private “Free Syrian Army” franchise, an army nobody has yet seen, are no longer going to fight ISIS. Belaboring the point, he isn’t going to fight them any less, he couldn’t, and there is a reason for this.
You see, Erdogan’s “Syrian Arab Force” assembled to fight ISIS is, in fact, ISIS.
When ISIS moved into Raqqah years ago, Erdogan said to himself, why let the Saudis have a good thing when I can cash in myself. So Erdogan set up an operational center in Gaziantep and moved troops into Syria to be “ISIS.” Turkey began looting Northern Syria, taking initially a few dozen factories, then all of them, literally hundreds from around Aleppo, and then set up a trade system under the leadership of Erdogan’s son to milk Syria dry.
For years now, Turkish ‘ISIS” has been stealing wheat, collecting taxes, robbing residents, and trading in oil and gas from their own region and with the real ISIS further East and South.
Then as the US backed Kurds came in and the Syrian Army came north, most of the oil from the real ISIS was cut off and the wheat came under Kurdish control. However, as it all had to be sold through Turkey anyway, what was the harm?
Now, with the Syrian Arab Army and the US backed Kurds joined up and economic deals with Damascus in place, it all goes south and Erdogan is now going to take on Damascus, perhaps Washington and Moscow too. It begins:
According to TASS, the US in the shape of General Townsend is accusing the Russians of carrying out airstrikes on the Turks whereas the Washington Post is claiming the recipients of the the Russian bombs were actually the Syrian Kurds who have just signed a broad agreement of alliance with Damascus.
A few days ago the Turks carried out at least three airstrikes against Syrian Arab Army forces as they drove north to link up with their Kurdish allies, the obvious motivation being to prevent the Syrian and Kurd ground forces joining up.
Then the Turkish ground forces, which includes the Turkish Army and the Free Syrian Army, advanced along the road from Al-Bab towards Manbij, a path which would lead them to direct confrontation with the Syrian Kurds, who we should not forget, are part of the US-led alliance.
However, the Russian air forces stopped this advance dead in its tracks by bombing the Turks as they negotiated the narrow corridor through the mountainous terrain that the road passes through, an act of retaliation for the Turkish airstrikes against the Syrian Army.
Where this is going to lead is far from clear, but an open, declared war between Turkey and Russia is not at the top of the list of possibilities. However, a declared war between Syria and Turkey is very much a strong possibility and that would be a bad situation for Erdogan as Syria would be backed by both Iraq and Iran and most likely by Hezbollah and the Syrian Kurds too.
The Russians would most likely stay out of it but would surely be more than delighted to furnish all the weapons and military goodies the Syrians and their allies could desire, not least because the Russian economy could sorely do with the boost and Putin would surely love to be rid of the troublesome Turk Erdogan and his dreams of restoring the Ottoman Empire at the expense of his arab neighbours.