Syrian Crisis Triggers Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman Ambitions
Dmitry MININ | 30.11.2015 | WORLD / Middle East

Syrian Crisis Triggers Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman Ambitions

The Turkey’s treacherous attack against a Russian military aircraft dispelled the fog of dangerous illusions. First and foremost, it shows how phony was the assurances of the Turkish government about its readiness for special relationship and close cooperation with Russia. The desire to reap benefits is not the same thing as the implementation of long-term strategy. Everybody needs cooperation; there is no need to refuse it, but an in-depth analysis of the reasons that define the policy implemented by Turkey today shows the downing of the aircraft was not an accident. 

In a war on evil it is not possible to join efforts with someone who gave birth to it. Pan-Turkism, Neo-Ottomanism and radical Islamism constitute the basis of Turkey’s state ideology. The country that espouses it cannot be our ally, or an associate. Ankara has not been just pursuing the goal of providing protection to the countries that were parts of former Ottoman Empire. It wants to ultimately integrate them into Turkey. These ambitions enter in direct contradiction with the vital interests of Russia. One can easily see it is true – it’s enough to get acquainted with the Davutoglu Doctrine associated with the name of the current Prime Minister of Turkey. The county’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a devout supporter of this policy and is eager to bring it to life. 

George Friedman, the chairman of Stratfor private global intelligence company, is an expert in geopolitics who is known for his works of provocative nature. In his futuristic book titled The Next 100 Years he predicts with confidence that Poland and Turkey will become the main instruments used by the West to destroy Russia. He believes that these countries will incorporate big chunks of Russia’s territory. 

To a large extent, the desire to annex some parts of territory in case the country gets split influences the current Turkey’s policy on Syria. At the moment, Turkey states it defends the rights of ethnic Turks, a minority living in the northern part of Syria, which comes under the attacks of Syrian government forces and the Russian aviation. The truth is, this people have lived with Arabs in peace for many centuries. Now they have become an instrument of Ankara’s great-power chauvinistic Neo-Ottoman policy. Turkish media reports that the Syrian Turkmen population is estimated at about 2 million people. In reality, the number is around 100 thousand. They populate mountainous areas and have not had any serious problems with the Syrian government. They had not joined the insurgency for a long time until recently. MIT, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization, organized and armed them literally coercing them into staging a rebellion against Damascus. There are many professional military and citizens of Turkey in their ranks, for instance the man who bragged he was the one to shoot Oleg Pashkov, the pilot of the downed SU-24 front bomber who catapulted with a parachute.

It was reported that the Russian Aerospace Forces delivered strikes against the humanitarian aid convoys on the way to the main areas of Turkmen concentration. According to Turkish media, after the Russian aircraft was downed, President Erdogan tacitly acknowledged the claims previously made by critics who alleged that the Turkish government was sending weapon-filled trucks to radical groups in Syria by sarcastically asking, «So what if the MİT trucks were filled with weapons?» Experts believe thousands of trucks loaded with arms have been sent to the areas populated by the Turkmen. 

The formations of Turkmen militia created by Turkey can be used for offensive against Latakia, the bulwark of the Assad’s support. It made them a very valuable asset for Ankara. Today they can attack the Russian military air group at Khmeimim airbase. Recently, several dozens of civilians were killed in the heart of the city of Latakia as a result of terrorist attack originating from the area populated by Turkmen.

Ankara hypocritically pretends to protect the Turkmen pursuing its own geopolitical goals. The result is the opposite of what was expected. The Russian and Syria forces in the north of Latakia have greatly intensified their activities. Until now, local rebels had been offered cease-fire, now the mission is to wipe them out. According to numerous alarming reports of the state-run Turkish Anadolu Agency, the Kizildag Mountain had come under continuous strikes by Russian warships and aircraft. The recent reports say this strategically important mountain has moved again under the control of Syria government forces. With air defense systems rapidly deployed, no Turkey’s intervention can change the situation. Summing it all up, the conclusion can be made that the Turkey’s actions are driven by the desire to provoke a broader conflict to involve other NATO countries and the frustration as a result of lost profits from oil smuggling.

Ankara has expelled itself from the potential broader anti-terror coalition. Against all the evidence produced, Turkey refuses to acknowledge it was involved in creation of the Islamic State. The Turkish government says «moderate opposition» operates in Northern Latakia. According to Israeli sources, all regional formations of militants, including Coastal Division, the largest of them which is formally an element of Syrian Free Army, operate under the control of Jabhat Al Nusra. Formally this group is a Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. It is banned by the United Nations as a terrorist organization. You cannot be with and against terrorism at the same time. 

It’s important to understand that the ongoing changes on the battle field, including in the area of the common border with Northern Latakia, prompted the Turkey’s action. Ankara exacerbated tensions and provoked Moscow in an attempt to break up the assault of Syria’s government troops.

Aleppo, the second largest Syrian city, could be cut off from Turkey pretty soon. The Syrian government forces are moving to Afrin, one of the largest Kurdish enclaves in the country, and Sheikh Maqsood district of northern Aleppo populated by Shiites and Kurds. The regular troops are also approaching the cities of Nubl and Al-Zahraa in the Aleppo governorate. It changes the strategic configuration in the north of Syria. Having established control over these areas the government forces may get new people filling their ranks to increase the manpower, something they badly need. The success of Syrian army in Palmira may soon return about half of the country’s territory seized by the Islamic State under the control of Damascus. It sparks alarm in the ranks of Islamists and some «fighters» against terror who view terrorists as an instrument of achieving foreign policy goals.

The best way to bring the Turks to their senses is to intensify the Russian military activities in Syria. It’s obvious, that the strikes against the area where the Russian aircraft was downed are the most effective actions to make Turkey realize that the perpetrated crime was useless and produced no desired effect. An intensive operation to wipe out the terrorists in Latakia supported by fighters, air defense and electronic warfare systems would make the Turkish people see there is a wide gap between the goals announced by the Turkish government and the real results. All the routes across the Syria-Turkey border can be gradually blocked or become easy targets for weapons systems. The Russian forces guarding the Khmeimim air base can do it using long range artillery.

Experts emphasize that until now Moscow has been taking into consideration the stance of Ankara while shaping its relationships with Syrian and Turkish Kurds. Now nothing deters Russia from rendering them serious support in the struggle for political freedom and the right to self-defense.