Erdogan and his revisionist Neo-Ottoman ambitions

Over the past few weeks, Erdogan has made a number of controversial statements, which directly refer to the need to revise the boundaries of modern Turkey. It is believed that Erdogan's revisionism aimed at legitimizing Turkey's more active involvement in the region, especially in Syria and Iraq. It is possible also that the president is guided by its own domestic political interests: the bellicose statements should attract the votes of the nationalist-minded voters in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

First series of loud statements of the Turkish leaders were about Greece. On September 29, Erdogan claimed that the Treaty of Lausanne 1923, which laid the foundation of the Turkish Republic and outlined its recognized borders after the War of Independence of the Turkish people against the western intervention,  is in fact "false victory of Turkish diplomacy." According to the President, the fact that the forced transfer of control to the Greek State over the disputed islands in the Aegean Sea is a testament to the historic injustice. It is not surprising that such ambiguous statements by Erdogan immediately caused a sharp reaction of the Greek side. Greece Foreign Ministry called upon Ankara to "respect international treaties."

Attention of the President was also directed at ongoing in these days in Iraq, the operation to liberate Mosul from the hands of the "Islamic state" (IG, banned in Russia). Erdogan during another speech lashed out at Iraqi government, for having been blocking part of the country situated in the territory of the Turkish expeditionary force in a military operation. Stepping aside from the diplomatic etiquette, Erdogan held that Ankara does not consider it necessary to ask Baghdad over how to deal with its own armed forces on the Iraqi territories.

Several days later, the President noted that the Turkish people "can not now live by psychology of 1923," alluding to the need to revise the modern borders of the country, including also to itsTurkish-Iraqi segment. Nobody doubted that under the latter he implied a return to the provisions of the National Pact – a declaration adopted in 1918 by the last Ottoman Parliament, which subsequently formed the basis of the political program of the Liberation Movement 1919-1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

As part of the pact, in particular, it was expected to maintain the oil-rich former Ottoman Province of Mosul under the supervision of the young Turkish Republic. However, as a result of a long diplomatic conflict, known in history as the Mosul question, under pressure from the city's colonial mistress of Iraqi territories, England, city remained outside of Turkey and was later incorporated into the Iraqi state. As a result of the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, Turkey was forced to acknowledge the loss of Mosul.

Historical injustice, by which the imposition of borders of modern Turkey is meant, Erdogan pushes for review of basic documents and establishment of the conditions under which Ankara would return specified in the National Pact, but unjustly alienated territories. "Mosul was ours. Take a look at the history ", - Erdogan appealed to his supporters during one of his recent speeches.

It is likely that for the militant speeches Erdogan lies his desire to change the attitude of the Turkish society to the idea of ​​the active participation of the country's military in Syria and Iraq, to ​​the territory of which due to the political instability of the threats to national security of Turkey itself. According to numerous polls, the majority of the population is skeptical about any plans for Turkey's military intervention in the affairs of neighboring countries. And that public sentiment has long exerted a restraining influence on the conduct of military operations in Iraq and Syria.

Implementation of the policy of revisionism, actively promoted by Erdogan, today, is also associated with a number of foreign policy risks and limitations. We are talking about the negative reaction of the population of Iraq and Syria, which is sensitive about any Turkish interference in the affairs of the region. Steps like to send entire army units are still attached to the tragic experience of the colonial past.

The attempts of the Turkish leadership to correct the "historical injustice" can cause fear of the dominant regional political forces as well.

The historical experience of the last century suggests that Turkey may proceed from words to action in Ankara in 1930 to actively intervene in the internal affairs of the colonial Syria, while it was the French mandate. Through diplomatic maneuvering and political pressure Ankara made separation in 1938 of Sanjak Alexandretta, that was also under consideration in the National Covenant, from the Syria. In 1939, in a referendum held in the presence of the Turkish Armed Forces, Sanjak became a part of Turkey (current province of Hatay). Since then, the status of Hatay / Alexandretta has repeatedly been the subject of a dispute between Turkey and Syria.

High-profile foreign policy Erdogan can point to the fact that the real reason for such activity are connected to his own political ambitions, closely related to the ongoing debate about the new constitution and the issue of transition to a presidential system. After several months of silence in the middle of October, Erdogan once again raised the topic. Transition to the new system should become the apotheosis of Erdogan's political career. That is the issue of the status and powers of the president in the Basic Law political forces in Turkey broke a lot of copies.

Recently, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said that its draft constitution ready for consideration in the Grand National Assembly (parliament) of Turkey. However, in order to initiate a referendum at the AKP is not enough votes in parliament: the required quota for the referendum - 330 votes, and at the disposal of the AKP - 317 seats. Manual AKP has long tried to enlist the support of deputies from the opposition National Action Party (MHP), but judging by the statements of the leaders of nationalist MHP stands for the preservation of the parliamentary system.

In these circumstances, the AKP had to prepare for early elections that may be held in the spring. The authorities want to use the political mood in the society and high ratings of the ruling party, resulting from the successful suppression of anti-state coup in mid-July.

The president is trying to create the image of a strong leader, who is correcting the "historical injustice" and relentlessly fighting against foreign enemies. Erdogan's image as a collector of Ottoman land is unlikely to add to it's foreign policy achievements, but promises to become the core of the forthcoming campaign in connection with the new Constitution of Turkey.


Why Turkey wants a role in the liberation of Mosul

U.S. and Kurdish forces have already launched a military operation to assist the Iraqi army in recapturing Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS). Since that became clear, the Turkish government has been staunchly insisting that Ankara should also participate in the operation. The Turkish military presence near Mosul, despite being protested by Baghdad, officially has the goal of supporting the Peshmerga and Sunni forces that are attempting to liberate Mosul. However, official Turkish statements and the nation’s recent foreign policy in the region make many observers doubt the proclaimed intentions of Ankara. They argue that Turkey’s policy is mainly driven by its geopolitical ambitions in Iraq. For Russian decision-makers, it is important to incorporate Turkish efforts into its own Middle East policy and to channel Ankara’s ambitions into the Iran-Turkey-Russia framework of cooperation.

Why is Turkey in Iraq?

Earlier in October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that the Turkish army should play a role in the Mosul offensive. He further insisted that no one would be able to prevent forces trained by Turkish soldiers and advisers stationed near Mosul from participating in the operation.

Such assertiveness describes in broader terms the current Turkish policy towards Iraq and Ankara’s intentions to be a part of the coming post-ISIS power politics. But it seems reasonable for Ankara to rethink its current hostile stance and to consider closer cooperation with Russia and Iran instead.

The Turkish military presence in Iraq is not something new. Cooperation on border security with Iraq has been ongoing since the 1980s, whereas the nation’s limited (but permanent) military presence started in the 1990s. Today there are around 18 Turkish military and intelligence bases mostly located in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan.

The main objective of the Turkish presence in Iraq is to fight the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey, EU and the U.S. For example, Turkey established a military camp in Bashiqa in March 2015 as part of its fight with ISIS. It provided training and military assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga and local Sunni forces al-Hash al-Watani.

In December 2016, the Bashiqa camp became the center of a diplomatic scandal between Turkey and the Iraqi central government. The latter demanded from Ankara removal of the camp that was established “in violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” It is quite obvious that Baghdad has been serving as a conduit of Iranian concerns over the Turkish encroachment on its dominion in Iraq.

Faced with the lack of support from both its Western and Arab partners, the Turkish authorities were forced to mitigate the conflict and were trying to prove that its military presence was necessary to fight ISIS. Now, the same arguments are used to justify Turkish participation in the military offensive in Mosul. Turkey insists that its presence in Iraq is an indispensable element of the fight with ISIS.

On the other hand, Ankara seems to ignore ongoing skepticism over its true relations with the Islamic State. It is not a secret for anyone that, in the early stages of its existence, Turkey viewed ISIS as an effective force against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and Kurdish PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) groups. Both are primary enemies of Turkey.

Turkish officials, when asked about the necessity of its military presence, tend to underline that Turkish bases in Iraq are also ready to contribute to the ongoing fight against the PKK. Allegedly, Turkey is trying to block the advancement of the PKK-affiliated groups along the Syrian-Iraqi border around Sinjar. If those groups get control over the border, it would be easier for the Rojava region in Syria to survive a Turkey-imposed land blockade. Nevertheless, even if the PKK factor is acknowledged and taken into consideration, experts argue that the military presence in Iraq is already adequate for fighting PKK activity there and, in any case, must be coordinated with the central government.

So another major motive behind Ankara’s insistence to participate in the offensive might be Turkey’s ambition to retain the area around Mosul under its influence in the post-ISIS period, which promises to be very hectic. With a weak central government in Baghdad and rising influence of Iran in the post-2003 Iraq, the necessity to keep Mosul, the second largest city of the country, under Turkish influence, became not only a relatively easy task, but also a geopolitical imperative in Turkish Middle East policy. It partly explains why Ankara is so staunchly opposed to any involvement of Iran-backed Shia militias in the Mosul offensive.

However, both Ankara and Tehran are trying to avoid a direct confrontation. Instead, they are seeking behind closed doors all possible options to calibrate their respective policies in Iraq. In this regard, diplomatic initiatives of Turkey, Iran and Russia to find a stable mechanism of regional cooperation could contribute to stability in turbulent post-2003 Iraq.

Historical “injustice”

From the perspective of the current Turkish political establishment, Mosul was unjustly seized by Britain in 1918 and the newly founded Turkish Republic was forced by the Western powers to acknowledge the League of Nations’ brokered agreement. The loss of Mosul is, many say, a historical injustice inflicted upon the Turkish people and it must be undone.

The current revisionist foreign policy is driven by Turkey’s ambitious President Erdogan, who recently hinted in his speech to parliament that the Lausanne treaty must be reconsidered. (A peace treaty signed in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 24, 1923 officially settled the conflict that had existed between the Ottoman Empire and the Allied British Empire, French Republic, Kingdom of Italy, Empire of Japan, Kingdom of Greece, and the Kingdom of Romania since the onset of World War I – Editor’s note)

Since the early 2000s, Turkish foreign policy was largely shaped and given an academic framework by former Turkish Foreign Minister Mehmet Davutoglu. His proactive vision foresaw the revitalization of Turkey’s ties with its historic neighborhood and, more importantly, reactivation of its influence in the former Ottoman colonies, especially in Syria and Iraq. It is not only soft power that Turkish leadership has been using to secure its presence in Iraq. Ankara has actively been supporting various Sunni groups that were more or less interested in Turkish backing to counterbalance the Iraqi central government.

Therefore, the Turkish presence to a great extent was based on support of the centrifugal political forces in Iraq. In this vein, Turkey has been justifying its military presence by saying it helps kindred Turkmen and Sunni local populations who suffered the most from ISIS cruelty over the last two years. However, Turkey was not limited to that. It is providing political, financial and military assistance to the Iraqi Kurds, who represent so far the biggest challenge for the Iraqi central government. No doubt this support is more than just a step towards securing its say in local politics.

Friendly Sunni forces, whether they are Arabs, Turkmen or Kurds, are expected to serve Turkish interests in its future struggle with Iran over influence in Iraq, which historically was the basis for a geopolitical rivalry of the two regional empires.

Turkey could rely on Russian diplomatic assistance to overcome difficulties it faces today in Iraq. As it was mentioned in regards to the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide in Iraq, Turkey risks colliding with another regional power, Iran, which is interested in preserving a united Iraq under full control of Baghdad.

Another issue of concern is Turkish support to the Kurds. Turkey seems to have no other option other than to support the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) government in Iraqi Kurdistan with little realization that Turkish military assistance serves the ultimate Kurdish interest – full independence from Baghdad.

What can Russia’s role be?

Russia could use its good relations with Iran as a tool to channel Turkish concerns and grievances into more cooperative dialogue and thus successfully engage both Tehran and Ankara in lessening Western influence in the region.

By being more responsive to Turkish security concerns, Iran and Russia could considerably lessen Ankara’s reliance on the Kurds. Finally, looking at the more tactical and near-term perspective, Turkey seems to be meddling in a highly complicated conflict where all sides seem ready to start fighting each other once Mosul is retaken from ISIS. This could make a Russian diplomatic project on a tripartite cooperation mechanism in Iraq attractive for Turkish decision-makers.


Is Russia using its relationship with Turkey to build closer ties with US in Syria?

Russia deploys a rich set of tools for achieving its foreign policy goals in Syria. They include not only military actions but diplomatic maneuvering as well. While having forged rather robust working ties with Tehran, Moscow is trying to reach regional powers that have been long opposing Damascus.

Recent months witnessed rapid rapprochement between Turkey and Russia. Despite the positive dynamics of their relations it seems questionable that both countries will reach something greater than that. However, under close examination one can see that Russia's evolving dialogue with Turkey pursues a much more important strategic goal – to force the US into more cooperation with Russia and make it accept Moscow as an indispensable partner in Syria.

On September 9, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and US State Secretary John Kerry announced that the sides had finally reached an agreement on a ceasefire in Syria, marking a breakthrough after months of futile attempts to stop the violence in the country. Both Russia and the US agreed to cease all hostilities beginning on September 12 and allow humanitarian aid convoys to enter besieged territories as part of relief efforts.

A cornerstone of the agreement was Damascus' pledge to suspend airstrikes against moderate opposition forces deeply embedded in the al-Qaeda Syrian branch Nusra Front in Aleppo province. The step was to serve as a start to the final demarcation of moderates and jihadists by Moscow and Washington in their common, but so far uncoordinated, fight against terrorist organizations on Syrian soil. 

The September 9th agreement, if it holds, could be seen as a big diplomatic achievement for Moscow, considering staunch opposition from the US administration against entering into any accords with Russia or the Syrian government.

By answering Moscow’s calls for more military cooperation and action against terrorists in Aleppo, Washington tries to extract certain concessions which would help to alleviate the suffering of civilians by allowing UN aid convoys into areas that are currently under sieges imposed by the Syrian government.

A decision to accede to a deal with Russia despite considerable mistrust of Moscow's true intentions and its ability to control Assad was dictated by a simple lack of viable alternatives.

"What's the alternative? The alternative is to allow us to go from 450,000 people who've been slaughtered to how many thousands more," John Kerry said when explaining the driving motive behind the deal in a recent interview with NPR.

The precarious humanitarian situation frames the US’ Syrian policy. The main political objective now is to address humanitarian problems rather than focus on the political and military details of the conflict. US President Barack Obama also seems to be trying to minimize risks before the end of his presidency by avoiding considerable military involvement in the conflict, thus making dealings with Russia more indispensable.

But Obama's line has so far been challenged on many occasions by the Pentagon who shares a considerable mistrust towards Russia. The US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, a fierce critic of Moscow, has reasons to be suspicious. Last February’s ceasefire agreement was breached mainly because the Syrian government refused to honor it. The short-lived cessation of hostilities allowed the Syrian army to regroup and advance around Aleppo.

This also makes Carter doubt the ability of Moscow to influence Assad, who in one of his recent public speeches, promised to "retake every inch of Syria from the terrorist".

The head of the Pentagon also raised concerns over the technical details of the September agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, if the ceasefire holds, it will be followed by establishment of the Joint Implementation Center, a body that would coordinate efforts of the US and Russian militaries in their fight against Nusra Front and other acknowledged terrorist elements in Syria.

For the Department of Defence, that could mean sharing sensitive intelligence information with Russia, America's strategic competitor. If not regulated, such a mechanism would not only violate US legal norms, but would eventually put pro-American assets on the ground under the risk of complete destruction by either Russian or Syrian air forces if something goes wrong.

Another critical issue pointed out by the US military command deals with the delineation agreement that envisages clear demarcation of moderate opposition and their disengagement from the Nusra Front assets on the ground. If this happens, the Pentagon worries that moderates would lose tactical advance over the Syrian army since both moderate factions in the Syrian opposition and Nusra Front forces fight the same enemy, the Assad government.

Such a step would endanger already shaky ties between the US military and anti-Assad forces in Aleppo province, thus possibly resulting in a complete loss of any friendly forces on the ground.

To understand why a military agreement with the United States in Syria has a crucial importance for the Russian political leadership, one should look at the broader US-Russian relations after the Crimean crisis.

In order to break its international isolation and rebuild working ties with Western partners, Moscow entered into the Syrian conflict primarily to make it harder, if not impossible, for Washington to ignore Russia and thus lead cooperation between the two superpowers over the Syrian issue to a broader relationship in other spheres. Besides it seems evident that Russia is trying to use the last months of Obama's term to nail a deal that would be a basis for cooperation with a future US president.

Russian strategy vis-à-vis the US presence in Syria is confined to efforts to bring American leadership into broader cooperation with Moscow. Russia is creating specific conditions in the war-torn country that make harder for the US to ignore Russia when solving humanitarian or military issues.

In this context, indiscriminate bombing by the regime furthers the goal of influencing Western public opinion and creating enough pressure on European and American leaders to concede to make agreements with Damascus. Similarly, cases when Russian war planes operate in close proximity with coalition assets or when Russia carries out strikes on remote opposition outposts that turn out to be used by the American special forces – are all designed to make establishing military coordination with Russia a necessary and only option.

Finally, Moscow deliberately plays on the disagreements and political problems within the coalition in order to complicate US actions in Syria. In this regard, a deliberate investment in more military and political dialogue with NATO member Turkey has a clear message for the US administration: soon the US will not be able to take a single step without first consulting with Russia, so it is highly recommended to cooperate together as equal partners in Syria.

To undermine the US’ position in Syria, Moscow deliberately targets the US-Turkey alliance by deepening political and military dialogue with Ankara. Witnessing how much Turkey is irritated by US reluctance to admit its concerns over the recent coup and Kurdish advances on the Syrian border, Russia offers Turkey just what it needs now: political support in its fight against coup elements within the state apparatus and military cooperation in Syria, where Russia seems to have agreed to let Turkey curve out a zone of influence to prevent unification of the Kurdish territories. Ongoing military and political contacts seem to benefit both sides.

By pulling Turkey closer to its side, Russia is hoping that Turkey will prove itself a responsible partner. Turkey is expected to avoid directly challenging Russian interests in the Aleppo region. Meanwhile it is promised a place in the transition period where Turkey is going to have a say over the political process.

Russia wants from Turkey more openness in issues of control over the Turkish-Syrian border and humanitarian help to the besieged population in Syria. On the other hand, Russia seems to be willing to prevent Turkey and the US from forming workable ties on the ground in Syria by further exacerbating differences and highlighting the incompatibility of their strategic goals.

In the long run, Russia hopes that cooperation with a staunch opponent to the Assad regime will not only bring the conflict into a more controllable state where Russia has an upper hand both as a military and diplomatic superpower, but also create perfect conditions where the US, a main addressee of Moscow's current dialogue with Ankara, will be forced to accept Russia as an indispensable partner.


How Russia fits into Turkey's strategy for Syria

In Syria, Turkey is using its reconciliation with Russia as a form of political leverage over the U.S., which Ankara wants to make more attentive to its own demands. Turkey’s recent military operation, which ended in the capture of the Syrian city of Jarablus, demonstrated the nation’s strong concerns about its security interests in the region. The operation not only took on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS), but also challenged the Syrian Kurds under the leadership of the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

Even though the official reason for the operation was clearing the area of ISIS forces, Turkey’s offensive had a broader strategic aim: preventing the Syrian Kurds from establishing an autonomous political entity along the Turkey-Syria border. These Kurds affiliated with the PYD have strong ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers to be a terrorist organization.

The increased diplomatic activity of Ankara allowed it to cooperate more closely with the Syrian government’s main allies. This, however, does not indicate that Turkey is stepping back from its Western allies. By acting in such a manner, Turkey is trying to draw the U.S.’s attention to its concerns, especially when it comes to the sphere of national security.

The military operation launched by Ankara in Syria made the U.S. decrease its support for the Kurds and satisfy some of Turkey’s primary concerns. In many ways, Turkey’s newly restored relations with Russia may have also caused such changes in the U.S. approach. However, it is important to look within the inner political workings in Ankara to fully grasp the situation.

Turkey’s volatile domestic politics

After the failed coup in July, Turkey’s government and military have been busy cleansing itself of pro-Gulen elements in its ranks [Religious figure Fethullah Gulen, founder of the Gulen movement, incited the recent coup attempt, according to the Turkish government – Editor’s note]. In addition to this, the military is undergoing reforms, so as to have a more centralized command structure. It is also vital to note that many army officers who advised against direct military involvement in Syria have now been removed from their command posts.

In recent weeks, Turkey has experienced a number of terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIS and the PKK. The most recent attack exploited the exact moment when personnel in the security services were undergoing a reorganization, which weakened their operational capacities. The leaders of the PKK announced that they were ready to start an all-out war if the government refused to cooperate and start negotiations with the organization. The government has firmly refused to do this, stating that it did not negotiate with terrorists.

Turkey’s diplomatic shift

In recent weeks, there has been a noticeable shift in Turkey’s foreign policy. In August, Erdogan travelled to St. Petersburg to meet with Vladimir Putin, which ultimately stabilized relations between the two countries. This rapprochement was followed by increased dialogue between Russian and Turkish defense and military agencies. According to media reports, one of the main points of discussion between Erdogan and Putin was the situation in Syria, and ways to coordinate their efforts in order to quell the conflict.

The Putin-Erdogan talks in St. Petersburg were also strengthened by a visit of the Iranian foreign minister to Ankara on Aug. 12, and the visit of the Turkish foreign minister to Tehran on Aug. 20. The fact that Turkey’s attempts to improve its relations with Russia came against the background of Ankara’s cooling relations with its traditional Western allies (the U.S. and Europe) deserves particular attention.

Turkey’s displeasure with the West

Turkey remains displeased with Europe on a number of issues. First, according to Turkey, Europe keeps a blind eye to the activities of PKK affiliates in EU countries. Second, Ankara is dissatisfied with Europe’s reaction to the failed coup attempt. The Turkish government believes that Europe did not express a definitive anti-coup stance, and did not unequivocally support the democratically elected President Erdogan.

Ankara’s suspicions became stronger with the European position to the post-coup measures taken by the Turkish government. Turkey’s Western partners believe that the actions taken by the government following the coup attempt were made to stifle any political opposition to the ruling elite.

The United States’ position was also ambiguous. When Turkey demanded that Gulen, who resides in the U.S., be extradited, Washington asked to provide evidence that he played a part in the coup. This increased the tension between the countries.

Friction is also present when it comes to Washington’s support of the Syrian Kurds. Unlike in Iraq, U.S. military maneuvers in Syria are limited by the lack of boots on the ground. Because of this, Washington was forced to rely on the Kurds for military support to fight terrorism. This was coordinated under the leadership of the Democratic Union Party.

As for the Syrian Kurds, they used their alliance with the U.S. to increase the amount of land they controlled. This has caused concern not only in Syria but also in Turkey. In order to prevent the further expansion of the territories controlled by the PYD as well as to clear the area of ISIS forces, Turkey decided to launch the military operation in Syria.

The realization of this operation, which was thought out in 2015, became impossible after Turkey shot down the Russian jet over the Syrian desert. Because Russia controlled Syrian airspace, Turkey had to wait nine months until relations with Russia stabilized. The crossing of the Euphrates by military units of the PYD compelled the Turkish leadership to negotiate further with Russian officials.

According to the Turkish defense minister, Fikri Isik, the operation was coordinated with the agreement of Russian, Iranian and even Syrian officials through “indirect communication channels.” The fact that consultations about the operation took place is also confirmed by the reaction of all parties involved. They expressed only formal concern about intervention and called for cooperation with official Syrian authorities.

The position of Iran and Syria concerning the Kurds is especially important when analyzing Turkey’s actions. All sides categorically oppose the establishment of a Kurdish state. In the case of Damascus, the hostility to the PYD is often outwardly adverse. In fact, on Mar. 19, there were open clashes in the city of Hasakah between the Syrian Army forces and the Kurdish militia.

The strengthening of the Syrian Kurds is strongly tied to the growth of their political ambitions, which is to eventually establish Kurdish autonomy within Syria. There are many political forces who oppose it, and not just regional powers, but also the U.S. and Russia, who are committed to the unity and integrity of the Syrian state.

The importance of Turkey’s offensive in Syria

Turkey’s offensive, called “Euphrates Shield,” was directed at creating a safe zone along the Syria-Turkey border, as well as at stopping ISIS and Kurdish forces from advancing. Of course, Russia could not have allowed Turkey to do this and strengthen its positions in Syria, if it received nothing in return.

Judging by the declarations of both Russia and Turkey, it seems that they are working on a more comprehensive plan that includes compromises on a number of issues, including the control of border posts that supply major assistance to anti-Assad forces.

The other important factor is the change of Ankara’s rhetoric towards the future fate of Assad. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated that, “Turkey can see Assad as a future interlocutor.” This is to say that Ankara now views Assad as a legitimate part of the transition process. This shows a significant concession of Turkey’s position towards Syria’s president.

Turkey’s support of an anti-Assad coalition aims at increasing its own influence in Syria, while its fight with the Kurds is seen in terms of preserving its national security. It is through this prism it is vital to view Turkish relations with Russia and the U.S.

At first glance it might seem like Turkey, while experiencing problems with its traditional allies, consciously looks for closer relations with Moscow. It also signals the willingness to compromise in its relations with Russia. However, all plans between Russia and Turkey have yet to be implemented, while the U.S. and the West remain the main guarantors of Turkey’s security, despite existing issues.

Exactly at such moments, Turkey uses its reconciliation with Russia as leverage over the U.S., which Ankara wants to make more attentive to own demands. That is why the U.S. is reacting on Turkey-Russia rapprochement in a very cautious way. All of these might demonstrate increasing coordination between all parties involved, which gives more hope for positive results in the end.


Russia in the strategic culture of Iran

Moscow and Tehran seem to have forged a strong alliance that can possibly save the Assad regime from otherwise imminent downfall. Syrian conflict demonstrates that powers like Russia and Iran, despite all existing contradictions between them, are willing to tolerate each other. To understand the nature of their bilateral cooperation we should look at how Iran perceives Russia and what place Moscow takes in Tehran’s national security policy.

Any analysis of a security policy would require a sophisticate theoretical tool, in our case we will use a strategic culture approach to see what Iranian security policy looks like. According to its generally accepted definition, a strategic culture is an ideational framework, in which major decision makers outline national security policy. A strategic culture is regarded as a set of non-formal, highly abstract and symbolic ideas and notions, which nevertheless play a significant role in the decision making process.

Too big to ignore, too important to reject

Iranian regime after it was established during the so-called Islamic Revolution in 1979 found itself involved in a number of the regional conflicts, starting from the disastrous war with the Saddam Iraq in 1980-1988 to proxy wars with Israel. Often Iranian regime showed its preference to wage protracted conflicts of low intensity, where primary goal is to exhaust its enemy and defeat its will to fight further. Such conflicts of exhaustion require enormous diplomatic cover to shield Iran from outside pressure. Moscow’s vast diplomatic resources, especially its veto power in the UN Security Council, make Russia a valuable partner for Iran, who is struggling to expand and protect its positions in Syria and Yemen.

Moreover, as we know Iranian regime’s worldview is based on the staunch opposition to the Western domination in the region. Iranian involvement in major conflicts in the region sought to challenge Western allies militarily. This rendered necessity to use military technologies that would be on par with the western ones. Since the fall of the USSR, Russia has been one of the world leaders in the arms exports. Technological and military cooperation between Iran and Russia, therefore, also has to strengthen Tehran’s military capabilities and its positions in future confrontations.

Nevertheless, it would be prudent to claim that Iran is driving itself into full dependence on Russia. When dealing with Russian-Iranian relations one should consider that Tehran views its ties with Moscow just as a mere part of a broader set of relations with non-western powers, like Turkey, Pakistan or China. The latter is also, like Russia, a UN SC veto power with enormous military potential. In addition to that, Peking can offer Tehran things that Moscow doesn’t have – lucrative credits and incredible economic, trade and technological opportunities.

Enough reasons to dislike Moscow

Political elites in Iran, who are responsible for defining main precepts of the national security policy, have to build their decisions upon major principles of the Iranian Revolution and guiding doctrines developed by its leaders. Iranian regime tries to defend itself from inside and outside threats, meanwhile acting pro-actively in the region. Tehran’s revolutionary, anti-colonial, anti-western activism blended together with the Islamic zeal produced a unique foreign policy vision.

Iran sees the Middle East as a region that has long been suffering from outside interventions. According to this worldview, current problems of the region are brought and caused by the West. A viable solution to the most evils in the Middle East is to drive all outside powers from the region and give the local population the right to decide their own fate.

For Iran, Russia is one of those outside powers that attempt to settle down in the region and manipulate political processes in the Middle East. To make things worse, Russia, despite Tehran’s muted resentment, seeks to pursue its national interests by playing an active role in Syria – “a golden chain” of the Iranian sphere of influence.

But for Iran, Russia is not just an outside power. Moscow’s foreign policy embodies Western domination over the non-western world. With its exclusive positions within the international organizations and close diplomatic ties to other western countries Russia represents a part of the modern colonial system. Besides, Iranians still remember the dramatic history of relations with their northern neighbor, when Russian Empire and Soviet Union on multiple occasions invaded Iran to secure its political interests in this country.

Even more, current cooperation between Iran and Russia is complicated by their different religious affiliations. Russia is a predominantly Christian country with a strong religious identity that recently started to come to the forefront in the Russian foreign policy discourse. Moscow not only has troubles in accommodating Muslim population at home, it also signals internationally that it ready to coordinate its efforts in Syria with Israel, an archenemy of the Iranian regime.

So why Iran tolerates proactive Russia

The main reason behind Iran’s tolerant approach to the Russian active engagement in Syria lies in Tehran’s awareness of fundamental weaknesses in  Moscow’s positions in the Middle East.

First of them is the absence of broad military capacities or political will for a long-term presence in the region that eventually can threaten Iranian ambitions. Indeed, Russia demonstrated its ability to send and deploy troops, but one should really doubt Moscow’s ability to sustain its substantial presence over a longer period. Also, Russia can’t manage events on the ground single-handedly - its presence requires considerable assistance of Damascus and Tehran.
Another factor, which is generally overlooked by the experts, is that Russian has no established system of alliances in the region. The only regional players that are so far ready to cooperate with Moscow and tolerate its ambitions are Damascus and Tehran. Also, if we take into account Russia’s strained relations with Turkey and a lack of history of cooperation with Saudi-Arabia, we realize that Tehran is Moscow’s only available option to get into the Middle East and be anchored in this region.

Finally, Iran accepts Russian engagement in Syria and even its broader participation in the regional political processes also due to the fact that Russia doesn’t have enough humanitarian and economic resources to expand its positions so that to threaten Iranian interests in the Middle East. Besides its appeal to the local Orthodox Christians, Moscow has not yet presented any ideological models or set of ideas attractive to the local population. In short, Russia doesn’t have soft power necessary to act as a trend-setting actor in the Middle East.


When looking at the heart of Russian-Iranian cooperation we see that Tehran’s tolerance for the Russian proactive policy in Syria is based on the understanding that without Russian resources Iranian regime would not be able to pursue its foreign policy goals and uphold its national security. Acceptance is also rooted in the understanding of Moscow’s genuine motifs behind such activism in the region. Finally, Iran seems to accept an alliance with Russia mainly because it is aware of profound limitations of the Russian positions in the Middle East.

Timur Akhmetov


Batı ve Türkiye Rusya–İran ilişkilerini son 500 yıldır nasıl belirliyordu?

Ortadoğu siyasetini tesir eden etkenlerden biri olarak Rusya-İran ilişkileri bölgesel siyasi süreçlerde önemli bir röl oynamaktadır. Suriye iç savaşında aynı tarafta olan Rusya ve İran’ın örtüşen çıkarlarına dayanaklı ittifağı oluştuğunu söylemek güçtür. Ancak iki devletin tarihi mirası Moskova ve Tehran arasındaki ciddi bir dengesizlik ve çatışma ihtimaline işaret etmektedir. Rusya-İran ilişkileri tarihini incelediğimizde çıkarabildiğimiz sonuçların birisi ikili ilişkileri son 500 yıldır  belirten güçler arasında Türkiye ve daha sonra Batılı ülkeler olmasıdır.

İran’la ilk diplomatik ilişkiler sadece Moskova Çarlığı’nın 1552’de Kazan ve 1556’da Astrahan Hanlıklarını fethetmesinden sonra mümkün oldu zira hızlı bir şekilde genişleyen Rus devleti kendi güneyinde bulunan Kafkasya yarı bağımsız küçük devletlerin sınırlarına ulaşınca doğrudan Safevi Devleti ve aynı zamanda Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun nüfuz alanlarınla yüzyüze gelmiş. İki devletler arasında diplomatik irtibatı sağlamayı başardıktan sonra Rus Çarı Korkunç İvan iki rakipten en güçsüzü seçerek İran devletiyle Kafkasya’da stratejik önemli Kara Deniz sahiline hakim olan Osmanlılara yönelik aleyhte olan işbirliğe girmiş.

Sonra 1623-1639 Osmanlı-Safevî Savaşı sonucu iki bölgesel güç Kasr-ı Şirin Antlaşmasında Kafkasya’yı ikiye bölümüş ve dolayısıyla Rus devleti Kafksasya  bölgesinden dışlanmış oldu. Osmanlılarla geçici barış edindikten sonra İran daha önce kontrolünden gitmiş Kuzey Kafkasya toprakları geri alması için fırsat bulmuş. Rusya ve İran arasında ilk askeri çatışma olarak sayılabilen harekette Sefevi Devleti Rus Çarlığı’nın tarafından Kuzey Kafkasya dağlılar topraklarında kurduğu savunma hatları ve bir süre hisarı yıkmakla beraber yerine kendi tabyaları kurmayı amaçlıyordu. Rus devleti Doğu Avrupa’da Polonya ile savaş yürütmekle ve Ukranya toprakları geri almaya çalışmakla uğraştığı için İran devletiyle direk çatışmaya girmesi için yeterli varlıkları bulmayınca 1653 Sefevi Şahı II.Abbas ile anlaşma yapmak zorunda kalmış. Rusya ancak 1654’te dağlıların geniş ayaklanmasıyla sonuçlanan Sefevi hükmetiyle memnuniyetsizliği kullanarak yerli eyaletlere siyasal varlığını yeniden yayabilmiş.

Sonradan Osmanlı, Sefevi ve Rus devletleri arasında Kafkasya’da ve bugünkü Azerbaycan, Gürcistan ve Ermenistan toprkalarında oluşmuş olan güç denge sadece İran idari bunalımından kaynaklanan askeri zayıflanmasıyla bozuluyor olmuş söyleyebiliriz. Aynı zamanda İngilizler 1600’lılar başından beri işgal eden Hindistan yarımadasından nüfuzunu İran topraklarına kadar yayılmaya başlamışlar.

Her yeni savaşla topraklarını kaybeden ve aynı şekilde idari zayıflıkları nedeniyle yeni güçlü orduya muhtaç olan Osmanlı İmparatorluğu artık yeni Kafkasya topraklarını elde etmek değil mevcut sınırlarını korumakla meşgülmüş. Bu şartlarda yeni Rus Çarı ve 1721’den sonra Rus İmparatoru olarak adlandırılan I.Petro başarılı bir şekilde idari ve askeri alanlarda radikal reformları hayata geçirdikten sonra Rusya sınırlarını Kuzey Avrupa’da, Doğu Avrupa’da ve Kafkasya’da genişletmeye çalışmış.

Rusya bütün 18. yüzyıl boyunca Osmanlı ve Sefevi devletleriyle yürüttüğü savaşlarda ne kadar büyük güce sahip olsa da iki cephede birden savaşmaktan kaçınıyordu. Örneğin 1733-1735 yıllarında Polonya parçalanması savaşları kapsamında Avrupa’da etkili olmalıyken ve aynı zamanda Kara Deniz’de hakimiyeti Osmanlılar ellerinde almaya çalıştığında 1732 ve 1735 yıllarda imzaladığı anlaşmalara göre Rusya İran’a daha önce işgal eden Hazar Deniz kıyı toprakları vermek zorunda kalmış. Aynı biçimde 1806-1812 Osmanlılarla savaş halindeyken Rus İmparatorluğu İran’la barış anlaşmasını yapmayı iyi bir diplomatik imkan olarak görmüş.

Ayrıca 19. yüzyıl başından beri İran Rusya ve İngiltere arasında sömürge rekabeti alanına giderek dönüşüyor olmuş. 1813 Gülistan ve 1828 Türkmençay Antlaşmaları sonucu Rusya İran’da pozisyonları güçlendirmek maksadıyla İran hükümdarlarından özel hak olarak Hazar Deniz’inde donanma bulundurma hakkı edinebilmiş. Bunun dışında Rus İmperatorluğu Ermenistan, Gürcistan ve Azerbaycan topraklarının büyük kısmı kendi kontrolüne getirdikten sonra İran devletinin öz topraklarına fiziksel erişim sağlayabilmesiyle İran içişlerine müdahaleye yol bulmuş.

Osmanlı İmperatorluğu’nun Kafkasya rekabet alanında giderek dışlanmasıyla birlikte Rusya ve İngiltere sömürge güçleri olarak İran’a odaklanıp aktif bir biçimde ülkeyi kendi nüfuz alanına dönüştürmeye çalışmaya başlamışlar. 1850-1890 yıllarında ‘Büyük Oyun’ olarak bilinen Rusya ve İngiltere arasındaki Orta Asya, Ortadoğu ve Kafkasya’da siyasi, askeri ve ticari rekabet süreci çerçevesinde Rusya-İran ilişkilerinde her girişim, her değişim İngiltere’nin İran politikasından tarafından tesir ediliyordu.

Rusya’nın 1853-1856 Kırım savaşında yenilgisinden kaykanlanan Kafkasya ve özellikle İran politikasında geçici etkinsizleşmesinden faydalanarak İngiltere İran şahlarına baskı uygulayıp hükümdarlardan geniş imtiyazları kazanabilmiş. Öyle ki, İngiliz Dışişleri Ofisi (Foreign Office) İran içişleri siyasetini belirtilmesinde kilit bir rol oynuyordu zira ülkenin üretim esasların çoğu İngiliz ellerine verilmiş. Ancak yine Rus devleti İran toplumundaki İngiliz müdahalesinden hoşnutsuzluğu görünce ülkeye alternatif olarak kendi banka kredileri ve demiryolları inşaatı gibi iktiasadi destek sunuyordu. 1890 patlak veren İngiltere Tütün Şirketine karşı protestolar sadece İran-İngiltere ilişkilerinde ciddi bir değişime değil aynı zamanda İran-İngiltere-Rusya üçgeni vazgeçilmez bir öğe olarak Rusya etskisinin derinleşmesine yol açmış.

Rusya İran’daki nüfuzunun altın çağı 1905’te bitmiş. Batılı olmayan bir ülke olarak Japonya’nın Rusya İmperatorluğunla Uzak Doğu’da savaşta galip gelmesine şahit olan İran anasayacıları merkezi hükümete karşı isyan etmişler. Yıkıcı savaştan dolayı yeterli güce elinde bulunduramadığı için Rusya İran devrimci hareketleri bastırmak amacıyla 1907’de İngeltere ile izmaladığı anlaşması çerçevesinde İran’ı üç bölüme parçalamaya karar vermiş. İran’ın Kuzeyi Rus nüfuz alanı, İran’ın Güneyi ise İngiliz nufuz alanı, iki bölge arasında kalan topraklar tarafsız bölge olacağının üzerinde anlaşılmış. Aynı zamanda İngilizlerle bir tür işbölümünü elde ettikten Rusya 1908’den beri istikrarsızlık ortamında farklı şehirlerde ikamet eden Rus tüccarlarını korumak bahanesiyle ülkeye Kazak birimleri gibi askeri güçleri göndermeye başlamış. Birinci Dünya Savaşı başlaması nedeniyle askerler geri çekilmiş ve sonraki Ekim Devrimiyle İran’daki Rusya nüfuzu büyük ölçüde azalmaya başlamış.

İran ve Sovyet Birliğinin ilk anlaşması Şubat 1921’de imzaladıkları İşbirlik ve Dostluk Anlaşmasıydı. Bu anlaşmaya göre herhangi bir ülke İran topraklarında Rusya’ya karşı faaliyeti sürdürdüğü ve Rusya ulusal güvenliğine tehdir eden girişimde bulunduğu taktirde Rusya İran’a ordu birimleri sokmaya hakkı bulundurmaktadır. Savaşlar arası dönemde İran-Almanya yakınlaşmasından kaynaklanan tedirginlikten dolayı Sovyet Birliği İran’da bütün Almanya ile ilişkilerini kesmesini talebi cevapsız bulduktan sonra 1921 Anlaşmadaki işgal şartı maddelerinden istifade ederek 25 Ağustos 1941’de kuvvetleri İran’a sokmuş ve İngiliz kuvvetleriyle birlikte 1946’ya dek İran’ı işgal ediyor olmuş.

İkinci Dünya Savaşından hemen sonra küresel stratejisi kapmasında Sovyet Birliği komşu ülkeleri kendi nüfuz alanına dönüştürmeye çalışmış. Avrupa’da gibi Asya’da bir çok ülkede Sovyet desteğiyle iktidara komunist partiler gelebilmiş. Ancak İran’da İngiliz ve daha sonra Amerikanlı varlığından dolayı kominst rejimi oluşturmak çok zordu. Bu sebeple Moskova İran’ı komunist bir rejime dönüştüreceğine İran’da tesir esasları kurmaya karak vermiş. Kuzey İran’da 1946’da Mahabat ve Azerbaycan Demokratik cumhuriyetleri Tehran itirazlarına rağmen ilan edilmiş. Görünen o ki, Sovyet Birliği o zamanlarda başlayan Soğuk Savaş zihniyetindeyken Batı ile çatışma her ülkeyi rekabet alanı olarak tanımlamış. Moskova 1946-1947 ciddi bir uluslararası kamuoyu baskısıyla yüz yüze karşılaşınca İran’dan çekilmek zorunda kalmış.

İran Şahı, gelecekte olası Sovyet müdahalesi önlemek için İngiltere’nin desteklediği Bağdat Parktı Teşkilatına 1955’te üye oluyor ancak İngiltere’nin dünyadaki pozisyonlarının zayıflamasıyla birlikte İran hem ABD ile daha sıkı işbirliğe girmeye çalışıyor hem de aynı zamanda Sovyet Birliği ile olumlu ilişkileri devam ettiriyor. Zira 1953 darbe ardından devam eden olumlu ABD-İran ilişkilerine baktığımızda petrol satış karlara dayanan Şah rejimi 1960-70 yıllarında giderek daha bağımsız davranmaya başlamış. Bu hareket özgürlüğü sayesinde Sovyet Birliği İran’da bir süre sanayi projeye katılabilmiş.

İran’da İslami Devrimi 1979 Tehran’ın dış politikasında ciddi değişimlere yol açmış. Yeni rejim ABD’nin en sesli eleştirenlerin arasında yer almış. Sovyet Birliği böyle bir değişimi sıcak karşılamış ve İran’la ilişkileri yeni seviye getirmeye çalışmış ancak 1980’de başlayan İran-Irak savaşı süresinde Baas Irak’ına verdiği destekten dolayı ilişkiler serinleşmiş ve 1980’lılarda komşu Afghanistan’a müdahale sonucu İran açık bir şekilde Sovyet politikasına karşı çıkmış. Buna rağmen Moskova İran’ı ne dışlamaya ne de şeytanlamaya çalışmış zira Sovyet dış politikası için olan o du ki İran’ın Batı’yla herhangi bir işbirliğe girmemesiydi. Perestroyka politikası ve 1989’da Afghanistan’dan çekilmesiyle Sovyet Birliğinin İran’la ilişkileri yeni gelişimi yaşamaya başlamış.

Yukarıda Rusya-İran ilişkileri 500 yıllık tarihi incelidikten sonra bir takım sonuç çıkarmak mümkün. Birincisi, iki devlet arasındaki ilişkiler upuzun bir süredir üçüncü bir gücün tarafından belirtiliyordu. İlk önce Türkiye, onun yerine bölgeye sızmayı başaran İngiltere ve 20.yüzyılında onun yerine gelen ABD ciddi bir şekilde Rusya’nın İran’a bakışlarını ve yaklaşımlarını şekilendiriyordu. İkincisi, Rusya için İran önemliliği ülkenin Rusya sınırlarında bulunmasıdır, dolayısıyla İran’daki her değişik Rusya’da hassasiyetle takip ediliyordu. Üçüncüsü, İran’nın tarafsızlığı Rusya ile ilişkilerin en parlak döneminin sebeplerin birisiydi, çünkü bu şartlarda ikili ilişkiler dış etkisiyle değil kendi mantığı ile gelişiyormuş söylemek mümkündür.

Yazar: Timur Akhmetov


Moskova’nın Kürtleri, Kürtlerin Moskova’sı

Rusya’nın Suriye iç savaşına girip, uluslararası arenada Şam’ın yanında yer alıp Essad rejimine askeri destek sağlamak maksadıyla hava güçlerini gönderdiği andan bugüne kadar uzmanlar Moskova’nın Suriye kampanyasındaki ana çizgileri belirtmeye çalışıyorlar. Ayrıntılara, niyetlere ve ileri planlara dair karanlık siyasi yaklaşım olarak Rusya’nın Suriye kampanyasının temel taşı olmaktadır. Resmi açıklamaları ve uygulamalari arasındaki farklılık Moskova’nın Suriye siyasi aktörleri ile ilişkilerinde iyi yansıtılıyor.

Muğlaklık özellikle Moskova ve Suriye Kürtleriyle ilişkilerinde söz konusu. Zira PYD’ye yönelik pozisyonlarındaki niyetlerin okunamaması Rusya’nın kendi çıkarları doğrultusunda savaşta hareket özgürlüğünü korumak ve buna binaen Esad rejimini kurtarma teşebbüsü başarıya getirmek amacı taşıyor. Bölgede çalışan Rus diplomatları çok uzun zamandır PYD`nin icinde önemli konumlara gelen Kürtlerin kilit rol oynadiklarini düsünüyorlar. Kürtlerin pozisyonu hem Esed rejimin hayatta kalması hem de rejimin muhalefetle mücadelesinde başarıli olmasi acisindan cok önemlidir.

PYD, Türkiye ve Irak Kürdistan Bölgesi’nin bütün gayretlerine rağmen, diğer siyasi Kürt partileri ile olan rekabetten kazanan parti olarak çıkmış ve Türkiye sınırı boyunca uzanan, dolayısıyla da stratejik önem taşıyan geniş toprak parcasini işgal ederek Suriye’deki muhalif güçleri DAEŞ’ten korumayı başardı.  

Rusya, 2014 yılında Kuzey Suriye’de bütün Kürt partilerin birleşmesini ve fiilen PYD öncülüğünde askeri ve siyasi gücün oluşmasıni sıcak karşıladı. Ne var ki, Moskova için önemli olan şey Kürtlerin birleşik bir hareket olarak siyasi tabloda yer almasi değil, PYD’nin zaferiydi. Bunun sebebi PYD’nin lideri Salih Muslim’in iç savaşa yanaşması ve Kürtlerin rejim güçlerine yönelik ısrarla devat eden tarafsızlığıdır. PYD’in izlediği politika, Rusya’nın Suriye’deki silahlı muhalefete karşı yürüttüğü mücadeleyi kolaylaştırdigi gibi, Batı ülkelerin Esad’a aleyh sürdükleri  izolasyon politikasını bozma çabasında da fırsatı sunuyor.

Kasım 2015’da Türkiye tarafından düşürüldüğü Rus uçağı olayından ve sonucu iki bölgesel güç arasında patlayan krizden sonra Moskova saklamadan PYD ile işbirlik temasları kurmaya başladı. Rusya, Kürtlerin yakinligini elde etmek icin PYD icin Moskova’da tamamen sembolik olan bir temsilcilik açılmasına izin verdi. Bununla beraber tabi ki ikili diplomatik iliskilerde Kürtlerin federasyon talebine yönelik herhangi somut vaatlerde bulunmadan.

Aynı zamanda Rusya, başta ABD olmak üzere Batı ülkeleriyle yaptigi görüşmelerinde PYD’nin, sözde Kürtlerin meşru temsilcisi olarak Cenevre müzakere sürecine dahil etmesi noktasindaısrarci davraniyordu. Ayrıca Esad rejimine yönelik tarafsız olan Kürtlerin müzakere masasına oturması birleşik muhalefet cephesinin gevşetilmesine neden olabilirdi.

PYD’nin, kendi önemi farkında olurken, Moskova’dan Şam rejimine baskı uygulaması ve özyönetim hakları sorusunda münasip garantileri vermesini talep etmeyi cesaretleniyor. Elbette Moskova Esad rejimini pek sıkıştıramaz çünkü bugünkü Şam’la olumlu ilişkileri Rusya’nın daha geniş çaplı küresel stratejisi için çok önemli hem de yaptığı yatırımdan belli bir gelir bekleniyor. Dolayısıyla Rusya Suriye’de elde ettiği pozisyonları Kürtlerin istekleri yüzünden riske atacagi ihtimal dışıdır. Somut güvenceler yerine Irak formülü, yani sınırlı bir özerklik içinde Kürtlerin bir Arap devletinde kalması, PYD projesi için ideal bir çözüm yoludur gibi mazeretler koyuluyor. Moskova Kürtler kendi haklarını sadece birleşik Suriye parçası olarak genişletebilir diye düşünüyor. Bunun yani sira, Moskova Kürtlere seslenerek önemli bir uyarida bulunuyor: PYD’in herhangi bir tekyanlı gişirimi bütün Ortadoğu’nun istikrarsızlaştırılmaya yol açabilir.

Ruslar Kürtleri kendi nüfuz alanında tutmak için çok ilginç bir fikri ileri sürüyor. Federasyon sorusuna dair bütün görüşmeleri Rusya, Şam’in şu an “teröre karsi verdigimücadelenin” basariyla sona ermesine baglamakla beraber  federasyon fikrinin ‘ulusal diyalog’ çerçevesinde yer almasi gerektigi görüsündedir. Yani federasyon müzalerelerimümkün görülmektedir, fakat henüz zamani gelmemistir. Savas bittikten sonra gündeme getirelecegi düsünülmektedir. Bu şekilde Moskova, Kürtlere her ne kadar ümit veriyorsa da, bu ümide dair ne somut bir tarih ne de böyle bir diyalogun hangi biçimde yer almasi gerektigini belirtiyor. Esad hükümeti Rusya ısrarları üzerine PYD ile temaslarda aynı retoriği de benimsemiş gibi görünüyor.

17 Mart 2016 tarihinde PYD Suriye’nin Kuzeyinde federasyon ilan ettikten sonra Rusya yine ‘ulusal diyalog’ tezine başvurarak tepki vermek zorunda kaldı. Tekyanlı adımlar, Moskova gözlerinde, Suriye’de elde ettiği dengeyi epeyce bozabilirmiş.  Zira anlasilan o ki, PYD, Rusya Dışişleri Bakanı’na federasyon açıklamasında bulunacagini haber etmemiştir. Hatta bunun üzerine Rusya Dışişleri Bakanlığı Sözcüsü “bu tür adımları kabul etmiyoruz” seklinde bir aciklama yapti. Moskova’ya göre Suriye idari yapısı ile ilgili her türlü değişikler sadece ulusal diyalog kapsamında kararlaştırılmalıdır. Şam da aynı açıklamaları yapmakla beraber Kürtlere açık bir şekilde tehditlerde bulundu. Esad rejimi için hem PYD hem muhalefetin ulusal diyalog dışında yaptığı girişimler ‘ülkenin bütünlüğüne’ tehdit olarak nitelendiriliyor.

Rusya’nin bulanık ifadeler ve vaatler kullandigini acikca söylemek mümkündür.Zira herhangi bir anlaşmaya girmek, Rusya icin hareket özgürlüğünü küçültülmesi anlamına gelir. Dolayisiyla Rusya’nın Kürt sorusundaki pozisyonunun iki yüzlüoldugu rahatlikla söylenebilir. Moskova, Kürtlerin Suriye’nin yeni anayasal düzeninde tek tarafli kurucu rol oynama teşebbüslerine karşı cikarken;Suriye hükümetini, Cenevre müzakereleri daha bitmemişken ve ne tüm Kürt temsilcileri ne de muhalefet müzakere masasina oturmamisken,  yeni anayasa hazırlama çalışmalarinda destek vermektedir.

Ayrica daha önce ‘ulusal diyalog’ sadece savaştan sonraki bir dönemde başlatılması savunurken, Rusya Kürtlerin müzakere pozisyonları şimdikilere kadar güçlü olmayabileceğini söylemekten kaçınıyor. Ya muhalefeti bitirdikten sonra ya da onunla bir tür anlaşmaya girdikten sonra hükümet bütün siyasi ve askeri varlıklarını Kürtleri bastırmada kullanabilecek. Bu halde Esad rejimi simbolik müzakereleri artık güçlü taraf olarak girip olumlu sonuçlara getirebilecek ve PYD’nin özyönetim projesine son verebilecek.

Tüm bunlara rağmen Kürtler, Moskova’nın öz yönetim meselesindeki tutumunu ne kadar boş ve asılsız görüyorsa da, Moskova’yı PYD Waşington-Ankara ilişkileri üçgeninde koz olarak kullanmak istiyorlar. Ancak Kürtler Rusya ile ABD’nin Suriye konusunda giderek yaklaşmalarından dolayı çaresiz bir duruma sürükleniyorlar. Bu durumda Rusya-Türkiye ilişkilerindeki gerilimini dikkate alırsak, Moskova’nın Kürt “jokeri”nin ne kadar etkin bir baskı aracı olduğunu anlayabiliriz.

Rusya’nin, PYD aracılığıyla PKK’ya destek vermeye yönelecegini pek sanmıyorum. Ancak Türkiye’yi müzakere sürecinin dışinda tutmak için Rusya, Kürtleri hem diplomatik alanda, ABD Türkiye arasındaki uyuşmazlıgi gidermek için, hem de karada onlar sayesinde bir tampon bölgesi kazanmak icin kullanabilir.

Görünen o ki, Türk basınında yer alan haberlerin birçoguna rağmen, Moskova ile Kürtler arasında samimi bir ilişki ya da  işbirliği her iki tarafın önceliklerinden dolayı söz konusu olamaz. Moskova PYD’yi kendisine bağlamak için boş özyönetim vaadi yaparak PYD’nin siyasi iştahını kabartıyor olabilir.  Aynı zamanda  Kürt etkeninden faydalanmak için PYD desteği iç savaş sürecinde Assad rejimine leyh kullanıyor. Üstelik Batının  Kürtleri talepleri dogrultusunda yüreklendirmemesi, Rusya’nın Suriye kampanyası ve Esad’ın muhalefete karşı mücadelesini başarılı kılıyor.

Yazar: Timur Akhmetov