Idlib march: how Erdogan forces an operation in Syria for his rating

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Amid the defeat of the ruling party in Ankara and Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan may soon force the demarcation of the opposition and militants in Idlib. Izvestia’s information was confirmed in the parliament of the republic. According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, before the Turkish president hesitated with this issue due to election preparations.

Now, in order to strengthen his political capital for the presidential election in 2023, Erdogan will try to get the most out of the confrontation with the Republican People’s Party (RNP). And positive shifts on the external borders are now at his best, political scientists say. Such a policy is in line with the Astana agreements – Russia itself insisted that Turkey disarm the militants in Idlib as soon as possible.

– Idlib will return the voices –

According to the results of the municipal elections held on the last Sunday of March in Turkey, the ruling Alliance of the People, which includes the Erdogan Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party, won at most polling stations throughout the country. Only the news from the three largest cities overshadowed the holiday – the opposition received more votes in Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul. About the latter, Erdogan himself, who began his political career at the local city hall, said: “The one who owns Istanbul, owns all of Turkey.”

The defeat of the ex-head of government and the closest ally of the Turkish leader Binali Yıldırım, who specially resigned from the prime minister’s post in order to compete for the chair of the Istanbul mayor, was a complete surprise to the authorities.

This is evidenced even by the fact that on the night before the announcement of the results, Yıldırım already posted billboards in Istanbul, where he declared himself the winner. And the next morning, the CEC counted the votes and stated that the real winner – Ekrem Imamoglu, a representative of the main opposition RNP – was ahead of the opponent by almost 20 thousand votes. The ruling party has already stated that it will appeal against the election results.

Such results may encourage the government to begin to act more actively in the Syrian direction – in particular, in the Idlib de-escalation zone. About this “Izvestia” said the Turkish MP Ozturk Yylmaz.

– Of course, Idlib plays a large role not only in foreign but also in domestic politics. Right now everyone is obsessed with the election results, but it’s worth giving the authorities some time. I think the operation to delimit in Idlib will be held in coordination with Iranian and Russian forces, the deputy said.

At the same time, he recalled that just before the elections in Ankara, they were already talking about the beginning of active operations in Syria. Recep Erdogan promised immediately after the vote “to resolve the issue of Syria on the field, not at the table.”

For Russia, Turkey’s desire to step up the process in Idlib will be extremely positive. After the separation of militants and moderate opposition, it will be possible to begin the peaceful return of the city under the control of Damascus . About 3 million people live in the last de-escalation zone, of which about 40 thousand are militants and radicals. Another question is how exactly Turkey plans to disengage.

In March, it became known that Ankara began joint patrols with the Russian Federation of the borders of the Idlib exclave, a security zone 15–20 km deep. Following a meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group (SGSP) in Antalya on March 29, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Russian and Turkish military are fulfilling a de-escalation memorandum and are moving step by step towards the task set by the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran to create three zones of joint patrols. Already now it is safe to say that Idlib will become one of the main topics of negotiations between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which will be held on April 8 in Moscow.

– Play muscle –

As the head of the political direction of the Center for the Study of Modern Turkey Yuri Mavashev told Izvestia, after the ruling party lost both capitals, the Turkish leader will certainly want to reanimate his rating. And for this, successes in the Syrian direction are just the right fit.

– Syria allows you to “play with your muscles”, demonstrate the consistency of your policy. He may try to convince the electorate that the economy in the capitals under the opposition is deteriorating, and in Syria, the Turkish military is only strengthening its position . Power history in any country is the tool that allows you to get the missing points. And Turkey is no exception in this regard, the expert said.

Speaking about the reasons for the defeat of the ruling party in the capitals, the political scientist noted that the AKP did not work much with the indigenous people of Istanbul and Ankara. Erdogan relied on visitors from the rural areas, which make up the backbone of the electorate of his party. The opposition competently took advantage of this, building a dialogue with residents of both capitals, the scientist explained.

Refugees also played a negative role, which the Turkish leader promised to give citizenship and the opportunity to participate in the elections – the indigenous citizens of the country met with hostility.

At the same time, Yuri Mavashev expressed doubt that Erdogan would run for the upcoming presidential election in 2023 – by that time new political forces may appear in the country, which will make it even harder for him to compete.

As such candidates, experts call the “heavyweights” of Turkish politics, former associates of Erdogan. This, for example, ex-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, one of the founders of neo-Ottomanism, which has become in Erdogan Turkey in recent years, if not a dominant ideology, then something very close to this, or ex-President Abdullah Gul. Both opposed Erdogan’s intention to turn the country into a super-presidential republic.

The defeat in the local elections will indirectly affect the policy of the Turkish leader not only in the eastern, but also in the western direction , Turkish political scientist, expert on bilateral relations of Moscow and Ankara Kerim Khas told Izvestia.

“In the short term, due to the economic difficulties that Turkey is currently experiencing, and in order to keep a seat in the next elections in 2023, Erdogan will prefer to normalize relations with Western partners,” the political scientist explained.

In his opinion, this will mean support for the American version of the development of the Syrian plot, that is, the renunciation of hostilities against the Kurds in northeast Syria.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to peacefully resolve the situation in Idlib at a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Sochi last fall. The situation in the last zone of de-escalation was also discussed at the summit of the Astana troika in February. Then the Turkish, Russian and Iranian leaders agreed that they would give Turkey more time for a peaceful settlement of the situation.


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