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Turkey limited options in Syria after the killing of 33 soldiers

TURKEY (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finds himself amid limited options after the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers on Thursday in Idlib governorate in northwestern Syria, where it will be difficult for him to turn the balance of power that tends to rest with the Syrian regime backed by Russia.

Despite launching bloody retaliation operations against the Syrian regime forces, Ankara faces the risk of a great loss if it enters into a long-term confrontation due to the inability to rely on decisive Western support.

Erdogan once again played the immigrant card in an attempt to obtain more support from the European Union against the powerful ally of Damascus, Russia.

Jana Jabbour, an expert on Turkish affairs at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, considers that “Turkey has neither the military means nor sufficient human resources to continue the escalation taking place in Idlib.”

In addition to the military side, the Turkish president, according to the analyst, must take into account public opinion in Turkey “that would turn against him if the number of Turkish military deaths in Syria rises.”

“The threat to open the borders of Europe to migrants is a very effective way to put pressure on the European Union, to which every additional flow of migrants is a disastrous scenario,” the researcher added.

The recent escalation in Idlib, the last bastion of armed factions supported by Ankara and jihadi groups, has led to the collapse of Ankara and Moscow’s efforts, which have been cooperating closely since 2016, to stop the fighting in Syria despite their different interests.

“No suitable choice.”

After unsuccessfully requesting the deployment of the US Patriot defense system on its soil, Ankara urged the international community to establish a no-fly zone in northeastern Syria to prevent the Syrian regime and its ally Russia from launching strikes.

Representatives of NATO members held an emergency meeting on Friday at the request of Turkey under Article IV of the founding agreement.

The clause states that any country that “considers there is a threat to the integrity of its territory, political independence or security”, can activate it.

However, the Atlantic countries did not announce any concrete measures at the end of the meeting, and only announced their solidarity with Ankara.

The director of the “Edam” Center for Studies in Istanbul, Sinan Olgen, believes that Turkey’s opportunity to obtain military support from the NATO alliance is slim, especially after raising the displeasure of its allies with its rapprochement with Moscow and its acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system.

He says that Turkey does not have any “appropriate option” in Syria, explaining that the regime’s strikes Thursday “revealed the fragility of Turkey’s location due to the absence of its air superiority.”

“In other words, Turkish forces remain exposed to air strikes, as happened yesterday,” the researcher added.

In this context, Turkey could find itself, according to Olgen, compelled to accept arrangements agreed upon with Russia, allowing it to control “a small area along the Turkish border where Turkish forces are crowded and about a million displaced Syrians.”

For his part, says researcher at the “Carnegie Middle East” center, Yazid Sayegh, “Erdogan is facing today very difficult options, all of which contain huge risks.”

“Erdogan can only respond to direct attacks by the regime, but at the same time he must avoid moving further on the escalation,” he added.

The researcher added that the current escalation, despite its “size”, remains “perhaps just a high-risk negotiation tactic that will lead to a new Russian-Turkish understanding on Idlib.”

“In short, I do not think that an all-out war will happen, or that Turkey will again come close to NATO,” Sayegh said.

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