Articles > > Unresolved Points
Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-08-08
Turkey was premature in its celebration of the safe zone agreement with the U.S., as it turns out that the main points of disagreement between the two sides have not been resolved.
No agreement has yet been made on safe zone's length and depth, nor did the two sides agree on the identity of the forces that will assume security in the area, and discussion is still underway about what will happen to the weapons and militants there, especially the YPG and SDF. It seems that the only thing that has been agreed upon is creating mechanisms to negotiate and transfer the same controversial dossiers to a joint security operations center based in Ankara, as if the agreement was about organizing the dispute or postponing a discussion of its more complex issues.
If that is the case, it is not worth celebrating. And yet, the fragmented, procedural agreement is apparently important to both sides, and is valued in and by itself. The negotiations were held after much delay and prolonged efforts, with the U.S. delegation extending its stay in Ankara for an additional 24 hours, and it transitioned from behind closed doors to public squares and press conferences.
Erdogan vows to invade the border area with or without an agreement, and his Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has stressed that his army is the only one qualified to accomplish this mission, while the new U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has responded with an unprecedented threat: We will prevent Turkey from carrying out a unilateral incursion into Syria's Northeast. The agreement was thus important, and even necessary, to enable the two sides to descend safely from the tree-tops they had recently climbed up and to take at least one step back from edge of the precipice when they had been on the brink of slipping into its depths.
But Ankara and Washington's journey towards reaching an agreement on these issues promises to be long and thorny unless one party decides to offer a dramatic concession to the other, such as Ankara abandoning its demand to dismantle the YPG and abolish the emerging Kurdish entity, or Washington deciding to give up on its trusted Kurdish ally once and for all and its spearhead position in the scheme to extort Damascus, Moscow and Tehran, and maybe even divide Syria.
The Kurds have been on the edge of their seat for days, recalling the many painful chapters of international and regional let-downs for their national movement, but they can now breathe a sigh of relief over the successive reports downplaying the significance of the agreement's contents. Moscow, Damascus, and Tehran – the allied capitals that had high hopes for the outcome of the 13th Astana track summit – have gone back to waiting with baited breath for news about the Turkish-U.S. agreement, since all three capitals know that should this be settled, it would expose their project in Idlib and its environs to massive threats, especially since it will grant [Turkey and its local allies and proxies] an excessive dose of resilience in facing Russian pressures on this issue.
The situation East of the Euphrates has once again become shrouded in ambiguity and uncertainty. The leaks from Washington do not reassure Ankara, even if they manage to delay the explosive waves of fury from its leaders. Turkey will continue with its favorite game since September 2015 of trying to simultaneously appease both Washington and Moscow. If the negotiations on the safe zone with Washington progress, Ankara will harden its stance on Idlib, and if they falter, then it will slacken its grip. As it engages and maneuvers with various parties, it proceeds from a deep awareness of its position with respect to all sides. Washington would never push Ankara into Moscow's lap, while the latter has made breaches in its relations with Turkey, tempting it to move closer towards it. As for Iran, suffering under the yoke of unjust blockade and unprecedented sanctions, it is not in a position to gamble on its relations with Ankara, which could be the only passage that allows it to breathe a little.
It does not matter that Damascus issued a firebrand statement against the U.S.-Turkish agreement, calling it a violation of its sovereignty, an infringement of international law, and an act of blatant aggression against it. Without Moscow and Tehran, Damascus will be unable to do much, and although both are unlikely to abandon Assad, they have different considerations than Damascus in their view of the Syrian North.
"It remains a small detail compared to the scale of their greater interests with Turkey, and for them, it is not a question of life or death or victory or defeat, inasmuch as it is a tactical battle that must be viewed from a larger strategic perspective that obliges them to keep the olive branch extended to the high gates of Ankara.