17:55 GMT +318 July 2018
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    A general view shot taken on June 30, 2015, shows a neighbourhood in the Syrian capital Damascus

    Russian Involvement Will Shift Balance of Forces in Middle East - Expert

    © AFP 2018 / LOUAI BESHARA
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    Speaking to Sputnik, Turkish journalist, academic and Middle East foreign policy expert Sedat Laciner said that Russia's decision to launch airstrikes against ISIL positions in Syria have the capacity to completely shift the balance of forces in the Syrian conflict, adding that they will force Ankara to reconsider its policy toward Damascus.

    On Wednesday, the Russian ministry of defense confirmed that Russian jets were carrying out strikes on ISIL positions in Syria. Commenting Russia's actions, Laciner, director of the International Strategic Research Organization, noted that the decision has taken regional countries including Turkey and Saudi Arabia by surprise.

    "The step taken by Russia is capable of radically changing the balance of forces in the Syrian conflict," the expert noted. "We should now expect to see an increase in the number of operations against ISIL, and a serious strengthening of the position of the Assad government. Russia's actions came as a surprise to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, given that they have completely changed the established balance of forces in the region," Laciner added.

    The expert noted that "from the statements of Mr. Putin and other Russian officials, it follows that it is now possible to speak of an independent Russian policy. This policy is not limited only to the Syrian crisis; it also includes Iraq and Iran. All of this suggests the possibility of an alliance, of expanded cooperation between these countries."

    Laciner noted that "with regard to Ankara's policy toward Syria, it must be said that in the last 3-4 years, Turkish policy cannot be called balanced or far-sighted. Turkey's position toward the Syrian conflict contains many contradictions. A range of mistakes have been made, with the chief among them being that Turkey has taken sides in this conflict. It sent weapons, provided logistical support, possibly helped with funding. With its actions, Turkey showed that it would never recognize the possibility of Assad remaining in power in Syria. The Turkish leadership has made a number of loud statements about it."

    According to the expert, "such statements should not be made by countries of Turkey's size. Small and medium-sized states should not try to behave like a world power. It can be said that Turkey's position in the Syrian crisis has taken on a tragic form, because it has set itself up against the two largest powers – Russia and the United States."

    Laciner explained that "Russia supports the Syrian leadership in Damascus. Turkey and the US also have a serious stumbling block between them –the Kurdish forces led by the Democratic Union Party of Syria (PYD). Turkey considers the [Iraqi Kurdisan-based Turkish Kurd] PKK [affiliated with the PYD] a terrorist organization, while America sees it as an ally. Russia also supports Kurdish forces in the region. Thus, a very unpleasant situation is unfolding for Turkey" over the Syrian crisis.

    This, in the academic's view, means that "Turkey will be forced to urgently reconsider its position on the Syrian crisis. The many contradictions on this question with the US and with Russia make it difficult for Turkey to maintain a balanced policy in the region."

    Russia Effectively Takes Turkish No-Fly Zone Idea Off the Table

    Laciner noted that "with its decision, Russia has almost completely closed any opportunity for Ankara to implement the proposed no-fly zone along Turkey's border with Syria. Russia has effectively said through its actions that 'this is Syrian airspace. Syrian territory belongs to Damascus, which is my ally. Therefore, you will not be able to create a no-fly zone at your own discretion. This territory is open to aircraft of other states according the decision of the UN Security Council.'"

    Laciner emphasized that he does not see Russia's decision to intervene in Syria as cause for a rise in tensions between Ankara and Moscow. He noted that the two countries have too many points of contact, and too many common interests. At the same time, he suggested that if differences do emerge, they can be overcome through dialogue and consensus-building.

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    Tags:
    diplomacy, geostrategy, balance of forces, balance of power, military strategy, strategy, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, Syria
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