First, it must be said that Turkey was one of the few countries in the MENA area that had the strongest economic development, favoured by the political stability of Erdoğan's AKP government, characterized by a strong pragmatism exemplified by the slogan: Zero Problems with neighbours, Maximum Trade.

The civil war in Syria radically changed the Turkish approach; the political objectives of Ankara were summarized in damaging the regime of Bashar al Assad and preventing the formation of a Kurdish state in the north of Syria.



With an initial position regarding the Syrian conflict, permeated with ambiguity and tactics, Ankara began to forge partnerships with countries with similar geopolitical goals.

Erdogan's relationship with Western countries have begun to deteriorate even more after the failed July 2016 coup; this is due to the slowness of the Western response to what Ankara believed to be an important political support.

Only Moscow, after a difficult period of bilateral relations, has taken a position in favour of Erdogan, strengthening the partnership between the two countries.


Ankara has begun to consider NATO differently, pragmatically and only on the basis of common interests and concerns. The European Allies have hesitated to respond positively to the Turkish demands to the Iraqi attack in 1991 and 2003, not recognizing immediately the different perception of the security of Ankara, undoubtedly located in a difficult geopolitical context. Further Turkish concern stemmed from the European aversion to include the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) among terrorist organizations.


All this has led Ankara to have a multidimensional approach to foreign policy, to adapt to the new security environment, configuring itself differently according to needs. New policy towards Russia, neighbouring countries (Iran and Syria) and a different attitude in considering Western interests in the Middle East.

One of NATO's main assets in Turkey is the Incirlik Air Base, located approximately sixty miles from Syria. Washington uses this facility for aircraft operations in Iraq and Syria.

The base is useful, but not so crucial. In 2015, and immediately after the attempted coup in Turkey, several breaches of the security of the Base were reported, which became less hospitable for the troops assigned there and for their families. In March 2016, all family members of US troops were ordered to be evacuated.



Secondly, the Pentagon allocated $ 143 million to upgrade the logistics and infrastructure of the Muwaffaq Salti Air Force base in Azraq, Jordan, 62 miles from Amman.

Probably there will be an increase in air operations, fighters and drones, from Muwaffaq Salti to Iraq and Syria, DoD in this way highlights the growing importance of Jordan as U.S. ally. Finally, it must be said that NATO, a month ago, approved the constitution of two new NATO command headquarters. A command will be entirely focused on logistics, the new headquarters is designed to accelerate troop and equipment transport across Europe.

It is already in fact a downsizing of Incirlik in favour of Jordan, the increased logistical role of Germany in operations in the Middle East, in the medium term, would make Turkey less necessary from a strategic and tactical point of view.

 

Last December, Turkey signed an agreement on the purchase of the S-400 air defense missile system from Russia.

S-400 system is not technologically compatible with NATO ballistic missile defense. Interoperability and operational synergy are essential in the case of operations of the Atlantic Alliance. Another issue of concern is the possibility of sharing information with non-NATO countries, on how to track stealth multirole fighters (such as F35) with systems like the S-400s.

Let's not forget, then, that Turkey continues to be protected by the NATO Active Fence Patriot system deployed in Kahramanmaras[1].


The bilateral cooperation between Turkey and Russia is inevitable to grow, Russia is Turkey's main trading partner, Turkey is energetically dependent on Russia, and the import covers 65% of natural gas and 40% of oil, lastly common to the 2 Countries are political and economic interests in the Caucasus. Russia has every interest in using Turkey for energy exports to Europe, avoiding using Ukraine. The West has often harshly criticized Turkey for not respecting human rights, for freedom of information and closed the door to an entry of Ankara into the European Union; Moscow could be considered as an alternative partner to Europe and the USA.


Another element of cooperation with Moscow is in Syria. Given the impossibility of overthrowing the Syrian regime, due to the increasing role of Russia and Iran in support of Damascus, the other objective pursued by Ankara is the containment of the Syrian Kurdish autonomous aspirations. The operation "Olive branch" in Afrin has the goal of establishing a security buffer zone, of about 30 kilometres, in northern Syria to block the creation of a Kurdish entity on the southern border of Turkey. Military operation is impossible to implement without operational coordination with Moscow. The Iranian sending of militias and proxies to Afrin means constant military contacts with Tehran.

Afrin's military objective is complex, freeing the city from Kurdish control, surrounding Afrin from the southwest to the northwest, staying in the area by forming a buffer zone to the Turkish border, relocating Syrian refugees to this area.



The Kurdish militia of the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are close allies in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Turkish and Western interests diverge completely, Turkey is focusing on military operations to counter Kurdish militia, rather than containing the threat of the Salafist fundamentalist groups, contrary to what should be the priorities in the area.

Abu Omar al-Idlibi, commander of the SDF, has announced the deployment in the next few weeks to Afrin of about 1,700 Kurdish fighters, recalled from the first lines of the fight against the Islamic state, adding further elements of political tension among allies, about who the real enemy is.

The real winner, who benefits from this, is Assad, after the Islamic state the YPG is the only major internal threat, the Operation Olive branch then diverted attention from the Syrian regime's internal military operations.



Two important conclusions, the operation ad Afrin unifies the internal front, the public opinion on the figure of the President, in a Turkey that next year will go to the presidential elections and to renovate the Parliament. Second point, there is no doubt that with the progressive disappearance of the common element represented by the struggle against the Islamic State, all the nodes and divergences between the main state actors involved in Syria will emerge. Each country has different agenda and interests; the Turkish action adds elements of instability in a complicated international crisis.

 



[1] https://www.nato.int/cps/ua/natohq/topics_92555.htm?