Since the Syrian government launched its successful military operations against NATO’s takfiri proxies based in Idlib, Turkey’s failed policy towards Syria has become fully exposed.
Not to lose face, Ankara launched a military incursion into another sovereign state in order to maintain some leverage in the conflict.
It had already failed to achieve its Washington designated objective: to bring down the Syrian government.
As NATO member, Turkey assumed the military alliance’s political cover coupled with its modern military equipment would give it a solid footing at this critical moment.
What Ankara forgot was that Turkey’s military has not fought a major war in decades, notwithstanding its operations against Kurdish separatists.
Thus, it did not intimidate the Syrian army that has gained immense military experience during nine years of war.
Syria’s decisive military response against the Turkish invasion left Ankara confused, humiliated and with few military and political options.
One of the biggest NATO armies had its soldiers encircled in several locations and could do nothing except ask Russia to mediate with Damascus not to cut their daily supplies.
Prolonged conflict in Syria would require Turkey to play the role of the West’s sledgehammer in a war started by Western powers. This would not go down well with the Turkish people.
For Ankara to be engaged in a full-frontal war against the Syrian army, it would need significant logistical and financial support from Western powers, something they are not willing to provide due to their current political and military constraints.
These include Brexit, Trump’s shallow and confused politics, trade war with China, EU’s dependence on Russian energy products, Turkey’s own economic ties with Russia, Greece-Turkey divisions within NATO and Moscow’s geopolitical leverages.
All these point to the fact that Western powers would not commit to a prolonged Turkish war in Syria.
If Turkey were to secure full Western backing, Russia would step-up its participation and this would lead to an extended regional war, which all major parties involved do not want.
As Russian and Turkish presidents are actively seeking de-escalation in Idlib, it is important to realize that for de-escalation to take place, Ankara must be given a face-saving exit from its Syrian debacle.
If Ankara simply leaves its proxies alone to the Syrian army, it will badly undermine its image.
The current Turkish government is attempting to position itself as the patron of Sunni Islamic organizations in the Muslim world.
AKP-ruled Turkey sees itself as a protector of Sunni Islamic movements with an Ikhwani bent.
Ankara views these movements as reliable partners to expand its influence in the Arabic-speaking world.
The Turkish government and its NATO allies fully realize that it is now impossible to overthrow the Syrian government.
They will not push for all-out victory.
NATO regimes could not achieve this at their strongest point in Syria in 2012.
Thus, they realize that at a time when the Syrian army is at its strongest since 2011, it is unrealistic to believe the government of Bashar al-Asad can be toppled now.
This is something Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan implicitly confirmed during his speech on February 29 at a meeting with Justice and Development (AK) Party’s Istanbul deputies.
In his speech Erdogan stated that “We have no interest in oil or the land there, we want to secure our borders with a safe zone.”
This is an implicit admission that Ankara gave up on the regime change plan.
Thus, if Ankara is given a face-saving exit from Syria, another regional war in the region could be avoided.