March 19, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8646

Iranian Regime Mouthpiece 'Kayhan': Turkish President Erdogan Won't Succeed In Annexing Syrian Idlib To Turkey –Nor In Forcing The Concept Of 'Greater Turkey' On Iran And Russia

March 19, 2020
Iran, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8646


In its March 4, 2020 editorial, the Iranian regime mouthpiece Kayhan, which is affiliated with Iran's ideological circles, criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's expansionist aspirations in northern Syria. The criticism comes against the backdrop of the Turkish army's attack in early March 2020 in Idlib, Syria on Syrian targets, an Iranian outpost, and a Hizbullah outpost.

Kayhan warned that Turkish outposts in the region were vulnerable, adding that Iran can no longer disregard Turkey's attacks on its forces. Revealing the Iran-Turkey disputes with regard to sovereignty over parts of Syria, it added that Erdogan's position, i.e. that parts of northern Syria belong to Turkey by virtue of the fact that they were part of the Ottoman Empire, does not stand up to the test of reality – in light of the fact that the empire broke up over a century ago, and in light of the post-World War II political arrangements.

The editorial went on to argue that Russia supports Iran's position, that is, that Syria has sovereignty over all its territory, and that Erdogan cannot force his view on Russia, which is the third party in the Astana process for Syria's fate. Although NATO and the Americans have expressed support for Erdogan's Turkey, Kayhan maintains that this support is not military and not on the ground, but only political and reflected in media statements.

The following are the main points of the Kayhan editorial.

Kayhan: "Turkey's Attack On Syrian And Iranian Military Forces... Brings Turkish Targets Within Striking Range" 

"The Turkish attack on Syrian military forces, on an Iranian [military] outpost, and on a [military] outpost belonging to Lebanese Hizbullah, that led to the killing of several Islamic fighters, brings Turkish targets, more than anything else, within striking range. This is because [Turkish President] Erdogan cannot rely on practical support from Europe, NATO, and America, and his umbrella of support for the takfiri terrorists in Idlib can have no impact.

"Erdogan has of course tried to force NATO to act militarily against Syria by threatening to open Turkey's northern borders, but the NATO command knows full well that it is incapable of landing a ground force on Syrian soil and that nothing can be achieved with aerial bombing – which can only lead to a direct Russian and Iranian response. [Indeed, NATO] has done nothing [but] give media support to the Turkish initiative, which is based on a ceasefire in Idlib. Even the Americans are politically supporting the Turkish army, due to the fragile state of their 1,000 troops in eastern Syria.

"On the other hand, Turkey is legally and morally weak in this arena. Erdogan has hinted that it is Ankara's right to deploy Turkish forces on Syrian soil. He was referring to the discussions that took place in Lausanne, Switzerland at the end of World War I between the victors, concerning Turkish soil [i.e. the Treaty of Lausanne]. But obviously no agreement [in this matter] was achieved. According to Erdogan, Idlib and other parts of northern Syria belong to Turkey, despite the fact that a century has passed since the [end of] WWI and the partition of the Ottoman inheritance and even after new arrangements were made following WWII. Likewise, Erdogan's rationale is morally impoverished. Turkey now stands alongside terrorists whose illegality no one doubts. Even the [UN] Security Council has stressed that they are terrorists, and he [Erdogan] himself confirmed, during the Astana and Sochi summits, that negotiations with the main terrorists in Idlib are inconceivable.

"There is no law that undermines the legitimacy of Syria's military operations in Idlib and western Aleppo, which are indisputable parts of Syrian territory. During the recent Astana talks, that is, about a year ago, Erdogan had a chance to help the Syrian government liberate Idlib without conflict and transfer it to the Syrian government. [However] at this time, even though he took responsibility and signed it on the highest level [at the Sochi and Astana talks], he [Erdogan] has turned to clashing with the Syrian army. In effect, he is defending the terrorists of Jabhat Al-Nusra and Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham, and expects Syria, Russia, and Iran to accept his silly plans with the military consolidation that was created [on the ground].

"Turkey Cannot Force Iran, Russia, And Syria To Accept" Its Position

"Furthermore, Russia firmly supports the Syrian army's right to operate in western Aleppo and in Idlib province, even though this support has no [Russian] military aspect. Even Iran supports the Syrian army's right to clash with the remnants of the Jabhat Al-Nusra terrorists in northern Syria, despite the damage caused by the Turkish army [there]. Iran is not interested in clashing with Turkey and does not want to change its friendly relations with Ankara; thus, it has not even responded to the latest Turkish attack. But Iran absolutely cannot ignore the threats to its forces. For this reason, Iran's military command in Syria has issued a warning to the Turkish army command on Syrian soil.  

"By turning its back on the Astana and Sochi talks, Turkey cannot force Iran, Russia, and Syria to accept the new process, since [this process] assures a continued terrorist presence on Syrian soil and the abandonment of the fight against terrorism. Ultimately, this process will be bad for security in the region, and Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon will again be threatened by the terrorist groups.

"In effect, this will threaten eight years of achievements with imminent harsh jihad, despite the fact that now the Syrian army needs no support in liberating the remaining territories, and can regain the territorial integrity of Syria itself. Furthermore, [the Syrian army] has achieved this important [victory] in recent weeks, with its ongoing operations in western Aleppo and Idlib province."[1]


[1] Kayhan (Iran), March 4, 2020.


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