Iran and Turkey agree to increase military cooperation

Turkish military Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar and his Iranian counterpart Gen. Mohammed Baqeri review the guard of honor during a welcoming ceremony in Ankara. (Reuters)
Updated 18 August 2017
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Iran and Turkey agree to increase military cooperation

ANKARA: Following a series of talks in Ankara this week between Iranian military officers and Turkish civilian and military leaders, Turkey and Iran have agreed to strengthen their military cooperation.
This will include sharing counter-terrorism intelligence, conducting operational cooperation and the exchange of cadets between the two armies.
In the first ever visit to Turkey by the head of Iran’s army since 1979, Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammed Baqeri met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, military Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar and Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli.
The visit will be followed soon by the visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Turkish officials announced.
Iran and Turkey, having a significant Kurdish population within their borders, currently cooperate on regional concerns and sensitivities, especially regarding the Kurdish independence referendum of Northern Iraq scheduled for Sept. 25. Both countries have fought Kurdish separatist groups for many years — Iran fighting the PJAK and Turkey the PKK.
Both countries want a power broker role in war-torn Syria — both worried about the possible repercussions of the continued conflict and how it could affect regional stability.
Although on the opposite sides of the Syrian conflict, Ankara and Tehran cooperate on peace talks and have helped the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo, while also sharing concerns over the rise of radical fighters in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.
Along with Russia, they have tried to gather the Syrian regime and opposition forces in Astana, the Kazakhstan capital, to negotiate a political transition in the country.
Turkey is currently building a 90-mile wall along its border with Iran to prevent Kurdish militants from entering.
The timing of the visit is telling with the region going through dramatic changes in terms of security, requiring coordination between regional actors.
Prof. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, head of the Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM), said the decision taken by Turkey and Iran to share intelligence demonstrated the magnitude of the common threat that both states face.
“Intelligence sharing also comprehends an important message concerning the depth and dimension of conciliatory relations in the future,” Erol told Arab News.
“The intelligence sharing activity carried out with numerous countries and now initiated with Iran showcase the ... shift in Ankara’s foreign policy.”
Erol noted that both states are bidding to eliminate the threat by consuming the struggles between them and pursuing Syria and Iraq-focused policies.
“In this regard, it is important to preserve the status quo in the region and to obstruct non-regional actors from their quest of establishing a ‘Greater Kurdistan’. Hence Syria functions as the beginning of an experiment,” he added.
According to Erol, this experience may later be expanded and institutionalized between the two countries as it has been done before through Saadabat and Baghdad Pacts in the past.


Macron and Merkel warn of ‘humanitarian risks’ in Idlib

Russian military support has helped Syrian regime troops to regain control of key cities such as Aleppo. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Macron and Merkel warn of ‘humanitarian risks’ in Idlib

  • US-backed forces had repelled a raid by Daesh targeting barracks housing American and French troops in eastern Syria
  • Daesh overran large swaths of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in territory it controlled

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced concern Friday about the humanitarian situation in the opposition-held Syrian region of Idlib, which is shaping up be the country’s next big battleground.
In a telephone call the two leaders described the “humanitarian risks” in Idlib, where regime forces have stepped up their bombardments of opposition positions in recent days, as “very high,” according to the French presidency.
They also called for an “inclusive political process to allow lasting peace in the region.”
President Bashar Assad has set his sights on retaking control of the northwestern province of Idlib — the biggest area still in opposition hands after seven years of war.
Last week, regime helicopters dropped leaflets over towns in Idlib’s east, urging people to surrender.
Idlib, which sits between Syria’s Mediterranean coast and the second city Aleppo, has been a landing point for thousands of civilians and rebel fighters and their families as part of deals struck with the regime following successive regime victories.
The UN has called for talks to avert “a civilian bloodbath” in the northern province, which borders Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said US-backed forces had repelled a raid by Daesh targeting barracks housing American and French troops in eastern Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US-led coalition supporting them were on high alert after the raid late on Friday at the Omar oil field in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Britain-based war monitor said.
“The attack targeted the oil field’s housing, where US-led coalition forces and leaders of the Syrian Democratic Forces are present,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Seven terrorists were killed in the attack, which ended at dawn after clashes near the barracks, he added.
Contacted by AFP, neither the US-led coalition nor the Kurdish-led SDF were immediately available for comment.
In October last year, the SDF took control of the Omar oil field, one of the largest in Syria, which according to The Syria Report economic weekly had a pre-war output of 30,000 barrels per day. “It’s the largest attack of its kind since the oil field was turned into a coalition base” following its capture by the SDF, Abdel Rahman said.
Daesh overran large swaths of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in territory it controlled.
But the terrorist group has since lost nearly all of it to multiple offensives in both countries.
In Syria, two separate campaigns — by the US-backed SDF and by the Russia-supported regime — have reduced Daesh’s presence to pockets in Deir Ezzor and in the vast desert that lies between it and the capital.