Analysis: Turkey renews call for Syria no-fly zones following ‘insufficient’ strike

A Syrian man collects samples from the site of a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, in this April 5, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 08 April 2017

Analysis: Turkey renews call for Syria no-fly zones following ‘insufficient’ strike

Turkey has welcomed a US missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat Airbase but called the move insufficient, renewing its call for no-fly and safe zones in the war-torn country.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Washington’s move was positive but that more needs to be done to tackle the situation in Syria.
During an inauguration ceremony in the southern province of Hatay, Erdogan said: “I don’t see this as sufficient although it is a tangible and positive move against the war crimes of Syria.”
“We think that the latest developments clearly justified Turkey’s stance on creating terror-free safe zones in Syria,” he added. “Time has come to take serious and result-oriented steps to protect Syrian people.”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed that Turkey, which is part of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh, was informed about the US strike beforehand.
He told reporters in Antalya that creating safe zones for civilians in Syria has now become more important than ever.
Ibrahim Kalin, Turkey’s presidential spokesman, said that chemical attacks targeting civilians could not “go unpunished.”
Kalin reiterated the need to implement a no-fly and safe zones in Syria urgently to avoid similar massacres like the one following the apparent chemical attack in Idlib province. Some victims of that attack were treated in Turkey.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Isik also welcomed the US strikes by saying that “it is important that Mr. Trump kept his promise and staged the operation.” He called for “solidarity” in the international community on the issue.
Turkey recently ended its Euphrates Shield military operation it launched in August to fight Daesh in Syria, while Erdogan announced that the country is planning new operations this spring.
Turkey also participated in the Astana cease-fire negotiations with the Syrian government, along with Russia.

Turkey’s strategic support
Experts told Arab News that the US strike seems to be a cosmetic one, and is unlikely to escalate further. However, in the case of an escalation, the US would surely need to use Turkey’s strategic southern airbase of Incirlik as a staging area for major incursions into Syria.
Ahmet Han, international relations professor at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University, said Turkey will now have to follow a more reactive policy on Syria that will be mainly focused on the preferences of Russia and the US.
“The priorities of Turkey and Russia are clearly divergent on the Syria issue. Turkey may search for a common understanding with the US, but the latter does not seem to transform its position in favor of Turkey,” Han told Arab News.
Han also noted that Ankara’s calls for a no-fly zone in Syria would probably remain unanswered. He added: “Whenever parties that are able to enforce such a measure in Syrian quagmire refer to a ‘no-fly zone’, what they mean by the concept seems to involve vast differences.”
Metin Gurcan, an ex-military officer and security analyst at the Istanbul Policy Center, said it is still too early to talk about any implications regarding Ankara’s calls for a no-fly zone in Syria.
“The east of the Euphrates is under the US zone of influence, while Russia thinks that the west part of it is under its influence in terms of airspace dominance; and this strike strengthened the profile of the US for the first time in the western part of the Euphrates,” Gurcan told Arab News.
However, according to Gurcan, Ankara unnecessarily makes hasty statements against this US-Russia imbroglio about northern Syria.
“Ankara looks sandwiched between Trump and Putin in its Syria policy, and its policy stances, which are changing each week, create unpredictability and a confidence problem,” he said.
“In order to get support for its demands for a no-fly zone, Turkey should stick to its principles while taking Russia as a counterpart for a no-fly zone in the western Euphrates, and the US for the eastern part.”

Choice over Russia
According to Gurcan, Ankara will be influenced the most, especially after Russia announced that it would reduce military cooperation with the US, and Ankara will have to make a choice.
In this regard, Cavusoglu told reporters on April 7 that Turkey has initiated contacts with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who already paid a strategic visit to Ankara to discuss possible cooperation avenues with Turkey against Daesh.
Gurcan also noted that from now on Turkey should not respond militarily in the region around the Euphrates, as neither the US nor Russia would tolerate this when designing their own regional plans.
“Creating de facto micro realities to gain more leverage at a diplomatic level in Syria is now over for Ankara,” Gurcan said.
Oytun Orhan, a researcher on Syria at Ankara-based think-tank Orsam, said the latest US attack might create a suitable environment for cooperation over safe zones in Syria.
“But the problem is that it is too hard for both to unite on where to establish these safe zones. Turkey will oppose to establish a safe zone in YPG (Kurdish People’s Protection Units) areas, which will consolidate their entity,” Orhan told Arab News.
According to Orhan, a Turkish military response in Syria would totally depend on possible Turkey-US cooperation.
“If this latest attack paves the way for a US-Turkey cooperation, then we could expect that the country may extend its military operations in Syria, including Manbij, Afrin and Idlib,” he noted.


Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.