Ankara and Tehran; Arabs and the Syrian Question

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Tue 29 November / Nov 2016. 01:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Tue 29 November / Nov 2016. 09:11 PM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

According to recent news and media reports, it seems that the “Ahrar al Sham” movement, a close Ankara affiliate, is seeing a growing division among its two currents, “Hamaem” and “Suquor” (Doves and Hawks in English), and is undergoing a leadership re-election process, based on political and ideological disparities, either regarding “Nusra”, now known as Fat-h al Sham, Qaeda, or the Turkish Euphrates Shield operation and the position from the West and the USA.

It is no secret that the “Ahrar al Sham” faction is a close ally to the Nusra front, both under the “Jaish al Fat-h” umbrella, which has control over Idlib, south of Syria.

These recent fundamental disparities surface clearly in the position on the Euphrates Shield operation; Ahrar al Sham declared support, whereas the Nusra front stood totally against it, which stirred quite a debate within the movement itself. The Hawks see that as absolute compliance to Turkish dictation, and a reckless abandonment of the role’s part in sieged Aleppo, with efforts to constitute a safe zone for Turks in the north Aleppo outskirt.

This takes us back to the story of the city; Aleppo, which was abandoned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as we once said. And with the Turks being the only ally left, more or less, for the Turkey affiliated Islamic opposition, sources within these movements also share the sense of abandonment, but are too scared of losing them to explicitly say it, for what it’s worth.

That said, let us take another look on the approaches of Iran and Turkey towards the Syrian conflict, to understand why Tehran has regionally succeeded where Turkish and Arab states had failed!

Going beyond the sectarian aspects of the conflict, Tehran made a decisive stand to back the Syrian regime; pushing their Hizbollah ally into the Syrian battlefield, with billions of Dollars on the line, sacrificing soldiers, operatives, and leaders with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in battle that is for all intents and purposes, an Iranian battle of national and regional security.

On the other side, Ankara pried the door wide open for foreign fighters to join the fight in Syria going through their lands, backing armed Islamist opposition factions, all the while lacking a consistent approach to the Syrian predicament; first, the Syrian position on ISIS changed, then on Nusra, and finally, following the failed coup, the Turks engaged the Russians in vast rearrangement that remains undisclosed, even though obviously, what is unfolding in Aleppo right now, may very well be one of the outcomes of the omened accord.

Above all that, the Russians had a very effective role in the conflict, weighing in favour of the Syrian and Iranian side of the conflict. And while that remains true, what is also true is that the Iranians did not forsaken their ally; Assad, in the most bleak of moments, despite there being debate on what Assad’s regime as an ally is really worth.

Similarly, a debate like that does populate the halls of the Turkish administration, but Erdogan seems to have personally outlined the Turkish approach on Syria, whereas the official institution seems to not share Erdogan’s views, which is contrary to the Iranian official institution.

All throughout the official body of the Iranian state, there is a solid convergence on the Syrian question among all components of the ruling body; be it the Revolutionary Guard, the Clergy, or the conservative current, which led to a strong solid position by Iranians, as opposed to Erdogan’s shaky, hesitant position.

Even though Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has departed the presidential palace, once the president obsessed with the religious-sectarian question, in whose stead now rules Hassan Rouhani, the liberal-leaning reformist, nothing in the Iranian discourse towards Syria has changed. Meanwhile, had the coup in Turkey succeeded, the first to pay the price would have been the Syrian refugees and opposition.

Still, as frail and strategically unclear the Turkish position on Syria is, it is far more advanced than the collective Arab decision. Arabs know not what they want in Syria; how on earth will they enter a grinding baffle with the Russians and the Iranians while they seem to undecided on the categorisation of Syrian opposition, on the position from Turkey, and the primacy of the Syrian situation to Arab interests and pan-national security. To make it worse, even the collective Arab position towards Iran seems shifty and hypocritical. But, then again, do we know any other kind of positions?!