5 Turkey and Saudi Arabia: to fight or to flight?
No one knows how the “War On Syria” is going to end, let alone what turns it will take in a year from now, a month, and even a week. There are many variables, new developments, twists and turns, and they happen quickly, and sometimes unexpectedly. And because we do not really what is going on behind the scenes in the corridors of Washington, Ankara and Riyadh, we cannot say from a position of knowledge that the trio are indeed conjuring for a land invasion of Syria. To make any plausible interpretations and predictions therefore, we can only base them on the revealed information, albeit it is perhaps mainly designed to feed the news-hungry media and their news-thirsty consumers. The analyses that we can produce cannot be based on more than this information.
This is an uneasy task because to confound the situation further, the recent information is not only incomplete, but in itself it is confounding and contradictory. We are seeing adversaries making statements that portray accord, whilst on the other hand, we see allies, or at least supposed allies, lashing at each other, and for different reasons, and unless we use common sense, we won’t make any sense of this at all; it only adds to the confusion.
To this effect, and to begin unraveling the information segment by segment, we must stop at a recent statement that Erdogan made. What he said to his American “allies” recently was not very different from saying “you are either with us or with our enemies” (ie the Kurds). Yet, Erdogan and the USA are meant to be allies and co-NATO members.
To say that Erdogan is unhappy to see northern Syria going back under Syrian control bit by bit, is a gross understatement. For nearly five years, he has flooded the region with tens of thousands of militants, supplies, munitions, and this is not to mention all the looting that was done to Aleppo’s industrial infra-structure. And now, almost in a blink, he can see this slipping out of his hands, all the while the USA is watching and incapable of or unwilling to do anything, or perhaps both. Erdogan has been very vocal in criticizing the USA and questioning its loyalty to him. He is furious to the extreme.
A few days before making his statement, Russia stated that Turkey is preparing for a ground attack in Syria, a claim denied by Turkey. Both of the Russian claim and its Turkish denial received little attention by American officials. Now, this is the America that makes it its business to poke its nose into the tiniest incidents and considers building a chicken pen in Peru a matter of national security. Why would America not comment about a serious matter such as the above; unless it is clearly saying to observers that it chooses not to comment because if Turkey launches a ground attack on Syria, then this is not America’s business!
But if we go back a few weeks further to the extra-ordinary NATO meeting that Erdogan asked for immediately after the downing of the Su-24, the resolution was for Turkey and Russia to work out their differences. NATO did not want a bar of it.
Erdogan is possibly the most dangerous man on earth at the moment. If not the most dangerous, he is definitely in the top ten list. If anything, he is a mega megalomaniac. He regards himself as a supreme being who was God-sent in order to restore the former glories of both Islam and the Ottoman Empire. He sees everyone else as inferior to him, and when he goes to confer with his allies, including Obama, in his mind, he is using them and not taking orders from them. Any observer and critic of Erdogan who is unaware of this fact is missing a very important reality, and probably the most pertinent link in the chain of this very complex and perverted personality.
In a recent article, Andrew Korybko brilliantly outlaid Russia’s options vis-à-vis a Turkish land attack on Syria (1). There are many options indeed, and in such an event, Andrew predicted that Russia will not engage in an all-out war with Turkey and may even allow Erdogan to vent a bit of steam provided that he does not go too far.
This seems to be happening now, or at least to some degree. Recent news is reporting Turkish shelling of Kurds in Northern Syria. Another report that followed later said that even Syrian Army positions have been targeted by Turkey.
There are even some unconfirmed news reports of Washington asking Ankara to stop its shelling of Kurdish and Syrian Army positions.
Obama made it very clear that he does not intend to have direct confrontation with Russia in Syria (2). On the other hand. Russia is warning against such intervention. Those warnings, do not only apply to Turkey, but also to Saudi Arabia no doubt.
In his latest article (3), The Saker predicts that “in the next few days, we are probably going to witness a dramatic escalation of the conflict in Syria”. This is possible, and even probable, but to what extent shall we see this escalation?
Then we look south of Ankara, at Riyadh to be specific. The Saudis are very restless and upset by the American inaction ever since the “War On Syria” started. They have been literally begging the USA and NATO for direct intervention, but to no avail. Now here’s the question, if America did not want to intervene directly in Syria before Russia entered the scene, why would they do it now risking a direct confrontation with Russia?
It is not uncommon for politicians to lie and to make deceptive remarks. It is very possible that America is trying to appear to look as if it is seeking peaceful outcomes whilst behind the scenes pushing its Turkish cronies into war.
Allies however, do not slander each other, not in public, not unless they are having a serious crisis. And allies do not plan to go into wars together if they are having a crisis. If we join the dots, the likelihood of direct American/NATO intervention in Syria looks very remote. They will most probably provide a tacit support for a joint Saudi-Turkish intervention, but NATO is highly unlikely to get involved directly in the conflict.
Furthermore, and this has been said many times by many analysts, Saudi Arabia is already bogged down in a war against the ill-equipped ill-funded Yemeni Army and remains unable to score a victory after many months of heavy bombardment. This is needless to say that the Saudi economy is in tatters. The Saudis are already using mercenaries from different countries such as Sudan, Pakistan and even Yemen itself in Yemen. They have also hired mercenaries from what is commonly known as Blackwater. The prospect of Saudis sending troops to Syria to fight and win is as farcical as them trying to put the first camel on the moon.
The Turks and the Saudis are extremely frustrated that their war efforts in Syria have been turned upside down. Foreign Minister Jubair is still preconditioning the “removal” of President Assad for any peace deal to be endorsed. No one is regurgitating his rhetoric with any sympathy, and his kingdom and Turkey must have reached the stage of thinking that if the tens of thousands of militants could not do the job, if America and NATO won’t step in, then we shall pull our sleeves up and do it.
For many decades, Saudi Arabia had been the perfect model that America seeks in places like the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has been stable and compliant. This is what America seeks as an ultimate objective; a compliance-based stability. When compliance cannot be achieved, creating instability becomes contingency plan B.
However, the tides of Saudi Arabia are turning, or will soon be turning. Saudi compliance is beginning to wane. The Saudis are very unhappy to see the Iranian nuclear deal with the USA coming to fruition. They are vocalizing their grievances and this spells danger for the Americans because it reeks with the smell of compliance-under-threat.
The same can be said about Erdogan with respect to his recent attacks on American foreign policies. And when compliance weakens, America puts contingency plans into action. This is the scenario when the American bully steps in and creates instability, but Turkey is not Saudi Arabia. If America now suddenly tries to pull the rug from underneath Erdogan’s feet, he will become the sacrificial lamb; not Turkey. But in the case of Saudi Arabia, and unless the royal family sacrifices the king and his arrogant son Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, then the whole royal family may be sacrificed.
In a not so recent article (4), Sharmine Narwani articulates why America is losing interest and ability to engage in more action in the Middle East, and again, I stand to be corrected, but the way I see it, America will not step in in defense of either Erdogan or Saudi Arabia in any invasion they plan for Syria. They may give them moral support, diplomatic support, and even arm supplies, but they will not engage militarily and will cut them loose.
This in itself puts the onus of winning on Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In this event, they will have two options; either send troops inside Syria, or just use her air space to launch limited aerial attacks and borders for some artillery attacks.
With the Syrian-Turkish borders now mostly in the hands of the Kurds and Syrian Army, ground troops will have little chance, and with the S-400 deployed, aerial attacks will not be a walk in the park.
The options of Saudi Arabia and Turkey are to pull back, engage in very limited skirmishes to save face, or expand the conflict and face grave consequences.