Turkey’s role in the Idlib chemical attack needs to be probed
Turkey is, in principle, uniquely placed to call for an independent investigation into the chemical attack in the north-western Syrian province of Idlib on April 4. Idlib borders Turkey and it is well-known that extremist groups (Al-Qaeda affiliates) controlling the province have enjoyed covert support from Turkish intelligence, which has trained them, equipped them and guided them in the past in a joint enterprise with the CIA and the US’ Gulf Arab allies.
Yet, curiously, President Recep Erdogan shies away from demanding an independent inquiry. Instead, he insists, “We have the radar information and we have the forensic reports. Some say Syria does not have chemical weapons. Of course it does. It’s clear which planes dropped it.” Erdogan wants to close the file and move on. He lost no time to extend enthusiastic support for the US missile attack in Syria on April 6 and is beseeching President Donald Trump to revive the “regime change” agenda in Syria. Why such bizarre behavior?
Erdogan’s proactivism in real time has only one explanation – the chemical attack in Idlib was in reality planned with the knowledge of Turkish intelligence. Erdogan has everything to lose if this truth comes out.
Turkey stood to gain by precipitating a situation in Syria that would willy-nilly lead to some form of American intervention. (Indeed, CIA input was the basis of Trump’s decision to order the missile attack in Syria, which of course has severely impacted US-Russia relations.) On the other hand, the Idlib attack was just what suited Trump too to generate a new conversation in Washington that took the heat off him over his alleged links to Russia.
All three protagonists gained out of this cynical game – Erdogan, the “cold warriors” in the CIA and the Russophobes in the Washington establishment, and the beleagured American president himself.
But Erdogan stands most to gain. He overnight hyped up the Syrian situation to burnish his image as the tallest Sunni Islamist leader in Muslim Middle East – Idlib is a Sunni province – just a week ahead of the crucial Turkish referendum on April 16 that votes on the creation of a presidency with executive powers.
Two, Erdogan has brought about a discord between US and Russia, which creates space for Turkey to carry on with its military operations in northern Syria and consolidate its occupation of large tracts of Syrian territory.
Three, Russia and Iran may come under pressure to postpone the planned military offensive on Idlib to liberate the region from al-Qaeda. (Idlib is the only Syrian province remaining still under the control of extremist groups.)
And, four, Erdogan’s persistent demand for creation of “safe zones” inside territory as well as “no-fly zone” – both of which would boost a permanent Turkish military presence inside Syria – has gained a fresh lease of life. Indeed, that would also be the kiss of death for Kurdish ambitions to create an autonomous homeland (“Rojava”) in northern Syria.
Suffice it to say, Turkey’s territorial ambitions over Syria (to reclaim Ottoman territories which it lost in the 1922 settlement) took a leap forward this past week.
An international investigation will help uncover Turkey’s role in the chemical attacks in Idlib. However, alas, the CIA is unlikely to let that happen because what happened in Idlib also happens to be a back-to-back enterprise with Turkish intelligence. Erdogan and the folks in Langley are swimming in the very same river of blood. So long as such cynical games continue, the prospects of Syrian settlement will remain bleak.
Turkish policies threaten regional security in the Middle East as well as Europe. By Erdogan’s reckoning, Europe is inhabited by Nazis, and the Middle East’s future lies with political Islam. Sadly enough, Turkey has once again become the “sick man of Europe”.
Read a chilling Reuters report, here, detailing that the suicide bomber involved in the recent subway terrorist attack in St Petersburg had travelled to Turkey and Syria.