Iran’s regional outreach tested as Turkey plans Syria operation | News

Tehran, Iran Iran has upped its diplomatic efforts amid a warning from Turkey to launch a brand new navy operation in opposition to Kurdish rebels in Syria – an in depth regional ally of Tehran.

Previously few months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated as quickly as navy and safety preparations are over, Ankara will goal “terrorist” Kurdish armed teams in at the least two Syrian cities near the Turkish border – Tal Rifaat and Manbij.

Erdogan needs to ascertain a 30km (18 miles) “secure zone” and fight the US-backed armed group Individuals’s Safety Items (YPG), which Ankara considers a “terrorist” group. Ankara says YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Employees’ Social gathering (PKK), which has waged a bloody armed marketing campaign in opposition to the Turkish authorities for many years. PKK is dubbed a “terrorist” group by Turkey in addition to the USA and the European Union.

The arming by the US of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), having links to the YPG, has frayed relations between Ankara and Washington. The SDF was on the forefront within the combat in opposition to ISIL (ISIS).

Iran opposes the deliberate Turkish transfer, as together with Russia it’s the greatest navy backer of the federal government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran has been following a “balanced” international coverage as a part of President Ebrahim Raisi’s plans to increase ties with Turkey amid its push for regional diplomacy.

Iran’s International Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian struck a delicate tone when he met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in addition to President Erdogan in Ankara final June.

“We perceive Turkey’s safety issues and talks about the potential of a particular operation in components of Syrian soil,” Amirabdollahian instructed reporters in a joint information convention with Cavusoglu, which prompted hypothesis that Iran won’t oppose a Turkish operation in northern Syria.

However on a visit to Damascus on Saturday, Amirabdollahian instructed al-Assad that Tehran opposes a navy resolution, and believes solely dialogue can resolve the state of affairs. Iran will attempt to mediate to assist resolve “misunderstandings” between Syria and Turkey, he stated.

The US has additionally opposed the deliberate navy operation – which might construct on territorial good points throughout a number of different incursions since 2016 – because it fears it may undermine regional stability.

In the meantime, the SDF has warned that such an operation would undermine efforts to fight ISIL fighters in northeastern Syria and they’d resist it in cooperation with the Syrian military.

The problem of the Kurdish fighters was additionally a significant sticking level in Erdogan’s opposition to a bid by Finland and Sweden to hitch NATO amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey dropped its opposition solely final week after the Nordic international locations agreed to cease supporting Kurdish armed teams, and extradite dozens of people that Turkey considers “terrorists”. Erdogan has stated their membership bids won’t be ratified by the Turkish parliament except they implement their guarantees.

As anti-immigrant sentiments rise in Turkey amid new arrivals from Syria, the combat in opposition to Kurdish forces has a element associated to refugees as effectively, as Erdogan hopes to resettle many refugees in Syria near its border.

‘Internalised Kurdish challenge’

The upcoming Turkish navy operation comes within the backdrop of subsequent 12 months’s common elections. Erdogan will search re-election amid financial hardships, vitality issues, anti-immigrant sentiment and rising violence in opposition to ladies.

Based on Vali Golmohammadi, assistant professor of worldwide relations at Tarbiat Modares College in Tehran, Erdogan has prior to now decade leveraged international coverage points to draw voters forward of elections.

“Particularly prior to now 5 years, considered one of Erdogan’s insurance policies has been to internalise Turkey’s safety points regarding Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq with a purpose to acquire the vote of Turkish nationalists,” he instructed Al Jazeera, including that Erdogan’s ally, the nationalist MHP get together, holds a substantial share of seats in parliament.

Goldmohammadi stated in Turkey’s newest push in opposition to Kurdish fighters, Iran has discovered itself in a “circle of undesirable tensions” and prefers to keep away from a conflict with Ankara.

“Maybe Amirabdollahian’s journey to Ankara was vital in that it may assist determine sensitivities in bilateral relations that Turkey’s doable operation in Syria may entail so an undesirable navy conflict will be prevented,” he stated.

“This journey was principally about battle administration somewhat than battle decision.”

On the similar time, nonetheless, unconfirmed stories have indicated that Tehran has been speaking to its Syrian and non-Syrian allies for a doable navy mobilisation in and round Aleppo – which is near Tal Rifaat, the principle goal of a possible Turkish operation.

Bilateral and regional issues

Then again, Tehran needs to keep away from tensions with Ankara the place doable because it goals to spice up bilateral relations.

Throughout his journey to Ankara, Amirabdollahian proposed Tehran’s affords for clinching a decades-long cooperation roadmap, a doc that was initially presupposed to be signed throughout a deliberate Erdogan go to to Tehran in November 2021, however by no means materialised.

Iran and Turkey are already main commerce companions, and Iranians present a lift to Turkey’s tourism and housing sectors as they take pleasure in visa-free journey and have change into high property purchasers lately. The bilateral commerce reached a low of $1bn in 2020 because of worldwide sanctions on Iran within the wake of Washington strolling out of the nuclear deal in 2018. By the tip of 2021, it rebounded to $5.5bn.

However the two international locations’ commerce quantity is a far cry from earlier highs of $21bn in 2012, as Iran’s oil and gasoline exports have considerably dwindled because of US sanctions and manufacturing limits, points that Tehran needs to treatment because it seeks to bolster regional ties regardless of Western pressures.

Nonetheless, that is difficult by Turkey’s efforts to spice up ties with a few of Iran’s important regional rivals.

Yair Lapid, who took over as Israel’s caretaker prime minister, was in Turkey final week amid new efforts to normalise ties. The go to additionally got here at a time when Turkey stated it foiled an alleged Iranian plot to kill Israelis in Istanbul, one thing Tehran has dismissed as “ridiculous”.

In dire want of investments to assist its susceptible financial system, Turkey has additionally lately hosted the leaders of Iranian rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

‘Conflict of pursuits’

The international locations that Turkey is normalising with will hope to see Ankara take a tougher place in opposition to Iran and assume a safety supplier function amid expectations of much less US regional presence sooner or later, in keeping with Yusuf Erim, Turkey affairs analyst and TRT World’s editor-at-large.

Iran, he stated, would need to preserve Turkey impartial and utilise areas of bilateral curiosity and diplomatic devices at its disposal to attain this.

“So, I positively count on to see extra understanding and compromise from Iran in the direction of Turkey, particularly in areas which are main nationwide safety issues for Ankara like Iraq and Syria,” Erim stated.

“Turkey needs an even bigger function and extra affect within the area. If Iran doesn’t create this area, there shall be a conflict of pursuits that Iran’s regional rivals will certainly make the most of to attract Turkey nearer to them.”

On this vein, he believes Amirabdollahian’s feedback in Ankara signalled that Iran may to a level tolerate a brand new Turkish navy operation in opposition to the Kurds, however will need to restrict its scope by dialogue, one thing that would additionally open up a chance for Iran to persuade the YPG to maneuver nearer to the federal government led by al-Assad.

“A state of affairs the place Iran may get the Turks to restrict the scope of a navy operation whereas pushing the YPG nearer to Damascus can be a giant win for Tehran and the Assad regime,” Erim stated.

He added that whereas elevated Turkish presence in northern Syria will not be what Tehran and Damascus need, they may leverage it into good points elsewhere.

“Disbanding and absorbing the YPG into the regime military and shifting their models away from the Turkish border would even have the additional benefit of easing Ankara’s future safety issues.”

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