Turkey-Syria-Russia: Finish Line & Turning Point

May 23, 2019

It’s been more than two weeks since my breaking article on Russia-Turkey-Syria and the contentious S-400 deal. I still consider the article breaking. In fact, I have left it as my pinned thread on Twitter. Some of you may wonder how a news article can be considered breaking after 17 days. Well, it can. If the events and developments giving credence to it keep unfolding since its publication, and if no other media outlets dare provide any information or real coverage on it (on purpose), then, the article’s status remain as breaking. I am not sure if this principle is covered in journalism guidelines, but it is in my guideline. With that I am going to provide you with highlights of the most important developments since.

Syria: Arriving at the Finish Line

A lot has been taking place in Northwest Syria- Idlib region. Three days after my piece, on May 10, Turkey asked Russia to stop its airstrike operations in Idlib:

Turkey has asked Russia to stop bombing Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib. The province has been under attack by Russian-backed Syrian regime troops for about 2 weeks. The news was given by Anadolu, which quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the request had been made in a telephone call between Turkish Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov, the sources said, had assured Cavusoglu that the bombing would be halted on Friday morning. An agreement in September between Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to create a de-escalation zone in Idlib was never fully implemented.

Although the government-controlled media in Turkey kept reporting on Russia assuring Turkey that these operations were going to get scaled down, and that they were even declaring a ceasefire, the assurances and promises never materialized. In fact, the operations actually intensified and escalated.

One interesting fact to be noted on the Turkish media’s reporting on these Idlib-Syria developments is how they have been refraining from mentioning the word “Russia”. I have to say it is not only interesting but also a glaring censorship based on directives coming from above. While international media outlets paired up “Russian and Syrian Forces” in their reports and headlines on the intensifying Idlib airstrikes, Turkish media made sure that only the “Syrian Regime” was used as the perpetrators of these operations – highlights below:

Monitoring this discrepancy between the world media and Turkish media in each report, even those copy-pasted from Reuters’ and such, seeing how the media here removed the word Russia and let “Syria Regime” stand alone, has been almost a surreal experience. Of course, you can see why- during this Yo-Yo stage between Russia and the United States, while playing the S-400 card as a life-line, at least until a final side is chosen, or forced to be chosen, Turkey does not want to alienate Russia. But still, it has gotten to a comical point.

While all the flowery media reports in Turkey have been trying hard to depict Russia as not a party in Idlib-related developments, Russia has been ramping up its joint operations with the Syrian government in the battle on the final front in Syria- right in Turkey’s Syria-Safe-Zone backyard:

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Syrian regime hits area near Turkish observation point

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime carried out an artillery attack near Turkish observation point in Idlib de-escalation zone on May 12, according to Anadolu Agency correspondents on the ground. This was the third attack of regime forces near the observation point in two weeks. Similar attacks near the observation point were carried out on April 29 and May 4.    

Even with this incident Turkish media was careful to not provide factual coverage while Turkey’s S-400 poker game with the U.S. remained in the final blinking-stage status:

Close call: Russian Air Force bombs jihadist forces near Turkish military post

The Russian Air Force unleashed a new round of airstrikes over the northwestern countryside of the Hama Governorate this evening, targeting the positions of the jihadist and Turkish-backed rebels.

The source said the Russian airstrikes hit the militant positions near the Turkish Army’s observation post along the Hama-Idlib axis.

The externally-imposed war in Syria is reaching its final stage- the finish line in the battle for Idlib. A very good indicator of this is the latest no-longer-effective propaganda by the crying wolf USA– Assad chemical attack in Syria!

Idlib is the final battle in ending the Syria war for the Assad-Russia alliance- a fact that has been accepted by the West in the past year. Turkey, on the other hand, appears to be in the no-man camp currently. Turkey was foolishly dragged into US operations against Syria in 2011- I reported this in 2011, almost two years before Syria became the headlines. It has been left behind by the defeated U.S. camp in the last two years or so. And while getting a bit closer to Russia lately, it still remains in the enemy-camp, when it comes to Syria. With that the following piece of news I found today seems to take on a much more significant meaning:

Turkey’s AK Party says nothing wrong with intelligence meetings with Syria despite tensions

The AK Party of President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday there was nothing wrong with Turkey’s intelligence agency meeting Syrian counterparts to prevent conflict – even though Ankara has backed rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. The AKP was responding to a Turkish media report of high-level contact between senior Turkish and Syrian representatives.

Is this a desperate attempt by Turkey to officially switch camps at this final stage of the Syria War? Maybe. On the other hand, the following development seems to indicate otherwise:

Turkey-backed fighters join forces with HTS rebels in Idlib

Turkey-backed rebels poured fighters onto the front line in northeastern Syria, joining forces with a rival armed group to beat back government troops from a town they had recaptured earlier this month.

Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) seized the town of Kfar Nabuda in Idlib province on Tuesday with the help of the National Liberation Front (NLF), a conglomeration of rebel groups supported by Ankara. The town had been retaken by the Syrian government in its recent assault.

Whether Turkey assumes a tough stand with Russia on Syria or not depends on one, only one, factor: USA. Currently all sorts of behind-closed-doors negotiations and deal-making attempts are taking place between the two. And everything I’ve seen so far, digging in front of and behind-the-scenes, supports my previous breaking news piece indicating the coming camp-switching from Russia to the USA, using Syria-Idlib as a pretext. Let’s quickly highlight these indicators:

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Turkey Readily Complies with U.S. Iran Sanctions

Despite all the rhetoric and tough talk Turkey readily accepted, and has already began implementing U.S. sanctions on neighboring country Iran:

Despite rhetoric, Turkey complies with U.S. oil sanctions on Iran

Turkey has closed its ports to Iranian oil, fully complying with U.S. sanctions against its main supplier, despite Ankara publicly criticizing the United States’ move to end import waivers and warning of a struggle to tap alternative producers.

Four days after the waiver ended, a tanker carrying 130,000 tons of Iranian crude was midway across the Mediterranean Sea to Turkey when it changed course and turned off its tracker, Refinitiv oil analyst Ehsan ul-Haq said. Analysts, citing satellite imagery, said it likely unloaded instead at the Syrian port of Banias. The data shows that Turkey began trimming its Iranian imports as early as march. Analysts said it has replaced the oil from its neighbor with oil from Iraq, Russia and Kazakhstan.

As many of you know, these types of sanctions are intentionally geared to create black-markets (even if some may call it different shades of gray) making some entities rich. Nonetheless, Turkey is complying with the ill-intentioned U.S. sanctions on Iran. And this earns Brownie Points for Turkey from the USA. It is a concession. Period.

US Rewards Turkey with Tariff Cuts & Turkey Immediately Reciprocates

On May 16, The U.S. government trimmed tariffs on steel imports from Turkey to 25% after having raised the duty to 50% last year. A few days later Turkey halved tariffs on at least 22 US import goods in order to reciprocate Washington’s move.

You see, when the tensions with the U.S. are real this has no way of happening. Only when things are going according to U.S. wishes goodwill tariff reductions like this take place. Period.

CNN-Turkey Take Sides with the AKP Government

CNN’s Turkish channel, CNN-Turk intentionally cut short an interview with the opposition candidate for Istanbul mayor in favor of the current government party’s mayoral candidate.

Social media users lashed out at CNN Turk after it stopped Monday night’s interview with Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) half an hour ahead of schedule.

Imamoglu was interrupted by the CNN Turk anchor as he began to talk about the lavish spending in Istanbul municipality which he said he discovered during his brief 18-day stint as mayor.

This prompted the anchorman, Ahmet Hakan, first to interrupt him for a commercial break and then to end the program entirely when Imamoglu insisted on talking about the finances. Imamoglu countered that the interview was supposed to last 30 minutes more, but was told time was up.

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You may think CNN-Turk as a media outlet abided by Turkish government rules. But that’s not the case. This is a U.S.-based mainstream media outlet openly supporting the current government’s party candidate. In CNN-Turk the emphasis, and the lead, is on CNN- An American Mega Corporation Media Outlet. Period.

USA Gives Turkey A Specific & Shortened Timeline Ultimatum on S-400

On May 21, two days ago, the United States gave Turkey a two-week ultimatum to cancel a messy multibillion-dollar Russian S-400 arms deal … or face “very” harsh US penalties:

The United States on Wednesday warned that Turkey will have to face “very real and very negative consequences” if Ankara finalizes the purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems.

Just a take from my experience- when timetables given by the U.S. get specific like this (two weeks!), and language gets overtly tough like this (very real and negative consequences- emphasis on “very”), then you know that the turning point is near- very near. As with any logical math equation when we add:

Russia-Syria operations reaching the Finish Line, to, Turkey buckling on U.S. Iran sanctions, to, mutual trade and tariff improvements between Turkey and the U.S., to, American Mega Corporation Mainstream Media openly supporting the current government party in Turkey, to, definitive short deadlines and ultimatum given by the U.S., you get: A Turning Point. In this case, as I had reported in my previous article, it will be about a Turkey-Russia relations set back and backing out of the S-400 deal.

Russia-Syria Idlib operations definitely provide Turkey with the needed excuse (aka justification) while maintaining face- to a certain degree. The face-saving (for the public here in Turkey) can also be bolstered by how it is worded. In this case it will be something like: Turkey postpones the delivery and installation of S-400 for XX period of time until YY issues are addressed, resolved. Postponing the announcement until after the coming mayoral election on June 23, per coordination with the U.S., is another likely possibility on the timing. Meanwhile, during this entire coming period, even before the post-elections announcement, one must keep an eye on the economy, especially the Turkish currency and its sudden recovery without any sensible explanation to go along with it.

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Sibel Edmonds is editor and publisher of Newsbud, founder and president of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), and author of the acclaimed book Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story, and The Lone Gladio, a Political Spy Thriller. She has appeared on national radio and TV as a commentator on matters related to whistleblowers, national security, and excessive secrecy & classification. She is the recipient of the 2006 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award. Ms. Edmonds is a certified linguist, fluent in four languages, and has an MA in public policy from George Mason Univers