Erdogan won at the right moment
A coalition government would have weakened Turkey, which influences Syria’s future at a critical time
The victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey’s parliamentary elections means the Iranian project in Syria will blocked. The victory was expected, but what was needed was a parliamentary majority so the AKP could form a government without the need for a coalition. A majority was secured.
A coalition government would have weakened Turkey, which influences Syria’s future at a critical time. Any Turkish stance, political or military, requires a powerful cabinet capable of having its decisions passed by parliament. Now it is certain that the government is able to sit at the negotiating table and strengthen the camp that opposes Iran and the Syrian regime.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is stronger today than he was during the past five months, when his party did not have a parliamentary majority. Compared to the rest of the region, Turkey is the most influential country regarding Syria, given its shared border and massive capabilities.
The AKP’s landslide victory undoubtedly disappointed the Syrian and Iranian regimes. If the party had not secured a parliamentary majority, it would have weakened the Qatari-Saudi camp, which is confronting new challenges that are more difficult than before, as the United States continues to do nothing significant while Europe’s role remains purely verbal.
Meanwhile, after Russia joined the fighting in Syria on behalf of the regime, pressure mounted on the opposition due to fighting the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Moscow is trying to impose a political solution that is closer to the camp of the Iranian and Syrian regimes.
Turkey is more concerned than others about what is happening on its borders with Iraq and Syria, and is aware that Iran’s expanded presence in these countries directly harms Ankara’s interests and enables Tehran to dominate regionally. Talk of establishing a Kurdish state in Syria was a test for the Turks during their election, and came at a time when Iran was strengthening its influence in Iraqi Kurdistan.
A coalition government would have weakened Turkey, which influences Syria’s future at a critical timeAbdulrahman al-Rashed
If Ankara does not strongly participate in upcoming negotiations, Syria will be left to the Iranians. The Turkish presence in the Iraqi arena is also very important, although little is mentioned about it. Ankara supports different national Iraqi parties so Iran and its affiliates do not seclude this strategic country.
During the past 10 years, Turkey has shown skill in dealing with Iraq’s Kurds, cooperating with them and supporting moderate powers. Ankara is also one of the biggest investors in the Iraqi Kurdish economy. This political pragmatism is in harmony with the reconciliation that Erdogan led with Turkey’s Kurds, allowing them to greatly engage in politics.
There are other deadlocked issues, such as sour relations between the Turkish and Egyptian governments. I think Ankara will realize that the disagreement with Cairo weakens its camp. Egypt is a major pillar in the Arab world and in the entire Middle East. Without it, it will be a difficult for Turkey to resolve Iraqi and Syrian affairs.
This is the era of alliances, as a country on its own cannot confront ongoing chaos, deter powers that want to alter maps by force, or convince superpowers to get involved. An alliance between Turkey, Egypt and the Gulf is capable of ending the deadlock.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 3, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
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