Chances of success of Iran's efforts to persuade Türkiye to cancel the military operation in northern Syria
During his visit to Damascus on July 2, 2022, Iranian Foreign Minister, Amir Hossein Abdullahian offered to mediate between Türkiye and the Syrian regime to solve security problems that might push Ankara to launch a new military operation in Syria. The Iraninan Minister stressed that the solution lies in establishing dialogue between Turkish and Syrian security officials. He added that his country is ready to make efforts to prevent a military conflict.
Iran’s initiative to mediate between the regime and Türkiye does not seem to reflect a mere attempt to avoid the alleged military operation in Syria, but rather to ensure that Iran's influence in Syria is not threatened, especially in the strategic governorate of Aleppo. Moreover, it is an attempt by Tehran to make a breakthrough in Türkiye’s position toward building a relationship with the regime. This comes in addition to Iran's attrmpts to take advantage of the current circumstances in order to restore confidence with Ankara for furhter successful bilateral coordination in managing disputes. In fact, Tehran is argued by its own fears that the relations with Türkiye not to deteriorate in light of Ankara’s rapprochement with Tel Aviv, against the backdrop of Tehran’s use of Turkish territory to carry out assassinations against Israeli figures.
However, the chances of success of the Iranian efforts to persuade Türkiye to cancel the military operation in northern Syria are not great for many reasons; most notably:
• There are no sufficient indications that refer to Türkiye’s acceptance of establishing a path of security or political cooperation with the regime, because such a move has repercussions, not least recognising the regime legitimacy. This will make the Turkish military presence and activity within Syria need to be approved by the regime.
• Declining Türkiye’s confidence in the ability of Iran or the regime to provide an acceptable and safe solution to the issue of the PKK, its Syrian branch and its wings. This is because Ankara has esperienced this matter with each of Tehran and Damascus, as the two often use the Kurdish Party against Ankara at several times since 1984.
• Türkiye's willingness to resolve the disputes over Syria, either through a bilateral formula with Russia, or through a tripartite one that brings Ankara together with Moscow and Tehran. Otherwise, it means a decline in the importance and impact of the tripartite cooperation in the Astana track, which makes Türkiye obliged to satisfy each guarantor separately. This may be acheived at the expense of its interests and gains.
It can be believed that Türkiye practically rejected the Iranian mediation efforts, after the former targeted Syrian regime military security sites on July 3, 2022 in Tal Rifaat, north of Aleppo.
In fact, what may compel Türkiye to cancel the military operation is the implementation of the following conditions by Russia or the guarantors of Astana: The removal of the PKK and its Syrian branch from Manbij and Tal Rifaat and from a depth of 30 km from the border strip east of the Euphrates. Moreover, ensuring the transformation of the area into a safe zone in order to facilitate the return of the IDPs and refugees, and Türkiye’s participation in the implementation and verfecation mechanisms- not limited to patrols- are two additional conditions make Türkiye re-consider launching the military action.
Based on the foregoing, it can be said that Türkiye prefers to see the opposition factions taking control of the Manbij and Tal Rifaat. However, if it is forced to accept mediation and an international guarantee, it will prefer Russia over Iran, especially since the conflict in Ukraine has given Türkiye a greater margin of maneuver in confronting Russia.