The Russian government predicts that Turkey will soon start wrapping up its military operation in north-eastern Syria, since the Syrian Kurds have agreed to postpone their self-governance plans, and Kurdish fighters will now be patrolling the border alongside Syrian government troops.
Last week it seemed like Russian President Vladimir Putin actually condoned the Turkish operation in north-eastern Syria, but insisted on his own red lines. According to analysts and Russian officials, one of his conditions was that the operation must not lead to a permanent occupation of Syrian territory.
It is also expected that, in exchange for the Kremlin’s supportive response, Turkish President Recep Erdogan will agree to Moscow’s plans regarding Syria’s political future, in which President Bashar al-Assad will regain control over the entire country.
Putin and Erdogan spoke on the phone not long before Turkish planes started bombarding Kurdish border cities.
On Sunday, the Kurdish autonomous administration of northern and eastern Syria officially announced that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had made an agreement with Damascus and Moscow after the US announced the withdrawal of its remaining troops from Syria.
Despite the mutual hostility between the Kurds and Damascus, the SDF and the Syrian government forces have clashed only rarely over the many years of the war. In fact, it sometimes appeared like they were coordinating their military campaigns whenever it was expedient for them both.
Rebels opposed to Assad began accusing the Kurds of colluding with the government. A similar opinion is held by the Iraqi Kurds, who have repeatedly accused their Syrian brothers of pandering to Assad.
However, the Kurdish leaders insist that the conflict between the rebels and Assad is not their fight and that they do not want their cities to be destroyed like the neighboring province of Aleppo.
This is apparently what motivated them to reach an agreement with the Assad regime.
Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, remarked that the main question now is whether Turkey will call off its operation or prove willing to enter into a confrontation with the Syrian government forces and ruin its recently improved relations with Moscow. The expert believes that the Syrian government will definitely try to take control of the oil and gas fields which are currently in Kurdish hands, but are necessary for the restoration of Syria.
Whereas Russian officials told the Voice of America that they are confident that Turkey will not cross the red lines established by Putin, Landis remarked that the extent of Erdogan’s ambitions in Syria is not yet clear. “Erdogan also believes that Turkey has a unique mission as the heir of a great empire, a nation founded by men of courage,” he wrote in a tweet.