While President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Barack Obama held the most critical and strikingly long telephone conversation of recent times on the evening of February 19, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu was in Moscow, packing his bags to depart for Tehran.
He was going to meet with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Dehghan, who was aware of the conclusion agreed on in a similar telephone conversation between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin only a week before (February 13) – the details of the “Cessation of Hostilities in Syria” agreement announced this Monday were discussed.
As a matter of fact, those who watched the rhythmic motions of the defense ministers of both countries can see that these meetings have a different significance. Minister Shoygu was actually going to meet with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani and pass on Putin's “message.” (“Putin's message passed on to Rouhani,” February 21, PressTv.) Minister Dehghan was in Russia a week before and had passed on Rouhani's special messages to Putin at the Kremlin. (“Putin İran Savunma Bakanı ile görüştü,” February 16, NTV.)
This visit was made in relation to Turkey, and was so critical that it had to be done with haste. Once you understand that the Syria agreement made between the US and Russia is, before anything else, a move to tie Turkey's hands and block its way, you will also comprehend the size of the anti-Turkey mine.
The number of telephone conversations made between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov following the Erdoğan-Obama call reached three. We can consider this unfamiliar telephone traffic.
As expected, the first leg of the process was completed with the Obama-Putin conversation on February 22, Thursday night. We can say without hesitation that these calls will be followed by increased “military” cooperation between the US and Russia.
Kurdish corridor under Russian-US military protection
I hope it won't be a surprise if I announced this:
When the US was asked, “Why a Cessation of Hostilities agreement and not a cease-fire?” they replied: “Just as sanctions need to be imposed on the party that fails to abide by the cease-fire, it also requires the mechanisms to apply this.” Now the process is being rapidly turned into “cease-fire.” Then the US army will increase its presence in the region. This of course is a change and incident on its own, but we should wonder whether the joint US-Russian military operations will develop.
What's worse is that we might face the attempt or fait accompli of the opening of a Kurdish corridor under the physical protection of two superpower armies.
I don't want to push your limits in terms of “what's worse,” but we are at a game table with an unlimited top pot. The Tehran visit of Russian Defense Minister Shoygu brings to mind the idea that Iranian troops may also be on the “mission to protect the cease-fire.”
Assuming that Washington is also unaware of this detail would be, according to the chronology I partially presented above, absent-mindedness.
It needs to be written; this course of events may bring the US and Iranian armies together for the first time in decades.
The Secret Beştepe-Kremlin Line
The plan to “cease hostilities” gives the hope that Russian and Syrian forces may end their hooliganism on our Syrian border, but the actual state in Aleppo is also ongoing. In fact it provides no guarantee regarding the potential of a likely strategic risk in both regions and does not identify who is responsible. Even this state of the Moscow-Washington agreement is tying Turkey's hands while freeing Russia.
Let me also note this: The extent to which the parties will implement this agreement or the potential cease-fire and to which they will ruin it should be discussed. Yet these likely gaps should be patched up from now.
At this point, let us also share the clue that gives the feeling that it belongs to a specially woven fabric: Russian President Putin held a telephone meeting with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. (“Russian president and Qatari emir discuss situation in Syria,” February 22, TASS and “Rusya: Ateşkesi Suudiler ve Katar ile görüştük,” Hürriyet.) Some international analysts are stating that if we look at the parties and timing of this meeting, it was useful in terms of a “contact” between Russia and Turkey and/or particularly in conveying certain “concerns” expressed by Moscow.
They hit it on the way to Turkey
Let us conclude with three simultaneous news/developments, all dated February 22.
One: “Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zaharova said, 'Three months ago, our citizen died in the sky in Syria. He died in a horrendous way. I remember that day very well. We were going to Turkey. The news arrived while I was still at work. I tried to find out all the details on the way to Vnukovo. It was impossible to believe what had happened. I told my colleagues the latest news at the airport; nobody could believe it.'”
Two: “UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said, 'We saw very disturbing evidence regarding the coordination between the Syrian Kurdish forces, the Syrian regime and Russian air forces.'”
Three: “The US and Israel are readying to carry out the biggest missile defense drill in the last two years. About 1,700 US personnel are joining the drill. The aim of the drill is to see the cooperation between the US's European Command and the Israeli Defense Forces. An Israeli military source said, 'This is an important military preparation for both the US's European commandership and Israel's defense forces.'”