After a brief period during which Ankara and Moscow found themselves backing opposite sides in the Syrian civil war, reconciliation now seems inevitable—despite the dramatic assassination of the Russian envoy to Turkey. Eyal Zisser explains what this renewed alliance portends:
Russia’s [return to the Middle East] has been facilitated by Iranian cooperation, in exchange for substantial profits. Thus in Syria the Russians are bombing targets from the sky and the Iranians are fighting on the ground. It is safe to assume that this partnership between Moscow and Tehran, which also includes Hizballah, is predicated on an agreement to partition Syria and essentially the entire [Arab] Middle East—Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon—into spheres of Russian and Iranian influence. . . .
At the base of the shift in Turkey’s position is the recognition of Russian military might and ability to inflict damage, but also the realization that Washington has abandoned the region and its friends there. The Turks are also realistic enough to understand that under the present circumstances their proxies in Syria, the rebels fighting Assad, have only a slim chance of emerging victorious. Yet aside from all this, Turkey views the Kurds as the real danger. Thus latching onto Moscow and moving against the Kurds, who are supported by Washington, is a prudent and necessary step.
We can assume that in return for its willingness to help stabilize the situation in Syria, Turkey’s proxies—fighting in northern Syria, in the Idlib province and north of Aleppo—will receive immunity that will allow them to stay in control there and focus primarily on fighting with the Turks against the Kurds, who are seeking to establish their own autonomy in those areas. . . .
Turkey’s attachment to Russia strengthens Moscow, which can now maneuver as it pleases between Ankara and Tehran, and via a policy of “divide and conquer” advance its interests at the expense of both.