Weekly Video Update #49: Special Edition – Turkish Gambit

The next special edition of the ‘Redivision of the World‘ video review series will cover the build up of the military crisis in Syria, who is behind the engine of aggression, and, most importantly, the beginning of foreign military intervention in Syria. We will also attempt to figure out the exact date of the new military campaign.

Gambit: an opening in chess in which a minor piece, usually a pawn, is offered in exchange for rapid development, capturing of a favorable central position, or in order to escalate aggravation of the game.

While Syria continues to struggle with gangs of insurgents, the situation is becoming more alarming. Actually, we believe it is so disturbing that some sort of finale is imminent. Currently the main provocateur in the region is, of course, Syria’s next door neighbor – Turkey. Through a rather straightforward combination this country obtained the legal right to invade Syria. However, so far it chose not to exercise this right, despite the fact that at least six or seven cases of (allegedly) Syrian missiles hitting Turkey have taken place. If we look at the Turkish version of these events, we would have to conclude that Assad is actively asking for a full-scale military retaliation, because otherwise what would be the point of shelling Turkey’s territory every couple of days. But doesn’t that sound just a little ridiculous, especially noting that caution appears to be the hallmark of the Syrian president? Therefore, it would seem logical that all of the attacks launched from Syrian territory are part of a chain of provocations aimed at maintaining tension in the region.

Those who closely follow developments around Syria have no doubts that the country is on the brink of international war; the key question is – when will military intervention start? We will attempt to present our views on this towards the end of this report.

In the meantime, let’s summarize events that took place in and around Syria in recent weeks.

Around Syria

Turkey has strengthened its marine and ground forces near the border with Syria. Turkish military excercises, which included a number of armor units, took place within 10 km of the Syrian border. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan repeatedly and rather loudly proclaimed  readiness to strike Syria in response to the slightest provocation.

Israel is preparing for large-scale joint exercises with the U.S. air defense forces, to take place within days. Over 4,000 troops will take part in the event. Simultaneously, rearguard services will take part in exercises aimed at countering effects of a strong earthquake, which would kill thousands of people and the wreak havoc on buildings and infrastructure.

Jordan is building a new camp for Syrian refugees. Recall that this country already hosts over 200,000 refugees from Syria. At the same time several hundred British soldiers and about one hundred and fifty American troops have been moved into Jordan.

Meanwhile Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon have relocated several war bands to the Syrian border to help repel a possible attack on Syria from Turkey. At the end of last week the Lebanese capital Beirut was shocked by a powerful explosion that claimed the lives of three people, including the country’s intelligence chief, General Wisam al-Hassan. This man took an active part in the organization of aggression against Syria. Naturally, his murder was immediately blamed on Bashar al-Assad.

Iraq is busy concluding multibillion dollar arms contracts with Russia and the Czech Republic. It is also preparing to prohibit Turkey from carrying out military operations against Kurds on its territory.

Russia’s position

So, Syria’s neighbors are preparing for a new wave of refugees, increasing their military presence and strengthening their air defense. But should Turkey play the lead role in the war against Syria? The answer is simple – Turkey has the most powerful army in the region and the second largest army within NATO. Also, Erdogan is spoiling for a fight, regardless of the fact that most Turkish citizens reject military intervention. Why would he do this? Firstly, Turkey is facing a serious political crisis. To rally the nation against a foreign enemy is to solidify the power base for an adventuresome politician. Moreover, in contrast to many in Russia, Assad has a very negative image in Turkey. Further supporting such jingoistic sentiments of the Turkish society is the strong belief that the army will capture Damascus in a two-day blitzkrieg. Whether we believe such a scenario is realistic or not makes absolutely no difference.

But how can Turkey aggravate relations with Russia? After all, according to the Turks Russia is the only factor still holding the Turkish army back from a determined thrust to Damascus. And here, dear viewers, we come to the fundamental question – will Russia abandon Syria if matters get really too hot to handle? On the one hand, Russia has been honorably playing the role of Syria’s sole defender, but on the other, this role did not come with high costs attached. Will the Russian government have the guts to stick to this role to the end?

We would like to believe so. But then there is the odd position of the Russian Foreign Ministry on the incident with the aircraft carrying Russian cargo and citizens, which has been detained by Turkey. So far, the only response was to postpone President Putin’s visit to Turkey. Otherwise, Russia and Turkey both said the incident would not affect relations between the two countries. This is understandable, because Turkey is one of the key buyers of Russian gas, in fact, the second largest after Germany. Few people know that after the recent explosion of the Turkish gas pipeline Gazprom increase its supplies to Turkey to fully compensate for the loss. So it is evident that for the time being business interests trump politics, but for how long??

In this sense the breakthrough in relations between Russia and Iraq that took place last week looks very suspicious. The country has signed weapons contracts for a record amount exceeding $4 billion. In addition, ExxonMobil is ready to give up its place in the West Qurna-1 project in favor of Russian oil companies. This is made even more suspicious because such actions are taken with the tacit approval of the U.S. administration, and by all accounts it looks like a voluntary surrender of Iraq into Russian hands. In other words, the Americans are quietly handing us one the central countries in the Middle East, a country which they have invested a lot money into, a lot of political influence and which cost them a great deal in human lives. Doesn’t this just look rather extraordinary?  We would hate to think we are witnessing nothing more but a large scale exchange. An exchange where Russia is giving up its lost interests in Libya and, even worse – Syria. We can only hope that there is something more to this, something which we have not been able to figure out yet.

When?

Within a matter of days we shall find out whether our guess about the start of a military campaign in Syria is true or not. Why are we so sure? Well, because one key date is approaching, and that is November 6 – the day of U.S. presidential elections. So far, Obama and Romney are more or less on the same level, alternately ahead of each other on the basis of debate. Much will depend on the outcome of the last round, which will be held on October 22 and will focus on foreign policy.

We are confident that, as strange as it may sound, the U.S. administration is holding Turkey back from a premature attack on Syria. Not because the US is against such an option, but because the attack has to take place at the right time, and not when Erdogan decides to do so. And so he is obediently waiting, feeding the press and public opinion with news of new shellings coming from Syria. Tensions have to be kept high, but at bay. And therefore, if Obama does not make a clear win over Romney at the final round of debate, the likelihood that Washington will give Ankara the go ahead to attack Syria before November 6 increases dramatically.

Indeed, Romney has positioned himself as an advocate of decisive action in the Middle East and accuses Obama being overly lenient in this regard. Therefore, Obama gets one last chance to show his backbone by promptly and effectively supporting Turkey in its act of agression against Syria. The rest is simple psychology. If war breaks out before the election, voters would be extremely unlikely to allow a novice in the war room.

And so, we have approached the question posed at the beginning of this report – when will the war between Turkey and Syria start? From everything we have mentioned so far, it would seem that anywhere from October 22 to November 6 would be a likely time range. But could we be more specific? Well, we can’t be 100% certain, but if the big boys decide to fight, it will happen around October 26. Feel free to figure it out on your own, bearing in mind the title of this report and the significance of this day for the Muslim world. If, on the contrary, our forecast is mistaken and the war does not start, then we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief, as, for the time being, the acute phase of the crisis in Syria will have passed. And that means, that despite the breadth of opportunities the US administration’s balls are not made of steel.

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