Column: Iran holds the key for peace in Syria


Turkey and Russia, with their efforts to save the people of Aleppo and forge a general cease-fire in Syria between the Damascus regime and opposition forces, are now at the forefront as the peacemakers in the region.

The close cooperation between Turkey and Russia created by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has resulted in the intensive efforts on both sides to push for this cease-fire, yet there are those who have been sidelined that are prepared to sabotage this peace effort.

One such player is Iran. They control the Shiite militia and the Hezbollah forces from Lebanon that are fighting with Assad’s Damascus regime. They are unhappy that the Russians are calling the shots in Syria and thus want their voices to be heard.

So as we witnessed in Aleppo the Shiite militia are inclined to spoil the broth and the Assad regime does not mind going along with them. It took some friendly persuasion from their masters Iran to subdue them and help the Aleppo operation to go through as Turkey and Russia took the opposition forces and the citizens out of Aleppo and escort them to safer places. Of course we cannot discount the fact that Russia also threatened to bomb the regime forces and the Shiite militia with their jet fighters if they continued their intransigent behavior.

Now the same applies for the general cease-fire in Syria. There have been some isolated cases near Damascus where Assad’s regime forces and the Shiite militia have attacked opposition forces and the opposition has threatened to declare the cease-fire null and void.

Iran seems to be on board for the time being to promote peace in Syria. The upcoming meeting in Astana is designed to put the Geneva peace talks on a proper footing.

Of course Iran is not the only country that is unhappy playing on the sidelines while Turkey and Russia steal the show.

The Americans are hopping mad that they have disqualified themselves from the Syrian scene as the Obama administration limited its involvement in Syria to a fight against Daesh forces. That fight too has been dwarfed by American mistakes. They have cooperated with the Syrian Kurdish terrorist outfit the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is an extension of the PKK in Syria. They believed that the PYD would put up an effective fight against Daesh but an effective intervention by Turkey has proven that the PYD is no match to the Turkish military when it comes to fighting Daesh.

The Americans grudgingly voted for the United Nations Security Council resolution approving the cease-fire brokered by Turkey and Russia yet they are doing their best to stall Turkey and Russia as the peace process takes shape. However, they are clearly unhappy that they are nowhere in the game in Syria and this angers them deeply.

The Americans are doing their best to prevent Turkey from occupying the strategic city of al-Bab from Daesh. They feel that if Turkey takes al-Bab it will then turn its attention to PYD-held Manbij and eventually to Raqqa, which is the capital of Daesh. So the Americans are more interested in the survival of the PYD, which is a terrorist force, rather than finishing off Daesh, which is another terrorist outfit.

So if the Iranians can overcome their expansionist drives in Syria and the Americans tame their jealousy then there may be some hope for peace in this part of the world.

*İLNUR ÇEVIK is a Turkish columnist. He writes for Daily Sabah Turkish newspaper.

(Published in Daily Sabah on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017)