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Turkish-Iranian Rapprochement Over Kurdish Issue Could Bode Well for Syria

(Xinhua) -- The Iranian-Turkish rapprochement over the Kurdish issue of independence could possibly bode well for Syria, with a shift of the Turkish stance toward Damascus expected, not for the sake of President Bashar al-Assad, but Ankara's own interests, as the Turkish neck is on the line with the Kurds becoming more eager to make their dream of an independent state come true, experts said.

Throughout the six-year Syrian war, Turkey has played a significant role in supporting the rebels fighting to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The rebels enjoyed a free move in and out of northern Syria through the Turkish border.

Weapons and cash were brought into Syria through the Turkish frontier, which pushed the Syrian government to accuse Turkey of being the main drive behind the war that has ripped the country apart.

But no one can imagine a solution in Syria without Turkey onboard, as controlling the 822-km-long borderline between both countries and putting the rebels on a leash couldn't happen without Turkey.

So since the Turkish role is so essential in bringing the Syrian war to a close, and since the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan cannot re-embrace Assad after all these years of enmity, the game of interests could turn the table, and make yesterday's enemies, good friends again.

Now, Turkey seems like a man who has been reluctant for a long time to play a positive role in Syria but got freaked out when his worst fears have found their ways to the realm of reality and is now ready to do anything to keep those fears away.

The Kurdish dream of having an independent state is the boogeyman of Turkey.

Late last month, the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan voted for independence from Iraq amid a barrage of international and regional opposition, scoring sweeping yeses for splitting from Iraq.

The independence referendum has sparked tension between Bagdad and Kurdistan regional government, with Bagdad taking several punitive measures against Kurdistan including halting air flights to the region.

Although the vote is non-binding and is not expected to result in immediate independence, both Turkey and Iran have closed their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan, with further deterring measures are on the table.

Earlier this month, Erdogan visited Iran.

Erdogan and his Iranian counterpart President Hassan Rouhani said in a joint press conference on Oct. 4 that both countries will take steps to ensure that borders in the region remain unchanged.

"We will not accept changing borders in the region," Rouhani said, adding that "Turkey, Iran, and Iraq have no choice but to take serious and necessary measures to protect their strategic goals in the region."

For sure, those countries will vehemently oppose an independent Kurdish state, as Iran and Turkey have a large number of Kurds in their countries, and the separatist move by Iraq's six million Kurds will surely inspire Turkey's 14.5 million Kurds and Iran's six million.

The Kurdish bid is seen as threatening to fragment the entire region, which seems more serious and dangerous than any political rift between Turkey and Syria, where the Kurdish forces are becoming stronger in the northern rim of Syria near the Turkish border, with a dream similar to that of the Iraq's Kurds is driving them to capture more areas from IS.

And even though the separatist move in Iraq is more obvious, but the Kurdish dream of having a state is for all the Kurds.

Salih Muslim, the head of Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union Party, has recently said the Syrian Kurds oppose separation from Syria, but the truth on the ground was not that assuring.

While the vote for independence was taking place in Iraq, several Kurdish demonstrations broke out in Syria's northern city of Qamishli in support of the move in Iraq.

So either way, the Turks will not tolerate such a threat.

Esam Helali, an Iranian journalist, told Xinhua that the Turkish-Iranian approach during the meeting of both countries' presidents in Tehran "pour into the interest of Syria after the negative role Turkey has played in Syria."

"Iran's stance was clear regarding the Kurdish issue, as Tehran considered any independence bid as a scheme to destabilize the region, and since Iran is an essential ally to Syria, any Turkish-Iranian understanding will benefit Syria," he said.

He said that Iran will play a positive role in Syria's interest, and will practice "positive pressure on Turkey to halt its negative role in Syria, in light of the current Kurdish issue."

"Politic is the art of the possible, and I think Erdogan will act with what serves his country's interests in the coming stage, and sure the positive relations with Tehran will benefit Syria," he remarked.

As for Osama Danura, a Syrian political analyst who was a member of the Damascus delegation to the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, the Iranian-Turkish rapprochement in Syria is useful on several levels.

"Both powers (Turkey, Iran) are coordinating in two main files, the first is counter-terrorism and the second is the Kurdish issue," he said.

The first file includes the situation in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, which has been recently announced as a de-escalation zone, where the Turkish-backed rebels are expected to abide by a cessation of hostilities with the Syrian government forces.

On Saturday, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Turkish forces were reportedly preparing to cross the Turkish border into Idlib as part of the implementation of the de-escalation zone deal, which was concluded during the recent sixth round of Syria talks in Astana, mediated by Iran and Turkey.

A day earlier, the Turkish army and the terror-designated Nusra Front, recently known as Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham, reportedly clashed near the Syrian-Turkish border, after the Turkish forces attempted to cross into Idlib.

The Nusra Front controls much of Idlib, and according to analysts, Idlib will be a place of an influence of Turkey in Syria, and thus Ankara has to clean it from the terror group.

Tension has hit a new high between the Turkish military and Nusra militants, following the agreement between Turkey and Russia to combat terrorist forces inside Syria.

This consensus on fighting terror plays into the hands of the Syrian government.

Danura, the analyst, said that "Turkey needs to change its old ways in supporting the terror groups in Syria to establish a sort of stabilization in the northern region, where the Kurds are capitalizing on the chaos to expand their influence."

Regarding the Kurdish issue, Danura said the situation cannot be resolved but through a full coordination between Iran and Turkey.

He said Erdogan's visit to Tehran may have included key decisions regarding the final coordination in fighting terrorism in Idlib, and thus empowering the political solution.

The analyst said that the Syrian-Turkey interests are intersecting for the time being, especially regarding the Kurdish issue, on which Damascus has made clear its opposition to the independence of Iraq's Kurdistan, and any possible move in Syria.

He, however, didn't expect an immediate cooperation between Damascus and Ankara but noted that the intersection of interests could "mitigate the enmity" between both countries.


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