The agreement signed by the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran on Syria the day after the assassination of Moscow’s ambassador in Ankara is a historical paradox. Based on everything we know from the distant past, this odd marriage will probably not last very long.
The European Union is in severe crisis and a succession of important elections in 2017 have placed party interests above joint initiatives and responses. In the United States, the transition from the administration of Barack Obama to that of Donald Trump has been tainted by the toxic atmosphere of the pre-election race. This sense of discontinuity is not restricted to the transition in Washington, but also to Europe’s relations with the US.
It was this vacuum that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to exploit to push forward his Syria plan without the participation of the West.
It is quite unlikely, however, that the tripartite cooperation deal will bring the anticipated results. On the one hand, Tehran’s involvement may be seen as a provocation until American policy under the new president – who has held a very negative stance toward Iran so far – takes shape. On the other, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing a West that is incredibly judgmental, if not outright hostile at times. He has been compelled to accept a deal whose key aim is to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, but in exchange gets a clause about Syrian territorial integrity that more or less excludes the creation of a Kurdish zone there. Last but not least we have Putin, who while waiting to see what approach Trump will take toward Russia is also trying to strengthen Moscow’s influence in the Middle East.
All of this is leading to what may be a very dangerous situation. There are those who rejoice the deal here in Greece because they believe it underscores the country’s strategic importance to the West vis-a-vis Turkey, but they forget that it was the same delusion that led to the Asia Minor Catastrophe.