Wednesday October 7, 2015
The two incidents involving Turkey and the Russian aircraft operating in northern Syria on successive days in the weekend throw into bold relief the single most crucial template of the Syrian conflict in the coming months. Turkey happens to be the only regional power that could actually create a “quagmire” for Russia in Syria – similar to the role Pakistan performed in the eighties vis-à-vis the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.
Like in the case of Pakistan (which started nurturing Islamist groups in Afghanistan as far back as the early seventies, much before the Soviet intervention), Turkey too has a 3-4 year old nexus with the extremist groups in Syria (including the Islamic State). These Islamist groups hold the potential to be transformed as the famous “Peshawar Seven” of the Afghan jihad in the eighties – provided, of course, Turkish President Recep Erdogan chooses to follow the audacious footsteps of the Pakistani dictator Gen. Zi ul-Haq.
Will he, or won’t he? That is the question that Moscow will be keenly testing out in the weeks and months ahead. Consider the following.
An unnamed Turkish official bragged on Friday that the country’s radar system had “locked on” the Russian aircraft operating in northern Syria. If so, no doubt, it was an unfriendly — and needlessly provocative — act by Turkey.