circulate in the Middle East media originating in Turkey that the
Russian air force has been action, helping the Turkish army defeat
ISIS near the strategically important Syrian town of Al-Bab. Whilst
the Russians have not confirmed these reports, they have
conspicuously failed to deny them, suggesting that they are probably
oddly discordant statements have provoked
though they are actually very characteristic of President Erdogan.
In this case they are a clear sign that the US refused his
request for air support almost immediately after it was made.
the Russians now filling the gap by providing the Turkish military
near Al-Bab with air support, which the US has refused?
it needs to be said that all the reports of Russian air strikes near
Al-Bab in support of the Turkish army are coming solely from Turkish
sources. The Russians have preserved a complete silence on this
issue. However if the Russian air force were not active near
Al-Bab one would expect the Turkish claims, which have now been
circulating for several days, to be denied, even if this were done in
a discrete way so as not to annoy the Turks.
there is no doubt the Turkish air force has recently carried out air
strikes near Al-Bab. Clearly if there was a Russian warning to
Turkey not to send its air force to Al-Bab it has either been
withdrawn or relaxeнd.
best guess is that the Russians are indeed providing limited air
support to the Turkish army near Al-Bab.
President Erdogan capturing Al-Bab has become a personal matter, in
which he feels that his prestige is bound up. By helping the
Turkish army defeat ISIS and capture Al-Bab the Russians are not only
acting to help the Turks where Turkey’s US “ally” has refused
its help, but they are also providing President Erdogan with help on
a crucial issue that matters a lot personally to him, putting him
further in their debt.
Russian air strikes in support of the Turkish army, even if
undertaken solely against ISIS, are a highly controversial matter for
Russia’s Syrian and Kurdish allies, the Russians have good reason
to say nothing about them, and that almost certainly explains the
the Russians really are carrying out air strikes to help the Turkish
army near Al-Bab, they will have undoubtedly set conditions, which
Erdogan presumably has promised to meet. A reasonable guess is
that the Russians have insisted that there must be no further Turkish
advance from Al-Bab towards Aleppo, and that Turkey must limit the
military campaign it is currently undertaking in Syria against the
problem with imposing these sort of conditions on President Erdogan
is that on past experience he has a habit of ‘forgetting’
commitments he has made when they no longer suit him. In this
case that might be as soon as Al-Bab is captured. What if any
guarantees the Russians have extracted from President Erdogan to
ensure that won’t happen is anyone’s guess.