If Turkey’s Erdogan had some ‘neo-Ottoman’ dreams, they seem to have been almost fully shattered by the fast-pace Russia-Syria offensive in norther Syria and recovery of the territory hitherto being controlled by the so-called ‘rebel’ forces, including those being funded by Turkey ever since the beginning of the ‘civil-war’ in Syria. An analysis of the evolution of Turkey’s policies in Syria shows that it has been a massive failure. Starting with the objective of ‘sending Assad home’, which ultimately meant to allow Turkey to extend its influence in Syria and thereby impose a ‘permanent solution’ on its Kurdish problem, to collaborating with Russia, Iran and Syria in Sochi and Astana processes, Turkey’s primary motivation has always been to raise its regional strategic profile in a way that allows it to become a new regional hegemon. It has been trying to maintain a calculated distance from the US/NATO, considering that the US support for the Kurds remains the key element of its Middle Eastern policy, and it has been maintaining a calculated relationship with Russia—Syria in the hopes of finding the same ‘permanent solution’ to its Kurdish question through a direct control of large swaths of Syrian territory.
As long as it looked possible for Turkey to retain control of norther Syria, everything was fine. However, its inability and perhaps unwillingness to remove jihadi elements from Idlib has led Russia and Syria to shore up their offensive to liberate the whole of Syria from jihadi elements, including those being funded by Turkey. This offensive has most certainly sabotaged Turkish interests, forcing it to lose control of some of the key strategic territorial points in Syria, including the all-important M-5 highway, a road that is at the heart of the future of Syria’s territorial integrity and its politics and economy. The M-5 highway connects the Syria’s economic hub, Aleppo, with the capital and other key areas, including the border with Jordan.
For Turkey, the road is important because it also connects Syria with Turkey’s southern city of Gaziantep, an industrial hub and a centre for imports and exports. Even according to Turkish state media reports, if the highway had remained under [Turkey backed] groups, it would have meant a permanent physical inability of Syria to establish its authority over all of the country.