Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears bent on launching a new ground operation in northern Syria following airstrikes that targeted Kurdish forces but caused losses in the Syrian army as well, while still extending an olive branch to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Damascus, for its part, has kept its reactions remarkably low-key, refraining even from saying how many Syrian soldiers were killed, while it urges the withdrawal of existing Turkish troops as a key condition for normalization with Ankara. Only one calculus could explain this situation in which both sides contradict themselves: destroying all prospects of the Kurds gaining a constitutional status down the road after their establishment of de facto autonomy in the north.
According to Russia’s special Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev, contacts between the Turkish and Syrian intelligence chiefs have continued on a “fairly regular basis” — a statement that justifies questions about likely bargaining going on behind the scenes. Could Assad be acquiescing to Turkey’s strikes on Kurdish-held areas, even if grudgingly?