Turkey’s S-400 delay is about more than just the economy and COVID-19

Source:al Monitor Date:25Apr2020

Yet Turkey’s desperate need for hard currency to salvage its pandemic-hit economy is not the only factor at play. The delay is driven by at least three other factors: namely, Ankara’s shifting geostrategic orientation in Syria in a bid to balance Iran and Russia, and its need to remain in the good graces of US President Donald Trump, its sole ally in Washington, and manage public perceptions at home.

In Syria, Turkey’s face-off with its partners Russia and Iran in Idlib in February showed how Turkish and American interests have become more aligned in the Syrian war. The limits of cooperation with Moscow have come to clearly manifest themselves, both in Syria’s northwest and northeast. Despite a deal between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in early March, the confidence gap between the two sides has grown over the critical M4 highway in southern Idlib, where a fresh crisis seems to be brewing amid Ankara’s attempts to unify Sunni armed groups — moderates and radicals alike — in a bid to counter the increasing presence of pro-Iranian militia and the reinforced troops of the Syrian regime. Washington, for its part, is fully aware that it could have no other ally than Ankara with the capacity to balance Russia and counter pro-Iranian military presence in northern Syria and around Deir ez-Zor to the east.