Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s November 29 remark that Turkey intervened in Syria to topple President Bashar al-Assad has drawn a sharp rebuke from Tehran, Damascus and Moscow.
“Damascus cuts the hands of any fronts that extend to [harm] its interests,” a Syrian Foreign Ministry press release read. The Kremlin also demanded Ankara provide explanation about the Turkish president’s “new” position on Syria.
Brigadier General Rasoul Sanayee-Rad, the deputy commander for political affairs of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said Ankara lacked the ability to overthrow the Assad regime and described Erdoğan’s comments as “a psychological attempt” aimed at “boosting the morale of terrorist groups.” He detailed the Syrian regime’s latest military gains in Aleppo and claimed that Turkey’s policy in Syria had failed. “If Turkey had such a capacity, it would have succeeded to create a buffer zone [in Syria] in the past. Today, Erdoğan should pay heed to people’s opinion inside the country who question the result of [Turkey’s] costly interference in Syria over the past years,” Sanayee-Rad added.
Mirroring differences in style and policies between civilian and military leaders in Iran, reaction from the Rouhani government was more diplomatic. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ibrahim Rahimpur said Tehran and Moscow believe Ankara should stick to its previously agreed position on Syria.
Erdoğan has recently tried to mend ties with Russia after bilateral relations hit their nadir following Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet last year. Relations between Ankara and Tehran have also seen improvements this year. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Turkey in August and September to discuss expansion of bilateral ties. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, too, visited Iran on November 26 and held meetings with his counterpart Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani.
But Iranian-Russian support for the Assad regime and Iran’s financial and military aid to Shiite militia groups in Iraq continue to mar Ankara’s relations with Tehran and Moscow.