Turkey and Iran Push and Pull Over Syria

Feb 12, 2018 | 20:16 GMT

A map of Syria

The proxy conflict between Turkey and Iran in Syria is unlikely to escalate to an entirely adversarial relationship.

(iStock/Getty Images)


  • With its military operation in Afrin and its deployment in Idlib, Turkey has ramped up its involvement in the Syrian conflict.
  • This greater Turkish push into Syria will drive Iran to retaliate, intensifying the countries' proxy war in Syria.
  • But given wider strategic considerations, Iran will pursue a pragmatic and compartmentalized approach toward its relationship with Turkey, cooperating with Ankara in several domains even as it pushes back in others.

Attention is focused on Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Afrin in northwestern Syria, but an equally important Turkish military effort is underway in neighboring Idlib province. Taking advantage of Russia's increasing willingness to freeze the Syrian conflict between the rebels and the Syrian government, and determined to prevent further gains by loyalist forces close to its borders, Turkey has ramped up its effort to station blocking forces between rebel and loyalist forces in Idlib. This undertaking not only draws Turkey deeper into the Syrian civil war, but it also further strains its relationship with Iran. Iran and Turkey are longtime rivals, with the Levant, Iraq and much of the wider Middle East historically an area of intense competition between the two regional powers. Ankara's further reach into Syria will only intensify the proxy conflict between Turkey and Iran in Syria. Nevertheless, given the importance of their economic relationship, their shared opposition...

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