It is clear that Putin sees his mission to exterminate ISIS as well as the Syrian opposition to Assad. To Putin they are one and the same. This entails Russia successfully destroying Turkey’s supply lines to their ISIS allies. Right now Russia is doing this in the Western part of Syria by obliterating the Turkmen bases in the Kızıldağ district on the border of Turkey. After Kızıldağ the next logical place for Putin to focus on would be the remaining supply route from Turkey into Syria and that would be from the border of Turkey and Syria near Jarabulus a Syrian city that has a population 11,500. The road from there leads South along the Euphrates River to the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqah.
If Putin and Syrian ground forces continue to advance against both ISIS and the Turkish supply lines, ISIS will be crippled, leaving only Iraq as a solid territory under their rule. Yet, that too could be under fire soon as the Iraqi government has asked Russia to step in and kick Turkish forces from Northern Iraq.
If Russia succeeds with the help of Syrian and Iranian ground forces, Turkey will end up with an emboldened Kurdish presence to its South as well as a generational setback to Erdogan’s grand designs to be the neo-Sultan of the Middle East. The Sunni World would be in upheavel and the Middle East and the bulk of the world’s oil supply would be held by Russia and the Shiites (save for Saudi Arabia).
Closing the Bosphorous is Turkey’s Only Recourse
Below is the relevant text from the Montreux Convention Articles 19, 20, and 21 of agreed upon in 1936:
“In time of war, Turkey not being belligerent, warships shall enjoy complete freedom of transit and navigation through the Straits under the same conditions as those laid down in Article 10 to 18.”
“Vessels of war belonging to belligerent Powers shall not make any capture, exercise the right of visit and search, or carry out any hostile act in the Straits.”
“In time of war, Turkey being belligerent, the provisions of Articles 10 to 18 shall not be applicable; the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government.”
“Should Turkey consider herself to be threatened with imminent danger of war she shall have the right to apply the provisions of Article 20 of the present Convention.”
We are all aware by now that Turkey has been slowing down Russian vessels and with that a Russian warship had a soldier standing on it with a shoulder guided missile in plain site. According to the above treaty Russia broke article 19 and Turkey very well may use that in the coming days to close the straits. Putin will have to reopen them by force setting the stage for a broad war against NATO. Erdoan is banking on NATO stepping in. Putin believes they will at the most make a token gesture out of Europe’s fear of having their gas cut in the dead of winter.
Of course Obama and the USA are stuck between two converging realities. With the ISIS attack in San Bernadino last week, Obama would be hard pressed to defend Turkey given Russia’s proof that Erdogan has been assisting ISIS and then again not defending Turkey would mean that Russia and Iran would be in control of much of the Middle East and the Black Sea with Russia having an acute ability to dictate the future of Europe. Right now Obama seems frozen or pre-occupied in order to turn the domestic situation to some sort of advantage for his agenda.
Iran Filling the Void in the Syrian Golan
While Russia makes moves to flatten Turkey and their aspirations, Iran is using their tactical pact with Russia to take over the positions ISIS and Al Nusra once had in the Syrian side of the Golan. Israel’s leaders have made bellicose statements, but Iran stands undeterred as their pincher move is rapidly set up. Israel has one move and that is to strike now while Russia is involved in the North, but that brings another set consequences. The die is cast. The next moves on the chessboard of the now expanding Syrian conflict is Israel’s and Turkey’s.