Brief: Turkey Considers a Partial Withdrawal From Syria

The decision hinges on Russian pressure and economic duress.

Background: Since 2016, Turkey has had a firm foothold in northern and western Syria, in part by supporting Sunni rebel militias. Its presence there is a means to multiple ends: regulating immigration, stopping spillover violence, projecting its power, and fighting the Kurdish groups it considers terrorist organizations. But since March, when Turkey and Russia brokered a cease-fire that partitioned Idlib province, Ankara has found it more difficult to man and supply the observation posts that monitor the cease-fire. What Happened: This week, Turkey withdrew from Morek, one of its largest military bases in Syria. Morek is one of a dozen bases set up just south of Idlib province that have been encroached on by Russian-backed Syrian forces of late. Pro-government and pro-Russia protesters have organized rallies around Turkish bases, while Turkish soldiers in Marj al-Zohour and Mutaram were attacked by Syrian forces earlier this year. The Turkish departure from Morek also comes as Russia is ramping up support for Damascus and increasing pressure on Turkey to withdraw. Bottom Line: Turkey has ruled out complete withdrawal, but the pressure from Russia – not to mention its deteriorating economy – suggests that the military will consider an incremental withdrawal of about 10,000-15,000 […]

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