Goldman to Bhadrakumar: Turkey and Iran will escalate in Syria

MK, your observations about the shared interest of Turkey and Iran in suppressing Kurdish independence are on point. Logic dictates, though, that both will escalate the conflict in Syria precisely in order to pursue this interest. The sensible and humane thing to do in Syria is to partition the country: let the Assad regime (or its successor) survive as an “Alawistan” in the northwest cost of Syria and the adjacent mountains, with a Sunni entity emerging in the East and center. I do not believe that the United States or Russia would object to this solution. Absent Tehran and Ankara, Obama and Putin could work out a solution to the Syrian problem quickly.

The trouble is that any such partition would make it hard to contain Kurdish separatist ambitions for every long, and impossible to contain them indefinitely. As you observe, Turkey and Iran have the most to lose if the Syrian Kurds assert their independence and link up with their Iraqi brethren.

A related problem is ISIS. This is not the “junior varsity” of President Obama’s infelicitous phrase, but the de facto successor to Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led army. It has experienced officers drawn from the Iraqi military as well as parts of the Sunni Awakening sponsored in 2008-2011 by the United States, and an extensive call on manpower given the massive social disruption in the region. Syrian partition under present circumstances would allow ISIS to dominate the Sunni portion of Syria. Turkey might provide assistance to ISIS on the sly, but it cannot be happy with the prospect of an ISIS-controlled state.

That leaves Iran and Turkey no other choice but to escalate in Syria. Of course, they can lettheir  proxies kill each other in Syria while they boost trade–this after all is the Levant–but Shia-Sunni conflict may not be so easy to contain. Iran has an enormous investment in Syria, and with the end of sanctions it wll have a great deal more resources to commit to the fighting. Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Timing is important: Iran’s nuclear-deal dividend will be available soon, which gives the Sunnis strong motive to act preemptively.

Reuel Marc Gerecht’s July 8 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The Iran Nuclear Paradox,” argues that the nuclear deal makes a US-Iranian confrontation more likely and more quickly. It is the first piece by Gerecht I agree with, but I would generalize his point: the nuclear deal makes a confrontation between Iran and everyone else more likely, more quickly.  I do not know (and I don’t think anyone knows) how this will play out, but it will be instructive to watch.

Balance of power models of the sort that are taught in political science departments remind me of the economic models taught across the quad: They are invariably one-country, one-period models for purposes of simplification. If you internationalize the Keynesian model, you get Robert Mundell’s supply-side economics, and if you extend the Capital Asset Pricing Model to a number of periods, you destroy all of its assumptions. The balance of power in the Middle East may be improved in the very short-term by giving Iran greater status, but the position of every power in the region sits on shifting sands–catastrophic decline of the youthful population in Iran, the shift in demographic weight towards the Kurds in the case of Turkey, and so forth. To the extent that each side positions itself to preempt foreseeable problems, we get an earlier rather than a later confrontation.

Of course you are correct about the economic benefits of peace with Iran. On this I refer you to Norman Angell’s 1910 book The Great Illusion, which argued that economic interdependency made war futile and therefore unlikely. Republished in 1933, it won Angell the Nobel Peace Prize. Such is our longing to see our neighbors act rationally.


Categories: Chatham House Rules, Spengler

  • Ike

    I do not see a reason why there couldnt be Irani-Turkish cooperation in Syria and Iraq, after all, the only thing seperating the two were the sanctions imposed on Iran from cooperation.

  • dutchnational

    This is giving thought for reflection as I fear the author is right.

    An outright and direct confrontation between Turkey and Iran is in my opinion unlikely as it would utterly destroy both their fragile economies.

    Everything else is uncertain and everybody will have to see how it plays out.

  • Maria

    Goldman is arrogant and must be insane:

    #1) “The sensible and humane thing to do in Syria is to partition the country”,… Hmmm, and what if democratically-elected (2014) President al-Assad & the Syrian people don’t want partition?? There’s NO indication the Syrian people want partition (recall that not even the Iraqi Shiites wanted partition of Iraq, even though the Iraqi Shiites would have had all the oil fields to themselves!!) …also, Russia WOULD want a non-partitioned Syria as an ally (why he thinks Russia would want partition, Goldman never explained, AND, even Goldman himself admitted that a post-portioned Sunni land fraction would be a station for ISIS, which makes the whole “partition” idea less acceptable to the US/Russia/Syria)…Additionally, to force partition on a country (Syria, by the US/Russia/Turkey) would actually be a form of GENOCIDE, as forced partition is actually a form of genocide (so, Goldman is truly ridiculous).

    #2) Bhadrakumar already wrote: [“Turkey realizes that the “regime change” is not really on the cards in Syria and understands that the West wants Bashar al-Assad to be around as bulwark against the Islamist groups.”], so, in order for Turkey to (nevertheless) *escalate* (as Goldman insists), it would mean that Turkey does NOT accept that al-Assad will remain in power, YET, Goldman doesn’t provide any factual basis for implying that Bhadrakumar is wrong!!!

  • Lion Heart

    Goldman is a notorious Zionist.

    This “article” is nothing but a “wish” of a Zionist.

    I would say destabilization of Middle-east is an OLD israeli “wish”.

    infact it goes back to Ze’ev Jabotinsky and later
    put in place by Ben Gurrion (Peripheral Strategy Plan) and later conceptualize by Oded Yinon.

    that is why Israel is providing FREE AMBULANCE service to Al Nusra terrorists.—-Wounded terrorists are treated in Ziev Hospital in Safed and then injected back to Arab countries to cause rape, murder and mayhem.

    Goldman will NEVER discuss about Israeli role in helping Al Nusra

  • [email protected],no more divisions,it will create more chaos,what we require is a kind of Mideast,like after the E.U.,with economic integration,and a marshal plan.invoving all countries,whatever the background,it will bring huge benefits to the region.

  • Fernando Martinez

    Syrian Kurds know that a state for them is a non-starter. Once Assad regains control of the country,( and he will). Isis will be choked to death since all of it’s sponsors will abandon this dangerous entity. The airstrikes will begin to bite, the Iranians and Hezbollah will also make their presence felt. The other groups (JN, AS, etc) will also slowly fade away, the country will remain a dangerous place for a long time with many traumatized people around.
    However the idea of a united Syria will persist and endure, that’s why Assad remaining is as important as it ever was. He will be the foundation that keeps the whole edifice standing.
    Even Israel is realizing that leaving Assad where he is, is the best alternative.
    Goldman is a crazy person, cuz if he isn’t crazy then he’s stupid to argue against what Bhadrakumar rationally expouses.