Iran, Russia and Turkey are set to meet on Wednesday in high-level talks about the future of Syria. The three countries are in an unlikely alliance in one of the world's most unpredictable and complex wars. Russia and Iran have been supporting the government of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, meanwhile, Turkey has been the most important backer of the Syrian opposition. Turkey is a member of Nato, while Russia and Iran often arouse the suspicion of Nato forces. The hostility from both of Russia and Iran towards Nato and Western powers, in general, is also returned in kind.
Simply put, Turkey entering into an alliance with Iran and Russia ought not to make sense.
Prior to arriving in Istanbul on Wednesday, in an apparent jab to Turkey and the United States, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani argued that foreign interests in Syria were engaging in illegal activities.
"From our viewpoint, the presence of foreign forces in Syria without authorization from the country's government is illegal and must be stopped," Rouhani said in Tehran according to Iran Front Page.
But there are also other factors at play which brings them into conversation with one another. Writing for Radio Farda, Mike Eckel argues that each has come together in order to balance off the other.
"Turkey wants to keep Iran at bay but wants to see Assad go; Russia wants closer ties with Turkey but also needs Syria for its Mediterranean naval base in Tartus; Iran wants to maintain supply lines to Hizballah in Lebanon and keep Turkey from moving into Iraq."
And while all of this might be true, as we've argued before, what particularly brings these forces together is their shared concern on the Kurdish question. Turkey does not appreciate that Kurds in Syria have managed to build political power and sees these moves as a threat to its territorial integrity. Iran has long been wary of its own Kurdish population, which has been struggling for self-determination for just as long as Turkey's Kurdish population. Iran also feels that Kurdish held-territory stands in the way of its own dreams of territorial influence in the region. And Syria, simply put, fears that the Kurds would like to declare their own state -- even if the Kurds have consistently argued that they want the territorial boundaries of Syria to remain the same.
And where they all align is in a mutual feeling of suspicions towards the Kurds, especially considering their willingness to work with the United States against the so-called Islamic State. Iran, Turkey, and Russia share the naive view that the tactical relationship between the US and Kurds in Syria is asymmetric, with the US calling the shots and the Kurds acting as proxy forces (the truth is probably the opposite).
"The Americans seek to prevent the Syrian government from taking control of all areas and they even think about partitioning the country", Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told reporters in Tehran on Tuesday.
Now with the United States claiming that it will pull out of Syria, Turkey, Russia and Iran will be meeting together today with more confidence that they can shape the fate of the war-torn country.
Trump made the announcement for the United States to pull out of Syria last Thursday, and on Friday, two senior administration officials confirmed that Trump had demanded a freeze on the $200 million allocated budget for Syria's reconstruction. To fill the anticipated vacuum that would be left behind, Macron declared his support for the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces -- an Arab-Kurdish alliance against IS -- and on Wednesday, UK officials further stated their support for Kurds.
All of this has driven a wedge between Western powers and Turkey, which deems Syria's Kurdish forces as "terrorists", in spite of their tactical relationship with the United States against the so-called Islamic State.
Now with the United States out of the picture, and an emboldened Erdogan who is willing to risk EU-Turkey, and US-Turkey relations -- the trio feel that they can ensure a post-war Syria that excludes Kurds from the path they lay forward.
"Some forces tried to spoil relations between our countries," Erodgan said on Tuesday at a joint news conference with Russia's Vladimir Putin, "But our relations have strengthened even more".