This is the full text of the interview Sputnik International made with the Saker:
Sputnik: Following the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan Startfor suggested that Ankara could make concessions to Moscow and Iran on Syria. Is a Russo-Turko-Iranian alliance possible? Is it possible that Turkey will soften its tough stance on the Syrian government and Bashar al-Assad?
The Saker: It is extremely hard to predict what Erdogan will do next due to his personality and to the objectively difficult situation Turkey is in. While I fully agree that it is likely Turkey will have to make concessions to Russia and Iran, this is primarily due to the fact that Erdogan has now soured his relationship with the traditional patrons of Turkey: the NATO/US/EU. I suspect that Erdogan will be far more willing to make promises than to actually deliver on them. The Russians are acutely aware of that and there is exactly *zero* real trust towards Erdogan in the Kremlin. On one hand, most Russian analysts see Erdogan as a smart man, but also as a treacherous megalomaniac who absolutely cannot be trusted. But on the other hand, Turkey is a large and powerful country, strategically located, and a key neighbor of Russia. Thus Russia simply has to try to establish the best relationship possible with whomever is in power in Turkey, even if that means dealing with a distasteful character like Erdogan.
In sharp contrast to Turkey, the Iranians are trustworthy even if their interests are not always the same as Russia’s, and that is how it should be. I would characterize the relationship between Russia and Iran as a strategic partnership of two different but equal parties who collaborate with each other but who retain their own, sovereign, agenda. This is not a formal alliance but, in a way, this is even better as it is something much more flexible and viable in the long term. This is also similar to the kind of strategic partnership Russia has with China, even though the one with China is far deeper and really should be called a “strategic symbiosis”.
What might, God willing, emerge from the current situation in an objective community of interests in which Turkey will come to realize that collaborating in the long term with Russia and Iran is far more beneficial to Turkey than to try to play the “Russian card” against the AngloZionist Empire (or play the “Empire card” against Russia). Eventually, Turkey will have to chose between two mutually exclusive civilizational models: one in which the USA is the World Hegemon who gets to impose one single socio-economic model and one in which free sovereign countries work together towards a truly diverse and multi-polar world. Alas, I don’t think that Erdogan is willing,or even capable, of making such a choice, at least not in the foreseeable future.
Finally, while very little was revealed about the discussions between the Russians and the Turks on Syria, I notice that in his interview with the Russian TV just before traveling to Russia Erdogan again repeated his accusations that Assad was guilty for hundreds of thousands of Syrian deaths and that he must go. Will Erdogan eventually change his tune? Maybe. But right now he still sounds like a broken record.
Sputnik: Why did Erdogan decide to team up with Russia in Syria and can Moscow trust Erdogan?
The Saker: There is some pretty good indirect evidence that Russia did save Erdogan by warning him of the imminence of the coup. Erdogan denies that, of course, but his constant use of the words “my friend Vladimir” and his equally constant expressions of gratitude for the support Putin gave to the lawfully elected President indicates to me that there is more to be grateful for than just early expressions of support. Likewise, there is a lot of pretty good indirect evidence that the USA at the very least knew and did not oppose the coup attempt or even actively supported it. Thus, when Erdogan became aware of this dynamic he really had no option than to go to turn to the Russians.
Moscow can absolutely not trust Erdogan and I am confident that Moscow never will. The man is clearly a delusional megalomaniac and his neo-Ottoman Islamist ideology is toxic and dangerous for the entire region. What Moscow needs to do is to work towards a weakened but stable Turkey which would not present a threat to the region: a Turkey purged from any imperial delusions.
Sputnik: How will Tehran’s decision to share its facilities with Russia affect the Russian aerial operation against Daesh? What lies behind Moscow’s decision to use Iran’s “Hamedan” airbase to attack terrorists? Why is the West fuming over the Russo-Iranian move?
The Saker: Tehran’s decision to allow Russia to use the Hamedan airbase will greatly facilitate the operations of the Russian Aerospace Forces against Daesh. First, using Hamedan, as opposed to using airfields in southern Russia, will greatly reduce the flight time to targets in Syria, allow the Russian aircraft to use a more fuel consuming mission profiles and to carry heavier weapon loads. No less important is the fact that using Hamedan will greatly complicate the US/NATO efforts to warn their “good terrorist” allies about an incoming Russian airstrikes: it will be harder for the US to detect Russian aircraft and when they do, they will have less time to warn their proxies on the ground. Furthermore, Hamedan is located in a very safe and well protected part of Iran which would be far safer to operate from than Khmeimim in Syria (which is located 1000km from Russia but only 50km from the Turkish border). I would say that Hamedan is an *ideal* location to operate from for the Russian Aerospace Forces.
The main reason for the Russian decision to use Hamedan is not only a technical one. The fact that the Iranians have now publicly made this base available to Russia indicates a deepening of the strategic collaboration between these two countries and a stronger Russian commitment to the defense of Syria against the foreign invaders, something which Tehran had been wanting the Russians to do for a long while. The Iranians have always been dubious, to say the least, about the Russian peace plans and now that the Russians are gradually coming to admit that Daesh did use this time to regroup, rearm and reorganize, the Russian move to Hamedan indicates that the Kremlin is serious about hitting Daesh as hard as need be to protect Syria from the Takfiri invasion.
The West is clearly unhappy about the boost in Russian capabilities the move to Hamedan represents. But the West is truly horrified at the deepening of the strategic partnership between Russia and Iran. At a time when the AngloZionist Empire is greatly weakened and generally clueless, the partnership between Iran and Russia has an immense potential, something which greatly angers and frightens the Neocons. This development also clearly seals Iran’s status as the most powerful country in the Middle-East, something which horrifies the Israelis and, even more so, the Saudis. For Iran to get the Russians to commit the way they now have is a major political success.
Sputnik: The US House of Representatives Joint Task Force released their initial findings on systematic distortion and altering analytic products to paint US efforts to fight Daesh in a more positive light by CENTCOM. Furthermore, despite that the complaint was first voiced in 2015, “neither CENTCOM, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, nor the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) took any demonstrable steps to improve the analytic climate within CENTCOM.” Joint Task Force also reported that it “did not receive access to all the materials it requested.” What lies behind the distortion of information about US’ operation in Syria? Is it somehow connected with the US’ “phony” aerial campaign in Syria which left Daesh’s positions intact during the “war on terror”? What political forces in the US are interested in hiding the truth about what the Pentagon/CIA are really doing in Syria?
The Saker: The US operations in Syria are really no different from what the US did in Afghanistan over 30 years ago. The US has been using various types of Takfiri crazies in many wars (Chechnia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, etc.) as what I call “foot soldiers for the Empire”. The only thing that changes is the label these forces operate under: whether “freedom fighters” or “moderate opposition”, they are still in reality only al-Qaeda or ISIS, and at the end of the day they are all one and the same: Takfiri crazies, managed by western special forces, paid for by Wahabi (Saudi) money and engaged against all those who refuse to bow to the Empire. Political reasons have forced the US to engage in a pretend war against Daesh just because it does not look very good when the 911 false flag is blamed on al-Qaeda while at the same time the USA are using all their power to prop-up, organize, protect and manage the very same al-Qaeda. Furthermore, there are some pretty clear signs that there is more than one US foreign policy now: there is a White House foreign policy, there is a Republicans in Congress foreign policy, there is a Pentagon foreign policy and, of course, there is a CIA foreign policy. And these various actors rarely pursue the same goals. This kind of “executive chaos” is a surefire sign that the top of the Executive Branch has been tremendously weakened and that various actors are now taking major political decisions in their own hands.
In contrast, Russia now has over 30 years of fighting against the Takfiri rot and she still is, along with Iran and Hezbollah, the main defense against Wahabi terrorism worldwide.