The retired Turkish general who commanded Turkey’s operation to move the tomb of Ottoman ancestor Süleyman Shah to a safer place within Syria has said that Turkey and the Astana peace process are the true targets of U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria.
Speaking to Islamist channel TVNET, İhsan Başbozkurt said that the airstrikes, which came in the wake of reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people, were less clear-cut than they appeared.
“We are not defending the murderer Assad,” he said. “But if this type of operation is organised as a result of a chemical weapons attack whose perpetrator is still not clear, the target is Turkey.”
The West had given a response “as a trio” to the picture of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish leaders hammering out a peace agreement at Astana, Başbozkurt said.
“They are asking themselves ‘how do we rip apart this Astana process’,” he said. “The United States, Britain, and France have come together to give a message.”
However, he said, Turkey should not back down in the face of this pressure.
“(Turkey) has not allowed the triple coalition to establish the terrorist corridor they wanted (in Syria) to the east of the Euphrates,” he said, in reference to Turkey’s operations against Kurdish militias in northern Syria.
“That is why they are getting frustrated. Turkey’s diplomacy and strategy show the characteristics of it becoming a great power. They want to axe Astana but Turkey will not allow this. Turkey will remain at the table. If it does not, a fire will break out.”
Başbozkurt added that despite recent pledges by U.S. President Donald Trump, he believed America would not voluntarily leave the Middle East.
“We believe that America will definitely not leave this region. The target is so-called chemical weapons but behind that are other goals,” he said.