Why Aleppo is so Important for ISIS and Turkey

Assad forces, with the support of the Russians, have almost conquered Aleppo in Syria. The Turkish President Tayip Erdogan said that what is happening in Syria cannot be tolerated for too long, and he said that Turkey might have send troops in Syria. See Bloomberg “Erdogan Signals Turkey Prepared to Join Syria War If Asked”, February 2016.

In the meantime, the Saudis have already said that they are ready to send troops to Syria. See Independent “Saudi Arabia ready to send ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria if US-led coalition agrees”, February 2016.

The United Arab Emirates have also said that they are ready to send troops to Syria together with Turkey and Saudi Arabia. See Al Jazeera “UAE says it is ready to send ground troops to Syria”, February 2016.

As you can see at the following two maps, Aleppo, which is the second largest city of Syria, and the most important one economically, it is of strategic importance for the communication between ISIS and Turkey. When I say ISIS I refer to the Sunni Islamists of Syria and Iraq. At the following two maps you can see the two limitations that Erdogan and Turkey are facing in their efforts to support ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

At the first map you can see the desert of Syria, which is a natural barrier for the communication between ISIS and the Arabs of the Gulf from the South i.e. for example Qatar, which is a very strong ally.

Map 1 The Desert of Syria

Map Syria Desert.JPG

http://www.nybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/syria-map-101013.png

At the second map you can see the limitations that Erdogan faces on the North, and that is the Kurds, who form a wall between Turkey and ISIS. With purple you can see the areas controlled by the Kurds at the Turkish-Syrian borders. With black you can see areas controlled by ISIS.

Map 2 The Kurdish Factor

Map the Kurds.JPG

https://cdn2.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/AybknRCZvyks2pdnFLtZRD2y2qc=/cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/3840286/Syria-Control-Map-18-JUN-15_HIGH-1.0.png

The Kurds have already crossed the Euphrates river (see map 1), the Alawites and the Russians have almost conquered Aleppo, and the Russians are also bombing the thin line connecting ISIS with the Arabs of the Persian Gulf to the South. Basically the Russians are trying to cut supplies of ISIS from the north and the south.

All the above make things very difficult for the Turks and the Arabs, who are hopping to control the Sunni parts of Syria and Iraq, in order to block Iran from reaching the Mediterranean Sea, which hurts the economic interests of Iran, and also in order to construct the Arab-Turkish pipelines, which will send Arab oil and gas to Turkey and maybe to Europe, something that hurts Iran, but it hurts Russia a lot more.

Map 3 Possible Alawite, Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish states in Iraq and Syria given Syria’s Demographics

Possible IS State 1.jpg

At the following Wikipedia map you can see with light green the Alawite parts of Syria before the war, with somon the Sunni parts, and with pink the Kurdish parts.

Map 4 Demographics of Syria

Map Demographics of Syria

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syria#/media/File:Syria_Ethno-religious_composition..jpg

Articles

“Erdogan Signals Turkey Prepared to Join Syria War If Asked”, February 2016

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-07/erdogan-signals-turkey-won-t-stay-out-of-syria-if-asked-to-join

The Military and Political Significance of Aleppo”, February 2016

http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/syriasource/the-military-and-political-significance-of-aleppo

“UAE says it is ready to send ground troops to Syria”, February 2016

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/02/uae-ready-send-ground-troops-syria-160207103946820.html

“Saudi Arabia ‘ready to send ground troops’ to fight Isis in Syria if US-led coalition agrees”, February 2016

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudia-arabia-read-to-send-ground-troops-to-fight-isis-in-syria-if-us-led-coalition-agrees-a6854046.html

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