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Topic: Turkey (Read 29446 times)
WSJ: Erdogan and the Kurds 2.0
Reply #100 on:
November 12, 2015, 09:45:04 AM »
Powerful Again, Turkish President Erdogan Faces Choice Between War and Peace With Kurdish Militants
So far, leader is sticking to hard-line rhetoric
By Yaroslav Trofimov
Nov. 12, 2015 5:30 a.m. ET
ISTANBUL—As a consummate politician, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has benefited from renewed war with Kurdish militants to rally voters and regain control over Turkey in a rerun of elections this month.
As a once-again powerful president, Mr. Erdogan now is facing a momentous choice. Should he press on with the war in hopes of finally crushing the PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party? Or should he row back and eventually restart the peace process with the PKK that he pursued in the earlier years of his rule?
“If Turkey doesn’t resolve its Kurdish issue, it will turn into another Syria,” warned Bayram Balci, a Turkish affairs specialist at Sciences Po university in Paris. “Kurdish populations are gathering strength across the Middle East, and no Turkish leader can afford to ignore that.”
So far, Mr. Erdogan is sticking to the hard-line rhetoric that, during the Nov. 1 election, helped him lure Turkish nationalist voters opposed to any compromises with the Kurdish minority’s aspirations for self-rule.
“The period ahead of us is not one of talks and discussions; it’s a period to achieve results,” Mr. Erdogan said in a speech last week, adding that Turkey will keep hitting the PKK “until all its members surrender or are eliminated.”
Following the vote, the PKK has also pledged to intensify the war.
“A free and democratic living can only be attained by means of a committed resistance against those who trust they can break the will of the peoples,” said the group, which is classified as terrorist by Turkey and the U.S.
Middle East Crossroads
In recent months, hundreds of people have died in fighting between the PKK and Turkish security forces, many of them civilians. Scores of urban areas in Kurdish-populated southeast Turkey have effectively become no-go areas for authorities.
“Both sides are sharpening their knives,” said Tahir Elci, a prominent attorney and head of the bar association in Diyarbakir, the biggest city in Kurdish-dominated parts of Turkey. “Both sides are chasing utopian goals. Both sides are getting farther from what is reasonable.”
And yet, many leaders on both sides also know that they cannot defeat each other on the battlefield.
The PKK and the Turkish state, after all, have been at war since the 1980s, in a conflict that cost at least 40,000 lives and depopulated large parts of the southeast—without destroying the PKK.
“The military solution has not been successful for more than 25 years,” said Umit Pamir, the former Turkish ambassador to NATO and the United Nations.
Mr. Erdogan was once seen as a peacemaker and enjoyed the support of many Kurds, thanks to lifting some long-standing restrictions on Kurdish language and culture. His apparent readiness to settle the Kurdish problem prompted the PKK to declare a cease-fire in 2013.
But the military successes of a PKK affiliate, which now runs a ministate in Syrian areas along Turkey’s border, have spurred a backlash. In recent months, Mr. Erdogan repeatedly expressed displeasure with the PKK affiliate’s victories against Islamic State in Syria, saying he sees no difference between the two organizations.
The cease-fire collapsed in July, shortly after Mr. Erdogan’s AKP Justice and Development Party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 13 years—in part because of an unexpectedly strong showing by a Kurdish party backed by the PKK.
On Nov. 1, as Turkish voters sought stability amid renewed violence, AKP regained a comfortable majority in a rerun election.
That majority should enable Mr. Erdogan to tackle the Kurdish conflict, some of his allies say.
“It was Erdogan who had initiated the Kurdish opening, and now that he has emerged from the second election in a position of strength, I hope he will resume the Kurdish opening where it was left off,” said Yasar Yakis, one of the founders of AKP who served as Mr. Erdogan’s foreign minister. “If it’s not done by Erdogan, it can never be done by another leader.”
Galip Dalay, research director at the al-Sharq Forum think tank, forecast that Mr. Erdogan would in coming months try to woo Kurdish citizens with concessions on issues such as language rights—while still refusing to negotiate with the PKK.
“It’s taken for granted that there is no military solution, but you cannot go back to the talks as if nothing happened,” Mr. Dalay said. “The peace process in its previous form and structure will not go on for quite some time.”
Such an approach, however, is unlikely to quell the spreading unrest.
“You now have a very nationalistic Kurdish new generation that is not willing to settle for cosmetic changes,” said Gönül Töl, director of the Turkish studies center at the Middle East Institute.
A choice to press on with the military campaign may also underestimate the potential costs to Turkey, which must increasingly grapple with a separate threat from Islamic State.
“The risks of failing to grasp the refreshed opportunity for a political solution are quite serious,” said Francis Ricciardone, head of the Middle East Center at Atlantic Council who served until last year as U.S. ambassador in Ankara. “No matter how bad things may appear in this region, history shows that they can always become far worse.”
Stratfor: Turkey picks a side
Reply #101 on:
November 25, 2015, 01:28:07 PM »
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the downing of a Russian Su-24 by Turkish F-16s on Tuesday was "a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists." In another oblique reference to Turkey, Putin said the Islamic State is "protected by the military of an entire nation." He expressed concern and disbelief that Turkey did not try to contact Russia following the incident and instead rushed to convene a NATO meeting when Russia has "always treated Turkey as not only a close neighbor, but also a friendly nation."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin have been well aware that competition between their countries has been growing on multiple fronts. And until Tuesday, both took great care to avoid having that competition devolve into outright confrontation. A number of factors will drive Moscow and Ankara to try to temper the latest bout of hostilities, but neither leader will be able to avoid the uncomfortable reality that geopolitical forces are once again pulling these old rivals further apart.
Turkey and Russia cannot help but step on each other's toes. Turkey is the gatekeeper to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea through its control of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus. That means if Russia wants to send container ships, oil cargoes and warships westward, they pass through Turkey. If NATO wants to threaten the Russian underbelly from the Black Sea, Turkey has to give the green light. This is a point not lost on Putin's Russia.
As two Eurasian powers with long imperial pasts, Russia and Turkey have overlapping spheres of influence in parts of the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. This dynamic brought both empires to war multiple times over nearly five centuries. Not surprisingly, Turkey was profoundly uncomfortable when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014 to reinforce its position in the former Soviet space. Though Turkey saw an imperative to keep Russian ambitions in check, it preferred letting the United States, Poland, Romania and others take the lead. After all, Russia supplies 55 percent of Turkey's natural gas needs, and Ankara was not interested in risking disruptions to that supply or to the broader Turkish-Russian trade relationship that could further strain the Turkish economy.
But Russia has been getting too close for Turkey's comfort more recently. In the Caucasus, several factors are challenging the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh, a conflict zone that could eventually draw Russian and Turkish intervention. In the Middle East, Russia's military intervention in Syria on the side of the Alawite government squarely challenges Turkey's ambitions to bring Sunni power back to Syria through the toppling of President Bashar al Assad. Turkey's downing of the Russian fighter jet shows that Ankara is now willing to act on its frustration with Russia and bear the consequences.
The most immediate consequence will be felt in Syria. The preliminary steps toward a power-sharing deal are effectively stalled for now. The videos of Turkmen rebels shooting Russian pilots and attacking search and rescue missions will only reinforce Russia's claims that the rebels Turkey, the United States and others have been sponsoring cannot be trusted and therefore do not deserve a place at the negotiating table. There were already major doubts about whether the rebel sponsors could be talked into negotiating with the Syrian government at this stage of the fight anyway.
The battlefield, however, will remain just as intense. Turkey is serious about moving ahead with a plan to create a safe zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border to root out the Islamic State, keep a check on the Kurds and reinforce its rebel proxies against the al Assad government. The United States also remains committed to the fight against the Islamic State and is willing to facilitate Turkish operations in northern Syria toward that end. Russia is unlikely to back down from its operations in Syria targeting both Islamic State and rebel forces. In fact, Russia will be reinforcing its bombers with accompanying fighter jets to deter another shoot-down. The potential for further skirmishes on the Syrian battlefield cannot be ruled out.
The less visible, but no less significant, consequence concerns Turkey's relationship with NATO. Turkey's careful balance with Russia and differences with the West over working with Islamist forces have long been a source of frustration for other members of NATO, especially given the significant role Turkey could play in counterbalancing Russia and in responding to threats such as the Islamic State. As the Islamic State threat escalated and as Russia became more involved in Syria, Turkey started drifting closer toward its NATO allies. Turkey's recent decision to officially cancel a controversial deal to purchase a multibillion-dollar air defense system from China gave hope to NATO members that Turkey was prepared to remove some of the ambiguity from its role in the security alliance. And with Turkey's competition with Russia now on full display following the downing of the Russian Su-24, the United States and a number of Central and Eastern European powers will see an opportunity to draw Turkey deeper into NATO.
Russian officials and media have proposed retaliatory measures against Turkey, such as energy cutoffs, trade restrictions and undefined military responses. Russia certainly has the means to squeeze Turkey economically, though cutting off natural gas would also undermine Gazprom's commercial reputation at a time when Russia is fighting to retain market share in the West. Russian military interference against Turkish operations on the Syrian battlefield is also possible, though such actions are very risky for Russia itself. So long as Russia remains in a standoff with the United States and the West at large — a situation that will not abate anytime soon — Russia will need to play it carefully with Turkey. Only now, it is dealing with a Turkey that is sitting a lot more comfortably with its NATO partners than it was just a couple of months ago.
Important Read: Why Turkey can't sell a Syrian Safe Zone
Reply #102 on:
November 26, 2015, 06:57:20 PM »
Why Turkey Can't Sell a Syrian Safe Zone
October 7, 2015 | 01:24 GMT Text Size
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Brussels on Tuesday with an ambitious agenda: to promote the establishment of a "safe zone" in northern Syria. Erdogan can see that the Europeans have no good solutions to their immigration crisis other than to manipulate the route and flow of migrants. The latest idea gaining traction in a host of European capitals is to keep the hundreds of thousands of people trying to cross the Mediterranean off of Europe's shores by bottling them up closer to home instead. Brussels would, of course, pay Ankara to take care of its problem by housing more refugees traveling overland. But Turkey, which already hosts more than 2.5 million Syrians and has spent $7.6 billion on the refugee crisis so far, isn't buying into Europe's offer. Erdogan wants more. Much more.
Now that Turkey has Europe's attention and Russia has blindsided the United States in Syria, Erdogan is attempting to use the chaotic climate to dust off his plans for a Syrian safe zone. The Turkish version of a safe zone entails reinforcing rebel forces that are friendly with Turkey to flush out the Islamic State from a zone measuring 80 kilometers (50 miles) by 40 kilometers in Syria's northern Aleppo province. A no-fly zone, according to the Turkish proposal, would accompany the safe zone. Once the zone is declared safe and free of terrorist activity, refugee camps would be set up and Syrian migrants could live within their country's borders again.
What is a Geopolitical Diary?
The motives behind Turkey's plan are many and thickly layered. Most important, Turkey needs to avoid augmenting the burden migrants are placing on it at home while its economy is deteriorating. Second, Turkey is legitimately threatened by the Islamic State and wants to create as much distance as possible between its borders and those of the self-proclaimed caliphate. But the reasons don't stop there. Turkey can see that its southern neighbor will be fragmented for the foreseeable future. Ankara does not want to eradicate the Islamic State only to see Kurdish forces take its place. Rather, it wants to establish a physical foothold in northern Syria to ensure that the Kurds cannot create a viable autonomous state that could exacerbate Turkey's own Kurdish problem at home.
There is also a broader objective framing Turkey's strategy. A divided Syria undoubtedly creates risk, but it also presents an opportunity for Turkey to expand its sphere of influence in the Levant. This is the main driver behind Turkey's campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government and replace it with a Sunni Islamist-led administration that takes its cues from Ankara. After all, someone would have to provide security to make the zone in northern Syria "safe"; Turkish forces and civilian personnel presumably would take the lead in reinforcing such a corridor, potentially placing Turkish boots back on Arab soil.
Meanwhile, there is a murkier motive to consider. Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party will enter the Nov. 2 elections with a low chance of winning enough votes to regain its majority in parliament. The likelihood of the elections resulting in another hung parliament, coupled with Erdogan's reluctance to share power, raises the potential (albeit in an extreme scenario) for Turkey to use the premise of a military operation in Syria to stave off a third round of elections.
But Russia is botching Turkey's plans. Russia, Turkey and NATO are still arguing over whether two alleged Russian violations of Turkish airspace near the Syrian border were intentional (as Turkey and NATO claim) or accidental (as Russia insists they were). Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Tuesday that Russia was ready to form a working group and that it would be pleased to host Turkish Defense Ministry officials in Moscow to avoid further misunderstandings in Syria. Ankara has no choice but to interpret Russia's actions as a signal that Moscow is willing to interfere in a Turkish-led safe zone if Ankara tries to push ahead with its plans.
Moscow's strategy has already begun to bear fruit. The European officials who met with Erdogan in Brussels listened politely to his ideas for a safe zone and promised to discuss the idea further. But no European power wants to risk getting mixed up with a brazen Russia on the Syrian battlefield. The Europeans would rather bargain with Erdogan on issues such as visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and Turkey's acceptance of more migrants on the Continent's behalf instead.
The United States has kept Turkey's safe zone plan at arm's length for similar reasons. However, Russia's military adventurism in Syria is accelerating U.S. plans for a rebel offensive that could still at least partially fit with Turkey's interests.
In the coming months, the United States will be focused on the areas east and west of the Euphrates River. To the east, the United States will ramp up its support for Kurdish forces and their allies in preparation for a move toward Raqqa against the Islamic State. Greater U.S. support for Kurdish forces will not please Turkish leaders, but the United States' simultaneous boost in aid for the rebels Turkey has been preparing to the west will. Here, the United States and Turkey will work together to try to carve out a border zone free of the Islamic State's presence. The Americans are avoiding the label of a safe zone to keep the operation from conflating with Turkey's more ambitious agenda. Nonetheless, the United States will be indirectly taking the first crucial steps toward Turkey's ultimate goals for northern Syria.
Of course, Turkey will still have to contend with Russia. Moscow will do whatever it can to play off the fears of the NATO alliance. If a buffer zone were established in Syria and if Turkey, a NATO member, tried to protect the airspace over the zone, who would shoot down the Russian air force in the event that it crossed into the zone? In Brussels, Erdogan reiterated that "an attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO." But if NATO proves too afraid of the consequences of responding to Russian interference, then NATO's credibility will have been dealt a major blow. And that is exactly the outcome the Russians are hoping for.
Erdogan and Turkey are the wrong partners to fight ISIS
Reply #103 on:
November 28, 2015, 10:18:06 PM »
Turkey is the Wrong Partner to Fight Terror
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
November 28, 2015
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right), seen here with Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal (center) and Ismail Haniyeh in June 2013, famously declared that "there is no Islamic terror."
Sadly, the free world feels compelled to partner with the wrong country in its fight against Islamic terror.
The host of this year's G-20 summit, which came right after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, was Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In his usual Sunni supremacist language, he accused the victims of jihad rather than the jihadists. "New tragedies will be inevitable," he said, "if the rising racism in Europe and other countries is not stopped. Racism, coupled with enmity against Islam, is the greatest disaster, the greatest threat."
Yet Erdogan willingly ignores the rising racism, xenophobia, and anti-western, jihadist sentiments that increasingly command the hearts and minds of his fellow Turks. A quick look at a few sports games and fan behavior in recent weeks would reveal much about the Turkish mind and heart.
Erdogan ignores the jihadist sentiments that increasingly command the hearts and minds of his fellow Turks.
On October 13, three days after a twin suicide bomb attack in Turkey's capital, Ankara, killed more than 100 Kurds and pro-Kurdish, leftist and secular Turks, the central Anatolian province of Konya, a hotbed of political Islam in Turkey, hosted a Euro 2016 football qualifier between Turkey and Iceland. Before the kick-off, both teams stood for a moment of silence to protest the bomb attack -- a typical gesture to respect the victims. Sadly, the moment of silence was marred by whistles and jeers: apparently the football fans of Konya were protesting the victims, not their jihadist killers.
Anyone under the impression that the whole world stands in solidarity with Paris should think again. Hundreds of Turkish fans booed and chanted "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is greater" in Arabic) during a moment of silence for the Paris attack victims before a Turkey-Greece soccer friendly. Once again, the Turks were exhibiting solidarity with the terrorists, not their "infidel" victims.
More recently, on Nov. 21, Turkish police had to deploy 1,500 policemen so that Turkish fans could not harm the visiting Israeli women's national basketball team. One thousand five hundred police officers at a women's basketball game! Despite that, Turkish fans threw objects at Israeli players as they were singing Israel's national anthem. Fans also booed the Israeli players while others applauded the fans who threw the objects.
Turkish fans threw trash at the visiting Israeli women's national basketball team last week.
Unsurprisingly, Turkish fans waved Palestinian flags. Israeli women basketball players were barred from leaving their hotel other than for training and the game.
None of that is surprising although, at least in theory, Turkey is a candidate state for membership in the European Union. A new study by Pew Research Center revealed that 8% of Turks have a favorable opinion of the Islamic State (IS), higher than in the Palestinian territories, where support for IS stands at 6%, and only one point lower than in Pakistan. Nineteen percent of Turks "do not know" if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of IS -- which means 27% of Turks do not have an unfavorable opinion of the jihadist killing machine. That makes more than 21 million people! Of the countries polled, Lebanon boasted a 100% unfavorable opinion of IS and Jordan, 94%. In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, 4% reported a favorable opinion of IS, half of Turkey's.
This is Erdogan's "neo-Ottoman" and increasingly Islamist Turkey. After the Paris attacks, this author saw tweets that called the victims "animal carcass;" that said "now the infidels will lose their sleep out of fear;" and others that congratulated the terrorists "who shouted Allahu Akbar."
Meanwhile, and so funny, the free world cannot see that its ally to fight the jihadists is another jihadist. How should Erdogan fight Islamic terror – something he does not believe exists? One of Erdogan's famous remarks is, "there is no Islamic terror." But he thinks that "just like fascism," Zionism is a crime against humanity.
There is a Turkish saying that could perhaps describe the free world's alliance with Erdogan's Turkey against jihadist terror: "Kuzuyu kurda emanet etmek" ("to trust the wolf with the sheep").
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Middle East Forum: Turkey's Human Wave Assault on the West
Reply #104 on:
December 08, 2015, 08:27:06 AM »
Turkey's Human Wave Assault on the West
by Gregg Roman and Gary C. Gambill
December 7, 2015
Turkey is trying to overwhelm Europe by sheer force of numbers.
For months, Western policymakers have agonized over what to do with the masses of Sunni Muslim migrants flooding Europe by the boatload, particularly Syrians. Largely missing from this discussion is the question of why this flood is happening.
For starters, it doesn't have much to do directly with the civil war in Syria or the rise of ISIS. The vast majority of the 886,662 migrants who illegally entered Europe this year embarked from Turkey, a little over half of them Syrians who took shelter in the country over the past four years. "EU officials have said ... Ankara was very effective in previous years in preventing the outflow of refugees from the country," according to the Wall Street Journal.
What caused the spike in migration is that Ankara stopped containing it. Over the past year or so, the Turkish government has allowed human traffickers to vastly expand their operations, bringing prices down tenfold (from $10,000-$12,000 per person last year to around $1,250 today, according to one report). This spawned what the New York Times calls a "multimillion-dollar shadow economy" profiting from the traffic, ranging from the smugglers to manufacturers of cheap rafts, life vests, and other equipment.
Turkey opened the spigot of migrants to extract financial, political, and strategic concessions in exchange for closing it.
By the spring of this year it had become easier and cheaper than ever before to illegally enter Europe through Turkey, and more people have taken advantage of the opportunity Ankara has created.
So why did Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan open the spigot? Put simply, to extract financial, political, and strategic concessions from European governments in exchange for closing it.
Ankara certainly hasn't been shy about asking for money over the course of its negotiations with EU officials in recent weeks. On November 29 the EU agreed to provide Turkey with an "initial" $3.19 billion and take steps to expedite its bid to join the EU in exchange for Turkish promises to better patrol its coastlines.
Erdogan also used the crisis to generate foreign political support ahead of snap elections on November 1, essentially a re-do of the June 2015 elections that saw the ruling AKP lose its parliamentary majority for the first time. Though Western diplomatic protocol frowns on state visits during election time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Istanbul for high-profile meetings with Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu just two weeks before the vote. The European Commission postponed the release of a report detailing the erosion of the rule of law, freedom of expression and judicial independence in Turkey until after the election in order, according to Reuters, "to avoid antagonizing" its president.
Most worrisome, perhaps, is Turkey's pursuit of strategic payoffs for its human wave assault on Europe. In a letter sent to European leaders at the September 23 EU migration summit, Davutoglu proposed the creation of a "safe zone" and U.S.-enforced no-fly zone stretching from the Turkish border 80 km into northern Syria, where his government has backed a variety of Sunni Islamist insurgents against both pro-regime Syrian forces and local Kurds.
Although the start of Russian military intervention in Syria on September 30 put an end to this fantasy for the time being (which perhaps explains why the Turks were so trigger-happy in shooting down an SU-24 that only slightly violated their airspace on November 24), you can bet Erdogan will use the migrant crisis to pressure the West into supporting his ambitions in Syria.
The most vexing question is what to do with a government that uses human beings as a diplomatic pressure tactic.
If all of this sounds familiar, it's because the late Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi used to play the same game, turning the pipeline of illegal trans-African migration into Europe on and off as a way of extracting concessions. The most vexing question, then as now, is not what to do with the migrants, but what to do with a government that so callously manipulates masses of downtrodden human beings as a diplomatic pressure tactic.
On this there's room for debate. But the first step in doing anything about it is to call Erdogan out for what he is – dangerous and manipulative – no partner for Western leaders. Still, after meeting with the Erdogan in Paris on Tuesday, President Obama praised Turkey for being "extraordinarily generous when it comes to its support of refugees."
The next step, instead of bribing Turkey with ransom payments to end the hemorrhaging of Syrian and other Middle East refugees into the West, should turn the tables on Ankara. The potential loss of Western support to Turkey as it deals with both Russia and ISIS should be the sword of Damocles, convincing Erdogan to contain the refugee crisis.
Western material support to Turkey should be cut off entirely unless Ankara puts an end to the refugee crisis it is manufacturing and begins to play a constructive role in bringing stability to the region. How appropriate that an ancient Greek tragedy disrupt the current calamitous Turkish-born reality.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum. Gary C. Gambill is a research fellow at the Middle East Forum
Stratfor: Turkey's Time Has Come
Reply #105 on:
December 08, 2015, 12:57:23 PM »
By Reva Bhalla
With the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter jet still fresh on his mind, Russian President Vladimir Putin had some choice words for his erstwhile ally Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he delivered his state of the nation speech to the Russian Federal Assembly on Dec. 3. Putin angrily lamented "we were prepared to cooperate with Turkey on most sensitive issues and go further than their allies. Allah knows why they did it. Apparently Allah decided to punish the ruling elite in Turkey by taking their sanity."
While Putin may sound a bit dramatic, there is a hard geopolitical truth behind his shock and dismay toward Turkey. Russia knows the importance of keeping Turkey as a friend when it is facing off with bigger powers to the West. That is because Turkey holds the keys to the Dardanelles and Bosporus — the only way Russian merchant vessels and warships can reach the Mediterranean from Russia's warm water ports in the Black Sea. All of Putin's calculations in dealing with the United States are now turning on an uncomfortable reality that Moscow can no longer fully rely on Turkish neutrality in one of the most strategic spots on the map.
Stressing Over the Straits
The year 1946, when World War II had just wrapped up, offers a useful snapshot into Moscow's extraordinary obsession with the Turkish straits. Since losing its empire after World War I, an economically devastated Turkey had struggled to piece together a nation, wisely choosing to sit out the second round of global conflict. A decade earlier, when Hitler's troops had invaded the demilitarized Rhineland and Mussolini was openly declaring his desire to take over Anatolia, an anxious Turkey demanded a revision to the doctrine governing the straits, arguing that the straits needed to be remilitarized and placed under Turkey's exclusive control. The result was the Montreux Convention of 1936, which formalizes Turkey's role as custodian of the straits, ensures freedom of passage for merchant vessels in times of peace and imposes size, type and tonnage restrictions on non-Black Sea war vessels. Under the convention, war vessels from non-Black Sea states Turkey permits to enter the straits cannot stay in the Black Sea for longer than 21 days. In times of war, Turkey is expected to ban belligerents from the straits altogether to keep the Black Sea conflict free.
But the Soviets were never completely satisfied with Turkey's neutrality, knowing that Ankara was likely to tilt West when things got rough. The Soviets told the Turks in 1946 that if they were sincere about being allies, then they should give the Soviets basing rights in the Dardanelles. The Soviets bandied a number of threats to convey its seriousness to Turkey, such as Soviet territorial claims to portions of eastern Turkey, stirring up Kurdish separatists and backing Syrian claims to Hatay province.
A frazzled Turkey looked across the Atlantic for U.S. help. U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Edwin Wilson explained to U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes that, "the real [Soviet] objective towards Turkey is not a revision of the regime of the Straits, but actual domination of Turkey. In the vast security belt of the Soviet Union, which extends from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Turkey constitutes a sole gap … the Soviet objective, therefore, is to break down this present independent Turkish government and to establish in its place a vassal or "friendly" regime in Turkey, which will complete the security belt of subservient countries on Russia's western and southern frontiers and put an end completely to Western influence in Turkey."
The time had thus come for the United States to bring Turkey under its security umbrella.
On April 6, 1946, the USS Missouri arrived in Istanbul on the pretext of delivering the ashes of a Turkish ambassador to the United States who had died on U.S. soil. A jubilant Turkey celebrated the arrival of the U.S. battleship with special postage stamps and gifts for U.S. naval officers. As Ambassador Wilson put it, "the USS Missouri visit is thus apt to take on the character of one of those imponderable events, the influence of which extends far beyond the immediate theater in which it occurs." The ostentatious display of a U.S. security guarantee was the prelude to U.S. President Harry S. Truman's February 1947 request to Congress to provide foreign aid to Turkey and Greece "to assist free people to deal with their destinies in their own way." This was the Truman Doctrine that locked in the Cold War, with Turkey sitting squarely on the U.S. side.
An Old Rivalry Revived
The Turkish-Russian confrontation is now back, not because either side willed it, but because geopolitics compelled it. Putin and Erdogan are the inheritors of two historical empires that fought several wars from the 17th century to the 19th century. With both countries resurgent, they were bound to butt heads again. The first sign came in August 2008, when Russia's invasion of Georgia woke Turkey up to a Moscow ready and willing to apply military force to re-create buffers in the former Soviet sphere to counter Western encroachment. At that time, Russia was not happy at the sight of Turkey allowing U.S. warships into the Black Sea to deliver aid to Georgian ports; Moscow conveyed its displeasure by holding up thousands of Turkish trucks at the Russian border. But both sides went out of their way to avoid a bigger breach.
The 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea was the next big Russian punch to the Turkish gut. Roughly 300,000 Turkic-speaking Tatars remain on the Crimean Peninsula as a remnant of Ottoman history. Turkey's quick defense of the Tatars in the wake of the Russian invasion stemmed from more than a concern for its ethnic kin: Turkey understood that the balance of power in the Black Sea was shifting. Russia's seizure of Crimea meant Moscow no longer has to deal with pesky lease arrangements with a mercurial government in Kiev. Russia now enjoys the freedom to beef up its Sevastopol-based Black Sea Fleet, a fleet largely designed to counter Turkey's naval strength.
Russia's push into Syria in 2015 was the red line for Turkey. In this chapter of Turkish expansion, the Islamist Justice and Development Party is logically prioritizing its volatile Middle Eastern backyard. The Turkish focus is on northern Syria and northern Iraq, a belt of former Ottoman provinces that naturally extend eastward from Turkey's Hatay province. Russia's involvement in Syria in defense of the Alawite government runs directly against Turkey's objective of expanding its own military footprint in Aleppo, keeping a check on Kurdish separatist activity and eventually replacing Syrian President Bashar al Assad with a Sunni government friendly to Turkish interests.
Syria is of peripheral interest to the Russians, just as Ukraine is of peripheral interest to the Turks. But there are a number of factors drawing the Russian military dangerously close to Turkey's core interests along the Syrian-Turkish border. The Islamic State is a real threat to Russia, and Moscow has a legitimate interest in targeting the threat at its source. At the same time, Russia's relationships in Syria are concentrated in Alawite circles. Russia sees its leverage with the Alawite government as its main way to negotiate with the United States, keep Iran dependent on Moscow and deal with threats like Islamic State. The more crowded the battlefield, of course, the greater the chances of a Turkish and Russian collision.
To supply its forces in Syria, the Russian navy has been relying on the so-called Syrian Express, a naval supply route from Sevastopol on the Black Sea to its Eastern Mediterranean naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartus. As gatekeeper of the straits, Turkey could theoretically complicate this supply route. In peacetime, Turkey could still claim it is abiding by the Montreux Convention and allowing Russia free access while increasing inspections on passing Russian ships. While it would prove an annoyance to Russia, Moscow's main worry is Article 20 of the Montreux Convention, which says that in wartime Turkey as a belligerent has full discretion when allowing or preventing the passage of warships through the strait, potentially cutting Russia off from the Mediterranean.
Turkey's Double-Edged Sword
The straits are powerful tools Turkey can use against Moscow, but Ankara cannot easily quit Russia. Turkey is the second-largest buyer of Russian natural gas, a significant importer of Russian oil and metals, and the largest buyer of Russian wheat and sunflower oil. A contentious relationship with Russia will bring enormous economic pain to the Turks. Nowhere is this truer than in their energy relationship. Unlike oil, coal or wheat, which can be sourced from alternative suppliers, Turkey has no quick and reliable alternative for natural gas, an important energy source for industry and households. Russia supplies around 55 percent (or about 27 billion cubic meters of its 50 bcm annual needs) of Turkish natural gas consumption. That supply is split between two pipelines that each can hold 16 bcm of natural gas; Blue Stream, which runs directly from Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea; and the Gas-West pipeline, which transits Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria before reaching Turkey. Turkey is not close to closing the straits to Russia nor is Russia close to cutting off natural gas to Turkey. But even so, Turkey must start taking its energy security much more seriously now that it is in an open confrontation with Russia.
The problem for Turkey is that there are no quick-fix solutions to its energy dilemma. Turkey has only two liquefied natural gas import terminals, at Marmara Ereglisi (8.2 bcm annual capacity) and Aliaga (5 bcm annual capacity). With limited LNG import and storage capacity (3 bcm), Turkey has much work to do — and investment to raise — to build out this infrastructure over the course of several years.
Ankara's alternative pipeline suppliers carry their own set of complications. Turkey imports roughly 20 percent of its natural gas from Iran; such imports could grow as Iran begins to repair its energy sector after years of sanctions. It will take considerable time, however, and expanding the Iran-Turkey energy relationship would still carry big risks for Turkey. Iran is just as much a geopolitical challenger to Turkey as Russia is, and the more assertive Turkey becomes in the Middle East, the more its competition with Iran will grow in Syria and Iraq.
Iranian-Turkish competition only further complicates Turkey's ambitions for Iraqi Kurdistan, where Erdogan has developed close business ties to Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani. Turkey has already helped Barzani develop an independent oil export route at the expense of Iran's allies in Baghdad and is now gearing up to do the same for natural gas to feed the Turkish market. But the collapse of Turkey's peace process with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (whose fighters rely on Iraqi Kurdistan for refuge) and a power vacuum in northern Syria exploited by Kurdish separatists will drive Turkey's military to become more aggressive beyond its borders in both Syria and Iraq. Turkey's control over the revenues from those oil export sales gives Ankara substantial clout over the Iraqi Kurdish government, but Barzani and his allies are also in the untenable position of doing business with the Turkish enemy at the same time Turkey is incrementally enlarging its military footprint in Kurdish territory. This creates an easy opportunity for Iran and Russia to exploit Kurdish divisions and militancy to push back against Turkey.
While pursuing an extraordinarily complicated energy plan in Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey is also trying to edge its way into the Eastern Mediterranean energy scene. Both Israel and Cyprus have seen their offshore natural gas export plans stall because of export and regulatory obstacles while Egypt has emerged as the new potential natural gas hub of the region. As the debate continues over the many proposals for pipelines and LNG export terminals, Turkey will have added urgency to prod along reunification talks in Cyprus to remove one of the key blocks to Turkey's energy integration with its estranged eastern Mediterranean neighbors.
The most geopolitically compatible energy source for Turkey is Azerbaijan, which is preparing to send 6 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Turkey starting from 2019 through the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (and another 10 bcm that will be sent onward to Europe through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline). This will help Turkey shave down its energy dependence on Russia by about 12 percent, but Turkey will still need to look elsewhere to truly loosen Russia's grip. The Caucasus, like the Middle East, will redevelop into another big arena for Turkish-Russian competition. Russia is already hard at work trying to pull Baku closer to the Kremlin through diplomatic maneuvering over Nagorno-Karabakh and will do what it can to obstruct plans by Turkey and Azerbaijan to create an energy link across the Caspian with Turkmenistan.
The Turkish Awakening
Four years ago, Stratfor co-hosted a simulation in Istanbul with the Turkish Industry and Business Association to paint a picture of the energy world in 2040 and Turkey's place in that world. We saw a world in which a reluctant Turkey was inevitably going to be drawn into conflicts in the Middle East and with Russia, making it all the more imperative for Turkey to strategize a future that would deny Russia the ability to cripple Turkey economically. Then-Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (now prime minister) concluded the simulation with a message that Turkey is "not about to follow a new expansionist policy" and that Turkey's way of coping with energy challenges is to take advantage of its geographic position and maintain a stable relationship with its neighbors.
This was a time when Davutoglu's "zero problems with neighbors" policy was still clouding the vision of the Turkish political elite. The policy proved to be shortsighted, but was also expected from a country that was awakening from a decadeslong geopolitical slumber and was in no mood to create trouble in the region. But all the signs were there: Russia was already making aggressive moves in its near abroad, the European Union was showing early signs of unraveling and the Syrian civil war was just getting started.
Four short years later, Turkey has shot down a fighter jet belonging to its main energy supplier and is preparing for a military push into its Mideast rim. And Putin now has to figure out how to manage a Turkey that is much more willing to work with the United States and its Central and Eastern European peers to balance Moscow's aggressions. Ankara has been suppressed for some time, but there is no denying it now: Turkey's time has come.
Erdogan hearts Hitler
Reply #106 on:
January 01, 2016, 07:23:20 PM »
Re: Erdogan hearts Hitler
Reply #107 on:
January 03, 2016, 09:44:45 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 01, 2016, 07:23:20 PM
The muslim world hearts Hitler.
Russian Imperialism vs. Ottoman Grandeur
Reply #108 on:
January 06, 2016, 10:09:09 PM »
Russian Imperialism Meets Delusions of Ottoman Grandeur
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
December 31, 2015
Be the first of your friends to like this.
Slightly edited version of an article originally published under the title "Russian Imperialism Meets Illusions of Ottoman Grandeur."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) says he doesn't understand why Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) intervened in Syria, since Russia "does not even border Syria."
In a 2012 speech, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister, predicted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days in power were numbered and that he would depart "within months or weeks." Almost three and a half years have passed, with Assad still in power, and Davutoglu keeps on making one passionate speech after another about the fate of Syria.
Turkey's failure to devise a credible policy on Syria has made the country's leaders nervous. Both Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have lately resorted to more aggressive, but less convincing, rhetoric on Syria. The new rhetoric features many aspects of a Sunni Islamist thinking blended with delusions of Ottoman grandeur.
On December 22, Davutoglu said, "Syrian soil is not, and will not be, part of Russia's imperialistic goals." That was a relief to know! All the same, Davutoglu could have been more direct and honest if he said that: "Syrian soil will not be part of Russia's imperialistic goals because we want it to be part of Turkey's pro-Sunni, neo-Ottoman imperialistic goals."
Erdogan's rhetoric on Syria blends Sunni Islamist thinking with delusions of Ottoman grandeur.
It is obvious that Davutoglu's concern is not about a neighboring territory becoming a theater of war before it serves any foreign nation's imperialistic goals. His concern, rather, is that neighboring soil will become a theater of war and serve a pro-Shiite's imperialist goals. Hardly surprising.
"What," Davutoglu asked Russia, "is the basis of your presence in Syria?" The Russians could unconvincingly reply to this unconvincing question: "Fighting terror, in general, and ISIL in particular." But then Davutoglu claims that the Russian military hits more "moderates" (read: merely jihadist killers, not to be mixed with jihadist barbarians who behead people and cheerfully release their videos). Translation: more Islamist targets and fewer ISIL targets.
A legitimate question to ask the Turkish prime minister might be: What is the basis of "moderate" Islamists' presence in Syria?
Could the basis be the religious bond? Could Prime Minister Davutoglu have politely reminded the Russians that the "moderate" fighters are Muslim whereas Russia is not? But then, one should ask, using Davutoglu's logic, "What is the basis of the U.S.-led Western coalition's airstrikes in Syria?" Since when are the Americans, British, Germans and French Muslims?
In Turkish thinking, there is just one difference between non-Muslim Russia's presence in Syria and non-Muslim allies' presence: The non-Muslim Russians seriously threaten the advancement of our pro-Sunni sectarian war in the Levant, whereas the non-Muslim allies can be instrumental in favor of it. Hence Turkey's selective objection to some of the non-Muslim players in Syria.
For Davutoglu, only countries with regional ambitions convergent with Turkey's have the right to tamper in former Ottoman lands.
Earlier in 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he found it difficult to understand what Russia was doing in Syria, since "it does not even border Syria." By that logic, Turkey should not be "doing anything" in the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan or any of the non-bordering lands into which its neo-Ottoman impulses have pushed it over the past several years. By the same logic, also, Turkey should be objecting to any allied (non-Muslim) intervention in Syria, or to any Qatari or Saudi (non-bordering) intervention in the Syrian theater.
In the unrealistic imperial Turkish psyche, only Turkey and the countries that pursue regional ambitions convergent with Turkey's can have any legitimate right to design or re-design the former Ottoman lands.
Such self-righteous and assertive thinking can hardly comply with international law. The Turks and their imperial ambitions have already been declared unwelcome in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Nor would such ambitions be welcomed in any former Ottoman land to Turkey's west. But if, as Turkey's Islamists are programmed to believe, "historical and geographical bonds" give a foreign nation the right to design a polity in another nation, what better justification could the Russians have had for their post-imperial designs in Crimea?
When they have a moment of distraction from their wars against Western values, the West, Israel, Jews or infidels, the Sunni and Shiite Islamists in the Middle East fight subtle-looking (but less subtle than they think) and cunning (but less cunning than they think) wars and proxy wars, and accuse each other of pursuing sectarian policies. Turkey's rulers are no exception.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Erdogan goes after free speech
Reply #109 on:
January 30, 2016, 09:26:48 PM »
Turkey's Free Speech Assault is Beyond 'Worrying'
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
January 27, 2016
A criminal indictment was filed against Sedat Ergin (left), editor-in-chief of the country's most influential newspaper, Hurriyet, for allegedly insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right).
Defending his quest for an executive presidential system Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited Hitler's Germany as an effective form of government. Yes, he said, you can have the presidential system in a unitary state as in Hitler's Germany. His office later claimed that the president's "Hitler's Germany" metaphor had been "distorted" by the media. Erdogan's words on Hitler's Germany may or may not have been distorted, but the way he rules Turkey reminds one powerfully of how Hitler ruled the Third Reich.
With or without a distortion of Erdogan's words, a criminal indictment was filed against Sedat Ergin, editor-in-chief of the country's most influential newspaper, Hurriyet. Prosecutors demanded up to five years in prison for Ergin, for allegedly insulting Erdogan. The indictment claims that Hurriyet insulted the president by paraphrasing his Sept. 6, 2015 remarks about an attack by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on the Iraqi border, which killed 16 Turkish soldiers.
Such insane charges are no longer news in Erdogan's Turkey. On Jan. 11, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the host and the producer of a popular talk show on charges of "terrorist propaganda." The move came after a caller, identifying herself as a schoolteacher, protested the civilian casualties during recent security operations against the PKK. The caller was urging the public to raise its voice against the deaths of "unborn children, babies and mothers." She did not even mention the PKK.
500 journalists were reportedly fired in Turkey last year, while 70 others were subjected to physical violence.
According to a report by the Turkish Journalists Association, 500 journalists were fired in Turkey in 2015, while 70 others were subjected to physical violence. Thirty journalists remain in prison, mostly on terrorism charges. Needless to say, the unfortunate journalists invariably are known to be critical of Erdogan.
Journalists are not the only ones threatened by a judiciary and law enforcement apparatus staunchly loyal to Erdogan. On Jan. 15, police detained scores of academics whom Erdogan had labeled "dark people" for signing a declaration that denounced military operations against the PKK.
Over 1,100 Turkish and 300 foreign academics signed the declaration that Turkish prosecutors think "insulted the state and engaged in terrorist propaganda on behalf of the PKK." Just before the arrests, Erdogan decried the signatories and called on the judiciary to act against the "treachery."
"Just because they have titles such as professor, doctor in front of their names does not make them enlightened. These are dark people," Erdogan said. "They are villains and vile because those who side with the villains are villains themselves."
In their declaration, these "traitors" said they refused to be "a party to the crime" and called on the government to halt what they called a "massacre."
One convicted mafia leader, a notoriously nationalistic man, publicly threatened the signatories that "we will take a shower in their blood." Unlike the "terrorist" academics, he has not so far been indicted for that threat.
"For Turkish democracy (whatever that is) this is yet another low. It confirms that this is a 'democracy' with rapidly diminishing freedom of speech. It is 'democracy' where the 'voice of the nation,' which practically is the voice of the political majority and its glorified leader, intimidates and silences dissenting voices," wrote Hurriyet columnist Mustafa Akyol.
The Turkish Justice Ministry's statistics perhaps best explain the huge democracy deficit in the Turkey of Erdogan. Turkey's prisons have a total capacity to house 180,176 inmates. As of January 13, Turkey had a total of 179,611 inmates, meaning that there will not be any space if Turkish prosecutors detain just 565 more.
Europe, cherishing its "transactional" relations with Turkey, prefers to look the other way. All of this is happening not in Germany of the late 1930s but in Turkey of the 21st century. Meanwhile, Europe, cherishing its "transactional" relations with Turkey, prefers to look the other way and whistle. All the European Union could say about the prosecution of the academics who signed the declaration was that it is "extremely worrying." Brussels cannot see that Turkish affairs passed the threshold of "extremely worrying" a long time ago.
Prominent journalist Can Dundar, who has been in jail on terrorism charges since Nov. 26, was right when he wrote in an open letter to Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, that "the rapprochement between Turkey and the European Union over refugees should not overshadow violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey during the country's EU accession process."
In reality, Turkey's irregularities are too big to be hidden behind the usual diplomatic words such as "concern" and "worrying." Ahead of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's meeting in London with Britain's David Cameron, more than two dozen prominent writers, including David Hare, Tom Stoppard, Hari Kunzru, William Boyd, Ali Smith, Sarah Waters and Monica Ali, called on the British prime minister to urge the Turkish government to halt its crackdown on freedom of speech.
The English, Welsh and Scottish branches of PEN put it in plain language: "Over the past five months, intimidation, threats and even physical assaults against journalists, writers and publishers have become the norm [in Turkey]."
Turkey is now more than "worrying."
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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