Tuesday 23 February 2016

News from Turkey - 02/22/2016


Turkish Foreign Minister said that any ground operation inside Syria would need to involve all countries of US-led coalition against ISIS terrorists.
22 February, 2016
On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said to a press conference that Turkey and Saudi Arabia currently have no plan for a ground operation into Syria.
Cavusoglu said that any ground operation inside Syria would need to involve all countries of US-led coalition against ISIS terrorists.
 “A land operation of Saudi Arabia and Turkey in Syria has never been on the agenda, and it is not on the agenda.” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

A Turkish official said last week that Turkey views ground operations as necessary and would be a willing partner if the notion got approval from a broader coalition. He also claimed that Turkey would protect their interests in Northern Syria by any means, as well as support of Turkoman and Syrian opposition. Now Turkey changed its position on sending troops in Syria.
It is reported by a western media citing a Turkish official that Turkey raised the issue in recent talks with the U.S. and other Western nations.
On Sunday Saudi prince said that the US-led airstrikes in Syria had been ineffective and a ground intervention was needed in Syria.
Earlier this month Saudi announced that the country was ready to send Special Forces to Syria if the US-led coalition decides to send ground troops.
It is widely believed that Saudi Arabia and Turkey had been supporting terrorist groups against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Some analyst suggested that Turkish approach changed rapidly. They considered it a result of the US pressure on Turkey after the agreement between Russia and the US is reached in Munich.
The Syrian Center for Policy Research published a report that said, the conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people since March 2011.

Turkey Backs Down From Invasion Rhetoric

Турция сделала заявление по наземной операции в Сирии

All the countries of the (NATO) coalition should participate in ground operations in Syria. This statement was made by Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

The Turkish Minister added that the issue of conducting such operations is not on the agenda and is not worth it, RIA Novosti reported.
As a reminder, Turkey and Saudi Arabia support the adoption of ground military operations in Syria. Since February 14th, the Turkish military has shelled the positions of the Kurdish militia in Northern Syria. Reports of the presence of Turkish soldiers in Syria has not been confirmed.

Turkey is screwed. And it’s all US fault

by Arras
Saker drawing from community
22 February, 2015

Amid rising tensions between Turkey and Russia over the situation in Syria, one important fact got lost. It’s not Russia that caused the current Turkish problems. It was the USA.
The most fundamental problem modern Turkey is facing is the Kurdish question. It’s a chronic problem, which threatens the integrity of Turkey and the Turkish elite perceives it as the largest security treat the country is facing. Turkish policies in Syria are determined by the Kurdish issue more than anything else. The change from the so called policy of zero problems with neighbors, which Erdogan and his government used to promote, came as a surprise to many and is directly related to the Kurdish issue and the events in Iraq after the disastrous US invasion.
Here, a little historical excursion is needed. When the modern Turkish state was created on the ashes of the Ottoman empire following defeat in WWI, it was seeking a new identity on which it could successfully establish itself. The new young Turkish elite chose the model of nationalism, at that time a progressive concept so popular in contemporary Europe.
Turkey, just like some of its European counterparts, was however faced with the imperial heritage of diverse ethnic groups living on its newly established territory. There were large and ancient communities of Greeks, Armenians, Kurds and many other people living in Anatolia and the European part of Turkey. Ethnic Turks themselves were relative newcomers to these parts of the world, having arrived only in the 11th century. Greeks and other ethnic groups, on the other hand, can trace their presence in what is now Turkey well into the Bronze Age and beyond (3300-1200 BC).
The Turks managed to solve the Greek question after the Graeco-Turkish war of 1919-1922 and the large exchange of population which followed it. Most Greeks left Turkey and Turkey received an influx of ethnic Turks from Greece in return. The Armenian question got solved already during WWI in what many call the Armenian genocide. Term which Turkey fiercely opposes. It was a forceful deportation of Armenians into the Syrian desert. It is estimated that about 1.5 million of them died. Turkey acknowledges the fact of the deportation, but claims that loss of life was an unintended consequence rather than a deliberate act.
One ethnic question which Turkey however did not manage to solve is the Kurdish question. The Kurds are an ancient community of Iranian people who accepted Islam. They were skilled soldiers and played an important role in Islamic armies, including the Seljuk and the Ottoman. Indeed, the most famous historical Kurdish figure is Saladin (name under which he is known in the West), a Muslim general who reconquered Jerusalem during the Crusades and a sultan of Egypt and Syria.
The Turks tried to solve the Kurdish issue by straightforward assimilation. They announced that from now on, Kurds are simply „Eastern Turks“ and banned the Kurdish language. The Kurds resisted and the Turks answered with repression, forced relocation, discrimination and heavy handed military crackdown. Kurds in Turkey are since then in de facto constant rebellion and a, sometimes less sometimes more intense, war with the Turkish government, which claimed thousands of lives on both sides.
Despite having an advantage in numbers and equipment, Turkey seems to be slowly losing this war. It is estimated that Kurds make up to about 20% of the Turkish population and Kurdish families have about double the birthrate of Turkish ones. In a few decades, this will eventually lead to a situation when there will be more Kurdish than Turkish men of military age in Turkey.
To make matters worse for Turkey, Kurds do not live only in Turkey. Thanks to the post colonial legacy and arbitrariness of borders, which France and Britain drew in the sands, plains and hills of the Middle East, similarly sized Kurdish communities live in the neighboring countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran. Together they inhabit one large, almost continuous area called Kurdistan. Fortunately for the Turks, the Kurds in these countries until recently faced similar persecution as in Turkey. All these countries perceive their Kurds as a threat to their territorial integrity. The most well know episode of this repression came when Saddam Hussein used poison gas on Kurds in Northern Iraq. That was by no means an exclusive example, but one which at the time suited Western interests in the Middle East and thus received widespread publicity in Western media. After decades of silent complicity. Which brings us back to the cause of the recent change in Turkish policies and the rising tension on Turkish-Syrian border.
When the USA decided to invade Iraq in 2003, Turkey correctly concluded that the operation is pure hazard with an unpredictable outcome. In a hope of minimizing the negative impact on Turkey itself, they decided to keep strict neutrality and to not intervene, and went so far as to refuse to allow their US and British NATO allies to use Turkish territory and bases for an attack.
The US attack on Iraq and the occupation led to an all out civil war inside the country and eventually broke Iraq into de facto Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parts. All of a sudden Turkey was faced not just with Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey, but, for the first time. also with (de facto) an independent Kurdish state right on its borders which could provide a safe haven (regroup and supply) area for Kurds from inside Turkey. That was a disaster. The Turks tried to deal with the situation with limited military incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan, attempts to buy Kurdish leaders and reliance on the ability of their US partners to keep the Kurds in check and prevent damage. Something the Americans turned out not to be very capable at. Perhaps even not willing.
The lesson Erdogan and the Turkish leadership sees to have learned from the events in Iraq was likely that abstaining from conflicts in the region will not shield Turkey from negative consequences and, if Turkey can not prevent these conflicts, it’s better that Turkey participates in them and thus is at last able to protect its interests by influencing the outcome.
When the USA and their NATO allies decided to change regimes in Northern Africa and engaged in yet another imperial adventure in Libya, following initial reluctance, Turkey agreed to join. And when the USA then decided to start a war in Syria, Turkey jumped on the wagon, probably on the promise of a quick victory and the instalment of a new government of the Muslim Brotherhood, friendly to Turkey and its ruling party. Ankara might have even expected such a government to be a Turkish client. That certainly was the expectation of Riyadh, another unfortunate victim of US Middle Eastern policies.
As is the rule with similar US foreign policies, they seldom work as advertised. When Assad proved to be resilient, Ankara and Riyadh were expecting Washington to do what it did in Libya and intervene under the pretext of a no fly zone and an alleged protection of civilians, a pretext well tested already in Yugoslavia. No man however steps into the same river twice, wisdom already ancient Greeks understood. After the disaster in Libya, opposition to intervention, led prominently by Russia and China, proved to be stronger, and support inside the USA and their British and French allies weaker than might have been anticipated. A no fly zone did not materialize. Of note is, that Turks and Saudis were its most outspoken proponents and they insist on establishing a no fly zone in Syria (euphemism for a US led intervention) till today. Meanwhile, Obama’s administration walked away, quietly thankful to the Russians for the face saving pretext in form of the chemical weapons deal.
Regime change in Syria thus had to be accomplished solely through proxies in the form of a colorful collection of various more or less disgusting Sunny Islamic groups, both local and foreign. Turkey and Saudi Arabia engaged in an enthusiastic support of these groups; openly supporting those under the moderate name, and less openly others, while publicly pretending to fight them as radicals and terrorists. In reality. the only group Turkey ever really fought in Syria were Kurds. Which is ironically probably the only significant opposition group in Syria which really deserves name moderate. Despite the catastrophic heterogeneity of these opposition groups, which are willing to fight each other as much as they are willing to fight Syrian government, it seemed that the government will be eventually worn down in a war of attrition.
But then came the unexpected Russian intervention and, against all assurances from Washington about the Russians having another Afghanistan, it managed to turn the tables and forced the rebels to what is increasingly looking like an all-out retreat. This is a disaster of epic proportions for Turkey. Instead of a friendly regime of the Muslim Brotherhood type in Damascus, which Ankara would be able to control, they are faced with the creation of a second Kurdish independent state on their borders. That’s what has sent the Turkish leadership into panic mode and that’s why the Turks are seemingly irrationally rising tensions on the border with Syria. In my opinion, the downing of the Russian plane, the shelling of Kurds and the concentration of military forces on the border, accompanied with aggressive rhetoric, are not so much meant to threaten Russia or Assad, they are first of all desperate attempts to force Washington to lead an invasion in Syria at last. Which is probably something Washington itself made Ankara and Riyadh expect in the first place. Now Washington is being seen dragging their feet and backing out. Neither Turkey, nor Saudi Arabia are likely to invade alone.
To conclude, the US policies of destabilizing countries and whole regions to suit their geopolitical and economic interests in the last decade or two proved to be often as damaging to US allies as they are to US opponents. If not more. Another case in point of course is the European migration crisis. What effect is that going to have on relations between the USA and their allies on one side, and US opponents on the other, remains to be seen. But it is reasonable to expect that dissatisfaction with US leadership will be on the rise.

Turkey’s difficult times

Nuray Mert

23 February, 2016

Turkey is in a de facto war-like situation, even if it is not de jure yet. The warmonger supporters of the government have already started to celebrate “the new war of independence” in the name of “revenge for the suppression of Turks as leaders of Muslims” and the end of the “cursed 20th century” to go “back to future glorious times.”

In fact, Turkey’s proxy war started with its Syrian affair and only recently turned into a de facto war-like situation. From the beginning, Turkey has been so involved in the Syrian war that the so-called opposition Syrians have long been accommodated, organized and allowed to travel freely to and from Syria. Nevertheless, it is only recently that some Turkish citizens have begun to openly travel to Syria to fight alongside Turkmens or whomever they like. Some Turkish journalists started to feel free to interview those who are fighting in Syria in the name of their country or God, with some of these volunteers calling the land of Syria “part of the land of their Ottoman ancestors.” Finally, it has become an official policy to fight against Kurdish fighters of the Democratic Union Party/People’s Protection Units (PYD/YPG) as the Turkish army has been shelling Kurdish positions from the border, and increasing numbers of volunteers are crossing the border to join the fight against the PYD/YPG. Therefore, it seems that we are almost at war.

Nevertheless, Turkey’s undeclared war-like situation is becoming increasingly controversial since Turkey is fighting against an ally (the YPG) of Turkey’s Western allies. That is why Turkey has recently been trying hard to convince its Western friends that YPG is another terrorist organization that is no different from ISIL and that it is legitimate to fight against it.

Then, at a critical moment last week, a bomb blast hit Ankara, killing 28 and injuring many. Shortly after the terrible event, the security services determined the PYD/YPG to be responsible for the attack, according to the Turkish government. We, the citizens of Turkey, are not supposed to inquire more and to be skeptical about what the prime minister declares, especially if the country is at war. Nonetheless, we as citizens do not know if the country is at war or not, and, if so, who is the friend and who is the foe? As far as we know, our government is a part of the coalition against ISIL along with its Western allies, but how is it that the Kurdish friends of our allies are our enemies? In short, we are merely living in limbo.

Worst of all, our allies do not seem to be “convinced” by our government’s “findings” concerning responsibility for the Ankara attack. Indeed, nobody other than Turkey’s citizens who are obliged to believe in whatever their government says would feel convinced that the PYD/YPG would do such a thing that would endanger its relations with the Western powers and will tarnish its legitimacy as a strong partner on the ground in the fight against ISIL in Syria. In fact, the PYD and YPG denied any involvement in the attack. Moreover, a violent Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), recently declared responsibility.

Perhaps the Turkish government is “mistaken” or is “too focused” on the threat from the PYD/YPG that it has emerged to be a usual suspect; or perhaps the PYD/YPG has turned out to be totally irrational? No matter what, Turkey’s quick inquiry and rapid fact finding was doomed to raise skepticism, and it seems not to have worked politically in favor of Turkey.

On the contrary, the latest event will further portray Turkey as a trouble maker that is doing everything to complicate matters for its allies and hinder the fight against ISIL. Under the circumstances, Turkey’s constant refusal to be a cooperative ally seems to be working against it, further discrediting Turkey as an ally and further diminishing its role as a serious actor in regional politics. Finally, the word of “ally” has become an empty signifier since Turkey accuses even its best allies of plotting against it.

Last but not the least, the president and his party is acting as if we are also involved in a domestic war against “internal enemies” – namely anybody who does not offer unconditional support to the governing party and its leader, be it political Kurds, leftists, liberals, democrats, secularists or simply environmentalists.

In short, Turkey’s rulers seem to have too many wars to fight against too many enemies. It seems that we who live in this country will lose, regardless of who wins these wars. We already have humanitarian crises in the Kurdish-populated region, and hundreds of people have already died in the conflicts, if not more. Besides, more than 200 have died in bombings that have not really been illuminated in less than a year. God knows what’s going to happen next.


Turkey: We have the right to conduct operations in Syria, says Erdogan

Expert: NATO Will Not Like Greece's Offer to Let Russian Ships Bypass Turkey

[Click here for the background to the story]

Doctor of Economics and Professor of MGIMO, Valentin Katasonov,  believes that such a proposal can be approved at the highest level, because avoiding shipping through the Bosporus and Dardanelles will be able to significantly reduce dependence on Turkey, with whom relations have deteriorated during the operation of the Russian Federation in Syria.

"I think the cooperation is not limited to interaction at the level of the chamber of Commerce, it will be connected later to a higher level of inter-state relations. The question, of course, is on a national scale. We really need to exit the Mediterranean sea bypassing the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. Another alternative is the channel on the inside of Iran, such a project existed about a hundred years ago. This option is also being quite seriously discussed," said Katasonov to RT.

Despite the fact that the Greek mayor's proposal to help Russia in ensuring security and continuity of international transportation, due to the exclusion of Turkey certain risks will be retained, said the expert.

"There are certain risks to Greece who still need to drop off the goods. Not all transit countries are friendly to Russia, so it is necessary to analyze the existence of risks in relation to the inland transportation of cargo. Special investment in land transport is not necessary, so this option is possible", said Katasonov.

Valentin Katasonov noted that such a move would not be welcomed by NATO, and Greece would be made to pay for their decision, as the country is in a very difficult financial situation.

"It will be painfully received by Western countries and NATO, Greece has nowhere to go — last summer they signed an agreement with the IMF and the EU for three years, but already by the summer of 2016, the situation will heat up, and the hot issues that were discussed in 2015, including the country's withdrawal from the EU, will probably return. So the Greeks are counting on alternative options," concluded the expert.

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