JWG via DTN 15 January 2023 JT and Rae have been reading the tar baby saga and are trying hard…
Turkey 2018 – March 2020
EU tells Turkey to pull migrants back from Greek border
(Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sought more European support on Monday over the war in Syria and for hosting millions of Syrian refugees, but was told he must first stop encouraging migrants to cross into Greece.
Turkey hosts about 3.6 million refugees from Syria under a deal it agreed with the EU in 2016 in return for billions of euros in aid for the refugees.
But it has become frustrated with what it regards as too little European support over the war in Syria, where its troops are facing off against Russian-backed government forces and have suffered growing casualties.
Putin and Erdogan Reach Accord to Halt Fighting in Syria
As President Vladimir V. Putin welcomed Turkey’s leader to Moscow, his primary goal is to protect his long-term project of dividing NATO.
(NYT) After six hours of talks at the Kremlin, the presidents of Russia and Turkey on Thursday announced what they said was a deal to halt fighting in the Syrian region of Idlib, calming a volatile conflict that had pushed the two countries to the brink of open war.
They said the agreement included a cease-fire that would come into force in Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian rebels, at midnight. The agreement also included joint patrols by Russian and Turkish troops of a seven-mile wide corridor along a highway that runs through Idlib eastward from the Mediterranean coast toward the border with Iraq.
The deal, like a previous agreement over Idlib reached by Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan in September 2018, is unlikely to end the war in Syria, which began nine years ago and has killed as many as 400,000 people, most of them civilians. Nor was it clear if Mr. Assad, who was not part of the deal, would respect it.
3 – 4 March
Clashes erupt on Greece-Turkey border as migrants seek entry
(AP) — Greek authorities fired tear gas and stun grenades Wednesday morning to repulse a push by migrants to cross its land border from Turkey, as pressure continued along its frontier after Turkey said its own border with Europe was open to whoever wanted to cross.
Turkish authorities said one person was killed and five were wounded by fire coming from the Greek side — an assertion the Greek government strongly rejected as “fake news.”
Turkey made good on a threat to open its borders and send migrants into Europe last week. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s action triggered days of violent clashes at the land border, where thousands of migrants and refugees have gathered.
The new migration crisis at Europe’s borders
(AP) — Facing a potential wave of nearly a million people fleeing fighting in northern Syria, Turkey has thrown open its borders with Greece to thousands of refugees and other migrants trying to enter Europe, and has threatened to send “millions” more.
Greece responded by closing the land border, rushing in military and police reinforcements, and tried to stop migrant boats attempting the short but perilous crossing from the Turkish coast to its eastern islands.
Tension at the Greece-Turkey border is at boiling point after Ankara said it would not stop people heading for the EU.
(Al Jazeera) Greece has accused Turkish authorities of systematically issuing misleading statements regarding the movement of asylum-seekers on the border after Ankara last week announced it would no longer block their passage to Europe.
Can Putin and Erdogan end the fighting in Idlib? Only if one of them backs down
(Globe & Mail) Idlib has seen seven bloody days of something close to all-out war between the Turkish army and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which is supported by Moscow. In an effort to internationalize the Idlib crisis, Mr. Erdogan’s government has bussed tens of thousands of refugees to the borders of Europe this week, ending a 2015 deal that saw the European Union pay Turkey to prevent refugees from travelling onwards.
Much of what happens next will be decided between Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan, like-minded authoritarians who have maintained a strong personal relationship even as they backed opposing sides in Syria’s civil war. As recently as a December summit, NATO leaders were fretting about the increasingly close ties between Russia and Turkey, which included a Turkish purchase of sophisticated Russian anti-aircraft systems.
The personal warmth between Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan was always at odds with the cold realities on the ground in Syria, and specifically in Idlib, which is the last part of the country outside the Assad regime’s control. Mr. Erdogan is seeking to prevent a fresh refugee influx into Turkey – there are currently an estimated one million people living in makeshift camps on the Syrian side of the Turkish border – by creating a “safe zone” in Idlib that some of the 3.7 million Syrian refugees already living in Turkey could also later be returned to.
Those aims are fundamentally at odds with Mr. Putin’s goal of helping Mr. Assad recapture his entire country, in large part so that Mr. Putin can declare victory and bring Russian troops home
Russia says rebel positions in Syria’s Idlib have merged with Turkish army posts
(Reuters) – Russia’s Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday that fortified rebel positions in Syria’s Idlib province had merged with Turkish observation posts, and that artillery attacks on nearby civilian areas and Russia’s air base in Syria had become daily. The allegations, made by Major-General Igor Konashenkov, are likely to increase tensions ahead of a planned meeting on Syria in Moscow on Thursday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan’s Empty Threats
Turkey’s decision to allow migrants to cross into the European Union was intended to pressure EU leaders to come to Ankara’s aid against Bashar al-Assad. It isn’t working.
(Foreign Policy) In the past three days, thousands of people have traveled from all over the country to try their luck at a new and more stable life. The majority are Afghans, with scores of Syrians, Iranians, Palestinians, Moroccans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and migrants from various East African countries. By the end of the day on Feb. 29, between 2,000 and 4,000 people had amassed in front of Greek border patrol, while others were spread out in groups among the trees on the Turkish side.
Turkey-Syria conflict escalates as migrants, refugees arrive at Greece border
(Global) Turkey’s decision to ease border restrictions came amid a Russia-backed Syrian government offensive into Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. That offensive has killed dozens of Turkish troops and led to a surge of nearly a million Syrian civilians fleeing the fighting toward Turkey’s sealed border. Erdogan’s decision open his country’s borders with Europe made good on a longstanding threat to let refugees into the continent. His announcement marked a dramatic departure from a previous policy of containment, an apparent attempt to pressure Europe into offering Turkey more support in dealing with the fallout from the Syrian war to its south.
Erdogan says he hopes for Idlib ceasefire deal in Putin talks
(Al Jazeera) The strategic town of Saraqeb has already changed hands twice in less than a month during heavy fighting.
Syrian forces entered parts of a strategic rebel-held town on Monday as Turkey said it would keep hitting President Bashar al-Assad’s troops after ramping up operations in its biggest intervention yet into the Syrian civil war.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hopes to reach a deal on a ceasefire in Syria’s northwest when he meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin later in the week.
“I will go to Moscow on Thursday to discuss the developments in Syria,” Erdogan told members of his party in the capital, Ankara.
29 Feb – 1 March
Turkey Declares Major Offensive Against Syrian Government
After suffering its worst casualties in years, Turkey is openly declaring war against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey shoots down two Syrian fighter jets over Idlib
Syrian media says no one hurt in the Turkish attack over Idlib with pilots parachuting to safety.
(Al Jazeera) Turkey’s military shot down two Syrian government fighter jets over northwest Idlib, hours after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad brought down a Turkish drone over the region.
The shootdowns came as Turkey announced a full-scale military operation dubbed “Spring Shield” against Syrian targets.
The Syrian military’s Al-Nayrab airport, on the outskirts of Aleppo city, was hit by air attacks “making it out of service”, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency cited “local sources” as saying.
Idlib: ‘A crisis on a monumental scale’ (video)
UN official Mark Cutts says this is not the time for people to take their eye off Syria.
Acknowledging that war crimes have been committed by “all sides”, Cutts points out that “the majority of the civilian deaths and injuries in the Idlib area have been caused by air strikes and shelling carried out by Syrian government forces and their allies”.
“We know this very well and we’ve been calling on all of them repeatedly”, Cutts added.
He urged the international community to work towards a political solution to the humanitarian crisis and called on people around the world to pressure their governments to act.
Turkey, Pressing E.U. for Help in Syria, Threatens to Open Borders to Refugees
Turkish news outlets showed live broadcasts of migrants traveling to the border with Greece, hinting at a revival of the 2015 crisis that shook Europe.
Dyer: Turkey’s ‘final warnings’ could mean war with Russia in Syria
Turkey has not won a war against Russia since the 1600s, though there have been at least half a dozen of them. You’d think even the most aggressive Turkish leader would try to avoid another one, but you’d be wrong.
President Recep Tayyib Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for the last 17 years, says he is going to start a war with Russia at month’s end. Just in Syria, of course, where both Turkey and Russia have been meddling in the civil war for years. He’s not completely deranged.
“We are making our final warnings,” Erdogan said Wednesday. “We did not reach the desired results in our talks (with Russia) . . . . A (Turkish) offensive in Idlib is only a matter of time.”
Turkey’s unpalatable choices in Syria
(Brookings) In the near term, Turkey needs to create a secure zone for the people fleeing the deepening humanitarian crisis in Idlib. At the same time, Ankara should reassess its hard-line, zero-sum approach to the Syrian Kurds. The contradiction is one that Ankara must address.
At the same time, Ankara needs to redress the imbalance in its relations with Russia and the West by re-strengthening its Western ties. Otherwise, as has been the case in recent years, Turkey’s constant fluctuation between Russia and the West will only deepen its woes in its foreign and security policy.
Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib is experiencing a deepening humanitarian crisis. As the Russia-backed Syrian regime pushes to retake this last major enclave of the Syrian opposition, hundreds of thousands of people have fled towards Turkey’s borders.
As the main backer of the opposition in Syria, Ankara has desperately tried to convince Moscow to halt the Syrian regime’s offensive, but to little avail. Aggravating the matter, the Syrian regime killed 13 Turkish soldiers in two deadly Russia-backed attacks in the past week.
Whereas differences between the U.S. and Turkey over the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), particularly in northeastern Syria, drove them apart, Russian acquiescence to Turkey’s military operations against the SDF in northwestern Syria brought them closer.
Therefore, the glue of Moscow-Ankara relations was Syria — to be more precise, the Syrian Kurds. Furthermore, the two countries’ cooperation on Syria has become more structured through Russian-led Astana and Sochi processes since the end of 2016. These Syria-focused processes didn’t only seek to find a settlement for the Syrian crisis, they also reshaped Turkish-Russian relations.
… Beyond Syria, the strategic aspirations of Turkey and Russia, respectively, remain competitive in almost all of their shared neighborhood. The relationship is characterized by mistrust, not geopolitical convergence.
Erdogan vs. The World
Turkey president used to be a fairly competent strategist, but he has been in power too long and has lost the plot, writes Gwynne Dyer
In the heyday of the Islamic State in northern Syria and Iraq, it was Erdogan who kept the Turkish border open so that thousands of foreign fighters and their families could go to join that terrorist proto-state, which was a descendant of Osama bin Laden’s original al-Qaida organization.
More recently, he has stationed Turkish troops in Syria’s Idlib province, the one remaining rebel-held part of the country, where Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, another offshoot of al-Qaida, subjugated all the other rebel organizations last year and now rules unchallenged. Unchallenged, that is, except by Syrian army troops backed by Russian air power who are gradually winning back control on the province in a slow, grinding offensive that last week captured Idlib’s second-biggest city, Maarat al-Numan. So it’s no surprise that the Turkish army in Idlib is now firing directly on Syrian forces. … Erdogan is now playing with the prospect of a shooting war with Syria and Russia.
That would be enough on his plate, you might think, but he is also intervening in the civil war in Libya.
… He has also militarized a dispute with Greece and Cyprus over seabed oil and gas reserves, to the extent that Turkish fighter planes are now violating Greek airspace almost daily. And he has demanded that Athens demilitarizes 16 Greek islands that are close to the Turkish west coast (making them permanent hostages, totally vulnerable to Turkish invasion). France has now sent warships to the eastern Mediterranean, and president Emmanuel Macron has explained that “Greece and France are pursuing a new framework of strategic defence.” Defence against whom? Turkey, obviously
One reasonably small and successful war might actually benefit Erdogan by mobilizing Turkish nationalism, but three at once? Against Russian and Syria on one front, France and Egypt on another, and Greece plus France and perhaps other NATO and European Union members on a third.
Turkey has submitted a bill to parliament to allow it to deploy troops in Libya, as the conflict there intensifies. Turkey is allied with Libya’s UN-backed government, which is based in the capital, Tripoli. The move, which comes earlier than expected, marks an acceleration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans. The Libyan government has been fighting an insurgency by forces under Gen Khalifa Haftar based in eastern Libya.
Opposition does not approve…Turkey’s main opposition party said on Monday it opposes a bill to allow a troop deployment to Libya, arguing such a move would exacerbate the country’s conflict and cause it to spread across the region.
France, Egypt urge ‘restraint’ in Libya as Turkey weighs sending troops
The statement comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed readiness this month to send troops to Libya if requested by the country’s Government of National Accord (GNA).
The GNA is backed by the UN, but the addition of Turkish troops could further inflame tensions in a country torn by the devastating campaign of strongman Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army.
Turkey’s new Islamist elite has acquired a taste for conspicuous consumption
(WaPo) When he first came to power, Erdogan had refused to move from his modest pad in the outskirts of Ankara to the prime minister’s residence. Now he is marking his 18th year in power by boasting about life in one of the biggest single-family homes in the world. When critics noted scornfully that he’d built himself a thousand-room palace, he responded by saying, “Wrong — it has 1,150.”
Evidence is growing that Turkish Islamism, long regarded as an outgrowth of the provinces, is becoming increasingly urbanized, worldly and secular. Not even the remotest corners of society are immune to western tastes and passion for consumption. Political Islam, which once called on women to leave their homes to take part in election campaigns, is now having a hard time persuading them to go back.
Back in 2012, Erdogan pledged to raise a “devout generation.” But surveys conducted by Bekir Agirdir, a reputable pollster, show that the president’s efforts at social engineering have had the opposite effect.
U.S. Senate recognizes Armenian genocide over objections of Trump and Turkish government
(USA Today) In a stinging rebuke to Turkey, the Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide – marking a shift in U.S. policy despite repeated objections from the Trump administration.
The Senate’s action is historic, and it will almost certainly exacerbate U.S.-Turkey tensions. The genocide measure officially recognizes the systematic killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923.
President Donald Trump has cultivated a close relationship with Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – hosting Erdogan at the White House in November despite Turkey’s recent invasion of Syria. Until Thursday, Trump’s GOP allies in the Senate had repeatedly blocked the genocide measure.
Macron clashes with Erdoğan over anti-Isis Kurdish fighters
French president says Turkey should not pressure Nato to label Syrian Kurds as terrorists
Emmanuel Macron has confronted his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with his most direct warning yet that Ankara’s recent behaviour is not compatible with its Nato membership.
The French president said it was not acceptable for Turkey to threaten to block all the planned declarations at Wednesday’s Nato leaders meeting in London unless the rest of Nato agreed that Kurdish Syrian forces fighting Islamic State were terrorists.
Speaking alongside Donald Trump and before a meeting between Britain, France, Germany and Turkey in Downing Street, Macron also criticised Turkey for fighting alongside Isis proxies in Syria and for trying to use a Russian defence system that was incompatible with Nato technology.
Robin Wright: After Six Decades, Turkey Is Now a U.S. Ally in Name Only
After a tirade of tweets condemning the House impeachment hearings on the future of his Presidency, Donald Trump spent the rest of Wednesday trying to cajole his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, into coöperating —on anything. “We’ve been friends for a long time,” Trump told reporters, with the Turkish leader at his side, in the Oval Office. “I’m a big fan of the President,” he said later, at their joint press conference. Never mind that Trump repeatedly mangled Erdoğan’s name, as he also did during Erdoğan’s last visit, in 2017, albeit mispronouncing it in different ways.
Trump made no tangible headway, even though he dangled the bait of a trade deal worth a hundred billion dollars. The President’s latest foreign-policy flop was not all of his making, however. Under Erdoğan, Turkey has become increasingly brazen in defying the United States, the West, and even the NATO alliance to which it contributes the second-largest force.
In recent years, U.S. officials have complained that Turkey allowed jihadis to slip across its southern border to join ISIS, an Al Qaeda faction, and other militant groups in Syria. Turkey then invaded Syria, this fall, to fight the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia that defeated ISIS. Turkey has also cozied up to Russia militarily. It has coöperated with Iran, and a state-owned bank facilitated a multibillion-dollar Iranian scheme to evade U.S. sanctions. At home, Erdoğan has cracked down on political opponents, the media, business leaders, academics, and even his own military to consolidate his rule. Thousands have been arrested in violation of the human-rights principles of the European Union, which Turkey long sought to join.
12 – 13 November
Trump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama
(The Hill) President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will meet at the White House on Wednesday for a visit that has isolated the president from some of his strongest defenders on Capitol Hill and drawn criticism from his most loyal base of voters following Turkey’s attack on U.S.-allied Kurds in northeastern Syria.
Behind Trump’s Dealings With Turkey: Sons-in-Law Married to Power
Informal relationships between family members help explain the course of diplomacy between the White House and Turkey’s leader.
Operating both individually and in tandem, the three men have developed an informal, next-generation line of communication between Mr. Trump and his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who only weeks after his military incursion into northern Syria is scheduled to visit the White House on Wednesday.
At a moment when Mr. Trump has come under bipartisan criticism from Congress for a series of stands favorable to Mr. Erdogan, the ties among the three men show how informal and often-unseen connections between the two presidents have helped shape American policy in a volatile part of the world.
Mr. Erdogan predicted in a television interview this year that a private dialogue between Berat Albayrak, his son-in-law and finance minister, and Mr. Kushner would soon put “back on track” the vexed relations between Washington and Ankara.
[The third son-in-law is Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, who became a business partner of the Trump Organization. Now he advocates for Turkey with the Trump administration.]
Mr. Trump’s policy toward Turkey has confounded his fellow Republicans in Congress on a number of fronts. Mr. Trump twice surprised his own advisers by agreeing during phone calls with Mr. Erdogan to pull United States troops from northern Syria — and the second time, in early October, he followed through, clearing the way for Turkish forces to attack an American-backed militia there.
U.S. military imagery shows possible atrocities by Turkish-backed forces in Syria
(WaPo) Footage captured by U.S. surveillance aircraft over northern Syria has documented several incidents that military officials say may constitute war crimes on the part of Turkish-backed forces there, a U.S. official said.
If verified, the imagery could provide credibility to allegations that the offensive Turkey launched over Western objections last month has resulted in repeated abuses against Syrian Kurds who have been an important U.S. partner against the Islamic State.
A military U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an internal assessment, cautioned that it remains difficult based on the aerial footage alone to definitively determine what occurred in two similar incidents along a major Syrian highway in mid-October.
British founder of White Helmets found dead in Istanbul
James Le Mesurier, who set up Syrian rescue group, reportedly fell from balcony
It’s time to get US nukes out of Turkey
Given the sharp deterioration in U.S.-Turkish relations, the United States should withdraw its nuclear weapons from Incirlik, argues Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Steven Pifer.
U.S.-Turkish relations have plunged to a new nadir. In the past month, a senior Republican senator has suggested suspending Turkey’s membership in the NATO alliance, while the secretary of state implied a readiness to use military force against America’s wayward ally. In these circumstances, U.S. nuclear weapons have no business in Turkey. It is time to bring them home.
The signs of a strained and deteriorating relationship are hard to miss. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s increasingly autocratic leader, has turned away from both Europe and the United States. He instead is actively cultivating a close relationship with fellow authoritarian Vladimir Putin, as evidenced by their eight meetings just this year.
… Erdogan says he wants nuclear weapons. In September, he told his political party: “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads. But the West insists ‘we can’t have them.’ This, I cannot accept.”
Turkey is not the place to host U.S. nuclear arms.
House Passes Resolution Recognizing Armenian Genocide
(NYT) It is the first time that a chamber of Congress has officially designated the 1915 slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide.
Lawmakers had previously shirked from supporting such a resolution to preserve the United States’ relationship with Turkey, a NATO ally that has steadfastly denied that the atrocities amounted to genocide.
Livid at Turkey’s bloody military assault in northern Syria, some lawmakers saw an uneasy parallel between the Armenian genocide and the bitter warnings from Kurdish forces that the withdrawal of American forces would lead to the ethnic cleansing of their people.
Turkey’s invasion of Syria was predictable: A violent prelude to making a major deal to end the Syrian war
(Finnish Institute of International Affairs) Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish-led northeast Syria has been long in the making. For several years, the Turkish leadership has repeatedly vowed to wipe out the de facto autonomous regions run by the PKK-linked Kurdish PYD (Partiya Yekȋtiya Demokrat). This group, with its extension known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which also includes Arabs and Armenians for instance, has been a staunch US partner in the fight against the Islamic State (Daesh).
Turkey also has plans to settle a large number of mainly Arab Syrian refugees, who are currently in Turkey, in the predominantly Kurdish northeast. However, after the talks between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on 22 October, it has been confirmed that Russia, which acts as a major deterrence against Turkey’s invasion, will not accept any long-term Turkish occupation of Syrian territories, or the kind of massive population transfers planned by Turkey.
The reason why US officials decided to arm and support PKK-linked SDF forces was Turkey’s explicit refusal to prioritize the fight against Daesh. For Turkey, the PYD-run Kurdish enclave was always a much bigger problem. In the current situation, several problematic alliances formed during the Syrian conflict have begun to unravel.
Turkish and Kurdish Forces Said to Clash in Syria
Military forces maneuvered for position after an American withdrawal, apparently violating a United States-brokered cease-fire.
With American troops on the way out and their former allies falling back, the skirmishes on Thursday underscored that the future of northeastern Syria was largely in the hands of Turkey, the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and Mr. Assad’s patron, Russia.
Under an agreement on Tuesday between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Turkish, Russian and Syrian government troops will now share control of the swath of Syria vacated by the Americans and Kurdish-led forces.
The power shift was evident in other ways. Mr. Erdogan demanded Thursday that the United States hand over Mazlum Kobani, the Kurdish commander whose forces helped the United States drive the Islamic State out of Syria. Mr. Erdogan said he was “a terrorist” wanted for prosecution by Turkey.
Turkey’s Border Towns Pay Deadly Price for Erdogan’s Syria Incursion
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign against the Kurdish militia in Syria has led to at least 20 deaths at home and has reopened old wounds in southeast Turkey’s traumatized population.
Turkish officials have kept a strong grip on the communities along the border, attending funerals while laying the blame for the casualties on the United States for supporting what Ankara calls a terrorist organization. Ottoman-era martial music played repeatedly on loud speakers in the border towns, and the mosques recited prayers for the Turkish army.
But despite the government’s insistence that it is fighting terrorism to protect Turks, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign against the Kurdish militia in Syria has hurt communities at home, with already 20 dead and 80 wounded in Turkey.
It has also reopened old wounds and anxieties in southeast Turkey’s deeply traumatized population. Syrians are reliving the horrors of war. For the Kurds, many of whom distrust the intentions of the central government in Ankara, it is only reinforcing longstanding disaffection.
Trump lifts sanctions imposed on Turkey, calls ceasefire a ‘big success’
(AP) U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday he will lift sanctions on Turkey after the NATO ally agreed to permanently stop fighting Kurdish forces in Syria and he defended his decision to withdraw American troops, saying the U.S. should not be the world’s policeman.
“We’re getting out,” Trump said at the White House, asserting that tens of thousands of Kurdish lives were saved as the result of his actions.
Erdogan Has No Idea What He’s Doing in Syria
The Turkish president’s war will likely fail because he doesn’t know what he wants.
(Foreign Policy) In contrast to the profound confusion in Washington over the past two weeks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government have been relentlessly on message about their invasion of Syria. Operation Peace Spring, as Turkey calls it, is a counterterrorism operation, providing safety for Turks and Syrians alike—including Kurds. The People’s Protection Units (YPG) is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is no different from the Islamic State. Full stop. No amount of international pressure and outrage has moved Ankara from these talking points.
Yet perhaps because the Turks have been so good at their messaging (mostly to other Turks), they have not been as clear on what it is they want to achieve in Syria over the longer term and how they will know when they achieve it. In sending its forces into Syria, the Turkish government seems to have four primary goals: make the establishment of a Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria impossible, boost Erdogan’s popularity, destroy the YPG, and resettle Syrian refugees.
America’s Ally in Syria Warns of Ethnic Cleansing by Turkey
By Robin Wright
In the wake of a five-day ceasefire brokered last week by Vice-President Pence with Turkey, Mazloum Kobani Abdi, of the Syria Democratic Forces, said, “We don’t believe Erdoğan.”
(The New Yorker) I first met Mazloum—a nom de guerre for Ferhat Abdi Şahin—in March, as he waged the final campaign to rid Syria of the Islamic State caliphate. He is a soft-spoken man; at the time, he carried only a handgun under his fatigue shirt. He was then sharing a forward base with U.S. Special Forces soldiers and French and British troops in the U.S.-led coalition. Mazloum’s men protected the Americans operating at bases in the northeast third of Syria. The U.S. provided air power, intelligence, and strategic advice. Mazloum led the ground war; by then, he had already lost eleven thousand troops, male and female. Under U.S. urging, Mazloum expanded the Y.P.G., in 2015, to bring in Arabs and take the fight against ISIS beyond Kurdish border areas into the Syrian heartland. The broader militia was renamed the Syrian Democratic Forces. Together, the S.D.F. and the U.S.-led coalition seized twenty thousand square miles from ISIS. The mission is not yet complete. Thousands of ISIS members still operate in sleeper cells; their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is also still free.
Mazloum, however, is also on Turkey’s most-wanted list. A civil engineer trained at the University of Aleppo, he became a Kurdish activist, in 1990.
I talked to Mazloum on a scratchy telephone line on Saturday, about the five-day ceasefire brokered by Vice-President Pence last week with Turkey. The ceasefire expires on October 22nd, the day that Erdoğan meets President Vladimir Putin in Russia. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Turkey, Syria and the war that just gets tougher to report (video)
(Al Jazeera) Ceasefire or no ceasefire, Turkey’s decision to alter the military equation in Syria is a geopolitical game-changer.
The talk in the western media has been of Americans double-crossing the Kurds, of possible ethnic cleansing, even a looming genocide. The narrative the Erdogan government in Ankara has tried to get out there – that Kurdish forces on its southern frontier pose a mortal threat – has been lost on the western commentariat.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s message is far better received at home, thanks to domestic media outlets that learned long ago that they criticise this government at their peril.
Turkey’s Victory Over Donald Trump
The Turkish president got what he wanted — as did Russia and Iran.
(NYT Editorial) President Trump’s decision to withdraw 1,000 American troops from Syria without consulting any aides, experts or allies, and without any warning to America’s Kurdish comrades in arms, whom he placed in mortal danger, has provided chilling evidence of the danger posed by his chronic inability to appreciate a president’s responsibilities.
Mr. Trump, as he always does, claimed a huge victory — “an amazing outcome” that saved “millions and millions of lives.” That scores of Kurdish lives have already been lost, that thousands of people have fled their homes, that a swarm of Islamic State followers escaped from internment camps, that the Kurds themselves turned for help to the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, that America’s dwindling credibility in the world was further undermined, meant nothing to the president. “It’s not our border,” he said on Wednesday.
The acute shame of the moment was captured in two reports this week. The first was a video of a Russian-speaking reporter wandering through a hurriedly abandoned American base in northern Syria, rummaging among the Coca-Cola cans and footballs. The second arrived with news that two United States Air Force F-15 jets had destroyed an American munitions bunker in Syria to prevent munitions and other equipment from falling into the hands of other armed groups.
The betrayal was agonizing. The Kurds are the world’s lost nation, their lands divided among five Middle Eastern countries that treat them as dangerous interlopers. They thought they had found a protector in the United States — Kurds in Iraq had been America’s allies, and those in Syria carried the brunt of the fight against the Islamic State. But then, casually in an Oct. 6 call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mr. Trump abruptly sold them out, while also making an unexpected and unwarranted gift not only to Mr. Erdogan, who regards the Syrian Kurds as mortal enemies, but also to Mr. Assad and his patrons, the Russians and Iranians.
It was left to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence to do urgent damage control in Ankara, Turkey, and, after close to five hours of talks on Thursday, Mr. Pence solemnly announced that Mr. Erdogan had agreed to a five-day cease-fire in his offensive in northern Syria. But Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, immediately said that the deal was not a cease-fire at all, but merely a “pause for our operation.” He added, “we got what we wanted.” As did Russia and Iran.
Kurds, Turkey and the U.S.: 5 Years of Tension, Alliances and Conflict
Turkey’s attack on Kurdish strongholds along the Syrian border has been years in the making.
By Russell Goldman
Turkey’s military strike on Wednesday against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria — a group long regarded as the United States’ most reliable Syrian partner in its fight against the Islamic State — has been years in the making.
To Turkey, an important American ally and NATO member, those fighters are terrorists bent on undermining the Turkish government. But for the United States, they have been dependable allies who have died fighting alongside American soldiers.
Since 2014, with the start of military action against ISIS, Kurdish fighters have done the critical work of clearing and holding territory conquered by the militants. In recent years, they have taken care of refugees and detained terrorism suspects.
Turkey: The Empire Strikes Back
By Gwynne Dyer
The Ottoman Empire, like many of its Middle Eastern predecessors, had the bad habit of moving entire peoples around if they were causing trouble. And sometimes, as happened to the Armenians during the First World War, what started as deportation ended up as genocide.
The empire collapsed a century ago, but old habits die hard. Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdoǧan (whose admirers often call him ‘the Sultan’) has a new plan: he’s going to move a million Kurds away from Turkey’s southern frontier with Syria, and replace them with a million Arabs.
And if his Western allies don’t like that, he’ll dump another million or so Arabs in Europe. “Either this happens (in Syria),” he said last week, “or we will have to open the gates (to Europe).” This is a blackmail threat with teeth: it was the sudden arrival of a million Syrian refugees in Europe in 2016 that energised extreme right-wing populists from England to Hungary.
All this is happening because Erdoǧan is obsessed about the Kurds – or at least he knows that a lot of other Turks are obsessed about the Kurds, and he’s in political trouble at home so he needs to feed their fantasies. You can never tell with the ‘Sultan’, who has a Trump-like ability to genuinely believe whatever he happens to be saying at the moment.
To be fair, the Kurds are a real problem for the Turks. They are about a fifth of the country’s population, concentrated mostly in the south-east, and they have been mistreated and their very identity denied by the Turkish state for so long that many of them would rather be independent.
Now he’s in trouble again: his party lost control of all Turkey’s big cities in the last election. Time to whack the Kurds again, and this time it’s going to be the Syrian Kurds, another fragment of the Kurdish people that lives in northern Syria, just across the border from Turkey’s Kurds. But not for much longer, if Erdogan has his way.
The Turkish strongman says that the Syrian Kurds are really “terrorists” allied to the PKK, although there have been absolutely no attacks on Turkey from Syria during the entire eight-year Syrian civil war.
Voters chose me as their mayor. President Erdogan had other ideas.
(WaPo) On March 31, I was reelected as the mayor of Mardin, Turkey. For me, as for so many of my colleagues in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), this was no ordinary vote — we were running to retake positions from which we had been arbitrarily expelled.
On Aug. 19, history repeated itself. I learned from the television news that I, along with the HDP mayors of Diyarbakir and Van, had once again been removed from office by an order from the Interior Ministry. Since then, our supporters have been in the streets, facing water cannons and beatings simply for demanding that their votes should count.
We all stand accused of supporting terrorism. In reality, like the tens of thousands of people hit with this catchall charge under Erdogan, all we had done was oppose the government’s tyrannical policies. The three of us represent the third-largest political party in Turkey. The relevant authorities approved all of our mayoral candidacies before we ran. We won easy majorities, increasing the HDP’s vote shares in areas where it was already strong.
Turkey will ‘obliterate’ Kurdish forces east of Euphrates – Erdoğan
Turkey is determined to launch an operation against Kurdish militants in northeast Syria regardless of the outcome of ongoing talks with the United States, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday.
“Whatever the outcome of safe zone talks with the United States, we will obliterate the east of the River Euphrates”, Erdoğan said, referring to the area controlled by Kurdish-dominated autonomous administrations and militias.
Turkey’s Long, Painful Economic Crisis Grinds On
(NYT) More than a year after the onset of an economic calamity that has shaken the once-indomitable hold of Turkey’s strongman president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this nation of 80 million people remains stuck in uncomfortable proximity to crisis. The latest indication came on Monday, as the Turkish currency, the lira, surrendered more than 3 percent of its value against the dollar in early trading in Asia before slightly recovering. The drop followed Mr. Erdogan’s abrupt dismissal of the nation’s central bank governor on Saturday. Global investors absorbed the sacking as a signal that Mr. Erdogan is intent on recklessly lowering interest rates to accelerate economic growth, like a debt-saturated homeowner who resorts to a second mortgage rather than accepting a budget.
Turkey’s currency remains battered, while its foreign debts remain vast. Inflation and joblessness are alarmingly high. Economic growth is minimal, and anxiety considerable amid the sense that more trouble lies ahead.
This is playing out as Turkey contends with political uncertainty after the shocking rebuke of Mr. Erdogan’s ruling party in the recent Istanbul mayoral election. A president with a reputation for ignoring unpalatable facts, or thrashing those who wield them, now appears at the mercy of forces he cannot command: international markets.
Turkey’s President Suffers Stinging Defeat in Istanbul Election Redo
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey suffered the biggest defeat of his political career on Sunday as his candidate for Istanbul mayor conceded defeat in a repeat election.
The result in the do-over — held after Mr. Erdogan’s party lost and contested the first vote — wrests control over Turkey’s largest city from Mr. Erdogan and ends his party’s 25-year dominance there. Opponents say such a loss cracks the president’s aura of invincibility, showing that his grip on power after 16 years is weakening.
The defeat also puts Mr. Erdogan in a diminished position at a time of tense relations with the United States and other countries as he heads to the Group of 20 summit meeting next week, where he is planning to have talks on the sidelines with President Trump to address various disagreements.
Istanbul election being rerun to save grants, say Erdoğan opponents
CHP members say ruling party fears losing billions in grants to charities tied to government
(The Guardian) Members of Turkey’s main opposition party have claimed that a decision to rerun the vote for Istanbul mayor, which the ruling party lost in March for the first time in a generation, is linked to a government bid to safeguard billions of dollars in grants to foundations that form a key part of its political apparatus. The highly contentious decision, announced on Monday night, has drawn claims of an emerging “dictatorship” in Turkey and an electoral process increasingly subverted by the country’s political elite under the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The candidate for the Republican Peoples’ party (CHP), Ekrem İmamoğlu, who won the original vote, on Tuesday walked back earlier threats to boycott the new poll, which a high election body has slated for 23 June, claiming he would stand again as a candidate.
Turkey’s democracy wakes up
By Ömer Taşpınar
(Brookings) The most fundamental question in Turkish politics – since the country entered an unprecedented phase of civilian autocracy after the Gezi Park protests in 2013 – is an existential one about democracy: Do elections matter? More precisely, would President Recep Tayyip Erdogan surrender power because of election results?
The fact that Erdogan’s party lost the capital city Ankara is in and of itself a very significant development. But what matters much more is that Istanbul – the microcosm of Turkey and Erdogan’s bastion since 1994 – has fallen to the opposition as well, albeit by a very narrow margin. The state-owned Anatolian News Agency and the Electoral Board tried hard to conceal the opposition’s apparent victory in Istanbul the night of the election. A razor-thin opposition victory in Istanbul amounts to a political earthquake that is bound to produce aftershocks for voters who had lost hope in elections.
All this proves that the ballot box still matters in Turkey. Erdogan had turned these local elections into a national referendum on national security and survival, with his alarmist and bellicose discourse of anti-Western and anti-Kurdish nationalism. He went as far as labeling his opponents “sympathizers of terrorism.”
Such tactics badly misfired.
Humbling election results for Turkey’s strongman
Voters in Turkey’s largest cities have dealt President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a sharp rebuke.
(Axios) Why it matters: A sputtering economy and an uncharacteristically united opposition unleashed a tide of opposition victories in municipal elections across the country Sunday that were widely seen as a referendum on Erdogan.
Catch up quick: Erdogan wasn’t on the ballot, but he campaigned vigorously for weeks. He railed against enemies foreign and domestic and suggested only he was strong enough to defend Turkey against them.
Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalist allies did manage 52% of the national vote. But they lost control of Ankara, the capital, and are set to lose in Istanbul — Turkey’s economic and cultural center and the city that made Erdogan a national figure when it elected him mayor in 1994.
The big picture: Soner Cagaptay, a fellow at the Washington Institute and author of “The New Sultan,” tells me that if Erdogan is forced to concede Istanbul, “the idea that he’s the omnipotent president who controls everything will be challenged.”
The Economist: Turkey’s local elections
In recent years Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, and his government have throttled dissent, taken control of the judiciary and defanged the press, confining what remains of the country’s democracy to the ballot box. In municipal elections yesterday the ballot box struck back. Despite taking a plurality of the national vote, Mr Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) party suffered defeats in five of Turkey’s six biggest cities, including Istanbul, the country’s economic engine, and Ankara, the capital
Turkey local elections: Setback for Erdogan in big cities
(BBC) The party of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost control of the capital, Ankara, in local elections, in a blow to his 16-year rule.
The main opposition is also slightly ahead in the contest for mayor of Istanbul, figures published by the state-run Anadolu news agency suggest.
But the president’s AKP party is challenging the result in both cities.
More than 57 million people in the country were registered to vote for mayors and councillors. Turnout was high at just under 85%.
The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Mansur Yavas won in Ankara, officials said. With almost all votes counted, he was on nearly 51% and the AKP’s Mehmet Ozhaseki had won the support of just over 47%.
The United States Can’t Rely on Turkey to Defeat ISIS
Erdogan wants to confront the Kurds, not the Islamic State. Outsourcing the battle to Ankara will endanger America.
(Foreign Policy) President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria means that the United States is relying on Turkey to shoulder the burden of countering the Islamic State. This move will provide the terrorist group with an opportunity to revive itself at a critical stage in the fight.
Trump claims exiting Syria has been his plan all along. Still, many U.S. policymakers, including those in Congress, were caught by surprise—especially given the September assertion by Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, that U.S. troops would remain in Syria until the Iranians left.
When Trump announced his surprising about-face on what had been the closest thing Washington had to a Syria policy—the presence of 2,000 or so U.S. troops and support for Kurdish militia forces—he did so after a conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Shortly after the phone call, Trump tweeted, “Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains.” He went on to add that the Turkish leader “has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria.”
Apart from taking Turkish talking points at face value, there is a fundamental problem with this calculation. Ankara has often demonstrated a reluctance to take on the Islamic State directly, preferring instead to focus its energy and resources on countering the Kurds and Erdogan’s opposition.
For years, Turkey has been playing a double game. Erdogan’s main objective is to prevent Syrian Kurds from consolidating more territory and establishing a corridor parallel to the southern Turkish border. Eradicating the Islamic State’s presence in Syria—and its networks within Turkey—is a secondary priority that has often been ignored entirely.
Yet, because the Islamic State has already established a nascent infrastructure in Turkey, the recent policy decision to withdraw from Syria could breathe new life into the group, endangering Turkish soldiers and civilians at home and allowing the group to make a comeback in Syria.
Erdoğan, Trump, and the Strongman Politics Devastating Turkey’s Economy
(The New Yorker) In the past decade, Turkey’s growing economy attracted a flood of foreign investment. But recent diplomatic rifts between Turkey and the West, declining tourism, and Erdoğan’s authoritarian consolidation of power—which was cemented in June elections that granted him sultan-like powers—caused many investors to pull out and sell off their Turkish debt, slowing the economy’s pace and accelerating inflation. Debt in foreign currencies, most of it in dollars, now represents around seventy per cent of the Turkish economy. American investors now own more than fifty per cent of publicly traded Turkish stocks, according to the Institute of International Finance. “The government’s policies have caused the problems,” Yüksel Gönül, an employee at a dairy store, told me. “But we are the victims.”
Erdoğan and Trump have been exchanging public taunts—and economic sanctions—over Turkey’s two-year imprisonment of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical American missionary accused of espionage, links to terrorist groups, and involvement in the failed Turkish coup in 2016. Brunson, who faces up to thirty-five years in prison, has denied the charges. …
Turkish officials have expressed surprised at how important Brunson is to the Trump Administration, considering that several other Americans, including the NASA engineer Serkan Gölge, are also jailed in Turkey. Turkish officials suspect that Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence, who have strong political support from evangelical Christians in the U.S., believe that Brunson’s release could increase Republican voter turnout in the midterm elections in November.
(The Economist) As Turkey’s currency, the lira, began to recover today from a disastrous week, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, its president, announced a boycott of American electronic products, escalating the row between the two countries. Turkish officials have been trying to reassure markets. To do so, the country would need to end the diplomatic crisis, enact substantial economic reforms and sharply raise interest rates. None of these appears to be on the agenda
Turkey Financial Crisis Erupts, Stoking Concerns of Contagion
(Bloomberg) Turkey entered a full-blown financial meltdown on Friday, sending tremors through global markets, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared his refusal to bow to U.S. political demands and market pressures.
The unraveling was swift, highlighting the fragility of Turkey’s economy after years of a growth-at-all-costs policy bias that left its companies saddled with hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign debt.
Trump puts Turkey alliance on the line with standoff over pastor
Tensions could threaten U.S. military base in Incirlik
Turkish economy reels after U.S. ratchets up tariffs on metals
(Bloomberg) President Donald Trump’s latest move against Turkey has made an already bad relationship worse, raising the risk the U.S. may have to do without a longtime ally in the Middle East.
Trump’s decision Friday to double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum could sink the nation’s struggling economy and drive President Recep Tayyip Erdogan into Russia’s arms. It could also threaten U.S. strategic interests including the military base in Incirlik, an important staging area in the fight against Islamist terrorism.
Why Can’t Turkey Stop Its Economic Nose-Dive?
(Bloomberg) Turkey’s currency and economic outlook have deteriorated so much that bankers and traders are starting to talk about the need for an International Monetary Fund rescue — a taboo topic until recently. Some even worry that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is taking a defiant stand against the U.S. and his country’s creditors, will adopt capital controls as a last-ditch effort to avoid raising interest rates to stop a currency plunge. He has so far failed to reassure investors, who worry Erdogan will impose his less-orthodox economic views to try and stimulate an already overheating economy. … Inflation is above 15 percent, more than triple the central bank’s target. Yields on some government-issued debt are at record highs, and the Turkish lira is melting down. All that not only hurts consumer sentiment and wallets, it pushes corporate balance sheets closer to the abyss. Companies that borrowed heavily in foreign currencies now face a growing burden due to the tanking lira and rising borrowing costs.
What the world’s nationalists can learn from Turkey and Erdogan
(WaPost) Erdogan hailed the result, which saw close to 90 percent of Turkey’s 55 million voters go to the polls, as “a lesson to the entire world on democracy.” Muharrem Ince, Erdogan’s nearest challenger, lamented the “unjust” nature of the election, yet conceded defeat. A galvanized opposition had shown significant unity and momentum ahead of the vote, but was still unable to loosen Erdogan’s majoritarian grip.
Erdogan wins sweeping new powers after Turkish election victory
(Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan won sweeping new executive powers on Monday after his victory in elections that also saw his Islamist-rooted AK Party and its nationalist allies secure a majority in parliament.
Erdogan’s main rival, Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), conceded defeat but branded the elections unjust and said the presidential system that now takes effect was “very dangerous” because it would lead to one-man rule.
A European rights watchdog also said the opposition had faced “unequal conditions”, adding that restrictions on media freedom to cover the elections were accentuated by a continuing state of emergency imposed in Turkey after a failed 2016 coup.
Now, Erdogan Faces Turkey’s Troubled Economy. And He’s Part of the Trouble.
(NYT) With his victory in Sunday’s elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken his place among the world’s emerging class of strongman rulers, nailing down the sweeping powers he has insisted he needs to address Turkey’s numerous challenges, at home and abroad.
Now, all he needs to do is deliver.
“He won on a knife-edge,” said Ugur Gurses, a former banker who writes for the daily newspaper Hurriyet. “But now he has in his lap all the problems.”
Mr. Erdogan is contending with an array of economic troubles, an increasingly disgruntled populace and deteriorating relations with Turkey’s Western allies. Among the many problems Mr. Erdogan faces is one fundamental roadblock: His foreign policy is fighting with his economic needs.
His increasingly authoritarian, nationalist and anti-Western bent is alienating foreign investors, which is hurting the Turkish lira. As the currency plunges, domestic capital flees. And he is newly reliant on a nationalist party that enabled him to maintain his majority in Parliament but promises to reinforce all those tendencies, as well as his hard line against the Kurdish minority.
(The Economist) On Sunday Turks will head to the polls to elect parliament and president. No one has ever made money by betting against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president, who has won 12 elections and referendums. But he faces a disciplined and increasingly galvanised opposition. Most likely are wins for Mr Erdogan in the presidential contest and for the opposition in the parliamentary vote. Such an outcome would probably provoke political gridlock
Erdogan’s Motley Opponents Have United to Take Him Down
Turkey’s strongman might not be strong enough to survive the early elections he wanted.
(Foreign Policy) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the dominant figure of Turkish political life for the last 15 years, stunned his country last week by moving up crucial presidential and parliamentary elections from November 2019 to June 24. Erdogan hopes to complete his transformation of the government from a parliamentary to a presidential system, and he succeeded at catching the opposition off guard.
But Erdogan’s opponents have quickly rallied, showing fresh energy and unanticipated strategic thinking. Erdogan now faces the very real possibility of being democratically unseated. … Erdogan’s opponents have responded by forming an unlikely alliance against him centered on two potential candidates: Meral Aksener, the charismatic leader of the newly formed Iyi Party, and former President Abdullah Gul. It remains unclear which presidential candidate the combined opposition will rally around.
Erdogan’s Unrequited Arab Love
by Burak Bekdil
There is more than enough evidence that Erdogan should take into consideration if he intends to enjoy his fake love affairs with his Arab neighbors. But his ambitions to make Turkey leader of the ummah seem to have blinded him. Unfortunately, there is little evidence he will adopt reason instead of regional bullying.
(Gatestone Institute) Erdogan’s Islamist militarism, in a nation that lost an empire a century ago, still finds millions of followers. … Turkey is running a military show in Arab Syria: targeting Muslim Kurds who it claims are terrorists. Erdogan has vowed that after Syria, the military campaign will target northern Iraq. In the meantime, Erdogan’s “Arab friends” are showing signs of hostility, one after the other. Amid growing tensions between Turkey and Egypt, Egyptian authorities are revising street names in Cairo in view of calls to change historical Ottoman-era street names. … In recent weeks, public and social media initiatives in Egypt began calling on consumers to stop buying Turkish products. At the beginning of March, the Dubai-based, Saudi-owned MBC, the largest private media network in the Middle East, decided to ban popular Arabic-dubbed Turkish television series’ from all channels. … Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, created a new “axis of evil” identifying his country’s top three enemies: Iran, Turkey and Islamic militant groups including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, both of which Erdogan embraces.
Why Turkey Wants to Invade the Greek Islands
By Uzay Bulut
(Gatestone Institute) There is one issue on which Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), are in complete agreement: The conviction that the Greek islands are occupied Turkish territory and must be reconquered. So strong is this determination that the leaders of both parties have openly threatened to invade the Aegean.
To realize his ultimate goal of leaving behind a legacy that surpasses that of all other Turkish leaders, Erdoğan has set certain objectives for the year 2023, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic, and 2071, the 1,000th anniversary of the 1071 Battle of Manzikert, during which Muslim Turkic jihadists from Central Asia defeated Christian Greek Byzantine forces in the Armenian highland of the Byzantine Empire.
(NYT) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is facing a backlash for bringing a weeping, saluting 6-year-old girl on stage and telling her of the honors if she were to be killed fighting Kurdish militias in Syria.
“Her Turkish flag is in her pocket,” Mr. Erdogan proclaimed after calling Amine onstage. “If she becomes a martyr, God willing, she will be wrapped with it,” he said. “She is ready for everything, aren’t you?”
Mr. Erdogan recently made an alliance with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party to bolster his chances for coming elections and has used the military campaign to improve his stance with nationalists.
He makes public speeches every day and sometimes several times a day, peppering his speeches with nationalist and anti-Western jibes as well as poetry and religious sayings, conjuring glories of Turkish history. He vows to protect Turkey’s borders and to fight terrorism, and rallies popular support for the war, listing the number of enemies killed and commending the nation’s martyrs.
Allies or Terrorists: Who Are the Kurdish Fighters in Syria?
(NYT) The Kurdish fighters who are battling the Islamic State jihadists in Syria are regarded by the United States as its most reliable partners there. But to Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, these Kurds are terrorists.
The Kurdish group, known as the People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., is now facing an escalating battle with Turkish forces in northwestern Syria, complicating American policy.
The group has deep ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known as the P.K.K. Both Turkey and the United States consider the P.K.K. to be a terrorist organization for its violent separatist movement inside Turkey.
Turkey wants to crush US allies in Syria. That shouldn’t surprise anybody.
(Brookings) On Jan. 20, Turkey launched what it calls Operation Olive Branch, a military campaign against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin, in northwestern Syria. The operation is part of Ankara’s long-standing effort to prevent the YPG, which has benefited from American backing in its fight against the Islamic State since the fall of 2014, from developing an autonomous region in Syria along the entirety of the countries’ shared border. Turkish objections stem from the YPG’s links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union and has waged an ongoing battle against Turkey that has resulted in tens of thousands of people dead.
According to Turkey’s Office of Public Diplomacy, the objectives of the intervention include ensuring Turkey’s border security, countering U.S. support for a terrorist organization, blocking the YPG from reaching the eastern Mediterranean and cutting off Turkey’s geographical contact with the Arab world, and ensuring that the Turkish-supported Syrian opposition controls a 3,861-square-mile area.
Although State Department officials claim the U.S. relationship with the YPG is “temporary, transactional, and tactical,” it has never been clear if the Defense Department shares this view. The Pentagon has played an outsized role in managing counter-Islamic State policy, particularly in the current administration with a leadership dominated by generals.
Turkey’s military actions should not have surprised anyone. Despite his fiery rhetoric, Erdoğan has largely gritted his teeth as American-backed YPG forces cleared the Islamic State from significant swaths of Syria. However, he has consistently proved his readiness to take military action in defense of a clear red line: any moves by the YPG to connect three cantons in northern Syria along the Turkish border into a unified Kurdish region. There is concern such territory could be used as a staging ground for attacks on southern Turkey, as well as encourage similar moves toward autonomy by Turkey’s Kurdish population.
Trump Sharply Warns Turkey Against Military Strikes in Syria
(NYT) In a speech on Wednesday, Mr. Erdogan said there was no difference between the Islamic State and Kurdish militias, and questioned “the humanity of those who accuse Turkey of being an invader and support an organization that has the blood of tens of thousands of innocent children, women, elderly people and innocents on its hands.”
The shift in tone at the White House grew out of what officials described on Wednesday as frustration over months of failed efforts to mollify Mr. Erdogan, including changes in military strategy and reassurances about Kurdish intentions on the battlefield. And it marked the end of a year of wooing of Mr. Erdogan, whom Mr. Trump has repeatedly praised despite the Turkish leader’s authoritarian crackdown at home.
David Ignatius: The U.S. alliance with Turkey just lunged toward the breaking point
(WaPost) Syria’s plight actually got a bit worse this week, as Turkey invaded the border region known as Afrin. Turkey says it’s protecting itself against the Syrian Kurdish organization known as the PKK, which dominates Afrin and which Turkey regards as a terrorist group. The problem is that related Syrian Kurdish forces (under a different name) have been the United States’ most important ally in defeating the Islamic State.
The flashpoint is a town in northern Syria called Manbij, occupied by the Syrian Kurds and their U.S. military advisers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened last week to attack Manbij. A senior Trump administration official told me bluntly Tuesday: “Threats to our forces are not something we can accept.” That’s what the unraveling U.S. relationship with “NATO partner” Turkey has come to: military brinkmanship.
What’s happening now in Syria is that history is resuming, after the bloody distraction of the Islamic State. Long-standing grievances that were postponed while a U.S.-led coalition defeated the caliphate have returned with a vengeance. Turkey, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Russia and the United States are all pursuing their self-interests. The space separating these forces has collapsed — putting U.S. troops perilously close to collision with Russia, Turkey and Iran.
David Ignatius: The man at the crux of the U.S.-Turkey dispute is about to go on trial
At the center of the increasingly bitter dispute between the United States and Turkey is a demand by an irate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that American prosecutors free a Turkish-Iranian gold dealer who is about to go on trial on money-laundering and fraud charges.
The confrontation sharpened Thursday, as Erdogan protested in Ankara that the businessman, Reza Zarrab, was being squeezed as a “false witness” about corruption. Turkey alarmed Washington by arresting a U.S. consular official last week, in what some U.S. officials feared was an attempt to gain leverage for Zarrab’s release before the scheduled Nov. 27 start of his trial in New York. Turkish and American officials plan to meet next week for talks to ease tensions.
What dirt could Zarrab dish in court? A possible preview comes in a May 2016 court filing by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Citing a December 2013 Turkish prosecutor’s report, Bharara’s memo said the Turkish evidence “describes a massive bribery scheme executed by Zarrab and others, paying cabinet-level governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and U.S. dollars to facilitate Zarrab’s network’s transactions for the benefit of Iran” to evade U.S. sanctions against that country.