These moves are no “unforced errors”. This is straightforward “looking for trouble.” Why is that? Because “trouble” comes with a story attached to it. And story-telling is all politics about. Especially, when the ruler has full authority of control over the political (campaign) messaging. Yes, I said the “ruler” not the “manager”.
Then again, down here in Turkey at southeastern end of Europe, we are almost always in a never ending electoral campaign season. A constant de facto emergency rule is part and parcel of that political campaign. This is a suffocating and tiresome political environment. We experiment the “shock doctrine” on a daily basis.
Whether it’s the proposed or rather imposed “Channel Istanbul” or the fully electrical powered national SUV All is national, native, new and all are must-dos. There is neither space nor need for further discussion. Discussion is by nature effete, time-consuming, bureaucratic. Yet, time is of essence. Hence, we need to move forward. And real quick.
While others scream, shout and agitate, the juggernaut moves relentlessly forward. From election to election, from one trouble spot to the next. Hence, today the barren coastline of Libya is in our sights. “Entourage” media’s sycophantic pens are doing overtime in reminding the not-so-well-versed in recent history how none other than Kemal Atatürk fought a guerilla war more than a hundred years ago on those African shores.
Here you are already four paragraph through into your reading. Did you come across any content till this point? Of course, not. None whatsoever at all and that is the whole point. That’s what Mr.Erdoğan’s and his team’s foreign policy endeavours are all about. Well, that and whipping up the already running high nationalistic rhetoric and plus, if there are gains to be monetized in the short term, even better.
The following are absent from the Libya bamboozle: Atatürk fought in Libya as it was Ottoman land. Mr.Erdoğan went to Tunisia but came back empty handed following his meeting with his counterpart Mr.Saied. The joint diplomatic, military, intelligence team that was dispatched to Moscow got no deal after three days long talks. Italy, Britain, France and Germany are seriously considering imposing a No Fly Zone which will definitely put a hold to armed drones provided by Turkey to GNA.
Libya will not be a crossborder operation like in Iraq or Syria. It will be an overseas amphibious operation 2,000 kilometers away from Anatolia. It will not be counterinsurgency operation but a full-fledged war involving naval and aerial elements. On Hafter’s LNA’s side are not only next door Egypt but also heavy weights like Russia and the US. Furthermore, Ankara burned the bridges with Damascus, Cairo, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi since a long time ago.
Hafter recently acquired tactical ballistic surface to surface Scud B missiles and already has Kornet portable antitank guided missiles. Their common point being both Russian products as anyone can see. Also in the field are two Russian mercenary companies Wagner and Vega. Sarraj, in return, reportedly tested the waters by reaching out to Chechnya’s leader Kadyrov and through him to Moscow’s Dengov.
There is a last ditch diplomatic summit effort by Germany to avoid approaching calamity. Chancellor Merkel called President Erdoğan on Sunday. Italian PM Conte did the same during the course of the week. If past experience is our guide these will not divert Mr.Erdoğan from collision course. The motion to allow Turkish Armed Forces to be positioned in Libya will come to parliament’s floor on the 8th of January. So will land in Ankara Mr.Putin the same day.
Mr.Putin appears to be the unique political counterpart who effectively figured out Mr.Erdoğan’s game. He is pushing Syrian army hard in Idlib and the tens of thousands of civilians to the Turkish border along the way. Russia is betting on both sides in Libya. Mr.Erdoğan’s spokesman Mr.Kalın did not spare Russia of his criticism when accusing foreign powers actively hindering a political solution in Libya recently.
Mr.Erdoğan needs another story. Operation Peace Spring was cut short and stopped dead before reaching the M4. National automobile production, Channel Istanbul, tension with the EU due to drilling for fossil fuel in the EastMed and the EEZ deal signed with Libya’s GNA alongside the AKP congress will provide the springboard for him to re-energize his presidency before a highly probable snap election in 2020.
Bana, on her term, travelled numerous times from Istanbul to Misrata than to Genoa and so forth. Recently though, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sailed through the disputed eight parcel declared by Greek Cyprus and, “to add insult to injury”, also topped its flag displaying mission by monitoring the same Bana being escorted by Turkish navy fregates to Libya. Before AFP had time to break the news, President Macron had already denounced Turkey as breaching the UN imposed arms embargo to Libya.
I have no single bit of sympathy at all for this ridiculous Trumpian unilateral MEPP that makes a mockery of diplomacy and the Palestinian land. But I do worry about the fact that Turkey carries no weight to dictate its will upon all the rest of the world. For that matter, no other power, be it regional or global, not even the U.S. enjoys that sort of latitude. There is no need for Ankara to constantly pick unnecessary fights while in the meantime there is no shortage of conflicts that Turkey’s national security all around it.
Today, a shaky hodge-podge opposition coalition of sorts seems to have emerged following the metropolitan municipality victories in 2019, first and foremost winning the prized duchy of Istanbul among them. Now, the secularist nationalists and muslim democrats with the Kurds and leftists suspiciously eyeing but soldiering on with them have a quite clear shot at the presidency in 2023 the latest -in ceteris paribus conditions.
The outcome of the Berlin Conference on Libya is anybody’s guess and whether it will make any difference is anybody’s guess as well. The safest bet is to claim that we are just starting a long de-escalation period with its inevitable ups and downs unless General Hafter manages to upend it militarily.
President Erdoğan’s combative foreign policy appears to let off steam and slow down on both Syrian and Libyan fronts. It is too early to tell whether finally reason had found a foothold in Ankara. For Mr. Erdoğan the hardest bit to tackle in 2020 will be the U.S. President’s repeated invitation for the NATO’s mission to be expanded to the Mid East and namely to Iraq.
Turkey, if it stops short of going all in in Libya and taps into its long forgotten diplomatic arsenal, has a unique opportunity to step forward with its home brew de-escalation efforts. President Erdoğan already had both Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Saleh on the phone. Briskly, Ankara can step forward and play on both its hundreds year long relations with Teheran and its half a century old NATO membership.
Vienna, no need to be a historian to reach that conclusion, is an imperial capital. Coming from Istanbul, I can’t help but think about the parallelism of these two cities being amputated of their respective empires almost simultaneously at the end of World War I.
Ankara went ahead and put the pedal to the metal in all files. No restraint, no consultation, no foresight: Just jump in head-on wherever, whenever you see trouble. Why? Simply because it almost always paid off at the ballot box. Second, there was no payback, no price tag attached to any of all these reckless foreign policy moves, manoeuvers and adventures.
So here I was back at heart of the blob. Or alternately, here I was knee-deep back in the swamp. Ten years ago this city was sort of abuzz. This time though, if President Macron kindly allows me to borrow the description he recently used for NATO, DC appeared to me sort of “brain-dead”. A good friend who had navigated these treachourous waters for decades had warned me that I would come to witness “the demise of an empire.”
Never in the history of mankind, less than ten richest persons in the world possessed more than half of the global wealth. But also, never in the history of mankind, humans lived so long and a billion people to global population was added in such a short span of time. Statesmen are in short supply in our time and at the same time all the public upheaval from Santiago to Najaf can be understood as a global rejection of being lead by anyone anyway.
It seems like Erdoğan’s Turkey not only wants to go it alone almost in all foreign policy issues but also actually expects almost all other countries, friend or foe, to, at best, applaud its acts and decisions or to understand them and to remain silent, at worst. That’s not a realistic goal.
What is the secret of the “Kılıçdaroğlu Doctrine”? That’s “winning with a disappearing act”, in a nut-shell. That is, now you see Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu and he dexterly shuffles the deck of cards lurking in the shadows, and now you don’t, the cards are open on the table with brand new names facing the voter. Ergo, CHP rises as the legendary phoenix from its ashes.
Where will Iraq go from here, I do not know. The historical process triggered by the U.S. military that toppled the most brutal dictator of its era in 2003 does not yet appear to have arrived at its final destination. It is perhaps a good enough thing to be alive for some of us, but then again, for some of us to merely survive is not enough. The brave young generation of Iraq, unlike the frequent traveler that your humble servant was, plays this game for their lives: They want to live, to be free and pursue their happiness as they see fit.
The relations between Turkey and the U.S. are beyond repair. The bilateral relations are either going to look like “operational” as in U.S.-Egypt relations for example, in which case people who consider themselves democrats will definitely go under the bus. Or, another option may appear to be, as it derives from the dominant narrative of Erdoğan, a character similar to the U.S.-Russia relations: Turkey playing the part of an equal and indispensable but difficult partner.
Turkey is anchored in the West since the Paris Peace Conference in 1856 that ensued the Crimean War. Today, over the control of a godforsaken piece of land of 120 to 32km, Putin is invited to kill too many birds with one stone.
As the U.S. pulled out, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA), supported by Russia, moved into Manbij and Kobane to the west and to the Qamishli axis to the east of the said rectangular field of ongoing operations. Hence, there is no reason why the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) should heed the U.S.-Turkish Joint Statement, and there is no reason why the congressional sanctions effort should stop—it didn’t.
Last week marked the fourth anniversary of the Ankara Train Station massacre. The pain caused by the hundreds of dead and injured subsists. The victims simply demanded peace. But they paid a high price for it.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, rather ungrammatically, that they would 'raggedy' Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu if he doesn't mind his own business. He openly and directly threatened him with these words