When I met an international relations professor friend of mine right outside the MedyascopeTV studios the day Jared Kushner’s so-called Middle East Peace Plan (MEPP) was announced at the White House, he was furious. A usually calm mannered gentleman who does not shy away from surgically criticising Erdoğan’s foreign policy endeavours, now fumed against the MEPP and bluntly stated that whomever stood with this Israeli government today instead of condemning it squarely would be held accountable historically.
Following our brief chat, I pushed my hands deep into my coat’s pockets and walked under the pouring rain towards the nearby metro station, my nose pointing at my already soaked shoes. Had I missed something? Was I totally caught off the mark? My political scientist friend was neither a fool nor your regular run-of-the-mill nationalist-islamist. Far from it, he was a most brilliant product of the republican secular public school system of yesteryear.
The reason of my soul searching was that just half an hour ago in the same studio I had dwelled upon MFA press release concerning the MEPP. Yet, on the contrary, just before bumping into my friend at the entrance of the studio, I had on my behalf questioned the timing and the wording of the said press release as part of my weekly video-analysis.
To my mind, the urge to break out of the paddock everyone else for Ankara did not bode well neither for the national foreign policy generally nor particularly for the already strained Turkish-U.S. relations. Already, Erdoğan played all the long balls to Trump, ignoring the administration as well as the Congress. Now, regardless of the content of the MEPP, to take aim at it with terms like “Jerusalem is our red line” and “the plan is stillborn” shouldn’t have been necessary and clever, I thought.
As Aaron David Miller responded to Christian Amanpour’s question on CNN (I had also cited him in my video-analysis), the U.S. did not need to come out with such a plan at this moment in time. By the same token, Turkey did not need in my opinion to sink this ill-fated, badly written plan without waiting for the interested parties like Jordan and Egypt, or heavy weights like the P-5 members to mumble something about it. The plan to me was a shining toy for Trump’s presidential campaign and Turkish-U.S. relations were reduced to a single conduit through Trump.
Furthermore, Russia with which Turkey increasingly came to loggerheads in both Syria and Libya, had chosen to sit on the fence. Together with Erdoğan, Netanyahu is the other political leader who almost every other week speaks to or visits with the Russian president. There had been no one to represent Turkey, at the solemn 75th anniversary ceremony of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp organized at Yad Vashem in Israel that had brought together the world’s who’s who. Yet Putin had delivered well listened to remarks, including an invitation for an emergency UNSC meeting, in both Israel and Poland.
True, Erdoğan later declared that he had received Turkey’s chief rabbi in his presidential palace and that Turkey had no beef with Israel but ignored this particular (i.e. Netanyahu’s) government. He also deplored Arab states diluted reactions to the MEPP. It is to note that together with UAE and KSA, Turkey’s single ally in the Gulf Qatar too had put out a quite moderate statement. Arab League’s foreign ministers later on unanimously rejected the plan in a way vindicating Erdoğan’s posturing.
So for Erdoğan, Jerusalem is Turkey’s red line, full and square. His foreign minister Çavuşoğlu upped the ante by declaring before the OIC meeting in Jeddah that “even if Turkey stands alone it will defend Jerusalem.” We had defended Jerusalem and we had defended Mecca and Medina as well, but in the beginning of the last century. My own great grandfather had “defended” for example Trabzon wilaya (against the Russians) that extended from today’s Ordu to Batumi at the time serving as the regional governor. Are we really ready and so much willing to bath in the same river at the turn of this century as well?
Erdoğan got into the habit of openly shaming and blaming the Arab world lately, especially singling out UAE and KSA for their alleged betrayal and silence. By taking an irreversible harsh stance on the MEPP at this very early stage he deliberately chose to take the risk of alienating both Washington and Moscow simultaneously and leave Turkey with no room to manoeuver.
Last but not the least, Erdoğan’s rhetoric tends to ignore the fact he is the president of a secular and non-Arab republic. “If we do not protect Al-Aqsa, we will not prevent evil eyes from turning towards the Kaaba”-these are his words. Whose “evil eyes” are we talking about here? Who is “we” anyway? Which body of nations Erdoğan is alluding to as if there is any? Or is he talking about the “umma”, positioning himself as a sort of “emir-ul muminin” as the Ottoman khalifa of the lore?
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.
On his way back from his recent three countries Africa visit Erdoğan applauded Gambia’s (of all the places) principled stance on Rohingya Muslims. One as well may visit the Turkish MFA’s website to wonder on the multitude of the press releases that pass judgment on about everything and anything that goes on around our globe as if sitting on a high moral chair. At the same time Erdoğan’s administration demands to be exempt of any criticism, internal or foreign. Why? “You have no right” comes the reply.
The imam too is apologetically in a hurry. I try to appear comforting in reiterating over and over again that everything is in order according to Islam. I even attempt to reassure him by patting his shoulder but my hand remains hanging in the air as the wide-eyed imam is aghast of this potential physical contact.
At the end of the day, Ankara’s undisclosed three-way bet appears to the naked eye as resting first on a hybrid mitigation approach as opposed to the full throttle suppression. Second, that the storm will pass quicker than others expect. Third, that Turkey will find itself on the winning end once the skies clear.
The Moscow Protocol puts the task on Ankara’s shoulders of stopping the armed militia like the HTS and the Turkey backed SNA from endangering traffic on that road to be jointly controlled. By the same token, while effectively offering the use of the road on a plate to Damascus, it allocates the burden of preventing the SAA to take it over and make a northbound push to Russia.
Not quite. One can safely assume that Moscow dictates the, call it “new order” or the “new status quo” in Idlib. And at that, effectively getting in between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian Arab Army. No more, no less and temporarily. Compared to a potential full-blown Turco-Syrian war, encouraged first and foremost by the U.S., it is no small feat either.
The assumption of those who predicted a sudden death to Erdoğan-Putin bromance is proven to be only wishful thinking. The two leaders, as shared with the public by Kremlin’s spokesperson Peskov are slated to meet in Moscow either on the 5th or the 6th of March. How many more Syrian Air Force Soviet made attack jets will be downed by then is anybody’s guess. The tally stands at three at present time.
Title is from a song by Sheffield band Pulp’s well known 1995 debut album: “Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits / Raised on a diet of broken biscuits, oh…” With a sleight of hand replace “biscuits” with “promises” and there you have it, a concise executive summary of Erdoğan’s Syria and Libya policies.
The art of diplomacy, among other things, is to create time and space for a rationale within the possible outcomes. That would be in this case, for the recently heavily fortified TAF observation posts establish a new frontier line leaving the control of the M4 and the M5 highways together with all the towns along them to Damascus and keep a much narrower pocket including the Idleb town to host the almost a million Syrian IDPs and hence allowing them conditions not push for the Turkish border.
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.
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.
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.
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