News From Turkey: Treat with Extreme Caution

 

According to The New York Times,

fighterTurkey plunged into the fight against the Islamic State on Thursday, rushing forces into the first direct combat with its militants on the Syrian border and granting permission for American warplanes to use two Turkish air bases for bombarding the group in Syria. …

Turkey, a vital conduit for the Islamic State’s power base in Syria, had come under increased criticism for its inability — or unwillingness — to halt the flow of foreign fighters and supplies across its 500-mile border.

Up to now, Turkey has placed a priority on dealing with its own restive Kurdish population, which straddles the Syrian border in the southeast, and in the toppling of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, whom the Turks blame for creating the conditions in his war-ravaged country for the rise of Islamic extremism.

But now that extremism has increasingly menaced Turkey, where 1.5 million Syrian war refugees have also been straining the country. A series of Islamic State attacks on Turks, including a devastating suicide bombing a few days ago that officials have linked to the extremist group, may also have helped accelerate the shift in Turkey’s position.

Turkish internal security officials had signaled their growing concern about the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, with a series of large-scale raids in the past few weeks, detaining hundreds of suspected ISIS members and sympathizers. Taking the fight to the Islamic State in Syria, however, represents a huge leap. …

The agreement was described by one senior administration official as a “game changer.”

I’d advise treating these reports with a high level of skepticism. The Turkish press is highly controlled and censored, and social media sites have been blocked. So it’s not easy to figure out what, in fact, is happening there from abroad, especially since we have few knowledgable Western foreign correspondents left over there: Even The Wall Street Journal recently shut its Istanbul bureau. On our side, our sources seem to be government figures who refuse to go on the record, which isn’t much of an improvement.

As background, here’s a piece I wrote for The American Interest about Turkey’s last elections: Erdogan Isn’t Finished: The game isn’t over for Erdoğan and the AKP. Now would be a good time for the West to pay attention to what’s going on in Turkey.

… Should any outside party, including the American one, wish to be useful, it must start by grasping the fragility of Turkey’s post-election condition. The AKP must now preside over the forming of a coalition, forge on as a minority government, or call a new, snap election. This means at least three months of intense political turbulence in Turkey, during which everything can go wrong. Anyone remotely rational should expect it to. Everything that goes wrong will work to Erdoğan’s advantage. A failure to form a coalition, or the formation of a government unable quickly to prove its ability to manage things with reasonable competence, will result in a new round of elections—a “re-run”, as Erdoğan terms it—and in this new round he may well get what he wants. Then the game will be over. …

… Now consider, on the basis of this sketch, what’s about to happen to Turkey. A minority government is formed when no party has a parliamentary majority. The magic number for a majority is 276. Turkey’s 63rd government must be formed within 45 days of the formal issuance of a mandate; failing that, snap elections ensue. No party can form a government on its own, and Turkish law prohibits the formation of pre-election party alliances, making it particularly difficult for parties quickly to negotiate a post-election coalition. …

… There is just no natural coalition here. The key point is that those willing to take steps that might satisfy the aspirations of Turkey’s Kurds don’t necessarily support a secular state. Those who want above all the preservation of secularism tend to be a peculiar and uniquely Turkish admixture of hyper-nationalist and anti-imperialist leftists. (No, that’s not ideologically coherent; but it’s real nonetheless.) They do not support the kinds of concessions to the Kurds that the AKP might be willing to make. …

Both the CHP and MHP are negotiating from a position of weakness. The CHP, especially, would find itself sharing power with a party loathed by its supporters, yet would be highly unlikely to be able to deliver on its promises. It might strike both parties as astute to remain in opposition to a weakened incumbent, then try to benefit from this in the next elections.

But they won’t benefit, for it will only take a few good, and perhaps deliberately administered shocks [my emphasis]—economic or to Turkey’s security—to send voters running for stability. When they do, given that most of the recent swing vote came from the AKP, that’s where they’ll go back. All the AKP has to achieve in a snap election is a slightly better result: That 10 percent barrier to entering parliament ensures that a tiny shift in voter sentiment will result in a completely disproportionate reassignment in power. The AKP will then be in position to form a new government without coalition headaches.

Keep the idea of a “deliberately administered shock” in mind. Thinking in terms of such things is in America is the mark of a conspiracy theorist, failing to think that way in Turkey is the mark of an American naif.

CKY-m7VWoAA_PEEOn July 20, a bomb ripped through a gathering of young activists outside the Amara Culture Centre in the Suruç district of Şanlıurfa Province, killing 32 and wounding 104. The bombing targeted members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) Youth Wing, and the Socialist Youth Associations Federation (SGDF). Some 300 members of the SGDF had travelled from İstanbul to Suruç to participate in three-to-four days of rebuilding work in Kobanî. The explosion was caused by a cluster bomb detonated by a female, Kurdish suicide bomber.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on the next day. It had allegedly made the decision to pursue active operations in Turkey just days before the attack. The perpetrator was identifed as Şeyh Abdurrahman Alagöz, a 20-year-old ISIS sympathiser from Adıyaman. Alagöz was later identified as a member from the ISIS-backed Dokumacılar militant organisation, which had fought against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) during the Tell Abyad offensive earlier in 2015. Other than an unplanned clash between ISIL militants and Turkish soldiers in March 2014, this was the first planned attack by ISIL on Turkish soil, though previous incidents such as the 2013 Reyhanlı bombings, the 2015 Istanbul suicide bombing and the 2015 Diyarbakır rally bombings have suggested ISIS involvement.After

Suruç is on the Syrian-Turkish border, about 10 kilometers rom the Syrian town of Kobanî. The populations of both Suruç and Kobanî are mostly Kurds; this resulted in deadly riots in southeastern Turkey in October 2014 when Kobanî was under siege by ISIS. The riots were in  protest of the Turkish government’s failure to intervene in Kobanî against ISIS. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed he was not prepared to launch operations against ISIS unless they also targetted Bashar Al Assad.

The Turkish government has long been dogged with allegations of covertly funding and arming ISIS. This came under particular scrutiny following the 2014 MİT trucks scandal, which the government took drastic measures to cover up. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the prosecutor who ordered the search of being affiliated with Fetullah Gülen and his Cemaat Movement, and prevented the trucks  in Hatay being prevented from being searched. The police allegedly recorded the cargo as “humanitarian aid,” but the Turkmens for whom it was designated claimed they had received no aid. The opposition CHP held that the trucks had been carrying weapons, and their claims appeared to be supported when on May 29 footage of the search was leaked, showing the trucks to have been carrying arms in their cargo.

n_85735_1The Suruç bombing shook all hell loose. While many of the victims were ethnically Turkish, it was perceived as an attack on ethnic Kurds, as well as on Alevis, who have long occupied the extreme-left space in Turkey. (The word “extreme” here means somthing much more extreme than it does in a US context.)

So Turkey’s peace-process with the Kurds looks to have broken down completeely. The country could now face a triangular confrontation against the Kurds and ISIS. Metin Gurcan, a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse, wrote one of the best analyses of the situation:

Analysis of Suruç attack

The target was a youth civil society association with high media visibility related to Kobani, which is a sensitive issue for Turkey. It is noteworthy that the attackers chose a civilian, leftist and pro-Kurdish activist group instead of a military facility or a state institution as it usually does in Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

The timing of the attack was well-chosen. That the attack was carried out in a Turkish town instead of Kobani indicates the primary intended audience was public opinion in Turkey, especially that of the Kurds. The attack also coincided with a political crisis prevailing in Turkey in the aftermath of the June 7 elections.

That the attack most likely was a suicide operation is a signal of power and challenge. If you ask who the recipient of the message was intended to be, I — unlike many others — believe that it was not Turkey but the US-supported, Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). With this attack, IS was sending a message to the PYD and the PKK to watch their steps after their success at Tell Abyad, if they are now thinking of advancing toward Afrin in the west and Raqqa in the south with close US air support.

By moving the conflict in the opposite direction of Raqqa to Turkey, IS is trying to ease the pressure it is under at Raqqa and Azez in northern Syria.

I believe the perpetrator of the attack is a Kurdish-origin citizen of Turkey. Most of those who joined IS from Turkey are Kurdish-origin nationals. According to available intelligence reports, the pool of potential attackers IS has put together for attacks against Turkey is made up of Turkish Kurds. By selecting a Kurdish-origin suicide attacker, IS is sending the message that jihadi ideology is more powerful than ethnic nationalism.

It has to be emphasized that this attack by IS attempts to draw Turkey more into Syria while transferring clashes in Syria to Turkey.

The message of IS to Turkey, its secondary intended recipient after the PYD and the PKK, is, in short: “If you step up attacks against us, you will pay the price.” Turkey had indeed stepped up operations against IS inside Turkey over the last six months; that resulted in detentions of 450 people in several major cities. Border controls between Syria and Turkey were reinforced, resulting in the capture of about 300 IS militants who wanted to cross the border in both directions. Until now, about 15,000 foreign nationals were put on the blacklist banning their entry-exit through Turkish borders. About 1,500 foreigners were deported for their IS connections. Over the last six months, 1,100 people were refused entry to Turkey.

Another message to Turkey is that IS is aware of socio-cultural and political fault lines of Turkey that it can cross at any time.

The Suruç attack, immediately after a high-level US delegation’s visit to Turkey to discuss strategies against IS, also had a message for Washington. That message was that IS is an indigenous local player able to execute its will despite US efforts to mount a war of proxies — and that US efforts to embolden its anti-IS allies won’t work.

On Tuesday, a Turkish soldier was shot dead by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) a few hours after tbe Suruç bombing. The following day, two Turkish policemen were shot dead in their home near the Syrian border. The PKK promptly claimed responsibility, saying that the killings were in revenge for the Suruç attack, which it blames not just on ISIS but also on Turkey’s ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party.) It also claimed responsibility for the death of a suspected member of ISIS in Istanbul.

Most Kurdish radicals strongly believe the AKP supports ISIS,  pointing at the relative official tolerance of ISIS over the last year compared to other terrorist groups. But the AKP has been cracking down quite hard on ISIS inside Turkey over the last few months. Some 51 suspected ISIS members were detained in raids across the country this month, and government sources claim more than 500 such detentions this year.

For the Kurds, news of the moves against ISIS has been overshadowed by uncompromising denunciations of them from government spokesmen led by President Erdogan, claiming that Kurdish fighters in Kobane are as dangerous as ISIL and that the HDP (Peoples Democracy Party), the pro-Kurdish party which claims to be attempting to transform itself into a nation-wide Turkish left-of-center movement, is linked with PKK violence and even – some suggest—with ISIS. ISIS for good measure has accused President Erdoğan of supporting the PKK.) We’re in serious crazyland — and the thing about Turkey is that some part of the crazy may very well be true. The lowest point was when AKP co-founder Bulent Arinc asked why there had been no HDP members of parliament around when the Suruç bomb exploded. The question was remarkably distasteful, given that an HDP MP lost his wife and son in the blast.

By contrast, speaking at their funeral on Wednesday, Selahattin Demirtaş went out of his way to try and relieve tensions, warning that ‘blood could not be washed away with blood’ and praying for the murdered policemen and their families who were also sons of the same fatherland. His attempts to call for calm when Turkey is in uproar are the more remarkable since the HDP faced a spate of attacks on its regional offices and election buses during the election, culminating in a bomb attack on its final rally on 5 June in which four people were killed.

Demirtaş is caught. The operational head of the PKK’s guerrillas, Cemil Bayık, wants to end the cease-fire. Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s leader, is kept held in isolation on the island prison at Imrali on the sea of Marmara and his views on Demirtaş, the HDP, and the ceasefire are not known. Demirtaş continues to call for the ceasefire to continue, but he admits that only Ocalan has the authority to call for this.

pkk-suruc-suicide-bombingPresident Erdoğan also indicated earlier this month that his confidence in the peace process has waned. He now rejects the terms agreed at the end of 2014, and says the HDP is an extension of the PKK. This suggests the government believes making any further concessions to the Kurds would be politically fatal. It didn’t help when armed Alevi left-wing militants escorted the caskets of the Suruç victims in Istanbul — and the images circulated widely throughout Turkey.

A second general election this year is now likely. To regain the overall majority it lost in June, the AKP needs both to win back disgruntled conservatives among the ethnic Turks and stop the erosion of its votes in eastern Turkey among the non-PKK, often Islamist, Kurds in the south east who seem to have been mainly responsible for the surge in HDP votes in the June election. Ankara is also infuriated that the FYG (Peoples Defence Units) in the Kurdish-occupied portions of northern Syria have upstaged it as allies of the US against ISIL, hence the drive to discredit them.

The prospect of new elections is creating desperation among the political parties. Long-term considerations are being sacrificed to polemics. The PKK is an easy stick to beat. ISIS can feed off the tensions.

The CHP and HDP have joined forces and backed a motion for an emergency meeting of the Turkish parliament on 29 July. The AKP had said that there was no need to convene parliament. The National Assembly elected on 7 June has only met on a few occasions in the six and a half weeks since then to elect its officers.

CKps8y7WUAA1j2IFrederike Geerdink, the only Western correspondent in the primarily Kurdish city of Diyarbakır, Tweets that four Turkish F16 fighter jets bombed ISIS targets inside Syria during the night (local time). Casualties on ISIS side are not yet known. “It must be first time citizens here support planes going on bombing missions,” she writes. (Usually, they are on mission to bomb PKK redoubts.)

At the beginning of the month, shortly after the election, Turkey was rife with rumors that Erdogan planned to go into Syria to bolster his standing in advance of new elections:

Turkish newspapers have carried reports Erdogan is considering military intervention in Syria, in a bid to stop gains secured by Kurdish fighters against Takfiri group ISIL (so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant).

“Even before a government has been established, the drums of war are being beaten for vested interests. War is not a child’s game nor a vehicle to renew one’s image,” [main opposition party, known as the CHP, Kemal] Kilicdaroglu wrote on his official Twitter account.

“A good politician knows that feeding off chaos and war will bring disaster instead of success. This country is not a plaything for your ambition,” he said.

The army was reportedly reluctant to go in, particularly given that no government had been formed:

Turkey’s government wants more active military action to support the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against the regime, Kurdish and jihadist forces in Syrian territory, but the military is reluctant to do so, playing for time as the country heads for a new coalition government, official sources told the Hürriyet Daily News. ….

The military does not want to get into a major military action on the directives of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government which lost its parliamentary majority in the June 7 elections. The coalition talks to form a new government with either the Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) or the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will start next week and if a new government is formed in weeks’ time, the directive which might lead to a war could be obsolete. It is a fact that if the CHP becomes a coalition partner, which is more likely, that Turkey’s policy on Syria and ISIL could change.

There is also the factor of a reshuffle among military ranks. The office of Özel ends in August and civilian sources speculate that he is playing with time in order not to become the general that takes Turkey into war at a critical time.

So it is very, very hard to know what’s going on. The Turkish media has gone into pure martial propaganda mode; the White House isn’t confirming anything; and it may very well be that this is meant to show both American and Turkish politicians that we’re “doing something” against ISIS, but there may not be much to it.. It may even be designed to ensure that Erdogan is elected with majorities sufficient to enable him to push through his plan for an enhanced presidency.

Let’s hope that this really does entail a “game changer” against ISIS, but let’s not believe that absent further evidence.

Published in Foreign Policy, General, Islamist Terrorism
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  1. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar: nstinctive increased support for a leader when a country is attacked or enters into a conflict is a universal (Thatcher-Falklands, Bush-9/11) but won’t that be undercut in Turkey if many (most?) Turks suspect that Erdogan had some hand in the attack?

    It looks as if HDP members are being arrested. All he has to do is push support for the HDP below 10 percent — then they can’t get into parliament.

    • #31
  2. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Zafar: nstinctive increased support for a leader when a country is attacked or enters into a conflict is a universal (Thatcher-Falklands, Bush-9/11) but won’t that be undercut in Turkey if many (most?) Turks suspect that Erdogan had some hand in the attack?

    It looks as if HDP members are being arrested. All he has to do is push support for the HDP below 10 percent — then they can’t get into parliament.

    Yes, but will arresting members of the HDP reduce their support?  Arresting members of the precursors to the AKP didn’t work out that way.

    Also – am I right in understanding that Erdogan is arresting people from the party that most of the victims of the Suruc attack were linked to.  Is that right? Doesn’t that make him look like he’s taking advantage of something rather than being a strong leader for Turkey – won’t many Turks see it that way?

    • #32
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:

    Yes, but will arresting members of the HDP reduce their support? Arresting members of the precursors to the AKP didn’t work out that way.

    I’m not confident in making predictions, but the calling off of the cease-fire by the PKK and the violence in the southeast will cause immense polarization and fear. The last time Turkey experiencd this, 40,ooo people died. And there was no civil war in Syria.

    Also – am I right in understanding that Erdogan is arresting people from the party that most of the victims of the Suruc attack were linked to.

    I don’t have a sense of who’s being arrested, exactly, but it looks like a mass-arrest wave of leftists, PKK, and Gülenists, plus a major crackdown on the media.

    Is that right? Doesn’t that make him look like he’s taking advantage of something rather than being a strong leader for Turkey – won’t many Turks see it that way?

    Yes, but I don’t know how they’ll react to it. They’ll also react with horror — they are reacting with horror — to the renewed declaration of war from the PKK.

    • #33
  4. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Heckuva job, Barackie!

    • #34
  5. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ray Kujawa:We’ve been given permission to use airbases

    The conditions under which this will happen are still very unclear. What’s clear is that Turkey is now mostly striking PKK targets in Iraq, not ISIS targets in Syria. If you count the announced targets, it’s clear that the primary strikes were the the six airstrikes in Iraq, i.e. all against the PKK. Only three ISIL positions in Syria were bombed.

    and there is at least one journalist in Istanbul who reported for the Wall Street Journal.

    Emre and Alya are good, but the bureau has been closed, so they’re effectively on their own. They’ve lost Joe Parkinson, who was the most experienced, connected, and best reporter on the team. Istanbul isn’t the same as the southeast: You can’t report on the southeast from Istanbul, not when the media is good as blacked out.

    • #35
  6. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    I keep seeing reports that Incirlik is open to coalition actions against ISIS.  That’s one way to portray apparent coalition actions against PKK.

    • #36
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    So this is Turkey’s price.

    • #37
  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:So this is Turkey’s price.

    This is our price. We allowed Erdogan to stage a coup in exchange — maybe — for the chance to use Incirlik, which as far as I know, we are not using.

    • #38
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ball Diamond Ball:Keep seeing reports that incirlik is ope to coalition actions against ISIS. That’s one way to portray a coalition actons against PKK.

    Against PKK and the domestic opposition.

    • #39
  10. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Zafar:So this is Turkey’s price.

    This is our price. We allowed Erdogan to stage a coup in exchange — maybe — for the chance to use Incirlik, which as far as I know, we are not using.

    Yet.  The down payment is probably part of the deal. (Start with PKK first, then…)

    Sorry.  Dark times for Turkey.  And possibly a short sighted deal for the US. (I’m assuming they made one.)

    But also  – an unforseen side effect for Iran (and Asad) from that deal.

    • #40
  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Zafar:So this is Turkey’s price.

    This is our price. We allowed Erdogan to stage a coup in exchange — maybe — for the chance to use Incirlik, which as far as I know, we are not using.

    Yet. The down payment is probably part of the deal. (Start with PKK first, then…)

    Sorry. Dark times for Turkey. And possibly a short sighted deal for the US. (I’m assuming they made one.)

    But also – an unforseen side effect for Iran (and Asad) from that deal.

    With whom did we make this deal? This is a caretaker government. We’ve been bombing to support the YPG and now we’ve made a deal for Turkey to bomb the PKK? These are the same groups.

    • #41
  12. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:The PKK has declared an end to the ceasefire with Turkey. Turkey’s been bombing PKK bases in Iraqi Kurdistan.

    So does this mean a 3 way war with Turkey, the PKK and ISIS. Or will it be some combination of 2 on 1?

    • #42
  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Kozak:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:The PKK has declared an end to the ceasefire with Turkey. Turkey’s been bombing PKK bases in Iraqi Kurdistan.

    So does this mean a 3 way war with Turkey, the PKK and ISIS. Or will it be some combination of 2 on 1?

    My guess is that they’re selling a war on ISIS to the Western media, selling a war on the PKK for domestic politics. I think this analysis is probably correct.

    I don’t think the US has a policy, at all.

    • #43
  14. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    With whom did we make this deal? This is a caretaker government.

    I was going to say the Derin Devlet, but of course it probably doesn’t really exist any more. (Or does it?)

    We’ve been bombing to support the YPG and now we’ve made a deal for Turkey to bomb the PKK? These are the same groups.

    Yes, I understand that, but which is of greater value to the West (say to the US) in the Levant and Mesopotamia – the support of the Govt of Turkey (whoever that turns out to be) or the support of the YPG (who are sitting just up the road from Raqqa)?

    It would be nice to have both, but if that turns out to be impossible, which one is more vital to Western strategic interests?

    • #44
  15. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I don’t think the US has a policy, at all.

    I think our “policy” is whatever does Dear Leader the least damage in the polls on any given day….

    • #45
  16. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    With whom did we make this deal? This is a caretaker government.

    I was going to say the Derin Devlet, but of course it probably doesn’t really exist any more. (Or does it?)

    Of course it does. They never went after it. Balyoz and Ergenekon were show trials, Zafar — they left the most dangerous people alone.

    We’ve been bombing to support the YPG and now we’ve made a deal for Turkey to bomb the PKK? These are the same groups.

    Yes, I understand that, but which is of greater value to the West (say to the US) in the Levant and Mesopotamia

    Was it in the West’s interests to see Syria descend into civil war? How could it be in the West’s interests to see this happen in Turkey?

    • #46
  17. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Balyoz and Ergenekon were show trials, Zafar — they left the most dangerous people alone.

    :-(

    Otoh that means there’s a constant “Pouvoir” that ensures some basic stability, which is better than the alternative right?

    Was it in the West’s interests to see Syria descend into civil war? How could it be in the West’s interests to see this happen in Turkey?

    No, and definitely not, imho.

    And I know you’re not an oracle, but:

    Wrt Syria – how could the West have realistically stopped that descent?  And at this moment is it in the West’s interest to support one of the four (at least) battling sides – if so which one(s) – how? It’s a horrible thing to say, post Hama and barrel bombs on civilians etc., but the Asad era is starting to look relatively good compared to what is going on now.

    Wrt Turkey – the West needs a strong Turkey for a number of reasons, but right now it also really needs the Iraqi Kurds.  How can they square that circle?  Do they have to choose, or least lean a little one way or the other?  There doesn’t seem to be a neat answer that doesn’t have a major cost.

    For good or ill it looks like the borders there are being redrawn, and whoever is on the ground is going to have an impact on the result. What’s the best, or least bad, outcome from that?

    • #47
  18. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    The way this has happened (Turkey letting loose on the Kurds right after the U.S. gains access to air bases) looks absolutely terrible for us. As if we green lighted this. And that looks ever more likely as the White House is now publicly supporting Turkey.

    So a NATO member is bombing an organization that we are de facto allies with in Syria. I just don’t see what exactly we are gaining from the deal, if there was any. A virulently anti-ISIS militia seems more valuable than an alliance with a dictator with Ottoman nostalgia.

    • #48
  19. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    From Constantinople and Smyrna to Iraq and the flotillas, Turkey should feel US allies in Greece and the Kurds. Well, that won’t be happening.

    • #49
  20. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Byron Horatio:The way this has happened (Turkey letting loose on the Kurds right after the U.S. gains access to air bases) looks absolutely terrible for us.

    It does.

    As if we green lighted this.And that looks ever more likely as the White House is now publicly supporting Turkey.

    So a NATO member is bombing an organization that we are de facto allies with in Syria.I just don’t see what exactly we are gaining from the deal, if there was any.A virulently anti-ISIS militia seems more valuable than an alliance with a dictator with Ottoman nostalgia.

    Especially since in supporting this, we’re killing the last hope of democracy in Turkey.

    • #50
  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:

    Otoh that means there’s a constant “Pouvoir” that ensures some basic stability, which is better than the alternative right?

    Yes, to some extent, but it is a very dark thing.

    Wrt Syria – how could the West have realistically stopped that descent?

    I don’t know that we could have. 

    And at this moment is it in the West’s interest to support one of the four (at least) battling sides – if so which one(s) – how? It’s a horrible thing to say, post Hama and barrel bombs on civilians etc., but the Asad era is starting to look relatively good compared to what is going on now.

    It looks like paradise compared to what’s going on now.

    Wrt Turkey – the West needs a strong Turkey for a number of reasons, but right now it also really needs the Iraqi Kurds. How can they square that circle? Do they have to choose, or least lean a little one way or the other? There doesn’t seem to be a neat answer that doesn’t have a major cost.

    No, there isn’t. This is the culmination of foreign policy blunder upon blunder. But the US and Europe should be aware that the total destruction of Turkish democracy will come at a very high cost.

    For good or ill it looks like the borders there are being redrawn, and whoever is on the ground is going to have an impact on the result. What’s the best, or least bad, outcome from that?

    The least bad outcome is for the fewest people to be put in mass graves. We had damned well better use the access to Incirlik to destroy ISIS, because if not, we’ve created more chaos — and this will empower them even more.

    • #51
  22. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: The least bad outcome is for the fewest people to be put in mass graves. We had damned well better use the access to Incirlik to destroy ISIS, because if not, we’ve created more chaos — and this will empower them even more.

    Personally I have zero confidence the Administration will take any decisive steps to combat ISIS. It just is not in their DNA.  So we will have helped destroy Turkey’s democracy for no tangible gain.   God help whoever takes over after this group of clowns leaves DC.

    • #52
  23. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    I am friends with a young Assyrian Christian woman in northern Syria who is a volunteer in the Syriac Military Council (MFS). She messaged me today saying that some local Christian villages had suffered in the Turkish bombing as the Assyrians are accused of protecting the PKK. Of course the MFS is allied to the Kurds and fights alongside them. Now they too are considered enemies by the Turks.

    She said the Kurds and Christians are devastated by what they view as a betrayal by the United States. And with their [midguided] hopes of a favorable US intervention or assistance gone, that, the Syrian Christians are left to choose either certain genocide from ISIS or an increasing alliance with Hezbollah, which has actively recruited Christians lately.

    What a bizarre world that the U.S. nods as a NATO member bombs our allies and sends them into the arms of an Iranian client.

    • #53
  24. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Byron Horatio:What a bizarre world that the U.S. nods as a NATO member bombs our allies and sends them into the arms of an Iranian client.

    Sadly, much of this seems right.

    • #54
  25. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    Aside from the mind-blowing stupidity at work in the administration, resumption of Turkish hostilities could mean great danger for coalition aircraft. If reports are true they Turkey is bombing YPG positions in northern Syria, then the Kurds can’t be sure if it is an American jet running a sortie against ISIS or a Turkish jet coming to bomb them.

    • #55
  26. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Byron Horatio:Aside from the mind-blowing stupidity at work in the administration, resumption of Turkish hostilities could mean great danger for coalition aircraft.If reports are true they Turkey is bombing YPG positions in northern Syria, then the Kurds can’t be sure if it is an American jet running a sortie against ISIS or a Turkish jet coming to bomb them.

    Byron, I’ve been so distraught by the news coming from Turkey this weekend that I’ve been sick. Among reports, from very credible friends: “Southeastern Turkey has been plunged into seething local civil disorder by the air-strikes on the Kurds. Local reports from scores of villages which have not previously known violent disorder at least in recent years are now facing arson attacks on government installations, destruction  of  official vehicles and equipment by masked men, and so forth, all uncomfortably reminiscent of conditions during the civil war in Ireland in 1922. Apart from reports of the deaths and largest explosions in the cities, it is very difficult to form an overall picture of  what is happening. None of this was happening a week ago before the airstrikes were launched.”

    Do we have any idea what we’re doing? These are real people. They’re people I know.

    • #56
  27. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Byron Horatio:Aside from the mind-blowing stupidity at work in the administration, resumption of Turkish hostilities could mean great danger for coalition aircraft.If reports are true they Turkey is bombing YPG positions in northern Syria, then the Kurds can’t be sure if it is an American jet running a sortie against ISIS or a Turkish jet coming to bomb them.

    Byron, I’ve been so distraught by the news coming from Turkey this weekend that I’ve been sick. Among reports, from very credible friends: “S

    Do we have any idea what we’re doing? These are real people. They’re people I know.

    Claire,

    We have a lying idiot as Commander in Chief. The Executive Branch under the Constitution has immense power in the area of foreign affairs. This power does not come without responsibility and if that is ignored not without the possibility of indictment.

    I only explained in detail the usefulness of air bases asssuming a well coordinated allied offensive against ISIS. I presumed that the Peshmerga would be on board and like in WWII the PKK and Erdogan would withhold their differences for war against a common enemy.

    When the rot is at the top everyone pays the price. I am very sorry for those real people. I am very sorry that you feel the pain directly from those that you know.

    Gd will hear their cry.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #57
  28. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    James Gawron: I presumed that the Peshmerga would be on board and like in WWII the PKK and Erdogan would withhold their differences for war against a common enemy.

    The only consolation in this is that it seems the Western media has quickly grasped what’s actually happening.

    Whether anyone cares, though, I don’t know.

    • #58
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