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Turkey’s foreign policy reorientation

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Today, Turkey is facing three major problems and though it employs diplomatic skills to cater for the redress of those problems, it has not been able to overcome the obstacles. The three issues the former Ottoman Empire is facing are: one, its EU membership efforts against which many European countries raise opposition, making Istanbul’s entry into the European parliament as a legitimate European state difficult, though the present Brexit move gives hopes for its speedy entry; two, the Kurdish problem, fueled by outside sources which has given a constant headache for the ruling AKP and its leader Erdogan; and three, its effort to lead Islamic world that are spoiled by war in Syria. Turkey’s chances of becoming a veto power depend on the successful handling by the government of these issues.

Turkey is doing a faster burn on the Kurds. Having waged a fierce war against Kurdish separatists in southern Turkey, the Turkish government has taken military action against the Kurds of Iraq and Syria to prevent Kurdish forces from connecting two enclaves — one in Iraq and one in Syria — that could form the geographic beginning of an independent Kurdistan.

Although Turkey has successfully resolved to sort out its issues with Russia and Israel so that it could put at rest the challenges from both these powerfully dictatorial states controlling the wars in Mideast by coordinating their destabilizing operations along with USA.

When it found its assertive diplomacy is not yielding the desired fruits, Turkey has revised its strategy and renewed its ties with both Russia and Israel.

Turkey and Russia

A NATO member Turkey and an anti-NATO Russia do not have close ties and in fact ideally they cannot cooperate in international politics, either. In fact, Turkey joined the NATO very early when it felt the Soviet threat and the NATO used Istanbul in order to assert its ‘traditional” control over Islamic world, including Arab world and Iran. USA and UK and other big powers skillfully divided Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt to deny them a place on the important UNSC veto system and made them fight for just non-veto position on the UNSC for usual two years by rotation. In fact, these top Islamic nations bitterly opposed each other on the UNSC with veto, unlike Russia which fought for China, its communist ally then, on the veto regime. .

Bilateral trade was normal

In the first four months of the year, Turkey’s exports to Russia dropped to $484.6 million, a 61.5 percent decrease compared to the same period of 2015. The head of the Agriculturalists Association of Turkey (TZOB) earlier noted that his sector’s losses had reached $290 million over the year due to the political problems with Russia. “Russia’s share in our fresh fruit and vegetable exports was 39 percent on an amount basis and 42 percent on a value basis. The sector’s exports have been negatively affected since sanctions were imposed by Russia on Jan. 1. While Turkey made around $368.2 million in revenue in exchange for around 530,000 tons of fresh fruit and vegetable exports to Russia in the first five months of 2015, this figure plunged to around $78.2 million of revenue for some 113,000 tons of exports”.

A downturn in relations occasioned by Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet last November especially impacted economic and trade ties. When Turkey developed tension with Russia over the latter’s violation of Turkey’s air space, Israel moved swiftly to win over Russia and Netanyahu became a regular visit to President Putin’s office in Moscow as part of their joint strategy in Syria and West Asia in general. Turkey felt the pinch which was unbearable. Hence Turkey decided to move cautiously and make over with both Russia and Israel, maybe on US advice. Thus Istanbul’s effort to neutralize the badly tensed situation harming its interests has made it a favourite of both countries.

Relations between Russia and Turkey have taken a nosedive over the Syrian civil war, particularly after Turkey shot down a Russian plane. But even before that, Turkey’s support of Sunni jihadist organizations was a thorn in the side of Russia, which still fears Sunni jihad inside southern Russia. Russia has goals in Syria and Israel also has requirements.

After roughly nine months of disagreement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to revive their stalled bilateral relationship in their first direct contact on June 29, fueling hopes about restoring economic and trade ties. According to experts, recent moves to normalize ties between Turkey and Russia will benefit both sides’ economy as well as the region’s economy, particularly in the energy, tourism and trade sectors.

Russian Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev said the trade and investment relations between Turkey and Russia would be rebuilt, according to a TASS report on July 1. An expert from the Energy Markets and Policies Institute (EPPEN) said the improving relations would make the most positive contributions in the energy sector. Russia has heavily invested in Turkey’s energy sector and a possible resolution over gas prices would be significant if both sides can agree. Nigyar Masumova, an academic from the World Economy Department of Moscow State International Relations University, said the normalization in ties was some good news during difficult days for the both countries. Trade and tourism ties will return to the former levels in a short time, while the planned Turkish Stream project could be delayed due to economic problems in Russia. “We believe that the sanctions imposed by Russia on fresh fruit and vegetable imports from Turkey will likely be abolished in the autumn,” she added.

One is not very sure if Turkey shot down the Russian plane on the instructions from Pentagon and that could the reason why Russia did not retaliate because if it did retaliate NATO would attack Russian planes in the region leading to a brief war. . The Middle East total bankruptcy and the only country that Turkey can establish stable relations, start a dialogue and discuss political options with is Israel. Ankara and Tel Aviv’s increasing need to share field intelligence seems to have triggered this normalization. Recently, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen visited Ankara and met with the top brass of the intelligence-security bureaucracy led by Turkey’s intelligence chief Hakan Fidan.

Turkey and Israel

Turkey and Israel had enjoyed a privileged relationship for more than 60 years. Before the flotilla raid, there was truly far-reaching military cooperation between Israel and Turkey that dated back to the 1960s and peaked in the 1990s. With the 1994 Defense Cooperation Agreement and 1996 Military Training Cooperation Agreement, military-security relations between the two became the most intimate in the Middle East. This cooperation was particularly prominent in intelligence sharing, military training and the defense industry. But relations between the two countries went into a deep freeze in 2010, when Israeli commandos attacked a Turkish ship in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

With the 1994 Defense Cooperation Agreement and 1996 Military Training Cooperation Agreement, military-security relations between the two became the most intimate in the Middle East. This cooperation was particularly prominent in intelligence sharing, military training and the defense industry.

In the early 2000s, in return for Israel’s technical and intelligence support to Turkey in combating the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Turkey shared with Israel the intelligence on Iran it had collected in Iraq and Turkey. Israel’s combat pilots participated in the annual Anatolian Eagle exercises held at an airfield in Turkey’s central Anatolian province of Konya, where they conducted training over mountainous topography unavailable in Israel. They also conducted regular joint exercises in the eastern Mediterranean until 2010. In return, Turkish pilots received training on surface-to-air missiles in Israel. In the defense industry, the most recent joint projects were the modernization of M60 tanks at a cost of $650 million and F-4E planes for about $1 billion, procurement and operation of armed Heron UAVs for $200 million, electronic reconnaissance and surveillance systems at $200 million, and procurement of missiles and smart ammunition for $150 million.

Israel and Egypt have come to a deep understanding of the sources of instability and insecurity in Sinai, and the relationship between Hamas in Gaza and its primary sponsor, Iran, as well as ISIS.

Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla, the flash point

Turkey and Israel, mediated successfully by the USA and UK, have had excellent relations, including regular joint military exercise, for many years until the Mavi Marmara flotilla of 2010, symbolizing the beginning of a new chapter in the freedom struggle of Palestine.

The Turkish-owned ship Mavi Marmara took part in a 2010 “Gaza flotilla” attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. After the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla Turkey made three demands of Israel: an Israeli apology for the deaths of Turkish activists; a financial settlement; and lifting the Gaza blockade, which Turkey claimed was illegal. In 2011, however, the UN Palmer Commission Report, produced as per the US-Israel demands, found the Zionist terror blockade of Gaza — jointly perpetrated with Egypt — to be legal, and said Israel owed Turkey neither an apology nor compensation.

In 2013, at the urging of President Obama and to move the conversation off the impasse, PM Netanyahu did apologize for the loss of life and agree to discuss compensation. While Obama was pleased, Turkish President Erdogan repaid the gesture by denigrating Israel on Turkish television and announcing he would force the end of the blockade. Israel’s condition — that the office of Hamas in Ankara be closed — was ignored for the simple reason that Turkey Is not occupying Gaza Strip. .

Nevertheless, in February 2014, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkish television that Israel and Turkey were “closer than ever” to normalizing relations.” And in February 2016, there was yet another announcement of imminent restoration of government-to-government ties. In March, Kurdish sources said Turkey was already demanding weapons from Israel, but that Israel wanted to ensure that Turkey would not use them against Kurdish forces.

Alongside mending ties with Israel, Turkey began repairing relations with Turkey as well because restoring full relations between Israel and Turkey would irritate Russia, with which Israel has good trade and political relations, and understandings regarding Syria. Israel’s relations with the Kurds are also at issue.

Most of illegal settlers in Palestine are of Russian origin and are a powerful group in the parliament and close links with Russia. And hence Israeli leaders like Netanyahu enjoy free lunch at Putin’s official palace In Moscow. .

Assertive diplomacy

Turkey’s assertive diplomacy got revealed when in 2010 Turkey sent the Mavi Marmara aidship with humanitarian assistance to breach the Israeli blockades around Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish activists and one American from IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation were killed during an Israeli commando terror raid on the Mavi Marmara cruise ship and blocked humanitarian help for the Gaza Strip. Turkey broke off the bilateral ties forthwith.

On Nov. 24, 2015, Turkish F-16s shot down a Syrian-based Russian bomber that had allegedly strayed into its airspace. This triggered a confrontation between Ankara and Moscow, and especially between the two presidents, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. The Russian ambassador was recalled, harsh and damaging economic sanctions were applied, and there were even threats of war.

The war of words and military muscle flexing in Syria, the Caucasus, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean continued all through the first half of 2016. Turkey requested a stronger NATO presence in the Black Sea to help protect it against a more assertive Russia.

On the credit side of the ledger, Turkey has given shelter to almost 3 million refugees from Syria – many of whom eventually began to move on to Europe. As it gathered in strength, this exodus produced a paradigm shift in the European Union’s attitude. Suddenly, Turkish help was needed to contain the migrant stream.

Brussels responded by offering Ankara money and halfhearted concessions – some of them long overdue, like visa-free travel

Problem of assertive diplomacy

History has shown that only the USA can effectively pursue assertive diplomacy and so far even Russian has not be able to achieve it without US help as it is happening in Syria.

Without being a superpower, Turkey faced serious opposition to its assertive diplomacy because its punitive measures against Israel and Russia threatened to cause damages to Turkey in the short term at least.

USA which shields the Zionist crimes against humanity has made overtones to collaborate with Russia in Syria and Mideast East. So, Istanbul sensed danger because Russia and Israel jointly begin a containment approach towards Turkey.

After the Mavi Marmara incident, intelligence sharing between the two countries came to an end, followed by cancelations in military training and cooperation.. After the downgrading of ties with Turkey, Israel conducted a series of military exercises with the air, sea and ground forces of Greece and the Greek Cypriots with which Turkey has problems.

After pursuing an assertive diplomacy for a few years, Turkey has now reverted to back to a big power policy format that, as before, would not only get back to US-Israeli orbit but also realign its relations with Russia with which it developed a serious conflictual situation.

The reason for the former Ottoman Empire to revise its policy in favor of Israel seems to be that it knew the e level of influence over USA and many other countries that also began a negative approach to Turkey after the Israeli –Turkish clash over breaching of Israeli terror blockade to Gaza Strip. Turkey helps all big powers in selling their terror goods to third world, including India. .

Though isolated internationally no-account of its illegal colonies and genocides in Palestine, Israel still calls all shots in Mideast with its arms and triclomatic arsenals. Selling terror goods to third world and receiving aid from USA and EU, Israel has generally good economic and political relations with Russia and Turkey while Russia and Turkey are doing a slow burn.

Islamic world’s bilateral trade with Turkey is not impressive. Most Muslim nations have been purchasing terror goods from USA, Europe, Israel and Russia while Turkey has not made any serious effort to build up its economic relations with Islamic world. Antagonism with Israel only harmed turkey as Islamic world has not come for economic ties with Istanbul in order to assure it their support.

True, for too long Turkey rejected Israeli moves to restart the diplomatic and military relations. But since 2014, therefore, Turkey has been searching to renew ties with Israel. Saudi Arabia’s tensions with Iran and the USA after the West-Iran nuclear deal in 2015 have encouraged Saudi rapprochement with Israel. Turkey followed the suit accepting the new reality and realignment with Israel was found to be “profitable” option. In fact, this is part of a new regional reality, where those countries, along with Qatar and Jordan, fear spillover from Syria and Iraq.

Vision

Turkey learns that it cannot pursue any assertive foreign policy in order to advance its legitimate interests globally without the help of USA and with Israel opposing it as a counter force, especially when USA and Israel operate jointly.

Turley has begun to take sharp turns in its foreign policy. Following a statement by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim that Turkey will pursue a more realistic foreign policy to decrease enemies and increase friends, the first major turn has appeared in Israel-Turkey relations after May 31, 2010, when the Israeli military raided a Turkish flotilla that was trying to break through the Israeli blockade and deliver humanitarian relief supplies to Gaza. 10 Turkish nationals and an American aid worker were among those killed by Israeli military attack. While Turkey strained its ties with arrogant and fascist Israel, USA did not consider the killing of its citizen by Israeli military as a crime at all because he was not killed by Islamic terrorists.

Over the past two weeks, three remarkable things happened. On June 26, Israel and Turkey agreed to restore normal diplomatic relations, potentially unlocking the development of huge offshore natural gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean. The next day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that Erdogan had apologized for the downing of the Russian warplane in a letter to Putin. Russia lifted its ban on package tours to Turkey the same week, and relations began to normalize.

An important reason for the revision of foreign policy in relations with Israel is the Turkish armed forces that pressured the government about their needs and projects the AKP government could not ignore the demand of military. Also, because of its disturbing isolation in the region and with inadequate support from the USA and NATO, had no choice to but turn back to Israel for regional military-security cooperation. The growing profile of Iran, the regionalization of the PKK threat and regional developments around Hamas, the Islamic State (IS), Iraq and Syria have laid the ground for Ankara and Tel Aviv to cooperate

Today, Israel is the country closest to the US and Russia. That is why Israel can play a middle role in preserving Ankara’s relations with the US at an appropriate level and also help normalize relations with Russia.

However, it is unlikely that Turkey-Israel relations will be restored to 1990s levels anytime soon but this may help the shaping of a new geopolitical equation for the eastern Mediterranean and facilitate their counterbalancing of Iran in the region.

Naturally, the PKK, Hamas, Iran, the Syrian regime, ISIS and Russia won’t be happy about rewinding of bilateral ties. Israel wants Turkey to help play a more active role in NATO. In ore rot take Russia on board to reduce tensions, Turkey has made up with Russia as well.

Notwithstanding the benefit both parties, rapprochement between Israel and Turkey is likely to be much more expensive for Turkey.

Zionist criminal mindset: Politics of convenience?

Turkey and Israel are reported to have reestablished full diplomatic ties after more than half a decade. The history of how Israel and Turkey had such a deep falling out goes back seven years. In January 2009, at a World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, members of an international panel were waiting to wrap up and get to dinner when then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanded to respond to Israel’s President Shimon Peres. Taking off his simultaneous translation earphones, he told Peres, “Maybe you are feeling guilty and that is why you are so strong in your words. You killed people. I remember the children who were killed on beaches.”

Not only has the US ally Israel killed Palestinians, it, having assumed as a super power, also killed Turkish people. A little over a year later, on May 31, 2010, nine Turkish activists from IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation were killed during an Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara cruise ship that was trying to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Erdoğan ordered the Turkish ambassador to leave the Jewish state immediately, claiming the raid was contrary to international law and tantamount to “inhumane state terrorism.”

Relations between the two countries cooled severely. Given Turkey’s relationship with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, it seemed to be growing closer to groups that were traditionally hostile to Israel. Israel fought three wars against the ruling Hamas in Gaza since 2009, and Turkey has demanded Israel lift its blockade of the small strip.

Last year, things have taken a dramatic turn. Returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia, Erdoğan said that Turkey “needs” Israel (gas and terror goods) and asserted that Israel needed Turkey, “a fact of the region.”

The normalization agreement was supposed to include long-term Turkish demands at compensation for the deaths in 2010, as well as a decision about Gaza. B. Netanyahu had consented to another Turkish demand in 2013 by issuing an apology of sorts in a phone conversation with Erdoğan. US President B. Obama was reported to have a close role in encouraging the conversation to take place.

The rise of the AKP in Turkey’s 2002 elections changed the diplomatic playing field. New faces in Ankara were less interested in Israel and more interested in a new regional paradigm that would see rising Turkish influence. Turkey sought to mediate between Israel and Syria over the Golan Heights in 2009. Erdoğan was shocked by fascist PM Ehud Olmert, who mercilessly killed even children to win the general poll, visiting him in 2009 and then going to war in Gaza, rather than concluding a deal with Syria. Israel’s military minister Ehud Barak said Israel did “teach the Turks a lesson”.

Erdoğan was “personally offended” and felt humiliated by Israel as USA watched the terror show on sea by Zionist military using US terror goods. . It was in this context that Erdoğan sat with Peres at Davos and accused him of killing Gazans. The resulting deaths irrevocably harmed relations.

In March of 2016, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz met Erdoğan in Washington and discussed the war in Syria, Iran’s presence there, terrorism—and natural gas. Reuters claimed that the issue of Israeli exports of natural gas to Turkey was an essential piece of the puzzle because Turkey has been weaned of Russian gas since their relations strained over Syria.

Implications of realignment

The implications of this policy shift are enormous. It will integrate the refugees into Turkey’s economy, which is likely to accelerate growth – especially since many of the Syrians are highly qualified professionals. It also strengthens Mr. Erdogan’s political base, giving him a new cohort of likely supporters.

The realignment process will have implications for the Syrian conflict, natural gas exports and Saudi-Israeli relations. Israel has always sought to maintain good relations with the Turks, and the two countries had enjoyed relatively warm relations since the 1950s. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel. As a powerful non-Arab state in the region and NATO member, Turkey was aligned with Israel during the Cold War. Several founders of the state of Israel were educated in Istanbul, and there was an affinity between the two country’s national movements.

The larger picture is the regional chaos that has unfolded since the break in relations in 2010. The Arab Spring in 2011 brought Morsi to power in Egypt. And when rebellion broke out in Syria, Turkey hoped that the Syrian rebels, whose more Sunni Islamic ideology tended to meld well with Turkey’s own AKP, would push Bashar al-Assad from power. But the rebels faltered, Islamic State took over part of Syria, and the United States and UK decided not to bomb Assad in 2013. Turkey continues to support Syria’s rebels, but it knows Assad will not fall. Morsi was pushed from power in 2013 in what Turkey considers a coup.

As Turkish renewal move was taking place Saudi Arabia and Egypt also began closer relationship. Recently, Egypt and Saudi Arabia upgraded relations with Egypt ceding back to the Saudis two islands that Saudi Arabia had given Egypt in 1950 to help Egypt fight Israel in the Red Sea. An Egyptian court however, has struck down the Egypt-Saudi islands deal. The Egyptian government informed Israel of the parameters of the deal, noting that Riyadh would be obligated to honor all of Egypt’s commitments in the peace treaty with Israel, including the presence of international peacekeepers on the islands and freedom of maritime movement in the Gulf of Aqaba. Israel approved the deal “on condition that the Saudis fill in the Egyptians’ shoes in the military appendix of the peace agreement.”

In sum, these moves transform Turkey’s position. Europe will have to reconsider its hypocritically superior attitude toward a country that is an indispensible regional partner, and which has also done much more for Syrian refugees than the EU itself.

What is most encouraging about these developments is their common denominator: pragmatism. This may bode well for resolving Turkey’s worst predicament, the Kurdish conflict, which has degenerated into a near-civil war raging in the country’s southeast.

Pragmatic leadership in Ankara, dealing from a position of strength, may find ways to accommodate Kurdish interests within the Turkish republic. This solution could even prove attractive for the Kurdish state in northern Iraq, which might become Turkey’s close associate. Turkey opposes the Kurdish movement for a soverign state. Maybe, Turkey thought Russia and Israel could openly support the Kurdish movement for a separate state.

Perhaps the most important development of the past two weeks is President Erdogan’s offer to grant Turkish citizenship to Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Turkey is now back as a leading regional power in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Mutual security

USA knows Israel’s security is tied with that of Palestine and Israel cannot ensure security of its lands and people if they don’t allow security and freedom to Palestinians. .

Turkey insists Israel breaks all terror blockades around Gaza strip and let the Palestinians have some freedoms. To meet Turkey’s condition, Israel would have to abandon the terror based security arrangement it shares with Egypt against Palestine, which has increased Israel’s own imagined security and pay regional dividends. Israelis are cleaver people who know its security is linked with the security of Palestinians and with intermittent terror attacks on Gaza, Israel cannot ensure its security.

Even when Israeli military keeps attacking Palestinians in Gaza Strip, killing even women and children, in 2011, the UN Palmer Commission Report found the blockade of Gaza — jointly administered with Egypt — to be legal, and said Israel owed Turkey neither an apology nor compensation. It argued that lifting the Israel/Egypt embargo on Gaza would empower Gaza rulers Hamas, and thereby the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and ISIS — which would seem an enormous risk for no gain.

Quartet should have worried about mutual security for both Palestine and Israel as a two state solution is looming large to enable both Palestine and Israel exist side by side. However, like Israel and USA, the Quartet is also interested in Zionist expansionism and one state idea of Jews.

Observation

Turkey’s decision to renew ties with both Russia and Israel is timely as it did not want to precipitate the conflict further and that move welcomed even by intentional community wanting peace.

The EU issue of Turkey remains intact, though the recent Brexit move gives hopes for its speedy entry. The Kurdish problem, being accelerated by the war in Syria and ISIS attacks is not easy to solve but by realigning with both Russia and Israel, the problem cannot wire explosive. With a shift assertive diplomacy in favor of peaceful one, Ankara can now try to shoulder leadership of the Islamic world along with Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu has publicly supported the establishment of a Kurdish state. Even at the peak of Israeli-Turkish relations, Israel’s support of the Kurds has been a relatively open political secret. Although the Israeli government consistently denies providing weapons, reputable sources suggest, at a minimum, training for Kurdish forces. Most recently, Israel acknowledged buying oil from Kurdish sources in Northern Iraq, and IsraAid, an Israeli humanitarian organization, provided assistance to Kurdish refugees fleeing ISIS.

Turkey’s problems with Israel, Russia and Egypt are based purely on principles because they wronged with Turkey by taking undue advantage of the US led NATO war on Islam (terror war). Turkey’s prompt action as a soverign Muslim nation having regard for Islam led to deterioration of relations with all these three powers.

The Arab Spring and NATO terror wars on Islam for energy resources, the US attacks on Libya and Syria, followed by Russian military intervention on behalf of an adamant Assad, among other factors, made Israeli fascist occupation and crimes against humanity fairly easier as it also claims legitimacy for its crimes and occupational settlements.

For Israel to trade its increasingly important relations with Russia, with Egypt — and thereby with Saudi Arabia — and with the Kurds for Turkish political approval and a promise to buy Israeli natural gas would seem to be a good idea for future deals.

The new developments taking pace with Turkey playing active reconciliation role are likely to give benefit to Mideast and Israel by negating and ending the Israel-Egypt terror blockades of Gaza.

In order to conduct smooth foreign policy globally, especially in Europe and West Asia, Israel needs to lift the Israel/Egypt embargo on Gaza by removing all terror blockades without unnecessarily wasting brains if the action would empower Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood or Iran or ISIS because maintaining the blockades would never let Israel gain credible security, though Palestinians would continue to suffer and continue to fight for survival and sovereignty. By giving defacto status the UN has already declared Palestine state a reality.

Time is over for Israel, UN, ICJ and Quartet to consider seriously about a soverign Palestine state and peace in West Asia. If the ICJ and ICC think no peace is possible in Mideast unless Israeli criminals are punished, then they should first punish them. US leaders who have promoted the criminal Zionist regime in Mideast must also deserve punishments for their deliberate crimes, including misuse of the veto to shield the Zionist crimes against humanity.

With Turkey’s shift in foreign policy structuring, will Russia and Israel become true allies of Turkey?

This trillion dollar question deserves a definite answer if one is forthcoming.

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Middle East

A gruesome murder bares world powers’ flawed policies

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s gruesome murder raises fundamental questions that go far beyond Middle Eastern geopolitics.

They go to the risks of support for autocratic regimes by democratic and authoritarian world powers, the rise of illiberal democracy in the West, increasing authoritarianism in Russia, and absolute power in China in which checks and balances are weakened or non-existent.

Mr. Khashoggi’s killing is but the latest incident of hubris that stems from the abandonment of notions of civility, tolerance and plurality; and the ability of leaders to get away with murder, literally and figuratively. It also is the product of political systems with no provisions to ensure that the power of men like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is restrained and checked.

Mr. Khashoggi was an advocate of the necessary checks and balances.

In his last column published in The Washington Post posthumously, Mr. Khashoggi argued that “the Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices. We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.”

Mr. Khashoggi’s words were echoed by prominent journalist and political analyst Rami Khouri. “We are heading to the law of the jungle if big power and Mideast state autocracy is not held accountable,” Mr. Khouri said.

In a similar vein, a survey by the Arab Barometer survey concluded that public institutions in the Arab world, including the judiciary enjoyed little, if any, public trust.

“Part of the lack of trust comes from the disenfranchisement felt by many, especially youth and women… The lack of alternative political forces is adding to the fatigue and lack of trust in institutions. Citizens in the region struggle to find an alternative to the ruling elite that might help address the issues of ineffective governance and corruption,” said a report by the Carnegie for Endowment of Peace.

“Citizens are increasingly turning toward informal mechanisms such as protests and boycotts, and focusing more on specific issues of governance, such as service provision, particularly at the local level. Furthermore, with democracy under threat across the globe, calls for broad democratic reform have been replaced by more basic demands,” the report went on to say.

What puts the price Mr. Khashoggi paid for advocating controls of absolute power in a class of its own, is the brutality of his killing, the fact that he was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul rather than, for example, by an unknown killer on a motorbike; and the increasingly difficult effort to resolve politically the crisis his death sparked.

Beyond the support by world powers of often brutal autocrats facilitated by a lack of checks and balances that in the past three decades has destroyed countries and costs the lives of millions, Mr. Khashoggi’s murder is also the product of the failure of Western leaders to seriously address the breakdown in confidence in leadership and political systems at home and abroad.

The breakdown peaked with the 2011 popular Arab revolts; simultaneous widespread protests in Latin America, the United States and Europe; and the increased popularity of anti-system, nationalist and populist politicians on both the right and the left.

Mr. Khashoggi joins the victims of extrajudicial poisoning in Britain by Russian operatives of people who like him may have been a thorn in the side of their leaders but did not pose an existential threat – not that that would justify murder or attempted murder.

He also joins the millions of casualties of failed policy and hubris caused by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s gassing of Kurds in the 1980s and reckless 1990 invasion of Kuwait, support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s determination to cling to power irrespective of the human cost, the Saudi-UAE-led war in Yemen that has produced the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two, and China’s attempt to brainwash and socially engineer what the country’s leaders see as the model Chinese citizen.

And those are just some of the most egregious instances.

No better are the multiple ways in which autocratic leaders try to ensure conformity not only through repression and suppression of a free press but also, for example, by deciding who deserves citizenship based upon whether they like their political, economic or social views rather than on birth right.

Take Bahrain whose minority Sunni Muslim regime has stripped hundreds of its nationals of their citizenship simply because it did not like their views or Turkey with its mass arrests of anyone critical of the government.

The irony is that if elections in democracies are producing illiberal leaders like US President Donald J. Trump, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungary’s Victor Orban, in Asia and Africa they are bring forth governments mandated to reverse Belt and Road-related, Chinese funding of projects that primarily benefit China rather than the recipient economically and pave the way for greater Chinese influencing of domestic politics as well as the export of systems that enhance unchecked state power.

In some cases, like Malaysia, they produce leaders willing to take on China’s creation of a 21st century Orwellian surveillance state in its north-western province of Xinjiang.

It matters little what label world powers put on their support for autocrats and illiberals. The United States has long justified its policy with the need for regional stability in the greater Middle East. Russia calls it international legality while China packages is it as non-interference in the domestic affairs of others.

Said Middle East expert and former US official Charles Kestenbaum building on Mr. Khashoggi’s words: “If they (Middle Eastern states) want to compete with the globe in IT (information technology) and tech more broadly, they must encourage risk, innovation and freedom to fail. Such social and political freedom does not exist adequately in the region. The opposite in fact, authoritarian regimes repress such initiative and openness. So what do they have to compete and globally engage in the 2020’s? Nothing.”

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Can the Idlib Memorandum Freeze the Conflict?

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During their Sochi talks in September 2018, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached an agreement on preserving the de-escalation zone in Idlib and abandoning the military operation that the Assad regime had been preparing to launch against the opposition groups in Idlib. The main provisions of the Sochi agreements boil down to the establishment of a demilitarized zone, 15–20 kilometres deep in the de-escalation area and the withdrawal by the conflicting parties of their heavy weaponry, including armoured vehicles, artillery, mortars and multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) by October 10, and of radical terrorist groups by October 15 (the units of moderate rebels will hold their positions). Free movement and freight carriage is set to be restored on the M4 (Aleppo to Latakia) and M5 (Aleppo to Damascus) roads.

A Step Toward a “Turkish Republic of Northern Syria”?

Ankara has consistently advocated for the preservation of the opposition-controlled de-escalation zone, and it was the efforts of Turkey, and of Erdogan personally, that averted the military threat to Idlib, even if temporarily. Many provisions of the Sochi agreements rely on the so-called “white paper” that Turkey conveyed to Russia back in July. Ankara’s demonstration of military power also played a role. Between the Tehran summit of the “Astana troika” and the Sochi talks, the Turkish military was actively building up its forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone, boosting them with tanks and artillery. At the same time, additional weapons were supplied to the Syrian National Army units deployed in the Turkish “buffer” zone in Northern Aleppo, and its forces were ready to move to Idlib to assist the local opposition groups.

These steps indicate that Turkey is ready to press for the Province of Idlib to gradually turn into a Turkish “protectorate,” as happened in the regions of Northern Aleppo, which fell under the country’s “security umbrella” following the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations. Accordingly, preserving the opposition’s control over the regions remaining under its power gives Turkey a chance to head up and supervise the peaceful process together with Russia. Should Idlib transition under Assad’s control before a final political settlement in Syria is achieved, Turkey would essentially be left out of Syrian settlement, which would strip its fosterlings in the ranks of Syria’s opposition of any say and the opportunity to be represented in the transitional governmental bodies.

Therefore, it is important for Turkey to prevent the fragmentation of Idlib’s de-escalation zone and keep it under Turkish control without allowing the Russian military police to “take root” there as patrols or outposts, let alone as any administrative bodies of the Syrian regime. This is why Ankara supported the position of the Syrian rebel groups that opposed the Russian military presence in the demilitarized zone or their deployment along M4 and M5 routes. Ankara believes that Turkish troops are capable of handling the task independently. A compromise with Russia could be achieved on the issue. Turkey agreed to the demilitarized zone going exclusively through opposition-controlled territories. Consequently, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry will only apply to the insurgents, and not to the “conflicting parties” as the memorandum stated. In response, Ankara insists that any Russian military presence in the demilitarized zone is unacceptable.

Additionally, Syrian refugees pose an extremely grave problem for the Turkish leadership. The country’s population is growing progressively more discontented with accommodating several millions of Syria’s forced migrants in the long term. Applying the Lebanese scenario to resolve this problem is unacceptable for Ankara, since it would mean pushing the refugees back into Syria while the current regime is in power. Recep Erdogan has repeatedly stated that Bashar al-Assad is guilty of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and has even called him a “murderer.” For Turkey, the most convenient solution would be to create the necessary conditions for accommodating Syrian refuges in opposition-controlled territories. Camps are being built in Northern Aleppo that can take in over 150,000 forced migrants. Nonetheless, the Turkish “protectorate” areas in Northern Aleppo may not be enough. Therefore, the de-escalation zone in Idlib could become the principal region for returning Syrian refugees from Turkey once the required infrastructure is in place. However, it will only be possible if the danger of Syria’s governmental troops conducting a military operation there is averted and if the issue of terrorist groups present there is resolved.

Has the Triumphant Progress Stopped?

For Damascus, the Sochi agreements effectively put an end to a victorious 2018. Over that time, Damascus took control over opposition enclaves one by one: Eastern Ghouta, Al-Dumayr and Eastern Qalamoun, Yarmouk, Homs, Deraa and Quneitra. It seemed that one last push would have been enough to ensure a complete triumph for Bashar al-Assad. Therefore, there is reason to believe that, despite official statements, the Syrian authorities were not satisfied with the terms of the Sochi memorandum. The Syrian regime insisted on a military operation without taking into account many risks, such as the large numbers, motivation and equipment of the Idlib insurgents, who, unlike in other regions where Bashar al-Assad had achieved success, could count on military and other support from Turkey. In addition, Ankara had 12 observation points transformed into fortified bases along the perimeter of the de-escalation zone.

Nonetheless, Damascus did not resign itself to the current situation, and its representatives have said that the opposition has until December to reconcile and put down their weapons, although there are no such provisions in the Sochi agreements. For the Syrian regime, transforming Idlib into a Turkish “protectorate” is all the more unacceptable because it essentially rules out a military solution to the Idlib problem in the foreseeable future. That is, al-Assad’s regime would like to view the Sochi agreements as the first stage of the process to force the Syrian opposition to lay down their arms and reconcile following the scenario implemented in the south of the country. Damascus is likely to put pressure on Russia to pay greater attention to Syria’s wishes and channel the process of implementing the Sochi agreements into the direction that Damascus needs.

Moscow between Ankara and Damascus

Moscow is in a rather tricky position as, on the one hand, it is forced to take the position of Damascus into account, while, on the other, it understands that it is futile to engage in an open confrontation with Ankara. Moscow is still forced to look for compromise options in implementing the Sochi agreements. Nonetheless, Russia has demonstrated that it still has a decisive word in Syrian affairs, as well as enough influence on both Damascus and Tehran to prevent a military operation with as much as a decision only. In addition, Russia can count on Turkey making concessions on the political track of the Syrian settlement process. In practice, Turkey can be expected to promote various “frozen” projects more actively within the peace process that would stand no chance of being implemented in the event that military actions were to start. This applies in particular to those initiatives that were spearheaded and elaborated by Moscow, such as forming a constitutional committee where serious shifts were taking shape following the Geneva talks on September 10–11. Such a situation could have a positive effect on Russia’s plans to involve the countries of the European Union and the Persian Gulf in restoring the Syrian infrastructure, which would allow the process of returning the refugees to start.

Therefore, if the military escalation around Idlib continues to defuse, Ankara will be able to influence the Syrian opposition, forcing it to be more receptive to suggestions coming from Russia as part of the political settlement process. Thereby, Turkey will attempt to preserve Russia’s interest in further deferring the military operation until it is removed from the agenda completely, which, on the one hand, will promote the success of Russia’s peaceful initiatives and, on the other, oppose radicals in Idlib and demonstrate specific steps taken in that area.

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham

Turkey consistently works to undermine the standing of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) that in early 2017 subsumed Jabhat al-Nusra (Jabhat Fatah al-Sham) in Idlib. In summer 2017, the large group Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki split from the HTS. The presence of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki had made it possible to claim that the transformation of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham into Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham was not another re-branding of Jabhat al-Nusra. The HTS’s positions were further weakened when Jaysh al-Ahrar split from it as it set a course for restoring ties and developing cooperation with its “parent” structure Ahrar al-Sham. Turkey appears to have played the key role in the HTS split, since the excessive strengthening of the radicals, who had established their control of the province’s capital of Idlib shortly before that, was against Turkey’s interests. Ankara still has influence over various groups that are part of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, as well as over the leaders of the organization. Apparently, further steps should be expected from Ankara to stimulate individual HTS factions capable of reaching and maintaining an agreement to split from the alliance and join the moderate opposition. To make the HTS more amenable, Ankara put the alliance on the list of terrorist groups in late August. Thus, even though today Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham controls a little over a half of Idlib’s de-escalation zone, it remains significantly weakened compared to the winter–summer of 2017. The HTS numbers have fallen almost twofold since then and are now estimated at 12,000–15,000 militants. Additionally, the Turkistan Islamic Party consisting of 2300 Uighur militants actively interacts with the HTS.

The HTS units are highly combat-effective and, in terms of their combat capabilities, are no worse than the larger groups of moderate opposition. Nonetheless, during the fighting that took place in February–April 2018 between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Jabhat Tahrir Suriya (the Syrian Liberation Front), the former lost many of its positions in Idlib. After moderate groups assembled in the National Front for Liberation, these factions gained even greater superiority in numbers, which could push the HTS to make further concessions and comply with the provisions of the Sochi agreements on the HTS withdrawing from the 15-kilometer demilitarized zone.

The HTS is split on the issue of implementing the Sochi agreements. Consequently, as of the writing of this article, this group has not yet declared its position. The debate between followers of the two major factions still continues in the HTS’s Shura Council. One faction is the pro-Turkey Syrian bloc that insists on withdrawing the HTS forces from the demilitarized zone and further integration into the moderate opposition, since they connect their future with Syria. The other group is comprised of hard-liners, the “intractables,” many of whom are foreigners who may make their presence known once again in the event of a fresh exacerbation. And in case of failure, they plan to leave the country and continue their subversive activities in other regions.

Al-Qaeda

The “Syrian” part of the HTS is ready to gradually transition to the moderate opposition camp. Should the group continue to fragment, its radical wing is ready for a rapprochement with their former partners who had split from the HTS when it declared it was cutting ties with Al-Qaeda. These radicals have formed their own association, Hurras ad-Din, which is currently an Al-Qaeda branch in Syria. However, it is not a serious force, with no more than 800 people. Another group of the “intractables” is Ansar al-Din, numbering 300 people, which is a part of the HTS that refused to join the organization, judging it to be too moderate. Thus, radical groups in Idlib number up to 20,000 people in total. The province also has IS units, however, they are represented solely by secret underground cells.

The National Front for Liberation (Jabhat al-Wataniya lil-Tahrir)

In addition to causing dissent among radicals, Ankara has been working successfully on rebuilding the positions and consolidating the forces of the moderate opposition. In February 2018, Jabhat Tahrir Suriya (the Syrian Liberation Front), an alliance that proved capable of opposing the HTS and of pushing back against HTS radicals in Idlib, was established. The next stage was deploying the National Front for Liberation in May 2018; Jabhat Tahrir Suriya joined in August.

Establishing the National Front for Liberation in May 2018 was an important step on the way toward installing Turkey’s control over the armed opposition in Idlib with the prospect of its further integration in the united Syrian National Army. Establishing the National Front for Liberation drew a line under the process of separating moderate opposition from radicals: all the groups (besides Jaysh al-Izzah) that are outside the National Front for Liberation in Idlib can be called “radical.”

The next stage, in turn, envisions the merger of the National Front for Liberation deployed in Idlib with the Syrian National Army (SNA) formed in the Syrian protectorate of Northern Aleppo. The plan is to gather all the moderate opposition forces under its banner. However, the National Front for Liberation can merge with the SNA if the Idlib problem is resolved in accordance with the “Turkish scenario,” i.e. after de facto transforming the region into Turkey’s “protectorate.” It should be kept in mind that the SNA forces did not take part in the military operations against Assad’s regime in Idlib. They operate solely in the regions covered by the Turkish “security umbrella” and were primarily geared for military operations against Syrian Kurds from the Democratic Union Party.

Virtually all factions surviving into the eighth year of the Syrian conflict and operating under the Free Syrian Army “brand” joined the National Front for Liberation: the Free Idlib Army, Jaysh al-Nasr, Jaysh al-Nukhba, the Free Syrian Army 2nd army (Jaysh al-Thani), the Free Syrian Army 1st Coastal Division, the Free Syrian Army 2nd Coastal Division, the Free Syrian Army 23rd Division, Daraya’s Shuhada al-Islam, Liwa al-Hurriya and several other small Free Syrian Army factions, including units brought into Idlib from Damascus and other regions. Nonetheless, the National Front for Liberation’s principal assault force is comprised of moderate Islamist groups such as Faylaq al-Sham, Jabhat Tahrir Suriya (a coalition of Ahrar al-Sham and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki), Suqour al-Sham and Jaysh al-Ahrar (with the exception of the first group, they all joined the National Front for Liberation somewhat later, in August 2018). Today, the National Front for Liberation numbers 50,000–55,000 militants.

The Syrian National Army

Even though the Syrian National Army (SNA) is not deployed in Syria’s de-escalation zone, it does have an immediate influence on the situation in the region. Should the army’s units be retrained, re-armed and equipped by Turkey and shifted to Idlib, the situation there could change in terms of both possibly repelling Bashar al-Assad’s offensive and suppressing radicals there. Additionally, should the need arise, SNA units may come over to the National Front for Liberation side and join their “parent” units on the front, since both the National Front for Liberation and the SNA often comprise brigades from the same groups, for instance, Ahrar al-Sham.

The SNA is formed in the regions of the so-called Turkish “protectorate” or “buffer,” i.e. in those Syrian regions where the Turkish military operates and which are covered by Turkey’s aviation, thereby minimizing the possibilities of al-Assad’s regime and its allies carrying out a military operation.

The SNA includes five legions or corps. Three (the 1st, 2nd and 3rd) were deployed in Northern Aleppo and one (the 4th) in Homs. After the region was surrendered to al-Assad’s regime in May 2018, it was also deployed in Northern Aleppo. In July, the 5th legion began deployment in north-eastern regions of Idlib’s de-escalation zone (the Aleppo province). Factions from the National Front for Liberation are expected to join it, and the legion may become a transition model for integrating the National Front for Liberation’s Idlib factions into the SNA.

The 1st legion was formed from Turkoman brigades such as Mehmed the Conqueror Brigade and the Samarkand Brigade that formed the legion’s core. It also includes the Descendants of Saladin Kurdish Brigade (pro-Turkish), Victory Brigades, the 21st united Free Syrian Army division, the 101st Free Syrian Army division etc. The SNA’s 2nd legion is also considered Turkoman, and its principal parts are the al-Sultan Murad Division and the al-Hamza Division. Additionally, the legion includes the Mutasim Billah Brigade, the al-Safwa Battalions and others. The 3rd SNA legion may be called “Islamic,” since it comprises moderate Islamic groups, such as three factions of al-Jabhat al-Shamiya: the Northern Storm Brigade, the Sword of the Levant Brigade and the Soldiers of Islam Brigades, as well as some Ahrar al-Sham units operating in Northern Aleppo such as Tajammu Fastaqim Kama Umirt and Liwa al-Manbij, among others. The 4th SNA legion is also considered “Islamic.” It comprises Liwa al-Haqq, Faylaq Homs and Ahrar al-Sham brigades that had previously operated in Homs. As of August 2018, the SNA numbers 35,000 militants in total.

The process of units from other factions integrating into the SNA continues. The SNA may be boosted by units of Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaysh al-Islam being withdrawn from around Damascus and positioned in two camps around Afrin and al-Bab in the Turkish “protectorate” of Northern Aleppo. Today, at least Jaysh al-Islam already operates under the SNA’s “umbrella,” although it has not been fully integrated into its corps structure. Therefore, once fully deployed, the SNA may number 50,000 troops. Accordingly, if the NFL joins the SNA, they will number 100,000 troops total: these are the forces at the disposal of Syria’s moderate opposition.

In addition to the National Front for Liberation and the SNA, the Jaysh al-Izzah group should also be counted as moderate opposition. It is the only faction flying the Free Syrian Army’s flag that still preserved its independence and did not join alliances. It numbers 3500 fighters.

Thus, the balance of power between the moderate opposition and radicals gives reason to hope that Ankara’s measures to ultimately free Idlib from terrorist groups will succeed. Although the Sochi memorandum does not provide a timeframe for “cleansing” the region of terrorist groups, or indeed the terms and methods of doing so, the temporary or long-term preservation of Idlib’s status quo will largely hinge on the resolution of this very question.

First published in our partner RIAC

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Middle East

Turkey plays Khashoggi crisis to its geopolitical advantage

Dr. James M. Dorsey

Published

on

With Turkish investigators asserting that they have found further evidence that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed when he visited the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago, Turkey appears to be leveraging the case to enhance its position as a leader of the Islamic World and reposition itself as a key US ally.

To enhance its geopolitical position vis a vis Saudi Arabia as well as Russia and Iran and potentially garner economic advantage at a time that it is struggling to reverse a financial downturn, Turkey has so far leaked assertions of evidence it says it has of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing rather than announced them officially.

In doing so, Turkey has forced Saudi Arabia to allow Turkish investigators accompanied by Saudi officials to enter the consulate and positioned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the kingdom’s saviour by engineering a situation that will allow the kingdom to craft a face-saving way out of the crisis.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly considering announcing that Mr. Khashoggi, a widely-acclaimed journalist critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who went into self-exile because he feared arrest, was killed in either a rogue operation or an attempt gone awry to forcibly repatriate it him back to the kingdom.

US President Donald J. Trump offered the Turks and Saudis a helping hand by referring this week to the possibility of Mr. Khashoggi having been killed by rogues and dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Riyadh and Ankara.

Mr. Khashoggi, seeking to obtain proof of his divorce in the kingdom so that he could marry his Turkish fiancé, visited the consulate two weeks ago for the second time after having allegedly received assurances that he would be safe.

Turkey emerges as the crisis moves towards a situation in which an official version is agreed that seeks to shield Prince Mohammed from being held responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and likely murder with its international status significantly enhanced.

Turkish leverage is further boosted by the fact that Saudi Arabia — its image in government, political and business circles significantly damaged by the crisis — and the Trump administration that wants to ensure that the kingdom’s ruling family emerges from the crisis as unscathed as possible, are in Ankara’s debt.

As a result, the denouement of the Khashoggi crisis is likely to alter the dynamics in the long-standing competition between Turkey and Saudi Arabia for leadership of the Islamic world.

It also strengthens Turkey’s position in its transactional alliance with Russia and Iran as they manoeuvre to end the war in Syria in a manner that cements Bashar al-Assad’s presidency while addressing Turkish concerns.

Turkey’s position in its rivalry with Saudi Arabia is likely to also benefit from the fact that whatever face-saving solution the kingdom adopts is likely to be flawed when tested by available facts and certain to be challenged by a host of critics, even if many will see Turkey as having facilitated a political solution rather than ensuring that the truth is established.

Already, Mr. Khashoggi’s family who was initially quoted by Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled media as backing Saudi denials of responsibility, insinuations that his fate was the product of a conspiracy by Qatar and/or Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, and casting doubt on the integrity of the journalist’s Turkish fiancée, has called for “the establishment of an independent and impartial international commission to inquire into the circumstances of his death.”

Turkey and Saudi Arabia differ on multiple issues that divide the Muslim world. Turkey has vowed to help Iran circumvent Saudi-supported US sanctions imposed after Mr. Trump withdrew in May from the 2015 international agreement that curbed the Islamic republic’s nuclear agreement.

Turkey further backs Qatar in its dispute with a Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led alliance that has diplomatically and economically boycotted the Gulf state for the last 16 months. The credibility of the alliance’s allegation that Qatar supports terrorism and extremism has been dented by the growing conviction that Saudi Arabia, whether in a planned, rogue or repatriation effort gone wrong, was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.

Mr. Khashoggi’s death, moreover, highlighted differing approaches towards the Brotherhood, one of the Middle East’s most persecuted, yet influential Islamist groupings. Saudi Arabia, alongside the UAE and Egypt, have designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

Many brothers have sought refuge in Turkey with Mr. Erdogan empathetic and supportive of the group. A former brother, Mr. Khashoggi criticized Saudi repression of the group.

The Saudi-Turkish rivalry for leadership of the Muslim world was most evident in the two countries’ responses to Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his as yet unpublished plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Turkey emerged as the leader of Islamic denunciation of Mr. Trump’s move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognition of the city as Israel’s capital after Prince Mohammed tried to dampen opposition. Ultimately, King Salman was forced to step in a bid to clarify the kingdom’s position and counter Turkish moves.

No matter how Turkey decides to officially release whatever evidence it has, Saudi Arabia figures out how to respond and halt the haemorrhaging, and Mr. Pompeo holds talks with King Salman and Mr. Erdogan, Turkey is likely to emerge from the crisis strengthened despite its increasingly illiberal and increasingly authoritarian rule at home,

Turkey’s success is all the more remarkable given that it has neither Saudi Arabia’s financial muscle nor the mantle the kingdom adopts as the custodian of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.

A successful political resolution of the Khashoggi crisis is likely to earn it the gratitude of the Trump administration, Saudi Arabia, and its other detractors like the UAE who support the kingdom even if it may help it to regain popularity in the Arab world lost as a result of its swing towards authoritarianism, alliance with Iran and Qatar, and support for Islamism.

One immediate Turkish victory is likely to be Saudi acquiesce to Mr. Erdogan’s demand that Saudi Arabia drop its support for Kurdish rebels in Syria that Ankara sees as terrorists – a move that would boost Turkey’s position the Turkish-Russian-Iranian jockeying for influence in a post-war Syria. Turkey is also likely to see Saudi Arabia support it economically.

Turkey may, however, be playing for higher stakes.

Turkey “wants to back Saudi Arabia to the wall. (It wants to) disparage the ‘reformist’ image that Saudi Arabia has been constructing in the West” in a bid to get the US to choose Ankara as its primary ally in the Middle East, said international relations scholar Serhat Guvenc.

Turkey’s relations in recent years have soured as a result of Turkish insistence that the US is harbouring a terrorist by refusing to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the preacher it accuses of having engineered the failed 2016 coup; detaining American nationals and US consulate employees on allegedly trumped up charges, cosying up to Russia and purchasing its S-400 surface to air missile system, and aligning itself with Iran. Relations were further strained by US support for Syrian Kurds.

Mr. Trump, however this week heralded a new era in US-Turkish relations after the release of unsubscribeAndrew Brunson, an evangelist preacher who was imprisoned in Turkey for two years on charges of espionage.

Mr. Guvenc argued that Turkey hopes that Saudi Arabia’s battered image will help it persuade Mr. Trump that Turkey rather than the kingdom is its strongest and most reliable ally alongside Israel in the Middle East.

Said journalist Ferhat Unlu: “”Turkey knows how to manage diplomatic crises. Its strategy is to manage tensions to its advantage,”

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