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The attempted military coup in Turkey

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The Turkish Armed Forces are fighting both in the PKK Kurdish area and in the framework of the Inherent Resolve operation led by the United States against ISIS. This partially explains the scarce amount of ground forces available for the July coup against President Recep Tayyp Erdogan and his AKP. The “Justice and Development Party”, founded by Erdogan himself, resulted from the merger of various Islamist and conservatives parties in 2001.

Nevertheless the Turkish Constitutional Court started the procedure for the forced closure of the AKP as early as 2008, but the request for ceasing the Party’s activity was quashed by a single vote, although the Turkish constitutional judges continued to suspect the Party of “anti-secular activities” which, however, led to the 50% decrease of the public funding to the AKP.Hence President Erdogan’s Party is mainly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood which, in fact, with its web sites and propaganda, makes it an example of effective and “Muslim-oriented”, not “Islamist”, policy – the so-called “conservative democracy”, just to use its terminology.

However, with a view to better understanding the relationship between this Party, which is now a party-State, and the Armed Forces, reference must be made to the Ergenekon issue.

Ergenekon was the name of a clandestine network operating within the Turkish Armed Forces, which was destroyed by President Erdogan’s government in 2009.

As the mount of the Altai mountain range after which it is named, probably the organization still persists within the many military networks and it may also have spurred the recent coup.

In the Ergenekon case, the actions of the police – loyal to the AKP regime – were rather ambiguous.

As many as 194 military, sometimes high-ranking officers, were accused of plotting to overthrow the institutions and the Parliament, as well as stealing State secrets and organizing “terrorist” armed groups.

Probably the 2016 failed coup is exactly the result of old Ergenekon networks which, however, have no longer access to the intelligence services’ top leaders or to the still powerful judiciary, not yet loyal to the AKP rules.

The slapdash attitude with which some very recent actions have been carried out by the putschist Armed Forces, in their July attempt to take power, would suggest a misplaced trust in secret structures of the judiciary and the police forces, now full of AKP activists, as well as the National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

Hence let us analyze the coup sequence, which can also clarify the political sense of the military operations that took place in the night between July 15 and 16 last.

It is also highly likely that the military action has been stepped up by the fact that the rotation of the middle and top ranks of the Armed Forces would be implemented on August 1, 2016. Many of the members of these military ranks had already been involved in the coup of which there was talk in the international secretariats and NATO services for at least three months.

As stated by President Erdogan, the coup leaders included many officers linked to the movement of Fethullah Gulen, of whom we will analyze the role played in Turkey today. They included Akin Ozturk, the Air Force Chief of Staff, Colonel Muharrem Kose and other high-ranking military.

The coup had been announced on Friday night, with a document of the military that called for “a return to constitutional order, democracy, human rights and the rule of law”. The blockade of the “Ataturk” airport with tanks lasted approximately two hours, until the mass of “citizens” – or more probably AKP militants – forced the tanks to step aside.

No putschist can go against the will of the people they want to “liberate” and the mass of unarmed people is the best weapon to stop any kind of weapon system.

Hence a new countercoup by the mass and the rank-and-file organizations, probably already alerted, which invaded the streets and forced the tanks to retreat or stop, while the military perceived the use of the worst weapon against a coup, namely their isolation vis-à-vis the people.The Armed Forces commanders appeared on TV,   dissociate themselves from the action still underway and ordered the troops to return back to their barracks.

However it is unthinkable that the commanders-in-chief did not know anything about the coup being prepared.

Clearly they let it go on, probably with a view to taking command and control at the right time, but the operation had been designed with a too small military shock mass to cover the sensitive targets, over and above other technical errors which are amazing for those dealing with military matters.

In fact, the intelligence headquarters were not hit severely. It is worth noting that the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) displays Ataturk’s profile on its coat of arms.

President Erdogan, who was on holiday in Bodrum, was not arrested, and possibly killed.

There was no effective bombing of the Parliament and the other government buildings, which had to be destroyed in the first phase of the coup.

In short, everything suggests that all the Turkish Armed Forces wanted to test the strength of the AKP regime so as to launch the final operation at a later stage.

Some press sources claim that the tension among the coup forces broke out when the government clearly gave the order to fight not against, but in favor, of ISIS in the future configuration of the Syrian region.If the US-Russian axis is strengthened – as appears from the latest statements made by both countries – Turkey, which wanted the Sunni part of Syria, will be marginalized.

Hence nothing better than starting again the old game of the more or less secret support to Daesh-Isis.

It is true that the putschists closed some social media, but not all of them and, after a short period of time, the TV started to broadcast again.

A coup is primarily a psychological warfare and communication operation.

Indeed, it is strange that the NATO troops and their officers were not trained to these techniques, which are now part and parcel of the basic training of any officer of the Alliance.

t is also strange that there was no reaction in the NATO centers, as the F-16 fighters of the putschists rose into the skies. There was no report, nor alarm.

The Incirlik base, which paradoxically hosts a powerful Command and Control centre of the Alliance, was also one of the points of the military rebellion, under the eyes of the United States and the other nations present.

It is worth recalling that, at the Incirlik base, the Turks cut the light off during the coup, while now the base hosts drones, A-10 aircraft, KC-135 tanker aircraft and part of the US elite units, along with the advanced weapons of other Member States of the Alliance participating in the Inherent Resolve operation.

Furthermore NATO did not even monitor President Erdogan’s jet, which was flying for at least five hours, and was not even attacked by the putschists’ air force that, at the time, was still in control of Istanbul skies.

Hence the Turkish President has his own intelligence network, made up of militants from his Party, who owe everything to him, as well as MIT officers and ordinary citizens capable of penetrating the Turkish “Kemalist” and secular networks, still very widespread among the population.

Another factor to be noted is Fethullah Gulen’s movement, upon which President Erdogan immediately laid the blame for the failed coup.

Gulen’s movement is certainly present, albeit secretly, in the Turkish society.

The Imam, who currently lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, is the leader of a vast movement known as Hizmet.

It is a sort of Islamic sect (Gulen founded the AKP together with Erdogan) and a network of businesses, magazines and newspapers, schools and universities, while it is assumed that at least 10% of the Turkish population follows Gulen and his movement.

A movement which preaches peace with the Anatolian Alevis, the Kurds, the Christians and the Jews. It promotes a mystical Islam closely reminding of the Sufi sects which, together with the Italian Masonic lodges operating in Thessaloniki and Alexandria, covered up the development of the “Young Turks” movement.

Years ago, according to French sources, the Islamist leader Gulen began a vast operation to infiltrate his followers into the Turkish Armed Forces and even into the intelligence services, which have never been fully trusted by President Erdogan.

Hence probably Gulen’s involvement in the coup – as denounced by President Erdogan – is real, but it is completely irrational to connect Fethullah Gulen’s Islamist and pacifist preaching with the overtly Kemalist and secularist Armed Forces that carried out the failed coup. The link, if any, is to be find in the attitude of the United States, at first silent, then reluctant, and finally supporting the AKP “democracy”.

Turkey cannot be destabilized. The whole Alliance’s policy, and not just in the Middle East, is at stake.

If a coup must be carried out, it must be organized with almost all the Armed Forces, which have also been penetrated by the secret “Stasi” of the AKP and the Presidency that now do no longer trust anyone and aim at creating a great universal hub of the Middle East oil and gas, also thanks to the recent agreement with Israel and Russia.

A further source of enrichment for President Erdogan, who does not turn his nose up at any bakshish and is considered to be one of the richest men in the world.

Not to mention his family: his son Bilal is connected with the clandestine networks selling the ISIS oil, while his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, former Energy Minister and current Prime Minister, is well-known for his oil operations off the record.

The real Turkish coup will take place when President Erdogan’s regime can no longer financially support its “militants” and when the people becomes aware of the immense wealth accumulated by the President behind the back of the much-proclaimed “Turkish people”.

At that juncture the masses will support the military. They will force the useless, silent and ridiculous EU to take a stance on the Turkish issue, without hiding behind the mirage of “fair elections” – indeed dubious. Probably the useless EU should wonder about the real use of the 3 billion euro per year it grants to Turkey to keep migrants on its territory.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Reigniting Chaos in Syria

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Syria has been the nexus of brutality and terror for almost a decade now; with more than 6 million natives who have already fled and numerous displaced over the territory itself, the region casts a ghastly shade that has only turned grimmer with time. Although the conflict seemingly raved its catastrophic footprint in early 2000, the root cause arguably always ends up to be the infamous ‘Arab Spring’ that actually tuned the Syrians against their very own regime. Something to compare and contrast that communal unity acted in Iraq’s benefit back when USA invaded the territory to avenge the 9/11 Attacks in 2003 while casted a fiasco in Syria when invaded in 2014. Large scale protests and rampaging violence gradually morphed into a series of relentless efforts to first deter Bashar Al-Asad’s efforts to first peacefully and then collaboratively resolving the raging unrest. Some would say it was inspired by the historical besiege of Libya and the subsequent execution of the Libyan prime minister Muammar al-Gaddafi as an ensue of that revolution yet Bashar Al-Asad proved a far more tensile force to overthrow. Such tumultuous turn of events, lead Syria to first economic sanctions followed by severe isolation in the global community opposing and downright rejecting Assad’s actions to curb the political tremors. Yet intermittent interventions, both implicit and explicit, by the western powers and their counter-parts have defined the region more as a battle ground of mercenary motives instead of mere efforts to safeguard human rights and ensuring regional peace.

Since 2011, three core actors have remained active in skirmishes that have more oftener than not transformed into battles of gore and toil and sometimes even full-fledged wars that have not only dismembered the expanse of over an 185,000 kmof land into mounds of dust and rubble with terror now crawling over the lanes but have even shuddered the immediate vicinity. With the downfall and perpetual dissipation of ISIS, losing much of its occupied land to active contenders, Assad’s militia and Kurdish forces remain the helming competitors along with a smattering of other oppositions like Jaish al Fateh and Nusrta Front. The conflict between the Kurdish forces backed by the US regime against ISIS and then eventual betrayal on the Turkish front had been a matter of contentions in the latter part of 2019; Kurds making it abundantly clear to harness the borders they surmise to be rightly theirs while Turkish policies, especially under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have been outright fearless and needless of any other inference regarding their austere stance over the issue; claiming their bordering territories and inferring stern response in case of any dissension caused by the Kurds.

However, the outlining threat in the recent time can be perceived at a novel yet a totally realistic stage, where proxy wars no longer remain the ground reality of armed unrest in Syria. This notion has arisen since harsh words were exchanged between Moscow and Ankara; the metropolis’ of the neighbouring giants: Russia and Turkey respectively. A glimpse in the historical scaffolding of the entire Syrian conflict, Russia has always backed Assad’s regime despite its initial block over Syrian policies revolving over strategies to deal with the blooming protests in the early tremors of the Arab Spring who’s effects had started to resonate in the entire Middle East following up on Ground 0, Tunisia. The vantage point of Russia, however, shifted when the political paradigm was drastically nudged by the terror-driven escalation of ISIS after severe US blunders and baffling retreat from Syria that even threatened the sovereignty and security of the region following their besiege of the state of Raqqa, establishing ISIS as a looming concern, thereby aligning the aims of both Russian reign and Assad’s regime, ultimately inciting a continued alliance. Turkey, on the other hand, being the northern neighbour to Syria also contended as a root protagonist in economic isolation of Assad’s government, imposing stringent financial sanctions that tightened the bottlenecks and eventually led to the deterioration of their financial virility that already staggered after sanctions and embargos placed by both EU and USA.

This conflict that permeates in the north-western terrain of Syria lilts an innuendo that a spark may be brewing between the two nations. The besieged province of Idlib exudes the source of the strife; an area that has witnessed countless Turkish troops slain by Assad’s forces in cross-border disputes; close to seven Turkish soldiers were recently killed in a thorough retaliation of Syrian forces in the de-escalation zone, much to Turkey’s dismay. However, the Russian involvement in backing the Syrian government in their dissent in Idlib and heavily bombing of the territory with artillery servers as a link to presumably leading a head-on conflict between Russia and Turkey; hinted by Erdoğan that any effort made in the region will not go answered, clearly warning the Russian forces to avoid any transgression that could cause fatality to their personnel. The people of Syria, blended with the rebels, look in the eye of a dead end; bombardments to deter the tyrants have shredded their innocent bodies similar to the incursions in Eastern Ghouta and with no one on their side but with ulterior incentives, they are left with no choice but to see Turkey as a savior. To any sane mind, however, its not really a complex interface of modes and interests involved. With clash of alliances, historical narrative of both the world wars fought, coherently brings about the model of war despite a never-ending argument at whim. Without contesting any theory by any analyst, its imperative to gauge at the systematic progression of the tensions flowing yet not mitigating. Turkey being stranded from its western allies and Arab assistance in wake of the murder conspiracy and being locked in a bound-to-doom NATO relation with Russia, the outcome of this steady conflict can bring about equal amount of damage yet in lesser of a decade and more pandemic effects.

Recent Israeli airstrikes targeted the Iran-linked elements in Syria. One of the biggest attacks even in at least half a decade period of relative dormancy in the region hint at the start of something gruesome. The attacks pointed Iran-backed sites like Al-Bukamal in intensity, riddling the city that acts as a focal point to Iran’s influence over and beyond the borders of Baghdad and Damascus, as well as paving way to militants from the fore stretch of Lebanon. The attacks reportedly served as an active Israeli position against the Irani militants and revolutionary guards, casting a heavy presence in the core hit areas of the province of Dair al Zor, claiming 57 casualties. The attack assumes a step-up stance of Israel picking up from a cold targeted strike within Iran, months back, eliminating the crucial scientific figure of Iran, that earned promises of retaliation both from the military leads and the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

These attacks nurture an underlying message of Israel following on the shadow war footsteps dictated under the premiership of Mr. Donald Trump. Now, with his nefarious exit from the presidential office following the riots at US Capitol and Mr. Biden’s ascension to power just days away, Israel insinuates its true deterrence of Iran’s growing influence and hostility in the expansive areas of Southern, North-western and Eastern regions of Syria. With US intelligence cultivating the Israeli position in Syria while Iran enriching its plans of Nuclear power along with backing militias under the lead of Lebanese force of Hezbollah, a possibility of another proxy clash is re-emerging in the peripheries of Syria. Now as Israel continues to welcome Arab nations to set camp around Syria to end Tehran’s influence, US faces a tough choice in over a decade to either exit the war before it even flames or repeat their interference regretted since the Arab Spring to jump headfirst into another round of decade long destruction.

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Post Trump Palestine

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Al-Walaja, a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Photo: UNRWA/Marwan Baghdadi

The unconditional United States’ political, financial and military support to Israel enabled the latter to occupy the Palestinian territories. The former became involved in Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an arbiter to resolve the issue. But the foreign policy of US has always remained tilt to Israeli interests. From recognizing Israel as sovereign state in 1947 to accepting Jerusalem as capital of Israel has clearly unearthed the biased attitude of US for Israel.

Similarly, Trump also adopted the traditional stance of Washington on Palestine, i.e. outright support for Israel. Trump’s policy regarding Israeli-Palestinian conflict was more aggressive but not in contradiction with his predecessors’. For instance, he brought into reality the law passed by US congress in 1995 that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, shifted US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closed office of Palestine Liberation Organization PLO in Washington DC in Sept 2018 and closed US consulate in East Jerusalem the area under Palestinian control. His bigotry against Palestinians unveiled more distinctly when he announced defunding of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), the UN agency that provides food, education and healthcare to the refugees. Moreover during his regime in November 2018 the state department of US proclaimed that the construction of Israeli settlements in West Bank does not come under the ambit of violation of international humanitarian laws. Certainly, the belligerent policies in last four years of trump era paved the way for the colonization of Palestine by Israel and helped the latter to put unlawful restrictions on Palestinians making them deprived of all civil liberties and peace.

As per world report-2020by Human Rights Watch HRW, Palestinian citizens are restrained from all basic necessities of life such that, education, basic healthcare, clean water and electricity. The movement of people and goods to and from Gaza strip is also inhibited. According to World Health Organization WHO 34 percent of applications by Palestinians, for medical appointments outside Gaza strip, were not addressed by Israeli army. Moreover, HRW report states that the Israeli government destroyed 504 homes of Palestinians in West Bank during 2019 and facilitated 5995 housing settlements for Israelis. The country is trying at utmost to eradicate indigenous Palestinians from their home land. According to United Nations’ Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs UNOCHA, the demolitions of Palestinian homes displaced 642 people in 2019 and 472 in 2018.Moreover, the illicit attacks by Israeli side have killed hundreds of innocent citizens in the same years. According to UNOCHA on November 11, 2020, 71 innocent Palestinian citizens were killed by Israeli forces while 11,453 were lethally injured in a single day. Furthermore, UN secretary general exhorted that Israeli armed forces have infringed the children’s rights during the conflict as in 2018, 56 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli armed forces.

While, other international actors criticized the Israeli annexations of the region and declared it as violation of international humanitarian laws, US supported the Israeli escalations in West Bank. The former also stopped aid support through USAID for Gaza strip where eighty percent of population depends upon aid. Such partial attitude of US has put the country outside the international consensus on the issue. Apparently, US pretend its position as arbiter but her policies accredited the colonization of Palestine by Israel.

Thus, it seems futile to expect any big change in US policies regarding Israeli-Palestinian issue during forthcoming administrations. However, the president-elect Joe Bidden may alter some of the trump’s decisions such as reopening of Palestine Liberation Organization PLO in Washington, resuming funding of UNRWA and reopening of US consulate in East Jerusalem.  But his policies will not contradict the congress’ stance on the issue. As, he and his team have clearly mentioned prior to elections that they will not shift back the US embassy to Tel Aviv as it seems politically and practically insensible to them. Moreover, Blinken, the candidate for secretary of state in Joe’s upcoming regime, made it clear through his controversial statements, that the imminent president will inherit historic US position on Palestine-Israel dispute. Further, Chinese expansionism, Russian intervention in American and European affairs and Iran nuclear deal issue would remain the main concerns of foreign affairs of US during initial period of Joe Biden’s regime. He is likely to favor the status quo in Palestine and remain focused on other foreign interests. In addition to this the inclination of Arabian Gulf to develop relations with Israel will also hinder the adherence for Palestinians from the gulf countries. Subsequently, it will enable Israelis to continue seizing the Palestinian territories into Israel and leave indigenous Palestinians stateless in their own land.

Summing up, it is significant for Palestinians to continue their struggle for the homeland and seek support from other international actors to marginalize Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territories. As well as, the peace accord of 1993 signed in between both nations, to share the holy land, should also be revoked by both countries.  Both nations should try to resolve the issue on equitable grounds by negotiations so that either side could not be deprived of its interests.

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An Enemy Among Us

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The upcoming talks regarding the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, that are due to take place on January 25, should not disillusion us from the dangers of Turkey’s unilateral aggression on all fronts. Erdogan has made no real efforts to improve ties with the EU, except for the occasional vain promise of turning over a new leaf. Since October, he has urged the Muslim world to boycott French products, continued gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, blatantly ignored the arms embargo in Libya and has aided Azerbaijan in committing war crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Despite the numerous warnings issued by the EU and the many failed attempts at resolving the crisis in the East Med diplomatically, the latest EU summit concluded with an anti-climactic promise to sanction certain Turkish officials regarding the East Med. This minimally symbolic promise could only be described as a mere slap on the wrist that will prove unsuccessful in deterring Turkey’s belligerent tendencies. Turkey’s increasingly hostile attitude, its callous use of the refugee crisis and its clear violation of international law in the East Med, Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh represent a danger to European values, identity and security.

We are witnessing before our eyes a dictator in the making who dreams of a return of the Ottoman empire and seeks to destroy the democratic and secular legacy of Atatürk. He is a fervent supporter of political islam – particularly the muslim brotherhood – and he relentlessly accuses the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the crusades’ against Islam. In fact, since 2014, Erdogan and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) have continuously facilitated cross-border movement into Syria and shipped illegal arms to a number of radical jihadist groups. The Turkish government also uses SADAT Defense, an islamist paramilitary group loyal to Erdogan, to aid groups that can be considered as terrorist organizations such as Sultan Murad Division and Ahrar al-Sham in Northern Syria and use their jihadi fighters to send to Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and, most recently, Kashmir in order to bolster Turkey’s foreign policy.

Erdogan uses a mixture of islamism and nationalism to expand Turkey’s influence around the world and to consolidate power within. The two most influential factions in Turkey are the radical islamists and secular neo-nationalists, who despise each other but share a deep disdain for the west. Courtesy of neo-nationalist and former Maoist terrorist leader Dogu Perinçek, the NATO member has also enjoyed warmer ties with Russia and China over the past 5 years. As a result of these shifts in alliances and growing anti-western sentiments, Turkey is becoming increasingly at odds with the West. 

Furthermore, the growing discontent at home pushes him to adopt more aggressive tactics, divisive policies and his behavior mirrors that of a panicked authoritarian leader. Erdogan is desperately looking for a conflict to distract the Turkish population from the fall of the lira, the spread and mishandling of COVID-19, and the overall declining economy that predates the pandemic. Turkey’s future will most likely be determined by the upcoming general election that is set to take place within the next three years. If Erdogan wins the next election, it will solidify his power and bring him one step closer in turning Turkey into a dictatorship. During his stay in power, he has already conducted a series of purges to weaken and silence dissidents. Turkey now has the most imprisoned journalists in the world. 

Yet, the loss of Istanbul and Ankara in the last municipal election of 2019 demonstrate his declining popularity, and offer a glimmer of hope for the opposition. Political figures like the new mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, or the new mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, represent a brighter future for Turkey. Erdogan currently finds himself in a position of weakness, which represents a rare window of opportunity for the EU to strike. Unfortunately, the EU remains deeply divided on how to handle a situation that continues to deteriorate. It seems that some member states, particularly Germany, are holding on to the naive belief that Erdogan can still be reasoned with. 

Our reluctance to impose the slightest sanctions against Turkey demonstrates our division and weakness, which emboldens the neo-sultan. A strong and united response from the European Union is the only way to curb Erdogan’s expansionist agenda. This should include renegotiating the migrant pact, imposing targeted sanctions against SADAT Defense and its leader Adnan Tanrıverdi, imposing an arms embargo, suspending the EU-Turkey customs union and finally suspending Turkey’s membership in NATO. 

Ultimately, Erdogan’s bellicose foreign policy and his contentious nationalist-islamist rhetoric makes it impossible to consider Erdogan’s Turkey as our ally. As the EU reaches out yet another olive branch, Erdogan has his eye on the wars to come. 

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