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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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Middle East

Attack On Jerusalem – Where Is The International System?

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Since mid-20th century the conflict has been referred to as the ‘most intractable conflict’ in the world with the ongoing Israeli occupation. For more than about 54 years the international system has failed to settle this dispute and the two countries did not reach a peace agreement. In past, the Israeli Government had restricted the Palestinians and have been involved in many illicit activities violating human rights. Palestinians remain subject to Israeli military occupation and the recent attack on Masjid Al-Aqsa is strong evidence of this fact. Tensions in Jerusalem and West Bank accelerated during the Holy month of Ramadan including evictions of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.  

The third holiest site for the Muslim community, Temple Mount also known as Masjid Al-Aqsa, located in the city of Jerusalem has been attacked by the Israel forces on the Holy night of Laylat al-Qadar and again after two days in the morning. The incident has been brought forward by the media in several ways calling it an attack conflict or clash. The Israeli police forces stormed hundreds of Palestinians during prayer time. The unrest resulted as cops entered the compound, creating an atmosphere of fear echoes of prayer together with the noise of stun grenades and fires. More than 200 Muslims offering prayer have been targeted and hit by rubber bullets and a score of attackers themselves were wounded. When the prayer zone was turned into a battlefield, the loudspeakers of the mosque called for peace and calm.

“Police must immediately stop firing stun grenades at worshippers, and the youth must calm down and be quiet!”

Violation of Human Rights pushed Palestine to demand a session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas “held (Israel) responsible for the dangerous developments and sinful attacks taking place in the holy city.” Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law have been violated many times and now the international community is no more silent about it. Whatever is happening in East Jerusalem its occupation,  has no legitimate claims. UNSC has asked Israel to withdraw many times and has passed a number of resolutions demanding this. The United Nations has asked Israel to cancel any forced evictions in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, warning that its activities could add up to “war crimes“. Moreover, Israel has no legal claim on the city but is still carrying out an ethnic cleansing campaign in East Jerusalem. The most recent example includes the eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah.

Once again many statements have been given by the international community condemning the actions not finding the solution to end this. Muslim countries united joining hands in hands with their Muslim brothers and sisters. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, UAE gave their stance against Israeli actions and made it crystal clear that such actions cannot be tolerated at any cost. Moreover, European Union (EU) and United States (US) also expressed their concerns about violence.

The atrocities of Israeli police forces have now met the definitions of apartheid and persecution as stated by the report of Human Rights Watch (HRW); “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution” released in April. This includes the crime against humanity in the region of Ghaza Strip, West Bank, and Israel. This well-researched report however has very little impact on the bilateral relations between Palestine and Israel. It states that a system of systematic oppression and racial domination with a claim over land and demographics is what Israel intends to have. Israel’s foreign minister claimed it to be an ‘anti-Israel agenda’ being both false and preposterous.

Blockade of Ghaza strip and freedom movement limitations further poses a serious threat to the population during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it more vulnerable. The firing by Islamic Jihad and its counter-attack, airstrikes against Ghaza and Hisbullah, demolitions, forcible transfers, violation of international law, discrimination, and use of force are all factors that aided the current situation between the two countries. Lack of access to health care units, feeling of fear and terror everywhere, insecure atmosphere all poses a serious question; “Where does the international system stand?”

With each escalation, all that comes forward is another resolution by UNSC for Israel to withdraw, statements from various states condemning the situation, and wait for another incident. While considering the Israel-Palestine conflict one might comprehend this issue as a failure of the international system to maintain peace. Many predictions and solutions have been brought forward by analysts and researchers each with some evidence supporting their stance. However thinking about a solution and solving the problem in actual seem to be two opposite poles of a magnet, but definitely not attracting one another.

For negotiations and peace agreements, the two states need to share a common vision which seems to be very unlikely to happen. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories seems to end only by establishing a relationship between the two that involves a feeling of trust and security for other states. For this, the political arrangement should be right with adequate involvement of International Organizations such as the UN. Boarder modifications and acceptance for two-state solution tend to develop the ideal conditions for this relationship.

Thus reality points in a different direction and this raises a question to the international system. Where is the international law securing the lives and freedom of people in East Jerusalem? Where is the UN Charter providing education, health, and other facilities to the people of Gaza? Where are the efforts of great powers such US, China, Russia to safeguard and secure the local citizens and maintenance of peace? Where are the rights of citizens during occupation under Geneva Convention? Where is the role of International Organizations while considering this dispute? And last but not least where the answer to all these questions is.

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Middle East

Saudi Arabia and Iran cold war

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After almost seven decades, the cold war has reached the middle east, turning into a religious war of words and diplomacy. As Winston Churchill says that “diplomacy is an art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they ask for the direction”. So, both the regional powers are trying to pursue a policy of subduing the adversary in a diplomatic manner. The root of the conflict lies in the 1979, Iranian revolution, which saw the toppling of the pro-western monarch shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi and replaced by the so-called supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. From a Yemini missile attack to the assassination of the supreme commander QassimSoleimani, the political, ideological and religious differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia are taking the path of confrontation. The perennial rivalry between the two dominant Shiite and Sunni power house ins an ideological and religious one rather than being geo strategic or geo political. Back to the time when Saudi Arabia supported Saddam Hussain against the united states of Americathe decline of Saddam and his authoritarian regime was made inevitable and with this, Iran and Saudi Arabia rosed as the powerful, strategic and dominant political forces in the middle east.it was from here that the quest for supremacy to be the prepotent and commanding political powercommenced. The tensions escalated or in other words almost tended to turn into scuffles when in 2016, the Iranians stormed the Saudi embassy as a demonstration of the killing of a Shia cleric. The diplomatic ties were broken and chaos and uncertainty prevailed.

This cold war also resembles the original one., because it is also fueled by a blend of ideological conviction and brute power politics but at the same time unlike the original cold war, the middle eastern cold war is multi-dimensional and is more likely to escalate .it is more volatile and thus more prone to transformation. This followed by several incidents with each trying to isolate the other in international relations. The Saudis and Iranians have been waging proxy wars for regional dominance for decades. Yemen and Syria are the two battlegrounds, fueling the Iran-Saudi tensions. Iran has been accused of providing military assistance to the rebel Houthis, which targets the Saudi territory. It is also accused of attacking the world naval ships in the strait of Hormoz, something Iran strongly denies.  This rivalry has dragged the region into chaos and ignited Shia-Sunni conflict across the middle east. The violence in the middle east due to this perennial hostility has also dire consequences for the economy of the war-torn nations. In the midst of the global pandemic, when all the economic activities are at halt, the tensions between the two arch rivals will prove hazardous and will yield catastrophic results. The blockade of the shipping and navigation in the Gulf, attacks on international ships, and the rising concerns of the western powers regarding this issue has left Iran as an isolated country with only Russia supporting her.

A direct military conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran will have dire consequences for the neighboringcountries. A direct military confrontation might not be a planned one, but it will be fueled due to the intervention of the other key partners, who seek to sought and serve their personal and national intrigues. Most importantly middle east cannot afford a conflict as it is a commercial hub for the world. The recent skirmishes in Iraq sparked fears of wider war when Iraq retaliated for killings of QassimSoleimani. If the US president had not extended an olive branch, the situation might have worsened. The OIC, which is a coalition of 57 Muslim countries has also failed in bringing measures to deescalate the growing tensions. The OIC, where the Saudi Arabia enjoys an authoritarian style of dominance has always tried to empower her own ideology while rising the catch cry of being a sacred country to all the Muslims. Taking in account, the high tensions and ideological and the quest for religious dominance, the international communities such as UN and neighboring countries should play a positiveand vital role in deescalating these tensions. Bilateral trade, communications between the two adversaries with a regional power playing the role of mediator and extending an olive branch to each other will yield better results and will prove fruitful in mitigating the conflict if not totally subverting it.

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First Aid: How Russia and the West Can Help Syrians in Idlib

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Authors: Andrey Kortunov and Julien Barnes-Dacey*

The next international showdown on Syria is quickly coming into view. After ten years of conflict, Bashar al-Assad may have won the war, but much is left to be done to win the peace. This is nowhere more so than in the province of Idlib, which is home to nearly 3 million people who now live under the control of extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) with external Turkish protection and humanitarian assistance from the United Nations.

The question of humanitarian access into Idlib is now emerging as a central focus of new international politicking. In so doing, this small province could be pivotal to the future of the larger stalemate that has left the United States, Europe, and Russia locked in an unwinnable status quo.

Russia has said that it plans to veto an extension of cross-border UN aid delivered from Turkey, authorised under UN Security Council resolution 2533, which is up for renewal in July, potentially depriving the population of a vital lifeline amid desperate conditions. Moscow says that all aid should be channelled from Damascus via three new government-controlled crossing points to the northern province. Western governments, to say nothing of the local population, are sceptical, given the Syrian government’s hostility towards the province’s inhabitants. For its part, the UN says that cross-lines aid cannot compensate for a closure of cross-border access.

As ever, the two dominant players—the US and Russia—are talking past each other and are focused on countering each other’s moves—to their mutual failure. It is evident that US condemnation and pressure on Russia will not deliver the necessary aid, and also evident that Russia will not get its wish for the international recognition of the legitimacy of the Syrian government by vetoing cross-border access. While these will only be diplomatic failures for the US and Russia, it is the Syrian people who will, as ever, pay the highest price.

But a mutually beneficial solution to Idlib is still possible. Russia and the US, backed by European states, should agree to a new formula whereby Moscow greenlights a final one-year extension of cross-border aid in exchange for a Western agreement to increase aid flows via Damascus, including through Russia’s proposed cross-lines channels into Idlib. This would meet the interests of both sides, allowing immediate humanitarian needs to be met on the ground as desired by the West, while also paving the way for a transition towards the Damascus-centred international aid operation sought by Moscow.

This imperfect but practical compromise would mean more than a positive change in the humanitarian situation in Idlib. It would demonstrate the ability of Russian and Western actors to work together to reach specific agreements in Syria even if their respective approaches to the wider conflict differ significantly. This could serve to reactivate the UN Security Council mechanism, which has been paralysed and absent from the Syrian track for too long.

To be sure the Syrian government will also need to be incentivised to comply. Western governments will need to be willing to increase humanitarian and early recovery support to other parts of government-controlled Syria even as they channel aid to Idlib. With the country now experiencing a dramatic economic implosion, this could serve as a welcome reprieve to Damascus. It would also meet Western interests in not seeing a full state collapse and worsening humanitarian tragedy.

The underlying condition for this increased aid will need to be transparency and access to ensure that assistance is actually delivered to those in need. The West and Russia will need to work on implementing a viable monitoring mechanism for aid flows channelled via Damascus. This will give Moscow an opportunity to push the Syrian regime harder on matters of corruption and mismanagement.

For its part, the West will need to work with Moscow to exercise pressure on Ankara to use its military presence in Idlib to more comprehensively confront radical Islamists and ensure that aid flows do not empower HTS. A ‘deradicalisation’ of Idlib will need to take the form of a detailed roadmap, including that HTS comply with specific behaviour related to humanitarian deliveries.

Ultimately this proposal will not be wholly satisfactory to either Moscow or the West. The West will not like that it is only a one-year extension and will not like the shift towards Damascus. Russia will not like that it is an extension at all. But for all sides the benefits should outweigh the downsides.

Russia will know that Western actors will respond to failure by unilaterally channelling non-UN legitimised aid into the country via Turkey. Russia will lose the opportunity to slowly move Idlib back into Damascus’s orbit and the country’s de facto partition will be entrenched. This outcome is also likely to lead to increased instability as aid flows decrease, with subsequent tensions between Moscow’s allies, Damascus and Ankara.

The West will need to acknowledge that this approach offers the best way of delivering ongoing aid into Idlib and securing greater transparency on wider support across Syria. The alternative—bilateral cross-border support—will not sufficiently meet needs on the ground, will place even greater responsibility on Turkey, and will increase the prospect of Western confrontation with Russia and the Syrian regime.

Importantly, this proposal could also create space for wider political talks on Idlib’s fate. It could lead to a renewed track between Russia, the US, Turkey and Europeans to address the province’s fate in a way that accounts for Syria’s territorial integrity and state sovereignty on the one hand and the needs and security of the local population on the other hand. After ten years of devastating conflict, a humanitarian compromise in Idlib will not represent a huge victory. But a limited agreement could still go a long way to positively changing the momentum in Syria and opening up a pathway for much-needed international cooperation.

* Julien Barnes-Dacey, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director, European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

From our partner RIAC

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