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Why did Turkey opt for emergency

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Western powers, trumpeting that everything is bad in Islamic countries, quickly criticized the emergency clamped by Turkey for a brief period meant to set things right and their complaint is that now the people in Turkey would not have the freedom to even to open mouths.. Strangely enough, those that criticize Turkey for its emergency are supposed to be Turkey’s close allies. They stand totally exposed as anti-Turkish and anti-Islamic nations.

They also expected entire world and global network of anti-Islamic media to follow their footsteps as usual to condemn “new” authoritarianism in Turkey. Such has been the usual strategy of the western anti-Islamic powers to belittle and insult Islamic world. After the Sept-11 the NATO rouge forces even attacked Afghanistan, among others. They don’t want Turkey to undertake measures to check any future coups by their agents in Turkey.

The failed coup officially by a section of military in Turkey was meant to dethrone or kill President Erdogan, other leaders of his government and ruling AKP party, but it reveals the hidden agenda of western powers. The coup, apparently enacted jointly by anti-Islamic and anti-Turkish sources, signaled an acute danger emanating from different directions from within and from abroad for the Islamist government in Istanbul to rise up to face it and weed out all traces of danger once for all.

No nation would allow the rogue elements to destabilize it, ransack its institutions. Neither USA, nor Germany nor their NATO was kind even to the so-called “suspected terrorists” and the way they torture the suspects is criticized as the worst form of human rights violation by the USA and NATO. But they also talk about “greatness” of their own democracy, condemn the rule of law in Muslim countries.

The power of the President to call up massive crowds of supporters has been on clear display in Istanbul’s Taksim Square every night since last week’s failed coup. “Work during the day, and come to the square at night” is the message put out by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “The threat is not over.”

Emergency is a global phenomenon

Emergency is a global phenomenon and not a Turkey special. The military coup is very serious matter, because the fence has tried to destroy the crops – Islamic crops. Turkey ahs face coups before.

Turks are no strangers to military takeovers. Turkey experienced coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980. In 1997 and 2007, there were further interventions via strongly worded memorandums from the army.

Each putsch inflicted huge damage on an already fragile democracy and led to widespread human rights violations. The 1980 coup was the worst of all — thousands were arrested arbitrarily and many tortured, while critics were sent into exile. When the governing Justice and Development party (AKP) came to power in 2001, it attracted support from liberals by promising to keep the army confined to military and security matters — the way it should be in any mature democracy.

The events of July 15-16, when the government foiled an attempted coup by elements within the military, must be read against this historical backdrop. It was a horrible night. By the time it was over at least 290 people were dead and more than 1,400 injured. It felt as if the country had gone back years.

Now the destabilization effort has been put down intelligently, President Erdogan is undertaking a series of measures to deny chances n future for such coups and to make Turkey safe and secure, ignoring all “counseling” from sworn foes enemies disguised, once again, as “well-wishers”.

To check institutional collapse

With military playing usual mischief, Turkey genuinely faces risk of institutional collapse and President Erdogan needs to set the things right so that Turkish economy is back on rails.

Turkish nation is yet to recover from the shock it was administered by the coup plotters. As AKP government was busy fighting several forces at the same time like the powerful ISIS, Kurdish forces, Syria, Israel and Russia, Turkish government possibly did not notice how the anti-Islamic forces in Istanbul sponsored by western powers were busy plotting against the Islamist government and Turkey itself in order to destabilize the former Ottoman Empire and establish, like Pakistan, Afghanistan Libya, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere, a puppet regime in Ankara directly remote controlled by Washington.

The unexpected coup attempt by Turkey’s military establishment with a view to killing or arrest President Erdogan and his cabinet members, the AKP party leaders has been put down by person involvement by the Precedent of Turkey himself who cancelled his vacation and rushed to Istanbul. Maybe the plotters had expected President Erdogan to run away to USA, UK or some Arab nation.

Germany indirectly hinted that next time the coup in Turkey would succeed by correcting their errors in strategic planning of the coup.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in order to regain full control of the nation the nation attacked by the anti-Turkey coup plotters is clamping a three-month state of emergency in the aftermath of last week’s bloody coup attempt.

Before the announcement, Erdogan convened on July 20 with his national Security Council and council of ministers, the latter of which approved the state of emergency recommendation. “The purpose of the declaration of the state of emergency is, in fact, to be able to take the most efficient steps in order to remove this threat as soon as possible, which is a threat to democracy, to the rule of law and to the rights and freedoms of the citizens in our country,” Erdogan said, according to a government translation.

Erdogan, speaking later to a national television audience, said the state of emergency was not a threat to democracy. Governors will have expanded powers and the army will be under the command and control of the governors, the President said. Erdogan guaranteed that all the “viruses” in the armed forces would be cleansed during the period. “It is very similar to a cancer,” he said. “It is like a metastasis that is going on in the body that is Turkey. And we will clean it out.”

The President praised the popular anger and reactions to the coup attempt, in which 246 people died and 1,536 were wounded. “Every member of our nation came together as one,” he said.

Enemies of Islamist state and democracy

Unexpectedly for the enemies of Islam and Islamist Turkey, the coup failed and plotters have caught. Now the sponsors from abroad are deeply worried if the plotters caught would reveal the truth about who are behind the coup. So the Western media lords, seeking to shield the coup criminals, now focus on state reaction against the plotters, criticizing the government action against the plotters. Slowly they shift their focus to freedoms and democracy and criticize Turkey for not being kind to the plotting criminal gangs.

That is how the western media efficiently inspired by the strategy of Neocons targeting Islam and Arab nations, talk filth about Muslims, and their nations.

Turkey on Tuesday formally requested the extradition of Gulen from the United States, where he lives in self-imposed exile.

US President Obama has joined his European counterparts in warning Erdogan against over-reacting, and Erdogan supporters have suggested US complicity in the coup which they saw was organized by US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. Turkey is seeking Gulen’s extradition.

USA and EU ask President Erdogan to just forgive the criminal plotters (and move on further) who wanted to kill and jail President Erdogan and allies and destabilize Turkey and hand it over r to enemies of Islam. USA has refused to arrest the Gulen and allies in USA and hand them over to Turkish government.

All that European states want is as Turkey would be busy with “soul-searching” after the failed coup, the coup plotters would regroup and stage another “perfect’ coup to remove the elected Islamist government.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said European criticism won’t stop Turkey taking steps it deems necessary after last week’s failed coup. He projected a more conciliatory tone toward the USA and Russia. “The EU is not the whole world,” Erdogan said in an interview with Al Jazeera before announcing a three-month state of emergency. “It is just 28 countries. The USA has the death penalty, Russia has it, and China has it.”

Why not punish the coup plotters?

Turkey has now fired or suspended about 50,000 people after a failed coup over the weekend as it intensifies its vast purge — battering the country’s security forces and many of its democratic institutions. In total, more than 9,400 people are being detained, the vast majority of them from the military. Teachers, journalists, police and judges alike have been caught in a net authorities are casting wider by the day, in what, according to the Western media lords, is increasingly looking like a witch-hunt to suppress dissent.

In order to present themselves as kind people on earth, USA and EU are pressing for no-punishment for the coup plotters in Turkey.

The Western powers that have murdered millions of Muslims in Islamic world calling them the terrorists want Turkish government to be very very kind to the coup plotters, betrays their secret efforts to support the coup and keep the plan very hidden from Turkey leaders.

The natural purge has gutted the leadership in the country’s security forces, with at least 118 generals and admirals detained, stripping the general-rank command of the Turkish military by a third, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT. Authorities have also suspended 8,777 Ministry of Interior personnel, mostly police, as well as 100 Turkish intelligence service personnel, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Western leaders have urged Erdogan and his government to respect democratic principles and act within the law in response to talk of reviving the death penalty and heavy-handed punishments over the coup.

The coup efforts a rent new to Turkey but last time the plotters were caught and punished. The last executions in Turkey were in the mid-1980s and the death penalty was abolished in 2004. Erdogan said restoring capital punishment is being considered because of popular pressure, and the final decision rests with parliament.

Hundreds more have been suspended from the Prime Minister’s office and government bodies dealing with religious affairs, family and social policy and development. The total fired or suspended is around 50,000 people.

Anti-Islamic US-EU opposition to Turkey

The reactions from USA and EU reveal their essentially anti-Islamic joint hidden agenda against Turkey. They seek to destabilize the former Ottoman Empire. More than 9,000 people are currently in detention and are under investigation over the coup

It is unclear how many soldiers participated in the attack, during which two of Erdogan’s bodyguards were killed, and it is unclear how loyal the troops were, given that they were briefed on the coup so late in proceedings.

Asked if the extradition request would affect wider relations with the USA, Erdogan said “putting the two issues together is not the right thing to do.” “We have a strategic partnership, and we have to continue our solidarity,” he said. On Russia, Erdogan suggested that the two pilots who shot down a Russian jet on the Syrian-Turkish border in November may have been under orders from the coup plotters. The two pilots have been detained. “The judiciary must have their doubts because they are now in custody,” he said.

In order to ensure the safety of US nukes in Turkey is duty bound to take strict actions against the plotters. Rights group Amnesty International said that authorities had canceled 34 journalists’ press cards and called on Turkish authorities to not “arbitrarily restrict freedom of expression.” “We are witnessing a crackdown of exceptional proportions in Turkey at the moment,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher.

Will Gulen be extradited?

US President Barack Obama spoke with Erdogan after the failed coup about the coup and the status of Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania. Obama “strongly condemned” the coup attempt and “expressed his support for Turkish democracy,” a White House news release said, without explaining whether Gulen would be extradited.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has, as USA does to Pakistan, outrightly rejected the Turkish demand to extradite Gulen, saying USA wants proof. The Muslim cleric has denied any involvement in the coup attempt.

In order to be on the safe side, Gulen, in a statement released said Erdogan “once again demonstrated he will go to any length necessary to solidify his power and persecute his critics.” The reclusive cleric leads a popular movement called Hizmet, which includes hundreds of secular co-ed schools, free tutoring centers, hospitals and relief agencies credited with addressing Turkey’s social problems, now targeting Islamic rule.

USA claims that under the US-Turkey extradition agreement, Washington can only extradite a person if he or she has committed an “extraditable act.” Treason — such as that implied by Erdogan’s demand for Gulen’s extradition — is not listed as such an act in the countries’ treaty.

As Washington does not want to punish President Erdogan’s opponent Gulen, Kerry said in Washington that he told his Turkish counterpart: “Please don’t send us allegations, send us evidence; we need to have evidence which we can then make a judgment about.”

In the aftermath of the coup, the numbers of those detained, suspended or suspected has risen to the tens of thousands.

For his opponents, the fear is that it’s the start of a more sinister era of what they call Erdogan’s authoritarian rule, an opportunity to crack down further on any voice of dissent, an opening to push through constitutional and other changes that would give him greater powers.

In Greece, a court sentenced eight Turkish military personnel who fled there aboard a helicopter during the coup attempt to two months in prison for entering the country illegally.

Turkey has demanded their return to stand trial for alleged participation in the coup attempt. The eight, who deny involvement, have applied for asylum in Greece, saying they fear for their safety if they are returned.

Istanbul calm after storm

Turkey woke up to its first full day under a state of emergency on Thursday, imposed by the government the previous night. “Everything is looking normal” in the streets of Istanbul, a resident told journalists at 8 am (0500 GMT), with people commuting to work or taking coffees in the city’s cafes.

Away from the nightly Taksim Square celebrations there is a sense that people are going through the motions of daily life as if in a daze, conversations that invariably drift toward recent developments tend to still be preceded with exclamations. It appears there was a concerted effort to try to change the atmosphere of the square, even superficially, from a rallying ground for Erdogan supporters to something that stands more for the nation of Turkey itself. There are fewer political anthems lauding Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the AKP, and more songs that are simply patriotic or popular; there are fewer banners with Erdogan’s image fluttering in the breeze, more Turkish flags. Voices at the microphones — mostly AKP members and supporters — deliver a litany of messages about Turkey’s strength, not forgetting the price the nation paid.

There are more sinister reminders, too, such as one man who, standing in front of a newly erected billboard with the names of the dead, held a bullet and reminded the crowd: “This on Friday could have hit anyone of you, it could have had your name on it.”

Turkey have been through coups before, the successful ones of the past were bloodless. This one — violent — did not succeed. The anti-Islamic sources say a part of the reason for coup failure was because the authorities got wind of it just in time, and the attempted takeover was poorly executed. But arguably the key reason for failure was that the coup leaders did not take into account Erdogan’s popularity and his people power.

Erdogan’s supporters have no qualms about the government’s reaction. Erdogan is their man, they have unwavering faith in his abilities and they have proven they will lay down their lives for him. And, one could argue, they did not take into account that, whether Turks love Erdogan or hate him, the vast majority of this country does not want to have a democratically elected government brought down in a military coup. That night resulted in rare unity among Turkey’s main political party leaders and among its population.

The aims of three-month nationwide state of emergency includes end of Gulen empire in Turkey by creating a “parallel structure” of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed for the coup, government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said. Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek insisted the state of emergency would not curtail basic freedoms, including restrictions on movement, gatherings and free press. Parliament, dominated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, was to meet on Thursday to review the state of emergency.

The government has rounded up or dismissed tens of thousands of civil servants, teachers, lawyers and soldiers. Government supporters have called for the death penalty for coup plotters. Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas told a crowd in the city’s Taksim Square this week the he had ordered a burial plot to be set aside for any dead coup plotters, to be called “the graveyard for traitors.” “Everyone visiting the place will curse them and they won’t be able to rest in their graves,” he was quoted as saying by Hurriyet Daily news late on Wednesday.

Some locals were celebrating the coup’s failure in the streets on Wednesday night, the resident said. But many people were also deactivating their social media accounts, she added, saying she thought they were afraid of a clampdown. “Three people were dismissed in my company yesterday and there are rumours of 15 more on the list,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Opposition politicians also expressed fear of reprisals. “Unfortunately, we are seeing a civilian counter-coup,” Lawmaker Ziya Pir of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party told journalists on Wednesday. Many opposition factions “are afraid of being lynched,” he said.

Under the Turkish Constitution, the emergency measures allow the government to “partially or entirely” suspend “the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms,” so long as that doesn’t violate international law obligations. Lawmakers can sanction a state of emergency for a period of up to six months.

In order to avoid reoccurrence of coups and escape being the target of accusations of becoming authoritarian by anti-Islamic nations, Turkey pres Erdogan has been moving strictly as per law. Turkish lawmakers declare three-month state of emergency allowing president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to ramp up his crackdown after failed coup without parliamentary approval. Parliament voted 346-115 to approve the national state of emergency, which will give Erdogan the authority to extend detention times for suspects and issue decrees that have the force of law without parliamentary approval, among other powers.

Observation

The coup is perhaps a stark reminder of how shaky Turkish nation is, of how for many a sense of security they had once taken for granted is more shattered than it already was, of how deeply July 15 — despite the failure of the coup itself — continues to unsettle this country.

Turkey has to reinvent the prestige and prowess of a big nation.

Erdogan, who had been accused of autocratic conduct even before this week’s crackdown on alleged opponents, says the state of emergency will counter threats to Turkish democracy. The main opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP, slammed the state of emergency move as going too far. A state of emergency has never been declared nationwide although it was declared in Turkey’s restive, Kurdish-dominated southeast between 1987 and 2002.

Since the July 15 coup attempt, the government has arrested nearly 10,000 people. In addition, over 58,880 civil service employees — including teachers, university deans and police — have been dismissed, suspended, forced to resign or had their licenses revoked, accused of being Gulen followers.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek defended the move, saying he hoped the state of emergency would be short-lived. He said it would be used to go after “rogue” elements within the state and that there would have been “carnage in the streets” had the military coup succeeded.

Turkey immediately said it was partially suspending the European Convention on Human Rights, allowing it more leeway to deal with individual cases, by invoking an article most recently used by France and Ukraine.

Countries around the world are keeping a close watch on developments in Turkey, which straddles Europe, the Middle East and Asia. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier advised Turkey that the state of emergency should only last as long as it’s “absolutely necessary,” thereby interfering with internal affairs of Turkey

Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency to protect Turkey’s freedom and democracy, saying Turkey will work to cleanse the “viruses” within the armed forces and other groups.

Turkey’s people are still reeling from the shocking events of the weekend and it is vital that press freedom and the unhindered circulation of information are protected, rather than stifled. There is a general incredulity, with the weight of what happened only just beginning to sink in.

It is not just funny but very dangerous that EU member states try to intervene in Turkey’s efforts to punish the culprits. Meanwhile, EU leaders have said that Turkey’s negotiations to join their bloc will be terminated if it brings back the death penalty to the coup plotting criminals and have criticized the wave of arrests that followed the failed putsch. Erdogan said the arrests were the state “doing its job” and told French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to mind his own business given that France also introduced a state of emergency after last year’s attacks. “For 53 years, we have been knocking at the door and the EU leaders have kept us waiting, while others have joined,” he said. Turkey has no reason now to feel any urgency to be a part of EU, which has already shown signs of breakup following the Brexit.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP are pinning responsibility for the failed coup on a cabal within the army sympathetic to Fethullah Gulen, the exiled Islamic cleric. These accusations must be investigated and those who are culpable must be brought to justice. Gulenists were active in the police, prosecution service and judiciary, often pursuing their own agenda. Their unbridled lust for power ruined them in the end. Turkish liberals and democrats will never support the ambitions of the Gulenist army officers

Erdogan says death penalty could return to deal effectively with future plotters in Turkey, so that the people and government can surge ahead to revitalize economy and Islamic assets that are the target of the anti-Islamic forces globally.

With the coup having been failed, Turkey’s increasingly warm relations with Russia spell trouble for the USA at a time when the already strained ties between Ankara and Washington have been further complicated following the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Following the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is on its way to effect a dramatic shift in foreign policy from USA to Russia. As ties between the two countries normalize, Ankara could green light the Turkish Stream project, an initiative that Moscow has championed and Washington opposed.

Turkey’s new policy approach is based on its economic well-being which has been the basis of the weight and influence the country has been enjoying in the Middle East. Its economy had considerably gone down over the past few years and dipped further after its direct involvement in the war in Syria and Iraq

Every nation is duty bound to take revenge if there is a coup or grave subversive move by military and why not Turkey? USA still invades energy rich Arab nations blaming one Osama‘s terror attack on USA. Turkey is not a nation displaying its resilience in the face of a terrorist attack, as Turks have done in the past. This is not a nation that can bury the dead and try to move on. This is a nation in uncharted territory.

Turkey must now know who its real friends and foes are and criticize both USA and EU directly instead of taking an indirect route by criticizing only their tool Gulen or the military. Bur the coup plotters and those who help them achieve anti-Islamic agenda. That would make some sense to people in those countries.

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Iran Gives Russia Two and a Half Cheers

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Photo: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Moscow, March 15 2022. Credit: @Amirabdolahian via Twitter.

Iran’s rulers enthusiastically seek to destroy the liberal world order and therefore support Russia’s aggression. But they can’t manage full-throated support.

For Iran, the invasion of Ukraine is closely related to the very essence of the present world order. Much like Russia, Iran has been voicing its discontent at the way the international system has operated since the end of the Cold War. More broadly, Iran and Russia see the world through strikingly similar lenses. Both keenly anticipate the end of the multipolar world and the end of the West’s geopolitical preponderance.

Iran had its reasons to think this way. The US unipolar moment after 1991 provoked a deep fear of imminent encirclement, with American bases in Afghanistan and Iraq cited as evidence. Like Russia, the Islamic Republic views itself as a separate civilization that needs to be not only acknowledged by outside players, but also to be given ana suitable geopolitical space to project influence.

Both Russia and Iran are very clear about their respective spheres of influence. For Russia, it is the territories that once constituted the Soviet empire. For Iran, it is the contiguous states reaching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean — Iraq, Syria, Lebanon — plus Yemen. When the two former imperial powers have overlapping strategic interests such as, for instance, in the South Caucasus and the Caspian Sea, they apply the concept of regionalism. This implies the blocking out of non-regional powers from exercising outsize economic and military influence, and mostly revolves around an order dominated by the powers which border on a region.

This largely explains why Iran sees the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity that, if successful, could hasten the end of the liberal world order. This is why it has largely toed the Russian line and explained what it describes as legitimate motives behind the invasion. Thus the expansion of NATO into eastern Europe was cited as having provoked Russian moves. “The root of the crisis in Ukraine is the US policies that create the crisis, and Ukraine is one victim of these policies,” argued Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei following the invasion.

To a certain degree, Iran’s approach to Ukraine has been also influenced by mishaps in bilateral relations which largely began with the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet by Iranian surface-to-air missiles in January 2020, killing 176 people. The regime first denied responsibility, and later blamed human error.

Iran, like several other of Russia’s friends and defenders,  the ideal scenario would have been a quick war in which the Kremlin achieved its major goals.

Protracted war, however, sends a bad signal. It signals that the liberal order was not in such steep decline after all, and that Russia’s calls for a new era in international relations have been far from realistic. The unsuccessful war also shows Iran that the collective West still has very significant power and — despite well-aired differences — an ability to rapidly coalesce to defend the existing rules-based order. Worse, for these countries, the sanctions imposed on Russia go further; demonstrating the West’s ability to make significant economic sacrifices to make its anger felt. In other words, Russia’s failure in Ukraine actually strengthened the West and made it more united than at any point since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.

A reinvigorated liberal order is the last thing that Iran wants, given its own troubled relations with the collective West. The continuing negotiations on a revived nuclear deal will be heavily impacted by how Russia’s war proceeds, and how the US and EU continue to respond to the aggression. Iran fears that a defeated Russia might be so angered as to use its critical position to endanger the talks, vital to the lifting of the West’s crippling sanctions.

And despite rhetorical support for Russia, Iran has been careful not to overestimate Russia’s power. It is now far from clear that the Kremlin has achieved its long-term goal of “safeguarding” its western frontier. Indeed, the Putin regime may have done the opposite now that it has driven Finland and Sweden into the NATO fold. Western sanctions on Russia are likely to remain for a long time, threatening long-term Russian economic (and possible regime) stability.

Moreover, Russia’s fostering of separatist entities (following the recognition of the so called Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” and other breakaway entities in Georgia and Moldova) is a highly polarizing subject in Iran. True there has been a shift toward embracing Russia’s position over Ukraine, but Iran remains deeply committed to the “Westphalian principles” of non-intervention in the affairs of other states and territorial integrity. This is hardly surprising given its own struggles against potential separatism in the peripheries of the country.

Many Iranians also sympathize with Ukraine’s plight, which for some evokes Iran’s defeats in the early 19th century wars when Qajars had to cede the eastern part of the South Caucasus to Russia. This forms part of a historically deeply rooted, anti-imperialist sentiment in Iran.

Iran is therefore likely to largely abstain from endorsing Russia’s separatist ambitions in Eastern Ukraine. It will also eschew, where possible, support for Russia in international forums. Emblematic of this policy was the March 2 meeting in the United Nations General Assembly when Iran, rather than siding with Russia, abstained from the vote which condemned the invasion.

Russia’s poor military performance, and the West’s ability to act unanimously, serve as a warning for the Islamic Republic that it may one day have to soak up even more Western pressure if Europe, the US, and other democracies act in union.

In the meantime, like China, Iran will hope to benefit from the magnetic pull of the Ukraine war. With so much governmental, military and diplomatic attention demanded by the conflict, it will for the time being serve as a distraction from Iran’s ambitions elsewhere. 

Author’s note: first published in cepa

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Ignoring the Middle East at one’s peril: Turkey plays games in NATO

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Image source: NATO

Amid speculation about a reduced US military commitment to security in the Middle East, Turkey has spotlighted the region’s ability to act as a disruptive force if its interests are neglected.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan set off alarm bells this week, declaring that he was not “positive” about possible Finnish and Swedish applications for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO membership is contingent on a unanimous vote in favour by the organisation’s 30 members. Turkey has NATO’s second-largest standing army. 

The vast majority of NATO members appear to endorse Finnish and Swedish membership. NATO members hope to approve the applications at a summit next month.

A potential Turkish veto would complicate efforts to maintain trans-Atlantic unity in the face of the Russian invasion.

Mr. Erdogan’s pressure tactics mirror the maneuvers of his fellow strongman, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban. Mr. Orban threatens European Union unity by resisting a bloc-wide boycott of Russian energy.

Earlier, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia rejected US requests to raise oil production in an effort to lower prices and help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

The two Gulf states appear to have since sought to quietly backtrack on their refusal.

In late April, France’s TotalEnergies chartered a tanker to load Abu Dhabi crude in early May for Europe, the first such shipment in two years.

Saudi Arabia has quietly used its regional pricing mechanisms to redirect from Asia to Europe Arab “medium,” the Saudi crude that is the closest substitute for the main Russian export blend, Urals, for which European refineries are configured.

Mr. Erdogan linked his NATO objection to alleged Finnish and Swedish support for the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the EU.

The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency in southeast Turkey in support of Kurds’ national, ethnic, and cultural rights. Kurds account for up to 20 per cent of the country’s 84 million population.

Turkey has recently pounded PKK positions in northern Iraq in a military operation named Operation Claw Lock

Turkey is at odds with the United States over American support for Syrian Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State. Turkey asserts that America’s Syrian Kurdish allies are aligned with the PKK.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Turkey opposes a US decision this week to exempt from sanctions against Syria regions controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“This is a selective and discriminatory move,” Mr. Cavusoglu said, noting that the exemption did not include Kurdish areas of Syria controlled by Turkey and its Syrian proxies.

Referring to the NATO membership applications, Mr. Erdogan charged that “Scandinavian countries are like some kind of guest house for terrorist organisations. They’re even in parliament.”

Mr. Erdogan’s objections relate primarily to Sweden, with Finland risking becoming collateral damage.

Sweden is home to a significant Kurdish community and hosts Europe’s top Kurdish soccer team that empathises with the PKK and Turkish Kurdish aspirations. In addition, six Swedish members of parliament are ethnic Kurds.

Turkey scholar Howard Eissenstat suggested that Turkey’s NATO objection may be a turning point. “Much of Turkey’s strategic flexibility has come from the fact that its priorities are seen as peripheral issues for its most important Western allies. Finnish and Swedish entry into NATO, in the current context, absolutely not peripheral,” Mr. Eissenstat tweeted.

The Turkish objection demonstrates the Middle East’s potential to derail US and European policy in other parts of the world.

Middle Eastern states walk a fine line when using their potential to disrupt to achieve political goals of their own. The cautious backtracking on Ukraine-related oil supplies demonstrates the limits and/or risks of Middle Eastern brinkmanship.

So does the fact that Ukraine has moved NATO’s center of gravity to northern Europe and away from its southern flank, which Turkey anchors.

Moreover, Turkey risks endangering significant improvements in its long-strained relations with the United States.

Turkish mediation in the Ukraine crisis and military support for Ukraine prompted US President Joe Biden to move ahead with plans to upgrade Turkey’s fleet of F-16 fighter planes and discuss selling it newer, advanced  F-16 models even though Turkey has neither condemned Russia nor imposed sanctions.

Some analysts suggest Turkey may use its objection to regain access to the United States’ F-35 fighter jet program. The US cancelled in 2019 a sale of the jet to Turkey after the NATO member acquired Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defence system.

Mr. Erdogan has “done this kind of tactic before. He will use it as leverage to get a good deal for Turkey,” said retired US Navy Admiral James Foggo, dean of the Center for Maritime Strategy.

A top aide to Mr. Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, appeared to confirm Mr. Foggo’s analysis.

“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Mr. Kalin said, referring to the Turkish leader’s NATO remarks. “Of course, we want to have a discussion, a negotiation with Swedish counterparts.”

Spelling out Turkish demands, Mr. Kalin went on to say that “what needs to be done is clear: they have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organisations, individuals and other types of presence to…exist in those countries.”

Mr. Erdogan’s brinkmanship may have its limits, but it illustrates that one ignores the Middle East at one’s peril.

However, engaging Middle Eastern autocrats does not necessarily mean ignoring their rampant violations of human rights and repression of freedoms.

For the United States and Europe, the trick will be developing a policy that balances accommodating autocrats’, at times, disruptive demands, often aimed at ensuring regime survival, with the need to remain loyal to democratic values amid a struggle over whose values will underwrite a 21st-century world order.

However, that would require a degree of creative policymaking and diplomacy that seems to be a rare commodity.

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Health Silk Route: China and the Middle East

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While China’s economic interests in the Middle East are well-known, China’s intrinsic involvement in the Middle East for increased political and cultural influence is a nascent development. For example, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has attempted to increase its footprint in the Middle East through its new ‘Health Silk Route’ (HSR) project which should be viewed as an extension of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) in the Middle East. Through the new HSR project, China is trying to gain diplomatic bandwidth in the Middle East by spreading its soft power influence in the region.

China  has traditionally maintained a cautious approach in foreign policy towards the Middle East to ensure that its energy needs are consistently fulfilled by Middle Eastern states like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Simultaneously, it has opted for a strong economic relationship with most Middle Eastern states (Dorsey, 2017) as China views the Middle East as a lucrative market for its goods. (Shambaugh, 2014: 87) However, this non-interventionist approach of China towards the Middle East is now on its way out as a ‘rising China’ is approaching the Middle East with new found vigour with the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) making a mark across the region.

China views the Middle East as a region that can aid its ‘peaceful rise’ as China attempts to ‘strive for achievement’ (fenfayouwei) and achieve great power status in keeping with the principles of Tienxia (All Under Heavens) (French, 2017) after ‘keeping a low profile’ (taoguangyanghui) for years. (Xuetong, 2014) This new found Chinese interest in the Middle East is in keeping with the tenets of Chinese conception of ‘Moral Realism’, President Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’ project and his clarion call for national rejuvenation and declining American presence in the region. (Xuetong, 2014)

While the region was initially viewed as ‘politically inaccessible’ by Chinese diplomats (Fuhr, 2021) due to the region being ‘America’s strategic headlight’, the region has become important for China today. In fact, China has come out with its ‘Arab Policy Paper’ that documented China’s approach towards the Arab states where China endorsed a “win-win partnership” with all 22 Arab (Middle Eastern) states. This was the first such policy paper published by China in several years.  (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PRC, 2021)

The Middle East is also an important region for growing Chinese investments. For example, in 2018, China invested $20 billion in infrastructure development alone and another $3 billion in loans for the banking sector in the region. These developments have brought China and the Middle East closer. (Elanggar, 2020)

COVID-19 & Mutual Reciprocity

The COVID-19 pandemic has further opened up the region for China. While China has opted for a more aggressive diplomatic line through the use of ‘wolf-warrior diplomacy’ in regions like Europe and the Americas, to defend itself amidst the raging COVID pandemic, the ‘Chinese Middle Eastern discourse during the pandemic has seen an outpouring of mutual support paired with deliveries of medical aid’ (Wilson Centre, 2020) In the early days of the pandemic, when the pandemic took its roots in Wuhan in the heart of China, Middle Eastern states like Kuwait sent medical equipment worth $3 billion to China. (Kuwait Today, 2020) Similarly, Saudi Arabia through the King Salman Humanitarian RelIef Fund (KSRelief) provided medical devices and protective suits and surgical masks to China. (Xinhua, 2020) For the Middle East, the pandemic transformed China from just a business partner to a scientific benefactor and collaborator. (Bodetti, 2021)

China reciprocated these gestures and offered medical assistance to Middle Eastern states firstly by offering medical supplies and extending lines of credit in the first phase and through the provisions of vaccines. It also suggested that these initiatives were taken to ‘advance global public health’ under the rubric of the HSR.  Firstly, China assisted Iran and Turkey by providing essential medical supplies like medical masks, test devices and Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) (Xinhua, 2020: Singh & Gupta, 2020) China sent sterile and antiseptic masks and other medical equipments to states in the Maghreb like Algeria and Mauritania as well. (Chachiza, 2021) It also sent 50 boxes of medical supplies with surgical supplies nad masks to Oman. (Hoffman & Yelinek, 2020) However, the primary focus of China’s pandemic diplomacy was related to China’s provision of vaccines to the region. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the first country to approve the Sinopharm vaccine and stated that its efficacy stood at 86%. Once the prerequisite approvals were in place, Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco also agreed to use the China-manufactured vaccines. (El Kadi & Zinser, 2021)

Impact of Chinese Health Diplomacy on HSR

These healthcare initiatives have allowed the widening and deepening of ties between China and the Middle Eastern states. For China, the HSR is an opportunity to resurrect its image in the Post COVID-19 era, where China has been blamed for the onset of the pandemic. Through the HSR initiative, China wants to portray itself as ‘benevolent healthcare provider’ to increase its soft power. It wants to take the lead in ‘perfecting global public health governance’ across the world. (Lancaster, Ruben & Rap-Hooper, 2020)

As far as the Middle East is concerned, China wants to use the HSR to increase its soft power in the region. China has traditionally been viewed favourably by Middle Eastern states like Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Tunisia (Silver, Devlin & Huang, 2019) and China wants to leverage these favourable ratings for its own benefit. While Chinese scholars have negated this line of argument and stated vociferously that the HSR is for “global public good” because the United States has abdicated global health leadership (Jiahan, 2021) It is certain that a diminishing U.S. presence in the Middle East will allow the rise of China in the region and initiatives like the HSR will aide this development.

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