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The Kurdish dream and Syrian trap

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In the shadow of a new escalation of civil war in Syria, three new challenges occurred, which would have an undeniable impact on the Middle East region. Firstly, the enlargement of Russian military intervention in Syria (within the involvement of Hamadan airbase). Second, the coalition forces have achieved to liberate the number of towns in Syria from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). Finally, the third Turkish army has been involved in the conflict against the Islamic State.

Apparently, it is really difficult to estimate correctly the ongoing process in Syria, particularly to predict its long-term repercussions for the regional countries. However, it is safety to note that president Basher Assad will remain in power for next several years. The turning point of the process became an initiative of Turkish president R. Erdogan that aimed to rekindle the bilateral relations with Russia after the SU-24 jet scandal.

The possible appearance of Kurdish state along Turkish – Syrian border is a much bigger threat than Assad’s regime and, therefore, official Ankara immediately made certain changes to its Syrian policy by softening rhetoric towards Assad’s regime and stopping claim for his ouster. Sources believe that Turkey’s revolution of foreign policy implemented on the Syria crisis stems primarily from fearing Kurdish threats. One of the other reasons was that Turkey’s tenacious appeal on Assad leaving authority over the last five years had compromised Turkish national interest. The Turkish administration had always firmly believed that Assad’s leave from power is imperative for achieving stability in Syria. However, in fact, the fear of Kurdish state in Syrian territories may have push both Ankara and Damascus for a common opposition against Kurdish militia.

From Turkey’ point of view, Erdogan showed willingness and readiness to combat with growing Kurdish threat. He acted rapidly and implicitly, as he understands that the main threat to the integrity of the country, might be occurred by the unification of Syrian – Iraqi Kurdish militants alongside the border. Seemingly, Mr. Erdogan seriously intended to vanish the Kurdish dream. Therefore, a part of the rapprochement with Russia, Ankara is enthusiastically supporting the combat with the Islamic State, hoping to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the U.S (U.S condemns the Turkish campaign against PYD-YPG forces in Syria). However, Turkey benefited from the ongoing process, despite the failed coup attempt in July. The military operation coming soon after the mass purge in the army has highlighted how Mr. Erdogan secured the control of the military. Mr. Erdogan has achieved to strengthen his positions in the region through fighting at the same time with Kurds and the Islamic State, which means that even Bashar Assad remaining in power cannot threaten his positions.

In this regard, Kurds seems to be the only losers in this game. They lost the opportunity to gain independence, as well as, to consolidate the whole power from Iraqi borders till Aleppo. Obviously, the huge reliance of Kurds on the White House has not justified their dreams about the close alliance. Undoubtedly, the U.S support of Turkish military intervention in Syria, against ISIS (but in fact against PYD) will be the next catalyst in Kurdish – American relations. Washington’s attitude towards Kurdish militia is understandable. The Syrian Kurds have proved to be a most dependable fighting force on the ground against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. After Russia entered the scene as a staunch supporter of the Kurds, the United States apparently became wary of a possible shift in the Kurds’ alliances. One of America’s most valuable allies in Syria could be lost to Russia.

It is worthy to seek for sinners inside of the Kurdish militant groups, which cannot succeed to gather alltogether under the common political umbrella in Iraq and Syria, while Turkish authorities push on the Western allies to drop support for Syrian Kurds. Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has called on the U.S. to “revise” its policy of supporting Kurdish forces battling Turkish troops in Syria.

Although Ankara clearly notes that it will not allow Kurdish separate entity in northern Syria, YPG say they will not withdraw from the areas they have seized, namely from Manbij city. Reportedly, Turkey vowed to remain in Syria until the Kurdish forces followed through on their pledge to withdraw from Manbij, a strategic Syrian town on the western side of the Euphrates River that they seized from Islamic State earlier this month (cumleni iki hisseye bol). After Vice President Joe Biden publicly warned the Kurds that they were in danger of losing American support if they didn’t pull back, the YPG announced Thursday that it was leaving Manbij in the hands of its Arab militant allies.

Currently, Washington is working on the resolution plan that could prevent an extended confrontation between Kurdish militia and the Turkish army as by the losing one of its allies, the U.S would hand off potential ally against radical Islamists. Nevertheless, Syrian Kurds are still far from their long-awaited dream of independence, while for Turkey it is an opening to fulfil its desire to carve out a secured buffer zone in the north-west of Syria.

To sum up, there are two main consequences of the Syrian civil war. First of all, the U.S has lost their capability and desire to interfere in the endless Syrian conflict. The U.S influence in the region is going down day-by-day, even though it has recently achieved certain success against the Islamic State. On the contrary, Russia gains wide floor for further political and military manoeuvres aftermath Turkey’s position on Syrian crisis has changed. No doubt that without Ankara’s support it is nearly impossible to determine the destiny of the Middle East.

Middle East

What is the public sphere today in Turkey?

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The concept of public sphere, which was started to be examined in Europe in the 1960s, has different meanings according to different perspectives, as a definite definition cannot be made today, and this situation creates important discussion topics about the use of such spaces.

Long debated the definition of public space in Europe, in Turkey also began to affect 1980”l year. After the 1980 coup, some communities, which were kept out of sight, fearing that the Republic project would be harmed, demanded the recognition of their ethnic and cultural identities. Thus the concept of the public sphere in Turkey, especially since the early 1990s to be addressed in various academic publications, use and began to discuss political issues.

Especially in the past years, the public sphere debates on the headscarf issue were discussed from various angles. The debate started with Prime Minister Erdogan’s criticism of President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who did not invite his wife to a NATO dinner, saying “Dolmabahçe is not a public space”, and the President of the Council of Higher Education, Prof.Dr. Erdoğan Teziç; He responded by emphasizing that the public sphere is not a “ geographical definition ” but a functional concept.

Before defining the public sphere, the understanding that shows that the definition of space in the Ottoman Empire was shaped as less private, private, very private and very very private is still one of the biggest reasons for the definition of the public sphere. While expressing, it reminds that he entered the Ottoman literature in a different way in the 19th century. Thinkers who indicate the association of the public sphere with the state in general express it as the sphere that is related to the state, not the “public”. “When you say ‘public’, the state comes to mind immediately; We mean something like government administration, its organs, organizations, officials, or activities, an official domain that is owned or run under state control. However, as Habermas said, the public sphere is above all the sphere in which the public opinion is formed in our social life ”.

As citizens of the city, we observe that some projects have spread to the spaces defined as public space due to the fact that today’s public space and public space concepts have not been defined precisely and construction activities have increased due to the anxiety of rent.

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Middle East

Erdogan’s Calamitous Authoritarianism

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Turkey’s President Erdogan is becoming ever more dangerous as he continues to ravage his own country and destabilize scores of states in the Middle East, the Balkans, and North Africa, while cozying up to the West’s foremost advisories. Sadly, there seems to be no appetite for most EU member states to challenge Erdogan and put him on notice that he can no longer pursue his authoritarianism at home and his adventurous meddling abroad with impunity.

To understand the severity of Erdogan’s actions and ambitions and their dire implications, it suffices to quote Ahmet Davutoglu, formerly one of Erdogan’s closest associates who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and subsequently Prime Minister. Following his forced resignation in May 2016 he stated “I will sustain my faithful relationship with our president until my last breath. No one has ever heard — and will ever hear — a single word against our president come from my mouth.”

Yet on October 12, Davutoglu declared “Erdogan left his friends who struggled and fought with him in exchange for the symbols of ancient Turkey, and he is trying to hold us back now…. You yourself [Erdogan] are the calamity. The biggest calamity that befell this people is the regime that turned the country into a disastrous family business.”

The stunning departure of Davutoglu from his earlier statement shows how desperate conditions have become, and echoed how far and how dangerously Erdogan has gone. Erdogan has inflicted a great calamity on his own people, and his blind ambition outside Turkey is destabilizing many countries while dangerously undermining Turkey’s and its Western allies’ national security and strategic interests.

A brief synopsis of Erdogan’s criminal domestic practices and his foreign misadventures tell the whole story.

Domestically, he incarcerated tens of thousands of innocent citizens on bogus charges, including hundreds of journalists. Meanwhile he is pressuring the courts to send people to prison for insulting him, as no one can even express their thoughts about this ruthlessness. Internationally, Erdogan ordered Turkish intelligence operatives to kill or smuggle back to the country Turkish citizens affiliated with the Gülen movement.

He regularly cracks down on Turkey’s Kurdish minority, preventing them from living a normal life in accordance with their culture, language, and traditions, even though they have been and continue to be loyal Turkish citizens. There is no solution to the conflict except political, as former Foreign Minister Ali Babacan adamantly stated on October 20: “… a solution [to the Kurdish issue] will be political and we will defend democracy persistently.”

Erdogan refuses to accept the law of the sea convention that gives countries, including Cyprus, the right to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for energy exploration, while threatening the use of force against Greece, another NATO member no less. He openly sent a research ship to the region for oil and gas deposits, which EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called “extremely worrying.”

He invaded Syria with Trump’s blessing to prevent the Syrian Kurds from establishing autonomous rule, under the pretext of fighting the PKK and the YPG (the Syrian Kurdish militia that fought side-by-side the US, and whom Erdogan falsely accuses of being a terrorist group).

He is sending weapons to the Sunni in northern Lebanon while setting up a branch of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) in the country—a practice Erdogan has used often to gain a broader foothold in countries where it has an interest.

While the Turkish economy is in tatters, he is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the Balkans, flooding countries with Turkish imams to spread his Islamic gospel and to ensure their place in his neo-Ottoman orbit. Criticizing Erdogan’s economic leadership, Babacan put it succinctly when he said this month that “It is not possible in Turkey for the economic or financial system to continue, or political legitimacy hold up.”

Erdogan is corrupt to the bone. He conveniently appointed his son-in-law as Finance Minister, which allows him to hoard tens of millions of dollars, as Davutoglu slyly pointed out: “The only accusation against me…is the transfer of land to an educational institution over which I have no personal rights and which I cannot leave to my daughter, my son, my son-in-law or my daughter-in-law.”

Erdogan is backing Azerbaijan in its dispute with Armenia (backed by Iran) over the breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is inhabited by ethnic Armenians and has been the subject of dispute for over 30 years.

He is exploiting Libya’s civil strife by providing the Government of National Accord (GNA) with drones and military equipment to help Tripoli gain the upper hand in its battle against Khalifa Haftar’s forces. Former Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said in February 2020 that “The unclear Turkish foreign policy by Erdogan may put Turkey in grave danger due to this expansion towards Libya.”

He is meddling in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an effort to prevent them from settling their dispute unless Israel meets Palestinian demands. He granted several Hamas officials Turkish citizenship to spite Israel, even though Hamas openly calls for Israel’s destruction.

He betrayed NATO by buying the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, which seriously compromises the alliance’s technology and intelligence.

He is destabilizing many countries, including Somalia, Qatar, Libya, and Syria, by dispatching military forces and hardware while violating the air space of other countries like Iraq, Cyprus, and Greece. Yakis said Turkey is engaging in a “highly daring bet where the risks of failure are enormous.”

Erdogan supports extremist Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and an assortment of jihadists, including ISIS, knowing full well that these groups are sworn enemies of the West—yet he uses them as a tool to promote his wicked Islamic agenda.

He regularly blackmails EU members, threatening to flood Europe with Syria refugees unless they support his foreign escapades such as his invasion of Syria, and provide him with billions in financial aid to cope with the Syrian refugees.

The question is how much more evidence does the EU need to act? A close look at Erdogan’s conduct clearly illuminates his ultimate ambition to restore much of the Ottoman Empire’s influence over the countries that were once under its control.

Erdogan is dangerous. He has cited Hitler as an example of an effective executive presidential system, and may seek to acquire nuclear weapons. It’s time for the EU to wake up and take Erdogan’s long-term agenda seriously, and take severe punitive measures to arrest his potentially calamitous behavior. Sadly, the EU has convinced itself that from a geostrategic perspective Turkey is critically important, which Erdogan is masterfully exploiting.

The EU must be prepared take a stand against Erdogan, with or without the US. Let’s hope, though, that Joe Biden will be the next president and together with the EU warn Erdogan that his days of authoritarianism and foreign adventurism are over.

The views expressed are those of the author.

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Middle East

Syrian Refugees Have Become A Tool Of Duplicitous Politics

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Syrian refugees in Rukban camp

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria the issue of Syrian refugees and internally displace has been the subject of countless articles and reports with international humanitarian organizations and countries involved in the Syrian conflict shifting responsibility for the plight of migrants.

The most notorious example of human suffering put against political games is the Rukban refugee camp located in eastern Syria inside the 55-km zone around Al-Tanf base controlled by the U.S. and its proxies.

According to official information, more than 50,000 people, mostly women and children, currently live in the camp. This is a huge number comparable to the population of a small town. The Syrian government, aware of the plight of people in Rukban, has repeatedly urged Washington to open a humanitarian corridor so that everyone can safely return home. However, all such proposals were ignored by the American side. U.S. also refuse to provide the camp with first aid items. Neighbouring Jordan is inactive, too, despite Rukban being the largest of dozens other temporary detention centres in Syria, where people eke out a meager existence.

At the same time, the problem is not only refugee camps. Syria has been at war for a decade. The country’s economy has suffered greatly over this period, and many cities have been practically grazed to the ground. Moreover, the global coronavirus epidemic didn’t spare Syria and drained the already weakened economy even more. However, Damascus’ attempts of post-war reconstruction and economic recovery were undermined by multiple packages of severe sanctions imposed by the U.S. At the same time, U.S.-based human rights monitors and humanitarian organizations continue to weep over the Syrian citizens’ misery.

The situation is the same for those refugees who stay in camps abroad, especially in countries bordering on Syria, particularly Jordan and Turkey. Ankara has been using Syrian citizens as a leverage against the European states in pursuit of political benefits for a long time. No one pays attention to the lives of people who are used as a change coin in big politics. This is equally true for Rukban where refugees are held in inhuman conditions and not allowed to return to their homeland. In those rare exceptions that they are able to leave, refugees have to pay large sums of money that most of those living in camp are not able to come by.

It’s hard to predict how long the Syrian conflict will go on and when – or if – the American military will leave the Al-Tanf base. One thing can be said for sure: the kind of criminal inaction and disregard for humanitarian catastrophe witnessed in refugee camps is a humiliating failure of modern diplomacy and an unforgivable mistake for the international community. People shouldn’t be a tool in the games of politicians.

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