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How stable are US-Turkey relations?

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It looks strange that an Islamic Turkey and essentially an anti-Islamic America have worked for years now notwithstanding serious differences even conflict between them. The fact that USA is not just a veto member and super power but also the strongest power that controls entire world by using most of the powers in the world, including Russia and China.

Turkey as a strong NATO member has been a useful asset for USA as well as all NATO and other anti-Islamic nations while United States and Israel have used the Islamist nation to their own advantages.

On positive side, USA and Turkey have maintained a closely knit relations for years since the Second World War and operated jointly to upset the Soviet efforts to make entire Europe and elsewhere anti-communist. They did achieve a great deal of success and by being the corner stone of NATO. However, that deep relationship looks shaking its foundations now.

In fact, the USA sought Turkey’s assistance for NATO and went on to sponsor Turkey’s successful bid for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The two countries then officially became allies. The alliance provided real political and security advantages to both parties, but it was certainly not to be free of frictions and tensions. The first occurred at the time of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Events of the past few weeks have precipitated a new crisis in American-Turkish relations, but it is certainly not the first one. In fact, it builds on a long history of bouts of mutual suspicion and antagonism over a period of more than 60 years. Last month, newspapers around the world featured pictures of US Vice-President Joe Biden shaking hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace in Ankara. The facial expressions of the two men eloquently illustrated the state of relations between their countries. Both seemed extremely wary of the other and this for good reason.

Past

The relationship between the USA and Turkey began to take shape in the years immediately following the Second World War. At the time, Turkey was coming under serious political and diplomatic pressure from the Soviet Union, which wanted to gain control of the Turkish Straits. Turkey appealed for help to the USA, which provided it with certain security guarantees under the terms of the Truman Doctrine. The United States went on to sponsor Turkey’s successful bid for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The two countries then officially became allies.

The NATO alliance provided real political and security advantages to both parties, but it was certainly not to be free of frictions and tensions. The first occurred at the time of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Although strongly denied at the time by the United States government, it was widely believed that the USA had concluded a deal with the Soviet Union whereby in exchange for its withdrawal of missiles from Cuba, the United States would withdraw the Jupiter missiles it had recently deployed in Turkey. When the Jupiter missiles were indeed removed in April 1963, it was generally believed in Turkey that this was a case of the United States protecting its own security interests at the expense of Turkey’s.

Even while employing Turkey for a collective “capitalist” response to Soviet threat, Washington also played havoc in containing Turkey. The long-running Cyprus issue was to create more frictions in the alliance. When the Turkish government was contemplating military action in Cyprus in 1963-64, it was the object of a blistering response by President Lyndon Johnson. When Turkey did, in fact, invade and occupy northern Cyprus in 1974, it was soundly condemned in Washington and the US Congress voted an embargo on all military assistance to Turkey.

Comprehending US hidden agenda, the Turkish government retaliated by suspending all American operations at military facilities in Turkey. These events convinced many Turks that the US government and Pentagon-CIA duo had little interest in protecting Turkey’s vital interests and that it was operating under the influence of the Greek-American community.

As super powers, USA and Soviet Russia had maintained secret deals and this concealed relationship continues even today and did not reveal that to Turkey which even was made to fear an attack by Moscow. For instance, although strongly denied at the time by the US government, it was widely believed that the USA had concluded a deal with the Soviet Union whereby in exchange for its withdrawal of missiles from Cuba, the USA would withdraw the Jupiter missiles it had recently deployed in Turkey, accelerating fears in Istanbul. When the Jupiter missiles were indeed removed in April 1963, it was generally believed in Turkey that this was a case of the US protecting its own security interests at the expense of Turkey’s.

Many other events also contributed to cooling the bilateral relationship. The three military coups that occurred in Turkey between 1960 and 1980 were greeted with dismay in Washington, giving the strategic community in Turkey speculation that USA systematically promotes troubles in Turkey which then had to revise its anti-Soviet policy towards a neutral one.

USA insists every NATO member and ally must do exactly what Washington tell them. Turkey’s rapprochement with the Soviet Union in the 1970s, therefore, was also the cause of serious concern. By the end of the decade, Turkey was receiving generous economic assistance from the Soviet Union, which created a major crisis in NATO. Turkey was benefitting enormously from its friendship with the one country the USA and NATO were dedicated to opposing and resisting.

Another significant irritant was to emerge in the 1990s: Turkey’s policies and actions regarding its Kurdish minority that sought independence with US backing. Successive In order keep Turkey under its control, Turkish governments mounted campaigns to repress secessionist movements among the Kurds. In the course of those campaigns, Turkish security forces committed massive human rights abuses, including the wholesale destruction of villages and the displacement of populations.

Along with the governments of many western European countries pursuing fake democracy and imperialism, the USA, seeking to control Turkish government, became increasingly critical of the ‘human rights violations’ and voted to block the sale of military equipment to Turkey. These criticisms and actions gave rise to profound resentment among Turks for whom the Kurdish question is a matter of national unity and territorial integrity. Those resentments were intensified when the USA gave its support to the Kurds of northern Iraq following the first Gulf War of 1991.

There was a further falling out between the USA and Turkey at the start of the new century when hawkish CIA boss turned US president George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq to remove President Saddam Hussein, destabilize Iraq and squander its vast energy resources and it did accomplish all with Turkey’s help. In the run-up to that war, the Bush regime put heavy pressure on the Turkish government to allow it to station forces in Turkey so as to be able to create a second front for the assault on Iraq (with a threat rider that if Turkey does not oblige, it would use Russia to create problems for Turkey).

However, despite offers of billions of dollars in American economic assistance, the Turkish parliament, reflecting Turkish public opinion, turned down the American request cum indirect threat. This forced the USA to make major last-minute changes to its military planning for the war and engendered considerable bitterness in Washington.

Coup

USA and Israel have every effectively used Turkey, for too long, to stop Moscow from coming into close contact with Arab world, Islamic nations. But that trend is facing rupture. USA, its Neocons strategists are now deeply disturbed by the emerging scenario of Russia and Turkey cementing their ties – seen as a devastating step that could harm US interests across the globe

In fact, as the EU opposes an Islamic Turkey from entering the essentially Christian European structures, USA feared Turkey if left out of EU would eventually join hands with Russia, eagerly wanting to take Istanbul into its own global fold. USA is eager to keep Turkey in perpetual tensions- neither within Europe nor inside West Asia. Now Russia is fast becoming a top ally of Turkey.

In recent times, especially after the Israeli-Turkish tensions over Gaza Strip, in which USA as usual took a pro-Israeli stand and later tensions with Russia over shooting down of a Russia war plane believable on US instructions and very recent anti-Islamist coup by the pro-US section of Turkish military Turkey got annoyed as USA refused to support the Turkish government or sympathize with President Erdogan, and indirectly supported the coup plotters hoping to dismantle the Erdogan government and replace it with a bogus democratic regime to promote US and Israeli interests blindly. However, the coup plot was put down and USA and Germany stood fully exposed of their anti-Islamic agenda for Turkey and Mideast.

To complicate matters, strong disagreements have emerged over the fate of a Muslim cleric by the name of Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in the United States for more than 15 years. From his base in Pennsylvania, Gulen runs a network of schools and charitable organizations in a number of Muslim countries, including Turkey. Once an ally of President Erdogan, they had a falling out in 2013, and since that time, Erdogan has accused Gulen of having infiltrated his supporters into the Turkish police, army and judiciary. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan claimed that Gulen had masterminded it and demanded his extradition from the United States to face justice in Turkey. The American government has taken a cautious approach to this demand of a NATO member for years, citing the doctrine of the separation of powers in the USA. It has said that it is willing to extradite Gulen if and when the Turkish government provided sufficient evidence to satisfy an American court that extradition is warranted. This response has generated yet more conspiracy theories and anti-Americanism in Turkey.

Two things are clear now. USA is basically anti-Islamic and it has fielded Gulen, among others in Turkey, to work for USA and NATO. Another important reality in this regard that harms Turkey’s genuine interests is joint operations by USA and Israel against Islamic world, including Turkey.

A major US ally Israel, on its part, manipulated US-Turkish relations to its own advantages against Arab nations.

USA uses Turkey only for advancing hidden agendas

As the most dreadful state terror nation whose military-intelligence networks are spread across the globe, USA could be instrumental in creating problems for the Erdogan government for its “disobedience” and terror attacks took place in cities, forcing the Turkish government to finally change its tune. It decided to allow the United States to use a major air base in Turkey for operations against the ISIS and to join in the aerial campaign against the ISIS, making Washington happy. This, however, proved to be a mixed blessing from the American perspective. Turkish air strikes were directed equally against ISIS targets and against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria. Now these Kurdish forces are among America’s’ most valued allies in the war against the ISIS and Islam, and the Americans had invested heavily in training and equipping them. The United States and Turkey were once again operating at cross-purposes, to the dismay and annoyance of the Obama regime.

Matters have only gone from bad to worse in recent months. In mid-July, Turkey was the scene of a failed military coup, presumably ignited by USA, Germany and Israel, in the course of which some 300 people were killed and many more wounded. With vast displays of popular support, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was able to crush the coup attempt and reassert his authority. Erdogan then took advantage of the event to strengthen the nation by launching an overdue purge of all of anti-Islamist operators backed by USA. He arrested or dismissed approximately 80,000 policemen, judges, civil servants, teachers, academics and journalists, and closed down a number of media outlets that had been critical of his government and Islamic system. The coup forced Erdogan to put on full display his authoritarian tendencies.

Turkish aidship and coup have exposed anti-Islamic mindset of Turkey’s western Washington allies as Obama was fairly slow to condemn the coup attempt and express its support for the democratically elected government. In fact, within two days of the event, John Kerry was issuing warnings to the Turkish government to respect the human rights of its citizens. This infuriated the Turkish government and wide swaths of the Turkish population.

Western powers and Israel as its agent for many tasks, including arms sale to third world, have caused authoritarian tendencies in Turkey. The US-Germany move to destabilize the Islamist government and nation by enacting a coup has clearly spoiled the ties very badly.

However, US strategists think Turkey could be brought back to US obit by using Israel and Arab nations.

Being a party to destabilization move in Turkey, Washington was fairly slow to condemn the coup attempt or express its support for the democratically elected government. In fact, within two days of the event, John Kerry exposed the US complicity in the coup attempt, by issuing warnings to the Turkish government to “respect” the human rights of its citizens. This infuriated the Turkish government and wide swaths of the Turkish population. Public opinion polls suggest that a majority of Turks believe that the United States had something to do with it. Anti-American sentiment is now rife in Turkey.

When the Turkish government was contemplating military action in Cyprus in 1963-64, it was the object of a blistering response by the administration of President Lyndon Johnson. When Turkey did, in fact, invade and occupy northern Cyprus in 1974, it was soundly condemned in Washington and the US Congress voted an embargo on all military assistance to Turkey. The Turkish government retaliated by suspending all American operations at military facilities in Turkey. These events convinced many Turks that the United States government had little interest in protecting Turkey’s vital interests and that it was operating under the influence of the Greek-American community.

Other events also contributed to cooling the bilateral relationship. The three military coups that occurred in Turkey between 1960 and 1980 were greeted with dismay in Washington. Turkey’s rapprochement with the Soviet Union in the 1970s was also the cause of serious concern. By the end of the decade, Turkey was receiving generous economic assistance from the Soviet Union, which created a major anomaly in NATO. Turkey was benefitting enormously from its friendship with the one country the United States and NATO were dedicated to opposing and resisting.

Another significant irritant was to emerge in the 1990s: Turkey’s policies and actions regarding its Kurdish minority. Successive Turkish governments mounted campaigns to repress secessionist movements among the Kurds. Along with the governments of many western European countries, the US Congress became increasingly critical of these human rights violations and voted to block the sale of military equipment to Turkey. These criticisms and actions gave rise to profound resentment among Turks for whom the Kurdish question is a matter of national unity and territorial integrity.

Those resentments were intensified when the United States gave its support to the Kurds of northern Iraq following the first Gulf War of 1991.

There was a further falling out between the United States and Turkey at the start of the new century when President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq. In the run-up to that war, the Bush administration put heavy pressure on the Turkish government to allow it to station forces in Turkey so as to be able to create a second front for the assault on Iraq. Despite offers of billions of dollars in American economic assistance, the Turkish parliament, reflecting Turkish public opinion, turned down the American request. This forced the United States to make major last-minute changes to its military planning for the war and engendered considerable bitterness in Washington.

US double speak

US double speak does not require any elaboration and explanations as it has been hallmark of US practice in dealing with nations across the globe. Anything that suits Washington is good and other things are too bad for USA.

USA always seeks get its “wanted “people from foreign nations but it does not oblige Turkey by extraditing Gulen. Once an ally of President Erdogan, they had a falling out in 2013, and since that time, Erdogan has accused Gulen of having infiltrated his supporters into the Turkish police, army and judiciary. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan claimed that Gulen had masterminded it and demanded his extradition from the United States to face justice in Turkey.

Strong disagreements have emerged over the fate of a Muslim cleric by the name of Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in the United States for more than 15 years. From his base in Pennsylvania, Gulen runs a network of schools and charitable organizations in a number of Muslim countries, including Turkey. The American government has taken deliberately a cautious approach to this demand, citing the doctrine of the “separation of powers” in the USA. It has said that it would extradite Gulen if and when the Turkish government provided “sufficient evidence” to satisfy an American court that extradition is warranted.

This response has generated yet more conspiracy theories and anti-Americanism in Turkey. Starting in 2014, the Obama regime, advancing the Neocons “regime change” agenda to generate puppet governments in Asia, especially in West Asia (Mideast), except in Israel,   began to display ever more impatience with the Turkish government’s attitude toward the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. South Asia not a problem for USA as India and Pakistan are promoting US interests. The Turkish authorities initially saw the IS as a useful Sunni Muslim adversary of the Shia/Alawite Syrian regime of President Bashar al Assad, whose overthrow had become a priority in Turkish policy. Not only did Turkey refuse to join the United States-led coalition fighting the IS, but it also allowed foreign fighters to transit its territory en route to join the ISIS extremists. This led the Obama administration to exert increasing pressure on Ankara to change its policy, but to no avail.

US leaders play chess with international affairs and get what they want form Turkey by promoting terror attacks. It was only when the IS began mounting terrorist attacks on Turkish cities and towns that the Turkish government finally changed its tune. It decided to allow the USA to use a major air base in Turkey for operations against the IS and to join in the aerial campaign against the IS. This, however, proved to be a mixed blessing from the American perspective. Turkish air strikes were directed equally against IS targets and against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria. Now these Kurdish forces were among the USA most valued allies in the campaign against the ISIS, and the Americans had invested heavily in training and equipping them.

The United States and Turkey were once again operating at cross-purposes, to the dismay and annoyance of the Obama government. Starting in 2014, the Obama government began to display ever more “impatience” with the Turkish government’s independent attitude toward the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish authorities initially saw the ISIS as a useful Sunni Muslim adversary of the Shia/Alawite Syrian regime of President Bashar al Assad, whose overthrow had become a priority in Turkish policy.

The Obama team exerted increasing pressure on Ankara to change its policy by toeing the US line of state terrorist action, but to no avail.

Observation

Relations between the USA and Turkey are now at very low ebb. The historical record suggests that the two countries have in the past been able to overcome and reconcile their differences. They should seek to do so again in their mutual interest. However, whether or not they will be able to reconcile this time is an open question with profound implications for these two countries, as well as for Europe and the Middle East.

USA does not allow equal status in NATO any nation, including UK. This obviously creates tensions. USA always used Muslim nations, including Arab nations and never come to defend or support them in any manner and Turkey is no different.

Turkey, like today’s UK which refused to cooperate with USA and Israel over UN vote on Palestine’s defacto statehood, has shown it can withstand pressure tactics of USA and other western powers operating under the NATO terror organization and take a firm decision with regard to its national interest without spoiling the relations badly.

Unfortunately, America is eager to see an anti-Islamic Turkey emerging by throwing away the Islamist Brotherhood government and when his predecessors failed, Obama also tried it but also failed. The Islamist government in Turkey is not what USA wants in Europe and is trying to dismantle that.

American leaders have never been totally reliable partners of Turkey and so Turkey is not happy that USA stood by Israel when the Zionist military attacked Turkey aidship bound for Gaza to breach Israeli-Egyptian terror blockades. USA has succeeded, however, in dividing Islamic world as well as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

It is against this background of frequently troubled relations that the current tensions can best be understood. They represent little more than another chapter in a history largely characterized by episodes of mutual distrust and antagonism. Many in USA would think their destabilization move for Turkey would only harm President Erdogan and his Islamist program, but America would too feel the pinch once Turkey chooses to leave American orbit and US company.

As usual, USA can exert pressure on Russia to let Turkey, a close ally of USA and NATO, take its own decisions and force Turkey to undertake the tasks assigned by the big boss- Uncle Sam. The former Ottoman Empire would be very cautious.

Even though Turkey has been an ally of USA and NATO, It has been the target of these entire anti-Islamic nations. Even while using Turkey for NATO operations against Islam and Islamic nations, the USA has been working against Islamist government to destabilize it and replace it with a puppet regime like in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. But turkey has woken up the western challenge but that alone won’t end hostility of its sworn enemies in democracy uniform.

Of course USA and Turkey now each other as allies for several decades of joint military operations, but the latest development shows the former needs the latter more than the opposite scenario.

America is bent upon advancing terror wars in Islamic world. US concern for peace is not genuine. Hence the tensions with Turkey!

USA cannot exploit Turkey for advancing its own national interest and also create tension and destabilization in Turkey.

An honest ally won’t do that! Dishonesty can destroy any US sponsored international alliance.

Middle East

Elections in Syria: Forgetting Old Resentments?

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In the presidential elections on May 26, Bashar al-Assad won more than 95% of the votes. According to the current constitution, this term will be the last for the president. But in the next seven years of Bashar al-Assad’s rule, the constitution may change, and it is far from certain that this will happen as a result of the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, with UN mediation. The victory of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was accompanied by congratulations from allies and a lack of recognition of the election results by Western countries. In any event, what is the attitude towards this war-torn country and its ruling elites in the Arab world? Will Bashar al-Assad be able to rebuild the country and deliver it from chaos?

Forgetting old resentments. From balance of power to balance of interests

Through regional recognition lies the path to global recognition. It is necessary in some form for the reconstruction of Syria, the cost of which is estimated at more than $250 billion. Syria’s allies do not have such funds, and the West links the provision of funds for the country’s reconstruction with conditions for a political settlement of the conflict, which the current authorities will not agree to. In the absence of economic reconstruction, however, there is a threat of the re-activation of the defeated terrorists. In this context, the role of the rich oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf—the most promising source of money—becomes especially significant.

Syria is traditionally called the “heart” of the Arab world. This, nevertheless, did not prevent other Arab countries from responding to the unfolding violence in Syria by freezing its membership in an important regional structure, the Arab League, in 2011. Speaking about the return of Syria to the Arab League, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “Arab diplomacy is very, very famous for its effectiveness, so it seems to me that here we can expect that the issue will be resolved, and, I hope, quite quickly.” However, there are a number of factors that can support this process, and constraints that can hinder it.

The conversation about the return of Syria to the Arab League has been going on for several years—since it became clear that Bashar al-Assad will be able to keep power in his hands. This became obvious to regional and global players with the defeat of terrorists and opposition, with the active support of the Syrian leadership from Iran and Russia. In addition, compared to 2011, the situation has changed in the Arab League itself. In Egypt, the largest country in the Arab world, the secular regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (who has roots in the military), is now in power, and not the anti-Assad-minded Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood (banned in the Russian Federation). A number of Arab League member states like Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon have never been against Syria, and now actively advocate its return to the organisation. The Gulf monarchies have gone through a decade of reassessing challenges and threats.

Conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have led to the strengthening of the regional rivals of the Arab states of the Gulf—Turkey and Iran. The expansion of these major regional powers is forcing the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to seek new approaches. In the context of Syria, this means the Arab rejection of the Turkish occupation of Syrian (and, therefore, Arab) land in northern Syria. At the same time, the rulers of the Arabian Peninsula are thinking about whether it is worth it to push Syria into the hands of Iran, if they can try to return it to the “Arab homeland” and balance the Iranian influence on Damascus. The UAE, Bahrain and Oman have already reopened their embassies in Damascus, but so far Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two key countries that oppose Syria in the Arab League, are in no hurry to do the same. In any event, the Saudis are increasingly inclined towards a partial return of relations. It is clear from some of their actions. For example, we are talking about the restoration of ties between Bahrain and Damascus, since the policy of Bahrain is a litmus test of Riyadh’s aspirations. In early May, there were reports about the visit of the head of the general intelligence service of Saudi Arabia, Khalid bin Ali al-Humaidan, to Damascus. In late May, for the first time in 10 years, a Syrian delegation led by Minister of Tourism Mohammad Rami Martini made an official visit to Riyadh to participate in the work of the World Tourism Organisation Committee for the Middle East.

The results of the presidential elections in Syria once again remind the Arab states that they will have to work with Bashar al-Assad and his government.

Obviously, Damascus is ready to forget old grievances. Among other things, Arab nationalist rhetoric is extremely important for the ruling Baath Party. On the eve of the elections, Assad’s adviser Busseina Shaaban said: “Efforts are being made to improve relations between Damascus and Riyadh, and in the coming days we can witness results in this matter.” If Riyadh changes its position on the return of Syria to the Arab League, there will be only one Arab country opposing this—Qatar. Qatar’s non-Arab ally in the recently weakened regional confrontation is Turkey, which will also hinder this and continues to declare the need of a political settlement of the Syrian conflict. True, this is less and less possible, although the opinion of Turkey, which has more than 3.5 million registered Syrian refugees, is something to be reckoned with.

Veni, vidi, vici?

At the global level, Russia and the United States have different positions. Russia’s foreign policy advocates sovereignty, the return of Syria to the Arab League and its early restoration. But even if Syria returns to the League, it will not solve the economic problems of the country, where corruption is rampant, the currency continues to depreciate, there is barely enough electricity and fuel for the population to survive, and 80% of citizens remain below the poverty line. In addition, the Syrian economy will not receive serious injections, even from the Gulf countries, due to the policies and sanctions of the United States, which remains the hegemon in the region. However, it is precisely the regional recognition of Damascus that is extremely useful and can be considered as a step towards further stabilisation.

Even before the elections in Syria, the Americans, together with Britain, France, Germany and Italy, issued a joint statement about their illegitimacy. The sanctions adopted by the US Congress against Syria under the name “Caesar Act” are “secondary” in nature, which means that any third country doing business with the Syrian government is included in the US sanctions list. Companies from the UAE have already faced this problem, and potentially sanctions deprive Syria of any major projects with the Gulf States in the future. This issue is unsolvable at the regional level. Much depends on how the Americans are committed to the implementation of the sanctions regime.

An excessive US appetite for sanctions may hurt the interests of its regional allies, which will displease the latter (and not always tacitly).

At the moment, however, to quote the journalists of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, we observe “the absence of American leadership”: the United States is not engaged in promoting any active campaign to counter the normalisation of relations between Syria and other members of the international community. The previous pattern with regard to Syria remains—with the illegal presence of the American military in the east of the country, support for Kurdish groups, and the illegal use of Syrian resources.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has not yet formed a new course towards Syria, since this issue is not a priority for it. In these conditions, regional and interested global players have the opportunity to correct their positions, build up links with previously inaccessible actors, and make attempts to go beyond the existing restrictions.

Bashar al-Assad sent a message to the whole world that he is ready for a new stage. The world is no longer what it was a decade ago. At the regional level, the Arabs are thinking about accepting the existing reality, but at the global level, the Syria issue is not a priority. In his victory speech, al-Assad noted that the Syrian people “returned to the true meaning of the revolution” after it was “blotted by mercenaries”. It is obvious that Damascus persistently and patiently stands on its ground. Arabs say that patience is the key to joy. The only question is whose joy it is.

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The syndrome of neglect: After years of hyperactivity, Erdogan is completely isolated

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At the NATO Summit held in Brussels on June 14, strategically important issues were discussed, such as the relations of the Alliance’s Member States with China and their attitude towards President Putin’s Russia. The Member States’ positions on these issues did not appear unambiguous and diplomats had to struggle to find the right wording to draft the final communiqué. What was evident, however, was an only apparently marginal fact: the total “physical” as well as political isolation of Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan.

After being defined by Prime Minister Draghi as a “dictator and autocrat”, the Turkish President also had to endure the harsh reprimands of the US State Department which, at the end of the “eleven-day war” between Israel and Hamas, did not hesitate to condemn – in unusually harsh language – some of his public statements made in the first days of the war when, in order to underline his thoughts towards the Israeli leadership, he called Benjamin Netanyahu “the Jewish Prime Minister”.

The derogatory use of the word “Jewish’ instead of “Israeli” triggered a reaction from President Biden’s Administration. The State Department spokesman, Ned Price, was instructed to express “the strong and unequivocal condemnation of the Turkish President’s anti-Semitic comments’, and called on him to refrain from “incendiary remarks, which could incite further violence … not least because anti-Semitism is reprehensible and should have no place on the world stage”.

After struggling for years to become a true regional power, President Erdogan’s Turkey is now on the sidelines of the political scene and the Turkish leader’s bewildered expression emerging from the photographs of the NATO Summit of June 14 – which show him physically isolated from the other Heads of State and government – appears as an iconic testimony to the irrelevance to which Turkey has been condemned, owing to the adventurism of its President, after a decade of reckless and counterproductive political and military moves.

As early as in the spring of 2010, in view of showing he was at the forefront in supporting the Palestinian cause, President Erdogan authorised the establishment of the “Freedom Flotilla”, a naval convoy capable of challenging – under the Turkish flag – the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

On May 31, 2020, Israeli commandos intercepted the Mavi Marmara ship carrying not only humanitarian aid, but also Hamas militants attempting to enter again the Gaza Strip illegally.

As soon as Israeli soldiers stepped onto the deck of the Turkish ship, they were confronted by Palestinians and crew members armed with axes, knives and iron bars. Ten Palestinians and Turkish sailors died in the ensuing clashes, but the most severe wound was inflicted on Turkish-Israeli relations.

Turkey broke off diplomatic relations with Israel – long-standing relations dating back to 1949 when Turkey was the first, and for many years the only, Muslim country to recognise the State of Israel, thus also interrupting important economic and military relations that represented for the entire Middle East the example of how it was possible to follow paths of integration and pacification between Muslims and Jews.

Since 2011, with the outbreak of the so-called “Arab Springs”, President Erdogan has tried in every way to take a leading role in a flow of events which – rather than exporting liberal democracies in the region – aimed to underline and validate the victory of the “Muslim Brotherhood” and of the most backward and fundamentalist Islam.

While thinking he could easily solve his competition with Assad’ Syria and at the same time dismiss the problem of Turkish and Syrian Kurdish irredentism, President Erdogan intervened heavily in the Syrian civil war by providing military aid and logistical support not only to the militias of the “Syria Liberation Army”, but also to the Salafist formations of Jabhat Al Nusra and even ISIS.

We all know what has happened: after a decade of civil war, Syria is in ruins but Bashar al-Assad is still in power; the rebels are now closed in small pockets of resistance and Russia, which intervened siding with Damascus, thus overturning the outcome of the conflict, is firmly established in the country while Turkey is not only excluded from the promising business of Syria’s reconstruction, but finds itself managing a massive refugee emergency.

In President Erdogan’ sometimes ill-considered quest to make his country take on the role of the leading regional power, his activism led him to intervene in the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis in support of the Azerbaijani Turkmen against the Christian Armenians, with the result that, after the last crisis in the autumn of 2020, Turkey had to step aside to leave Russia the role of interposition and peacekeeping force.

In Libya, too – after sending arms and mercenaries to support al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) – after its resignation last January, the Turkish role became less influential than the Turkish leader’s aspirations.

In 2017, in a vain attempt to send a signal to NATO and US allies, President Erdogan bought S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia, worth 2.5 million dollars.

The move did not please the then US President, Donald Trump, who immediately imposed economic and military sanctions on Turkey, thus contributing to the decline of its economy and to its progressive international isolation.

It has recently been reported that, in an attempt to bring Turkey closer to the new Biden Administration, President Erdogan has decided to send back home the Russian technicians who were in charge of S-400 maintenance at the Incirlick base – which is also a NATO base – with the result of infuriating Vladimir Putin who obviously does not like the idea of seeing highly sophisticated equipment in the hands of the Americans.

The end result of all these unhinged moves is that the US sanctions remain in place while the Russians can only regret having trusted an unreliable leader.

On the domestic front, too, despite the repression that followed the failed coup d’état of 2016, things are not going well.

The deep economic crisis, resulting from excessive military spending, poor administrative capacity and rampant corruption, as well as the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, makes the situation even more difficult for the Turkish President and his party, the AKP (Justice and Development Party), which have ruled the country continuously since 2002.

The recent local elections, in which the AKP was defeated, and the election polls indicate that, despite the tactical alliance between President Erdogan’s party and the ultra-nationalist National Movement, a success for the President and his party in the 2023 general and Presidential elections seems far from certain.

What makes President Erdogan’s sleep even more restless is certainly the ‘Peker scandal’ that has been hitting the headlines of all Turkish newspapers and social media over the last few days.

Sedat Peker, a businessman formerly affiliated with the extreme right-wing organisation of the “Grey Wolves” (the same one to which Ali Agca, known for the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, belonged) has long been a supporter of Tayyp Recep Erdogan and is known to have been one of the main suppliers of weapons to jihadist groups involved in the Syrian civil war.

Last April, after being accused of corruption and criminal conspiracy, he went into self-exile, first in Montenegro and then in the United Arab Emirates, from where he has been conducting a relentless campaign against President Erdogan and his party on charges of corruption and other crimes and offences.

Under the interested supervision of Mohamed Dalhan, the former Head of the Palestinian intelligence service in the Gaza strip, exiled to the Emirates after the break with Hamas, Sedat Peker daily floods social media with accusations against the Turkish President’s “magic circle”, starting with Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and his ally Mehemet Agar, former Police Chief, who in Peker’s opinion are responsible not only for corruption, but also for extortion, drug trafficking and murder.

Despite government-imposed censorship, these sensational accusations dominate the political debate in Turkey.

Mohammed Dalhan, the Palestinian secret agent, helps Sedat Peker both out of a spirit of revenge against Hamas and, hence, against its Turkish supporter, and because the Abu Dhabi government, for which he now works, has not favourably viewed Turkey’s attempts to sabotage the “Abraham Accords” between Israel and moderate Arab countries and the explicit support offered by President Erdogan to Hamas during the recent “eleven-day war”. Moreover, the latter ended thanks to Egypt’s mediation – a diplomatic success for the moderate Arab front that pushes Turkey and its leader ever further to the sidelines, as they – observant Sunnis – are now forced to move closer to the heretical Shiites of Iran, the only ones who now seem to give credit to President Erdogan, who is now like a bad student relegated to a corner of the classroom, from which he will find it difficult to escape without a clear change of course towards a more moderate approach in domestic policy and a rapprochement to the West in foreign policy.

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Middle East

Iranian Election Portends Increased Human Rights Abuses, Demands Western Response

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When the Iranian regime holds its presidential election this Friday, it is likely to experience the lowest level of voter turnout in its 42-year history. This has been acknowledged by certain Iranian officials and state media outlets. There are a number of reasons for this, which include the lingering effects of three anti-regime uprisings, public resentment over authorities’ crackdowns on those uprisings, a lack of serious competition among the candidates, and the brutal legacy of the clear frontrunner.

All but the last of these factors were already apparent in February of last year, when Iranian regime held elections for various governors and members of parliament. Those elections are the ones to beat if the country is to set a new record for low turnout this week. Moreover, if persistently anti-democratic conditions aren’t enough to yield that outcome on their own, public antipathy toward Ebrahim Raisi might just be the thing that pushes the electoral boycott over the top.

For months now, Raisi has been recognized as a person favored by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as the next President. But that preference specifically stems from Raisi’s unwavering loyalty to the supreme leader and his willingness to flout the security and wellbeing of ordinary Iranians in order to safeguard the future of the theocratic dictatorship. In 2019, Raisi was appointed to head the nation’s judiciary, and his penchant for political violence was put to the test by the outbreak of a nationwide uprising in November 2019 – a follow-up to similar protests in January 2018.

The regime’s response to the latter uprising constituted one of the worst singular crackdowns on dissent since the early years of the Iranian regime. As head of the judiciary, Raisi played a leading role in that crackdown, particularly the systematic torture of political prisoners that was detailed in a September 2020 report by Amnesty International. That report was closely accompanied by the emergence of new evidence supporting the tally of protest-related killings provided by the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

The MEK, which has long been recognized as the leading voice for Iranian democracy, quickly determined that security forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had killed 1,500 people in mass shooting incidents over just several days coinciding with the November 2019 uprising. Over time, the MEK has also released the names of more than half of the victims, naturally starting with those who were members of the organisation or were otherwise closely connected to it.

Details of the crackdown serve to underscore the notion that it was largely an attack on the MEK, which Khamenei had acknowledged as a driving force behind the initial uprising in early 2018. The supreme leader referenced months of planning by dissidents in order to explain the popular embrace of slogans calling for “death to the dictator” and condemning both the “hardline” and “reformist” factions of mainstream politics inside the regime. This messaging was tantamount to a call for regime change – the expressed platform of the MEK and its parent coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

In recent weeks, MEK-affiliated activist collectives known as “Resistance Units” have been using precisely this platform to promote the concept of an all-encompassing electoral boycott. In April alone, those activists erected posters, painted graffiti, and held demonstrations in more than 250 localities across the Islamic Republic, urging citizens to “vote for regime change” by avoiding the polls and denying any semblance of legitimacy to the ruling system. Since then, the call to action has been echoed by various other groups, including pensioners and blue-collar workers whose frustration with the regime has greatly intensified in the midst of an economic crisis exacerbated by self-serving government policies and blatant corruption.

Protests by these and other demographics have lately come to feature slogans like, “We have seen no justice; we will not vote anymore.” The implication is that Iranians from all walks of life are not only rejecting the current election but also the entire underlying system, in favour of a platform akin to that which is being promoted by the MEK and the NCRI. The details of that platform are clarified for an international audience each year at a rally of Iranian expatriates and political supporters which invariably features eager endorsement of the “10-point plan” for a democratic Iranian republic that was authored roughly 15 years ago by NCRI President-elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi.

The plan calls for free and fair elections as well as secular pluralism, and it expresses a commitment to international laws and principles of human rights. By contrast, the existing regime has repeatedly rejected those laws and principles through such recurring actions as its execution of juvenile offenders, its routine usage of torture and forced confessions, and its explicit insistence upon exception from human rights standards that are deemed to conflict with the regime’s fundamentalist interpretation of Shiite Islam.

Despite all of these, Tehran’s contempt for human rights has arguably never been more blatant than is now, in the run-up to Raisi’s appointment as the regime’s next president. His role in the crackdowns following the November 2019 are certainly one reason for this, but the main source of Raisi’s infamy remains his participation in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. Those killings arguably constitute the late 20th century’s single worst crime against humanity, and as one of four figures in Tehran’s “death commission” at the time, Raisi bears as much responsibility as anybody for the roughly 30,000 hangings that were carried out over just several months.

In commenting on the election, the NCRI has made it clear that Raisi was chosen to run a more-or-less uncontested campaign precisely because of this legacy. Specifically, the NCRI argues that Khamenei witnessed the Resistance movement gaining momentum and resolved to consolidate power in the hands of those most comfortable with political violence. But in so doing, the supreme leader gave Iranians even more incentive to protest the political process than they had had in February 2020. Thus, when Raisi takes office, he will immediately be faced with the challenge of compensating for an electoral boycott that effectively deprive the regime of any claim to political legitimacy.

The consequences of that challenge will surely depend, in part, on the role that the international community chooses to take on in the midst of forthcoming conflicts between the Iranian regime and a population that is showing ever-greater support for an organised resistance. If major world powers elect to stand on the sidelines, it could give the Raisi administration license to assume office and then immediately initiate human rights abuses rivaling those of November 2019, or possibly approaching those of summer 1988. However, if those powers recognize this danger and instead elect to intervene on the Iranian people’s behalf, then they may find they have ample opportunities to do so.

Relevant strategies will be presented by NCRI officials and the political supporters, including European and American lawmakers and academics with diverse party affiliations, when they take part in the coalition’s World Summit on a Free Iran between July 10 and 12.

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