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Don’t Believe in Ankara’s Hoax about its Romance with NATO Allies

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Turkey must understand that Brussels, unlike Washington, is not a headquarter of diplomatic blunders and it cannot easily game-play Brussels.

This month NATO Summit was held in London and it marked its 70th Anniversary. Turkey, now a days,is busy persuading the people and all the international observers to believe in its fantasies and what it calls ‘the co-operation’ with its NATO counterparts simultaneously justifying its use of force in the Northern Syria over Kurds but the reality is altogether different.

The recent strain

After recent developments in Northern border of Syria by Turkey after US pulled its soldiers – which had allied with Kurdish Army and were fighting against ISIS from the border has seen sceptical reactions from many countries as well as various international organisations. Let us all remember the wise statement by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan – “No government has the rightto hide behind national sovereignty in order to violate the human rights”. I would suggest that the scope of national sovereignty in this context extends to “National Security” as well. Earlier UN humanitarian assistance had pointed in Security Council that the operation has exacerbated the safety and well‑being of the area’s 3 million residents and nearly 180,000 people have fled that border region in just two weeks after it began. Turkey describes northern Syria as a “security threat” for itself, but the offensive military operation which have had the severe effects on the people in the region surely suggests otherwise.

NATO and its members on Turkey Offensive

On the other hand, NATO chief not only had soon urged ‘restraint’ on its policies in Northern Syria but also emphasised on the “coordination with other allies” on the issue of Islamic State. Furthermore, NATO maintained a stand that ‘actions may further destabilise the region, escalate tensions, and cause more human suffering’. This is clear indication of tussle between Ankara and Brussels. Moreover, the disagreement by France and Belgium on the NATO’s “soft stand” on Ankara and accusing that the “soft stand” has been taken under US pressure is further indication that Ankara and its NATO counterparts are facing internal conflict. Surely this doesn’t suggest any like-mindedness between NATO and Turkey.

Turkey must always have one peculiar thing on tip of the finger that – Brussels, unlike Washington, is not a headquarter of diplomatic blunders and it cannot easily game-play Brussels.

The realitycheck of the vague arguments by Ankara

Turkey argues that commitment to destroy terrorism must be ‘thorough’, I would be surprised and would truly appreciate if Ankara could provide a “thorough” evidence that while going for operation, they had “thoroughly” considered civilian casualties that it could cause and had “thoroughly” considered NATO’s stand on the concerned issue. This is not to say that PKK has never done anything wrong. Cross border attacks have always been part of middle east, Northern Syria being no exception. Here, the question is solely of civilian casualties – of those who mayn’t be involved in any offense and have suffered unnecessarily. Any terrorist organisation should meet its fate, anyone who spreads terror shouldn’t be spared at all but while doing operations there should be maximum efforts to reduce civil casualties, human rights abuses, and destruction of innocent lives which in this case, Ankara seems to have neglected.
Also, indeed it is true that PKK present in Southern Turkey is an international terrorist organisation, but YPG – constituting SDF in Northern Syria, is not an internationally considered an offshoot of PKK as Ankara has argued in attempt to play cleverly with views of the people.

There are many Bone of Contentions between Brussels and Ankara

For anyone like me who is involved in diplomacy and international relations, it seems a humour when Ankara and Mr Erdogan boasts about the “co-operation” between NATO and Turkey. To begin with, on 29th November, Mr Erdogan called President Emmanuel Macron “brain dead” in the response to Mr Macron’s recent statement on NATO. This is not only unethical and unacceptable but also marks a “lack of communication” between highest leadership of both the countries. A wiser leader should be more cautious about the message he/she gives to his counterparts and international community – unlike many who now a days have a great reputation of committing diplomatic blunders – as it directly affects all the dialogues and at highest level political and diplomatic level. This is bound to escalate the tensions between Paris, one of the very prominent in NATO and Ankara.

Another recent example of this ‘lack of co-operation’ was seen on November 27 and December 10 when Turkey refused to back NATO’s defense plans. Ankara rejected the idea of backing NATO’s plans for Baltics and Poland. Ankara wants NATO to officially recognise YPG militia as a terrorist group and to gain political support for the same, Ankara has taken the step. This is a good example of how Turkey is pursuing quid pro quo with NATO. Recently, Polish official said “There is no going back from the decision made at NATO [last week during NATO summit]”. This is enough to prove the bone of contention between Turkey and its NATO counterpart. 

There have been many other incidences where there’s has been a ‘lack of co-operation’, for say – Ankara bought S-400 Air Missile Defense System from Moscow side-lining NATO’s view only to get suspension from US on F-35 program. The recent clash on migration issue is also to be seen in regard to lack of trust between Hungary, a member of NATO and Turkey. All these are enough to prove that there has been a lack of co-ordination between Ankara and various its NATO counterparts.

Democracy

Turkey has tried to make a “safer zone” for itself in its southern part which shares the border with norther part of Syria. This has to do with Erdogan’s domestic politics. He has been losing in recent elections in all major cities and it is an alarm for him to save his office. Moreover it’s an open secret that Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) which promised to reinforce the democracy and worked up on the same in the initial years have ended up now making Turkey a democratic state for name’s sake. The present authoritarian and totalitarian regime which used to get the success in election by polarisation of conservative-religious forces and liberal-progressive ones have not had a gala time since 2016 and the recent local election losses might just be a first baby-step of eradication of the polarisation, although it is highly likely that it is not going to get over sooner. Furthermore, the economic dwelling in the country possess a serious question among domestic observers and voters in the country about Erdogan’s present leadership.  

Erdogan has constantly talked about Turkey’s attempts to get a democratic Syria. The attempts by Ankara which is claims to be for ‘a democratic Syria’ seems no more than a cruel joke.

“Turkey should make itself a proper and healthy democracy first and then talk about having attempts to get a democratic Syria at its doorstep. International observers are wise enough to understand Ankara’s hypocrisy.”

Turkey ranks 110th out of 167 countries in Global Democracy Index 2018 Report. Its score declined for 6th time in a row indicating decline of democratic ideas and civil liberties in the country. There have been many incidents where journalists have been jailed, properties of political opponents have been seized and media has acted as a political puppet of current regime. These are surely not signs of a proper democratic country.

Alas! let the people not be fooled by Turkey on its relations with NATO.

Jaimin Parikh is a diplomatic researcher currently engaged with European Institute of Policy Research and Human Rights. He is also serving as an Expert Reviewer with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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Middle East

Iran Proposed Five-Nation Bloc for Regional Stability, Peace, and Progress

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In February this year, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi received Syed Mohammad Ali Hosseini, an Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan. Pakistan’s foreign minister Qureshi expressed his thoughts through praising the traditionally strong ties between both the nations and showed his consent to further strengthen collaboration in all dimensions which would be mutually beneficial for both Tehran and Islamabad. As for as the historical, cultural, and religious affinities are concerned, both nations enjoy rich support of commonalities including similar views on the foreign occupation which proved as a source of disaster for them. Besides, Iran was the first country to recognize Pakistan after its independence in August 1947. As both Pakistan and Iran’s basic factor of the independence was Islam and current scenario portrays a bad picture of Islamic countries which are suffering from a cluster of problems under foreign agenda. In this connection, the role of Islamic nations has not been effective in addressing issues of the Islamic Ummah. Hosseini also expressed his grievances over the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) by explaining that it was not producing fruitful results for Muslim Ummah. He further talked about the sufferings of Muslim Ummah and the malicious plan of the United States along with Israel to subdue them.

Moreover, FM Qureshi showed consent to visit Iran for meeting with its leadership to talk about their concerns and disputes and their possible diplomatic solution. Moreover, during a meeting with Hosseini the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, told that the government aimed at expanding the bilateral trade with Iran. So, giving more boost to the relation of both the nations, the Iranian Ambassador proposed a new bloc for addressing regional issues and promoting cooperation among themselves. This bloc will include Russia, China, Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran because these nations are capable of forming such an alliance that could effectively handle regional issues for the better future of the region. Similarly, he expressed his consent and help for solving the Afghan problem which is a great hindrance to regional peace and stability along with creating security issues for Pakistan. Iran aims at linking Pakistan’s Gwadar Port with Chabahar Port of Iran via rail link which ultimately generates the economic benefits for both the nations.

He dubbed the recent “Deal of the Century” proposed by American President Trump for peace in the Middle East irrational and unjust which consists of many doubts over American-Israeli Alliance. In this situation where the whole world is trapped with the fatal disease of Corona Virus, the United States which considers itself the oldest democracy, protector of human rights and most developed nation on earth, has imposed more sanctions on Iran. While UN Security Council Members and signatories of the 2015 Nuclear Deal with Tehran namely Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany rejected Trump’s call for sanctions on Iran. President Trump’s action portrays that he is under stress in whichhe looks unable to understand repercussions and results of the policies and actions taken by him. While at the same time he is ignoring the traditions and values of the founding fathers of his nation as well as he has no respect and obligation for international rules and laws.Furthermore, the Iranian Ambassador showed enthusiasm for increasing and strengthening the multilateral economic cooperation. In this regard, Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline is an important project and will even become more productive if it is linked with the CPEC which not only brings the huge economic development in both Tehran and Islamabad but also the region through making it more stable and developed.

Thisnew regional bloc could prove productive through solving themulti-faceted issues faced by the countries of this region. Whereas America has remained unsuccessful in eliminating the problems of the region, therefore, it is the responsibility of regional states to become serious in making such bloc which seriously takes the vast problems towards the solution for the development, peace, stability, and progress of the underdeveloped nations of the region. Besides, the Iranian President has also proposed cryptocurrency for Muslim nations for settling payment transactions as an alternative to the US dollar such as proposed by BRICS nations earlier. He further explained that the US always uses economic sanctions as the main tool of domineering hegemony and bullying of other nations. As stated by Iranian President that there is always room for diplomacy, therefore “let’s return to justice, to peace, to law, commitment and promise and finally to the negotiating table” which is the last and effective solution for any issue.Iran’s proposal of five nations bloc portrays a rational and real picture of solving the staggering and long-lasting problems of the region. Furthermore, the nations which are proposed by Iran in the bloc have no history of worsening or spoiling the situation of the region as America has been involved in generating the multiple problems throughout the region via its policies and actions. All these five regional nations have stakes in the region such as political, economic, social and financial. Therefore if the region is developed, peaceful and protected than they collectively can secure their interests along with giving the benefits to other regional nations as well.

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The rapport between Iran and Turkey over Syria: Liaisons or tussle?

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The two powers of Iran and Turkey constitute a crucial feature on the map of the Middle East. The influence of the dyadic interactions exceeds sometimes the meanings of any bilateral ties, transcending the political borders to impact the geographical proximity of surrounding states. However, more evident their influences upon the Arab Sphere were at the aftermath of what so-called the Arab Spring, particularly in Syria that became the most prominent playground for their regional competition became.

Syrian tragic conflict has, indeed, a multi-scalar interaction with different players, each of which is driven by complex and contradictory motivations. In the same vein, Turkey and Iran have several aims for intervening into Syria militarily. Nonetheless, the explicit objective for Turkey is to create a ‘buffer zone’; thus, it might drive out the Kurdish presence along its border with Syria and address the Syrian refugee issue there. On the other side, the strategic partner for Syria, Iran, is seeking to bolster Assad’s government, as it used to work as a safety valve for the regime in Damascus.

In order to prop up Bashar al Assad’s regime, Tehran developed close ties with Russia that changed the equation in Syria. But, Moscow founded the rapports with the strategical foes of Tehran; Saudi Arabia and Israel. Likewise, the “marriage of convenience” brought Turkey with Russia, which, subsequently, facilitates carving up northern Syria between them by Sochi agreement, in October 2019.

Although it worked on the opposite front to Turkey’s, nevertheless, Iran attempts always to maintain warm and unruffled relationships with it. Tehran has overtly been competing, just as it covertly cooperating with Ankara in Syria for managing the dynamic variables of the surrounding area. Subsequently, the unsatisfactory with Turkey’s presence in the torn-war Syria doesn’t mean by any means a full conflictual; neither means otherwise, a comprehensive cooperation and peace. After all, seems, Iran needs Turkey shortly both in Syria and beyond.

Upon the US withdrawal from the Kurdish-held zone of northern Syria the dispute between the two-peer regional powers, Iran and Turkey, has surfaced off considerably off. Tehran has continuously been preserving a secret connection with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units which backed by the US. It was gaining a margin of leverage by occasionally working as a covert conduit bridging the differences between the Kurdish movement and the al-Assad’s regime.

Nonetheless, Iran’s substantial concern was a repercussion which might spill over its Kurdish regions if Turkey fulfils its intent to fill the expected power vacuum in the north of Syria.Thus, it was not surprising, once Turkey uncovered its intention by interfering the north-eastern Syria militarily, Iran announced the military exercises under the slogan “one goal … one bullet” in the area barely 20 miles from the Turkish border. Its maneuver, however, implied two-edges; on the one hand, it was against any potential Kurdish movement in its territory.

On the other hand, it gesticulated an external dimensional message, mainly to Turkey. In parallel to this combatant stand, Iran attempted to show, at least rhetorically, its alignment with and understanding of, Turkey’s anxieties. As the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated in an amicable expression: “We are calling on our friendly and brotherly neighbor Turkey to act with more patience and restraint and to revise its decision and chosen path” of military invasion. Further, Tehran urged Ankara alternatively to work inline with the Adana agreement.

The Adana agreement of 1998 was signed between Turkey and Syria to address the border differences. The broker of the deal, along with the other Arab countries, was Iran, and the primary aim of the agreement was at expelling the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from Syria.

A complex of causes makes Iran avoid Turkey’s dissatisfaction. The latter was always supportive of the Iranian regime in challenging times. Turkey, whether during the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s or international sanctions that intensified on Tehran in 2012, opened its borders with Iran to allow the trade that reached Europe. Similarly and lately, it helped Tehran to circumvent the US suffocating sanctions to a large extent.

As well, Turkey attempted to exploit the tensions between Tehran and Riyadh after the attacks on Aramco’s oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia last September, by denying Tehran’s involvement in the attacks. In an interview with Fox News, Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan said: “I don’t think it would be the right thing to blame Iran.”A few days later, when the architect of Iranian expansion in the Middle East the Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani was assassinated, Erdogan offered condolences to him, though didn’t use ‘martyr’ to describe him.

Notwithstanding, the chapter of persuasive confrontation between Iran and Turkey manifested when the Syrian airstrike hit the Turkish-backed forces in Idlib province on 27 January 2020. That resulted in killing 33 Turkish combatants. While Russia accused the Turkish soldiers of being “operating alongside jihadist fighters” when they had been struck, conversely and simultaneously, Iran emphasized on deescalating and restraining the tension in Idlib. It, further, called for all parties resort to decisions that had been taken by the presidents of Astana Process.

Although the Iranian President and his Turkish counterpart conducted a discussion on the phone regarding the tension over Idlib province, Turkey carried on the retaliation by launching a dozen air and missiles attack against the Syrian troops. The offence begot causalities of the Syrian military as well as several deaths of Iranian-backed forces in the northwest of Syria. As per the official Iranian media reported eight fighters of Hezbollah, and at least 21 militants affiliated with Fatemiyoun and Zaibayoun brigades were among the deaths.

Concurrently, Ankara opened the borders for the influx of the Syrian refugees to head for Europe. By so doing, it attempted to force its allies of the NATO states to pressurize Russia in order to alter its policy in Syria. Again and as always, Russian condemned the Turkish raids, but, its pragmatic rapprochements with Turkey outweigh the differences. Therefore, it is no wondering to see Russian assistance to Damascus minimized notably. Further, a deal will be reached to reduce the tension in Idlib when the Turkish President met his Russian counterpart in Moscow on March 2020.

On the other side, Iran and its affiliates warned Turkey by referring that its troops were within their “fire range”. Tehran, however, tried to shun from escalating the situation, and instead, it was accusing the US of getting Ankara into Syrian trap. Meanwhile, it was calling Ankara for holding a new summit for Iran, Russia, and Turkey within the Astana summit framework.

By devoting immense political and financial potentialities to safeguard the Ba’ath regime, Iran was not ready to cede its clout there. So convinced too, it prefers a political triumph over martial achievements. Perhaps, for that reason, it worked to boost connections with the major players in Syria, including Turkey. However, Iran shares Turkey several issues not merely in Syrian circle, but expand to the regional level sometimes. In addition to their shared economic and commercial benefits, they both have a fear of Kurdish ambitions to establish of own state, as they both stood firmly with the government of Baghdad against the Kurdish referendum in the north of Iraq in 2017. Second: Although, Turkey’s differences with Washington are mostly temporary; it meets with Iran in several issues that troubled their relations with the US.And thirdly: They were mutually pro-Qatar stand against Saudi and its allies. Qatar’s flights switched to the “Iranian airspace and Turkey upped the ante on its military presence in the country as a sign of strength and commitment”.

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Teething Troubles for Pakistan in Mediating the Saudi-Iran Tension

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Imran Khan’s visit to America, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia carries much importance concerning the unity of the Muslim community and solution of their long-standing differences and enmities particularly Saudi-Iran Tension. Moreover, these visits are not only very significant for the relations of Tehran and Jeddah but also for Pakistan, being one of the neighbors of Iran. As for as the visit of PM Imran Khan to China is concerned, Beijing, being a rising power and an economic giant, could play a very effective and decisive role in normalizing the relations between Iran and Saudi along with Pakistan because of its economic interests. Islamabad has been experiencing many changes in the national, regional and global dynamics. In this regard, Pakistan wants to balance its side by engaging with China and tries to mediate between Iran and Saudi to end the long-standing conflict between both the Muslim nations.

However, it is not easy to lessen the tensions between both the rival nations as perceived by a large portion of societies because America never allows this to happen smoothly while it will try vigorously to counter this activity because of its long-standing problems with Iran. Particularly looking over the policies and actions of the United States against Iran such as when the whole world is suffering from a fatal disease known as COVID-19/Corona Virus, America imposed more sanctions on Iran which is against humanity. Besides, the killing of Iran’s top bras general QasimSulemani in an attack by the US and the scrapping nuclear deal with Iran are condemnable acts. There can be many reasons for opposition from the United States for instance, it never wants China to engage with various nations throughout the globe mainly Iran. Because it creates the environment of friendship and engagement for China with other nations which pose threat and fear for the dominant position of Washington.

Moreover, America considers Iran as one of the staunch opposite nations of the world therefore the conflict between the US and Iran has been continued for very long. In this regard, America has imposed numerous sanctions upon Iran which creates more hardships for Tehran to smoothly run its affairs. While Iran considers it the violation of international and humanitarian laws that should not be bearable for any well-educated, sophisticated and sincere nation of the world. According to Iran, the US has been practicing inhuman and illegal policies throughout the world, especially the Muslim World. In this regard, Iran in the UN General Assembly strongly condemned the policies and actions by Washington in which Iran is on top of the list. On the other side, Saudi Arabia is one of the closest and reliable allies of America because of its economic interests.

Rationally looking over the US-Saudi bond, Washington keeps much influence concerning the economic, political and financial policies of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In this regard, attacks on the oil fields of Saudi Arabia created insecurity for it therefore Saudi King called MBS requested more American forces to protect the security of his country. There are multiple perspectives regarding the control, influence and creating the warlike environment in the oil-rich Muslim nations of the Middle East. For instance, it is considered by a huge portion of the population within the Muslim world that these all issues and conflicts which have generated the deaths, destruction, fear, and insecurity all over the region are created by America to gain its interests mainly economic benefits.

This is the reason for which America intervenes within these countries rich in natural resources in the pretext of saving humanity and the US being a savior of human rights violations all over the world. While within the Western nations it is considered that terrorism and other multiple kinds of evils are generating from this region because of the undemocratic structure of these states. In this regard, the US should intervene to eliminate all evils from the region for protecting the peace and progress of the world. Therefore, Pakistan can play a very significant role through normalizing Saudi-Iran relations though it is very difficult because of sectarian division between both nations. Recent condemnation and opposition by PM Imran Khan about the new sanctions on Iran by the US is a good and positive sign. Besides, it is also considered by a huge population within the Muslim world that they are under the serious threat of Western Powers beneath different agendas so Pakistan being the only nuclear power state within the Muslim countries should seriously take the issue towards a peaceful solution. Though it is also in the interest of Islamabad because in case the spiraling tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran are not solved and turn into the escalation of the conflict, Pakistan because of Iran’s neighbor will face direct impact which could be sectarian violence and increasing oil prices.

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