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How Iran Can Checkmate Trump

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On Sunday morning 5 January 2020, the great investigative journalist and geostrategist who blogs as “Moon of Alabama” (MOA) headlined “Iraqi Parliament Expels Foreign Militaries From Iraq” and he reported that not only the parliament but also the nation’s Prime Minister (Abdel Mahdi) are demanding departure from Iraq of all foreign military forces, and that Iraq will now — as UAE’s The National puts it — “lodge an official complaint against the US at the UN.” The complaint will “condemn #US airstrikes on #Iraqi soil targeting Iraqi soldiers and both Iraqi and #Iranian military leaders.”

(U.S.-and-allied ‘news’-media, such as Reuters, lied about this matter when saying that “While such resolutions are not binding on the government, this one is likely to be heeded: Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had earlier called on parliament to end foreign troop presence as soon as possible.” As MOA had already explained, the assassination was profoundly embarrassing personally to Mahdi, and he “and the whole cabinet supported the resolution.” Under such circumstances, there is no way possible that the Prime Minister can reverse himself and his cabinet and the Parliament, on that demand. It’s a non-reversible demand. But, later on January 5th, the U.S. State Department nonetheless said, “While we await further clarification on the legal nature and impact of today’s resolution, we strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries and the continued presence of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.” That was a stupid statement, but at least it wasn’t so demeaning to Shiites and to Shiite-led governments as the U.S. President’s statements normally are. It was instead a public display that the American dictator can’t believe that, from now on, Iraqis are going to be running Iraq, and that there’s no way the ruler in Washington DC can possibly dictate to Iraq again. Yet, Axios reported later in the day, that “‘I think it would be inconvenient for us, but it would be catastrophic for Iraq,’ said a U.S. official familiar with the Trump administration’s effort to block the vote. ‘It’s our concern that Iraq would take a short-term decision that would have catastrophic long-term implications for the country and its security.’” The U.S. Government was already becoming desperate and resorting to veiled unspecific ‘catastrophe’ for Iraqis if Iraq’s Government won’t reverse this command. Some fat chance that the outraged and temporarily united Iraqi public are going to cave to such veiled threats from Iraq’s viscerally hated invader.)  

MOA, a progressive German who despises fascists (such as Trump), makes abundantly clear that “Without any bases in Iraq the U.S. position in Syria will become untenable.” He quotes another respected geostrategist, Elijah Magnier, saying, “#QassemSoleimani managed to reach with his death what he couldn’t reach when he was alive. That is his last spectacular act for Iran and for the ‘Axis of the Resistance’: legislation forcing the US to withdraw and cease all kind of collaboration.”

Instances in which I have tracked the accuracy of predictions of both MOA and Magnier, have shown MOA’s to have an even higher (virtually 100%) rate of having proven accurate than Magnier’s do; and, consequently, MOA’s quoting this from Magnier makes it MOA’s prediction also, and not only Magnier’s. This adds weight to it. Consequently, the U.S. regime’s long war against Iran, which started by its successful coup in 1953 overthrowing Iran’s democratically elected Government and replacing that legimate Government by a barbaric dictatorship which lasted until 1979 and which American billionaires even up to the present time cannot tolerate having been overthrown by the Iranian people in 1979, does finally appear likely to end, with the fascist imperialist U.S. regime’s humiliating defeat, one way or another, but not necessarily quickly.

MOA closes with:

There is a clear danger in this act [by Iraq’s Government, expelling all U.S. forces]. The Trump administration is now likely to see Iraq as completely in the Iranian camp. That never was and never will be true but that is how it will be seen. The U.S. may therefore again start to pay (with Saudi money?) Sunni extremists, i.e. ISIS, to change the current situation to its advantage.

That is one reason why I recommend to Iraq to invite Russia to train its army.

However, here I respectfully diverge from MOA’s view. While I do favor Iraq’s becoming allied with Russia — the nation that America’s Government has been aiming ever since 26 July 1945 (when the U.S. Government became taken over by America’s Deep State or aristocracy) to conquer — I believe that immediately is not the best time to do this. My sense of the situation is that Trump has already trapped himself here, and that if only Iran will refrain from fulfilling anytime soon its threats to retaliate, then Trump will become forced by circumstances to accept a settlement on Iran’s terms. Consequently, any public action by Russia right now would serve only to provide America’s billionaires (acting, as they customarily do, via their agents and fronts) yet another opportunity to call Russia ‘an enemy of America’ and thereby to distract the global public from the blatant, sheer, and unalloyed, evil, of Trump’s constant efforts to crush Iran — a nation that never invaded nor even threatened to invade America. Furthermore, Iraq’s leadership have probably already been advised by Russia to refrain from publicly seeking alliance with Russia at the present stage; and, so, I do not expect that any such request by Iraq will be made at this time. If Iraq requests it now and Russia does not favorably respond, that would only weaken both Iraq and Russia; so, I do not expect it to happen. Not yet.

Timing is almost everything. On 18 November 2019, Russia’s Sputnik News bannered “Russia Ready to Deliver Arms to Iran After Int’l Sanctions Lifted — Defence Cooperation Body”, and this obviously means that Russia doesn’t want to come out publicly on Iran’s side unless and until the U.S. regime has cancelled its sanctions against Iran. Putin is an extremely intelligent man; he understands timing. Trump’s 3 January 2020 assassination of Iran’s #2 leader is an overt (by means of that action) declaration of war by him against Iran; and, so, Russia clearly can see that if Russia overtly comes out as being allied with Iran against the United States, then the conflict between U.S. and Iran would immediately be also a conflict between U.S. and Russia — and at an even higher level of adversariality than since 30 September 2015 (when Russia started bombing America’s and Saudi Arabia’s hired boots-on-the-ground fighters — led by Al Qaeda in Syria — who were trying to overthrow Syria’s secular Government) has existed regarding the war in Syria. It would be wrong for Russia, until U.S. troops are already gone from Iraq. Russia’s strategy has always been to delay World War III until all other means of pacifying America’s cravenous aristocracy have become exhausted — which hasn’t happened yet. If Russia will be coming out publicly in favor of Iran against the U.S. regime, then that would be just one step away from a direct hot war with the United States, which would produce global nuclear annihilation. Obviously, Russia won’t yet do that. Forcing Trump either to become publicly humiliated by backing down, or else for him to destroy the planet within less than an hour by means of WW III, isn’t necessary now, though could later occur, if Trump is crazy enough to refuse to comply with Iraq’s January 5th command.

So: neither Iraq nor Iran should make any such move (inviting Russia in), at the present time. Only after U.S. troops are gone from the region could Iraq and Iran become publicly allied with, and under the protection of, Russia. Only then will the realigned global order start. Right now would be too early.

Iran’s leadership team are remarkably intelligent. (America’s, after FDR died, have usually been cunning but now — under Trump — aren’t even that.) Iran’s leaders have promised retaliation for what Trump did. But they haven’t said when it will be done, or what it will entail. If they just stand back and wait while the world-at-large (other than American billionaires’ core foreign allies the aristocracies of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and UK) gradually abandon their alliances with the U.S. regime, then not only Iran but also the U.S. regime’s other main targets — Russia and China — will naturally rise in the international order, and this could become the way that the world’s most dangerous imperialistic regime, the United States Government (since 1948 the serial perpetrator of coups and invasions), will finally be able to be defeated peacefully, and defanged gradually thereafter.

That would be Iran’s retaliation — none.

Here is what I see as a possible end-point to this matter, if all non-U.S. entitities respond to this turning-point in history in the optimal ways:

Trump would announce that he is herewith cancelling sanctions against Iran and restoring U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which in 2015 was signed by China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and then the entire European Union. Iran would then announce that it is willing to discuss with all of the signatories to that agreement, if a majority of them wish to do so, international negotiations regarding possible changes (amendments) to be made to that agreement. The United States would then offer, separately, and on a strictly bi-lateral, U.S.-Iran, basis, to negotiate with Iran a settlement to all outstanding issues between the two nations, so that they may proceed forward with normal diplomatic relations, on a peaceful instead of mutually hostile, foundation.

Trump also would announce that he is seeking negotiations with Iraq about a total withdrawal of the United States from Iraq — the end of the U.S. occupation that started on 20 March 2003 — and closure of the U.S. Embassy there, to be replaced by a far smaller U.S. Embassy. America’s imperial sway over Iraq will end, though not immediately — its ending will be a process. This will be a negotiated termination, a peaceful one (unless Trump is crazy enough to resist).

Trump would initiate this as a package-deal confidentially offered by him to Khamenei — all steps of it — in advance of any carrying-out of the steps, and initiated by him soon enough to ward off any retaliatory action by Iran (just in case Iran isn’t smart enough to give him all the time he needs in order to quit his further provocations), so as to avoid further escalation of the hostilities, which otherwise would likely escalate to a widespread and possibly global war. In other words, this direct communication between the two should already have been sought by Trump. (But, since he’s probably too stupid to have thought that out in advance, let’s all hope that Iran’s leadership are sufficiently intelligent to give him all the time that he needs.)

I do not expect Trump to do any of that, not even the first step, and not even the offer to Khamenei; and Iran is in no position to make the first step, in any case (since the U.S. had started the mutual hostilities between the two nations in 1953). However, if Trump does, at least make the offer and then do the first step (ending sanctions), then I think that he will easily win re-election, regardless of whom the Democratic nominee will be. If he can re-establish friendly relations with Iran, then that will be a diplomatic achievement of historic proportions, the best and most important in decades. No one would then be able to deny it. He would, in fact, then deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize (which Obama never deserved to win, though he did win it). But I don’t expect any of that to happen, because it would be exactly contrary to the way that any recent U.S. President has behaved, and because many in power in the United States would be furious against him if he did do it.

But just give it time; and, if Iran simply waits for ‘the right time to retaliate’, then retaliation by Iran won’t even be necessary.

This would be “Checkmate!” by Iran, against the U.S. regime. And that  would be Iran’s (and everyone’s except U.S.’s, UK’s, Israel’s, and Saudi Arabia’s) ‘retaliation’, for Trump’s personal combination of psychopathy and stupidity. (Those four nations — the core U.S. group — would then go on together, to decline peacefully in the global order.)

An interesting feature of this outcome is that Iran would then be using Trump’s enormous blunder in a way that would simultaneously defeat all four of the nations that are seeking to defeat Iran: U.S., Saudi Arabia, Israel, and UK. Even if Trump ends up winning his vaunted Nobel Peace Prize and Iran won’t share in it, Iran would be the winner of what really is important, and (no matter how much such a prize would then be deserved only by Iran), that meaningless piece of PR dross wouldn’t mean anything to Iran’s leaders, anyway. They’re not nearly so petty as Trump — that’s for sure.

Iran’s biggest weapon now will be patience, if they’re smart enough to use it.

Trump’s assassination of Soleimani could turn out to have been the best thing that has ever happened for Iran. If so, Soleimani, were he around to see the outcome, would be ecstatic that Trump did it. He was a true Iranian patriot, nothing of the fake sort. In any case, nothing, from now on, will be able to detract from the legend that will arise in Iran about him. The ball is now in Iran’s court, for Soleimani’s successors to determine the world’s future. Trump made this possible. Without what he did on January 3rd, it would not be possible.

UPDATE:

However, the news on the morning of January 7th is that at least thus far, Iran is behaving badly, and also Europe is behaving badly. Iran is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which in 2015 was signed by China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and then the entire European Union. This drives European nations to continue relying on America and its NATO. And the rhetoric from European leaders is suddenly more favorable toward Trump’s assassination of Soleimani. Things right now are hurtling toward an isolated Iran against ‘The Western Alliance’ or the U.S.-and-allied regimes. Perhaps Iran’s leaders (Khamenei and Solemani’s replacement, announced by Khamenei on January 3rd, Brigadier General Ismai Ghani), are expecting that in a lurch they will ask Russia to back them up against U.S.-and-its-allies. This suggests that Putin hasn’t yet told them that unless they adhere to this plan, he would say no to that. If this is what’s happening behind the scenes, then Putin goofed there by having assumed they understood, and should promptly but privately tell Iran this, and should privately instruct Iran promptly to reverse its announced withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. That reversal would turn out to be temporary if EU leaders fail then to back Iran and Iraq against U.S. on Soleimani and on the necessity for Trump to comply with the order from Iraq to end occupying Iraq now. Unless Iran promptly reverses its announced withdrawal from JCPOA, everything will fall apart and not be able to be put together again, and, at the very least, Iran will be destroyed and probably almost all of the Middle East too. The Cold War would go on, and the U.S. regime would be in an even stronger position than before. America’s occupation of Iraq woud continue. The misery and humiliation of Iraqis would intensify even further, China would be practically isolated, and America’s all-but-total conquest of the world would be good for nobody but U.S.-and-allied billionaires. But the results would be worst of all for Iranians.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Post Trump Palestine

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Al-Walaja, a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Photo: UNRWA/Marwan Baghdadi

The unconditional United States’ political, financial and military support to Israel enabled the latter to occupy the Palestinian territories. The former became involved in Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an arbiter to resolve the issue. But the foreign policy of US has always remained tilt to Israeli interests. From recognizing Israel as sovereign state in 1947 to accepting Jerusalem as capital of Israel has clearly unearthed the biased attitude of US for Israel.

Similarly, Trump also adopted the traditional stance of Washington on Palestine, i.e. outright support for Israel. Trump’s policy regarding Israeli-Palestinian conflict was more aggressive but not in contradiction with his predecessors’. For instance, he brought into reality the law passed by US congress in 1995 that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, shifted US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closed office of Palestine Liberation Organization PLO in Washington DC in Sept 2018 and closed US consulate in East Jerusalem the area under Palestinian control. His bigotry against Palestinians unveiled more distinctly when he announced defunding of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), the UN agency that provides food, education and healthcare to the refugees. Moreover during his regime in November 2018 the state department of US proclaimed that the construction of Israeli settlements in West Bank does not come under the ambit of violation of international humanitarian laws. Certainly, the belligerent policies in last four years of trump era paved the way for the colonization of Palestine by Israel and helped the latter to put unlawful restrictions on Palestinians making them deprived of all civil liberties and peace.

As per world report-2020by Human Rights Watch HRW, Palestinian citizens are restrained from all basic necessities of life such that, education, basic healthcare, clean water and electricity. The movement of people and goods to and from Gaza strip is also inhibited. According to World Health Organization WHO 34 percent of applications by Palestinians, for medical appointments outside Gaza strip, were not addressed by Israeli army. Moreover, HRW report states that the Israeli government destroyed 504 homes of Palestinians in West Bank during 2019 and facilitated 5995 housing settlements for Israelis. The country is trying at utmost to eradicate indigenous Palestinians from their home land. According to United Nations’ Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs UNOCHA, the demolitions of Palestinian homes displaced 642 people in 2019 and 472 in 2018.Moreover, the illicit attacks by Israeli side have killed hundreds of innocent citizens in the same years. According to UNOCHA on November 11, 2020, 71 innocent Palestinian citizens were killed by Israeli forces while 11,453 were lethally injured in a single day. Furthermore, UN secretary general exhorted that Israeli armed forces have infringed the children’s rights during the conflict as in 2018, 56 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli armed forces.

While, other international actors criticized the Israeli annexations of the region and declared it as violation of international humanitarian laws, US supported the Israeli escalations in West Bank. The former also stopped aid support through USAID for Gaza strip where eighty percent of population depends upon aid. Such partial attitude of US has put the country outside the international consensus on the issue. Apparently, US pretend its position as arbiter but her policies accredited the colonization of Palestine by Israel.

Thus, it seems futile to expect any big change in US policies regarding Israeli-Palestinian issue during forthcoming administrations. However, the president-elect Joe Bidden may alter some of the trump’s decisions such as reopening of Palestine Liberation Organization PLO in Washington, resuming funding of UNRWA and reopening of US consulate in East Jerusalem.  But his policies will not contradict the congress’ stance on the issue. As, he and his team have clearly mentioned prior to elections that they will not shift back the US embassy to Tel Aviv as it seems politically and practically insensible to them. Moreover, Blinken, the candidate for secretary of state in Joe’s upcoming regime, made it clear through his controversial statements, that the imminent president will inherit historic US position on Palestine-Israel dispute. Further, Chinese expansionism, Russian intervention in American and European affairs and Iran nuclear deal issue would remain the main concerns of foreign affairs of US during initial period of Joe Biden’s regime. He is likely to favor the status quo in Palestine and remain focused on other foreign interests. In addition to this the inclination of Arabian Gulf to develop relations with Israel will also hinder the adherence for Palestinians from the gulf countries. Subsequently, it will enable Israelis to continue seizing the Palestinian territories into Israel and leave indigenous Palestinians stateless in their own land.

Summing up, it is significant for Palestinians to continue their struggle for the homeland and seek support from other international actors to marginalize Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territories. As well as, the peace accord of 1993 signed in between both nations, to share the holy land, should also be revoked by both countries.  Both nations should try to resolve the issue on equitable grounds by negotiations so that either side could not be deprived of its interests.

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An Enemy Among Us

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The upcoming talks regarding the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, that are due to take place on January 25, should not disillusion us from the dangers of Turkey’s unilateral aggression on all fronts. Erdogan has made no real efforts to improve ties with the EU, except for the occasional vain promise of turning over a new leaf. Since October, he has urged the Muslim world to boycott French products, continued gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, blatantly ignored the arms embargo in Libya and has aided Azerbaijan in committing war crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Despite the numerous warnings issued by the EU and the many failed attempts at resolving the crisis in the East Med diplomatically, the latest EU summit concluded with an anti-climactic promise to sanction certain Turkish officials regarding the East Med. This minimally symbolic promise could only be described as a mere slap on the wrist that will prove unsuccessful in deterring Turkey’s belligerent tendencies. Turkey’s increasingly hostile attitude, its callous use of the refugee crisis and its clear violation of international law in the East Med, Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh represent a danger to European values, identity and security.

We are witnessing before our eyes a dictator in the making who dreams of a return of the Ottoman empire and seeks to destroy the democratic and secular legacy of Atatürk. He is a fervent supporter of political islam – particularly the muslim brotherhood – and he relentlessly accuses the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the crusades’ against Islam. In fact, since 2014, Erdogan and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) have continuously facilitated cross-border movement into Syria and shipped illegal arms to a number of radical jihadist groups. The Turkish government also uses SADAT Defense, an islamist paramilitary group loyal to Erdogan, to aid groups that can be considered as terrorist organizations such as Sultan Murad Division and Ahrar al-Sham in Northern Syria and use their jihadi fighters to send to Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and, most recently, Kashmir in order to bolster Turkey’s foreign policy.

Erdogan uses a mixture of islamism and nationalism to expand Turkey’s influence around the world and to consolidate power within. The two most influential factions in Turkey are the radical islamists and secular neo-nationalists, who despise each other but share a deep disdain for the west. Courtesy of neo-nationalist and former Maoist terrorist leader Dogu Perinçek, the NATO member has also enjoyed warmer ties with Russia and China over the past 5 years. As a result of these shifts in alliances and growing anti-western sentiments, Turkey is becoming increasingly at odds with the West. 

Furthermore, the growing discontent at home pushes him to adopt more aggressive tactics, divisive policies and his behavior mirrors that of a panicked authoritarian leader. Erdogan is desperately looking for a conflict to distract the Turkish population from the fall of the lira, the spread and mishandling of COVID-19, and the overall declining economy that predates the pandemic. Turkey’s future will most likely be determined by the upcoming general election that is set to take place within the next three years. If Erdogan wins the next election, it will solidify his power and bring him one step closer in turning Turkey into a dictatorship. During his stay in power, he has already conducted a series of purges to weaken and silence dissidents. Turkey now has the most imprisoned journalists in the world. 

Yet, the loss of Istanbul and Ankara in the last municipal election of 2019 demonstrate his declining popularity, and offer a glimmer of hope for the opposition. Political figures like the new mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, or the new mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, represent a brighter future for Turkey. Erdogan currently finds himself in a position of weakness, which represents a rare window of opportunity for the EU to strike. Unfortunately, the EU remains deeply divided on how to handle a situation that continues to deteriorate. It seems that some member states, particularly Germany, are holding on to the naive belief that Erdogan can still be reasoned with. 

Our reluctance to impose the slightest sanctions against Turkey demonstrates our division and weakness, which emboldens the neo-sultan. A strong and united response from the European Union is the only way to curb Erdogan’s expansionist agenda. This should include renegotiating the migrant pact, imposing targeted sanctions against SADAT Defense and its leader Adnan Tanrıverdi, imposing an arms embargo, suspending the EU-Turkey customs union and finally suspending Turkey’s membership in NATO. 

Ultimately, Erdogan’s bellicose foreign policy and his contentious nationalist-islamist rhetoric makes it impossible to consider Erdogan’s Turkey as our ally. As the EU reaches out yet another olive branch, Erdogan has his eye on the wars to come. 

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Is Erdogan’s Obsession with Demirtas a Personal Vendetta or a Calculated Strategy?

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Grand Chamber ruled that the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş must be immediately released. The Court ruled that his years-long detention “had pursued the ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swiftly reacted to the ECHR’s ruling and characterized the decision as hypocritical’ and accused the Court of defending a ‘terrorist.’

To many, Erdogan’s reaction to the Court’s ruling should not be a surprise,but his resentment and anger toward Demirtaş are quite shocking. So, why does Erdogan pursue a vendetta against him? Or is it a calculated political strategy? How could Demirtaş’s release affect the political landscape in Turkey? What could be the implications of releasing or not releasing him be on the US-Turkey relations during the Biden era?

Yes, the ECHR’s ruling is a significant and expected development. What is more significant is that Erdogan’s quick reaction shows his deeply rooted frustration with Demirtaş, which dates back to the pre-June 2015 elections. In March 2015,Demirtaş made a short but a spectacular speech at the Turkish Parliament when he said, “we will not make you the President.” He also said, “We are not a movement of bargaining, a party of bargaining. There has never been a dirty deal between us and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and there will never be…” His reference to ‘dirty deal’ was believed to be an offer from the AKP to HDP in exchange for support during the general election. In the June 2015 election, HDP managed to secure the electoral threshold with 13% vote for the first time in the pro-Kurdish parties’ history. Additionally, they secured 80 seats in parliament which made them the second biggest opposition party in Turkey. This was an unprecedented victory for the pro-Kurdish party and a breakthrough in Turkish political history. It is fair to say that, based on the author’s experience, Demirtaş’s rising charisma has become a liability, not only for Erdogan but also for Ocalan, PKK’s once unquestionable leader.  

Erdoğan’s hateful outburst towards the call for Demirtaş’s release is more about Erdoğan’s political self-interest and concerns than his personal vendetta. Demirtaş’s release could likely have far bigger implications on the political calculations in Turkey. They would primarily impact on the future of the People’s Alliance, the coalition between the Justice and Development Party (AK) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), where AKP focuses its efforts to maintain control over the Kurdish issue. For the AKP, having an alliance with the MHP has been beneficial so far but not without major tradeoffs. These includethe MHP’s stance against the Kurdish issue and its eroding voter support nationwide.

AKP’s strategy to maintain power partly relies on its ability to create factions within the existing political parties. The pro-Kurdish parties are no exception. Strategies include consolidating Kurdish votes around AKP or dividing them to create enough division as to not let the HDP run as one single dominant Kurdish party in the next elections.

Demirtaş’s release could pose risks for AKP’s three-fold strategy: Dominate, divide and maintain the status quo. First, by arresting MPs, local politicians, mayors, and activists, AKP aimed to paralyze and dominate the Kurdish voter base. So, preventing Demirtaş’s release could serve to kill the electoral enthusiasm at the party’s voting base and prevent unity among the Kurdish constituency. Demirtaş’s potential release could give rise to his popularity, not only among the Kurdish voters but also the left-wing secularists. Such a scenario could force the AKP towards more pro-Kurdish narratives and policies that could eventually weaken the AKP-MHP coalition.

Second, dividing and deepening fractions; and creating splinter parties would mean that the HDP could not consolidate the Kurdish constituency. Although having a smaller base, an Islamist Kurdish Free Cause Party (Hüda-Par)has supported Erdogan during the 2018 Presidential election. They are a group with alleged ties with the Kurdish Hezbollah, which has committed the atrocities in Turkey in the 1990s and early 2000s.Recently, the leader of Hüda-Par expressed his disappointment with ECHR’s ruling after he paid a visit to Erdogan in the Presidential Palace. Another example is establishing the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), allegedly politically in line with Barzani’s tradition, to divide HDP votes.

Third, by cutting new deals with Öcalan again, they aim to appeal to his supporters to maintain the status quo. Just like during the local elections in 2019, AKP might take another step to re-instrumentalize Öcalan despite his failed emissary role in the last Istanbul local re-run. Öcalan called for HDP’s neutrality, which meant not supporting the opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu. Öcalan’s message was contradicting with HDP’s former co-chair Selahattin Demirtas’s call for support for Imamoglu. Though AKP’s strategy of revitalizing Öcalan may not produce the desired outcome for AKP, it could buy some time by diverting public attention from the victimhood of Demirtaş and HDP.

While releasing Demirtas could pose challenges for the AKP and its leader Erdogan domestically, not releasing him could prove costly. As a pragmatic leader as anyone could be, to survive politically Erdogan has made several U-turns domestically and internationally. Facing an economic crisis and continuing decline in approval ratings Erdogan could, unwillingly, comply with the Court’s ruling. This could help him have a fresh start with President-elect Biden,  who called Erdogan an autocrat.

Regardless of whether he would be released or not, as a political leader, Demirtaş will dominate domestic politics in Turkey and continue to be a critical actor in the region vis-à-vis the Kurdish issue.

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