February, 2016 Turkey

A History of Antagonism
By Jeffrey Mankoff 

Relations between Turkey and Russia have been fraught ever since the Turkish air force downed a Russian bomber that briefly violated its air space in November. But the tensions between the two countries had been escalating for months before that, first over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and then over Syria. As a result, in the span of two years, the two countries have largely undone the entente they had built over the past 15.

MURAT YETKİN, hurriyetdailynews

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan reacted harshly against the release of two journalists, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, on Feb. 28.

Politics, Turkey

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, theguardian
Murderous suicide bombings. A deadly upsurge of ethno-sectarian violence spilling over from Syria. A country whose friendship with the US and EU is increasingly fragile, and is now at daggers drawn with a historic enemy, Russia.

Ankara (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit four west African countries next week, including Nigeria, his office said Saturday in a new sign of Ankara's desire to be a major influence in the region.


by Helga Zepp-LaRouche, chair of the German political party Civil Rights Movement Solidarity

If Turkey reacts to the most recent terror attack in Ankara (in which 28 people died) with a ground invasion of northern Syria—formally to counterattack against the Kurds, but much more to “save” the rebel groups which Turkey supports, ranging from al-Nusra to ISIS—there is the immediate danger that it will bring on a military confrontation between the Turkish military units and the Syrian army supported by Russia.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews

Had the news text not been dispatched by the always serious, always meticulous, semi-official state news agency, Anadolu Agency (AA), I would have suspected it of being a set of misquotations at best and a hoax at worst. But AA’s reporters are experienced enough to not misquote a cabinet minister so erroneously (and if they did misquote the minister, they should run a correction).

Geopolitics, Turkey

Ömer Taşpınar
The real problem for the next American administration will not only be Russian hegemony over Syria but Turkey's propensity to challenge this domination by trying to get NATO involved in a conflict with Moscow.

Stanley Weiss
Founding Chairman, Business Executives for National Security

It has always been a matter of historical curiosity that one of the American diplomats who was deeply involved in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was named Achilles. As the head of the State Department's Office of Western European Affairs after World War II and the eventual U.S. Vice Deputy of the North Atlantic Council, Theodore Achilles played a lead role in drafting the treaty that was designed to deter an expansionist Soviet Union from engaging in an armed attack on Western Europe.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
Learning by suffering could have been a useful way to fight the asymmetrical security threats against Turkish cities, towns and military/police personnel. Worse, Turkey is not even learning by suffering. Suffering seems to be merely collateral damage.

Politics, Turkey

Author Metin Gurcan
Developments in Syria have picked up speed rapidly in the past two weeks, and the situation is only becoming more complicated.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, supported by Russian warplanes, are trying to control critical supply routes between Turkey and Aleppo. Ankara has declared the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) a terrorist organization because of its organic ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and expansion of its Afrin canton in western Kurdistan northwest of Aleppo.


DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

President Vladimir Putin this week mounted a rescue operation to unsnarl his blueprint for a solution of the Syrian crisis from the blockage placed in its path by none other than Bashar Assad. The Syrian ruler won’t hear of Moscow’s proposals for ending the war, or even the cessation of hostilities approved last week in Munich by the 17-member Syria Support Group.

By Liz Sly 
ISTANBUL — Turkey is confronting what amounts to a strategic nightmare as bombs explode in its cities, its enemies encroach on its borders and its allies seemingly snub its demands.As recently as four years ago, Turkey appeared poised to become one of the biggest winners of the Arab Spring, an ascendant power hailed by the West as a model and embraced by a region seeking new patrons and new forms of governance.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
Having been left largely in the cold, Ankara is now trying to get back into the game in Syria in order to promote its security interests in the north of the country. It continues, however, to tread on thin ice.

Bülent Keneş

Just as deterrence against hostile forces is important for the protection and promotion of national interests in international relations, consistency and credibility are equally important in the international community.
Of course, deterrence does not consist solely of continually declaring red lines regarding national interests. And it can hardly be defined as standing by with folded arms when these red lines are blurred in a short time. Indeed, there is a huge gap between deterrence and bluffing.

By Finian Cunningham

 "Information Clearing House" - "RT" - A massive apparent terror attack in Turkey’s capital comes at a crucial time just when the Erdogan government is trying to woo Washington’s support for its military intervention in Syria.

NURAY MERT, hurriyetdailynews

Turkey is in a de facto war-like situation, even if it is not de jure yet. The warmonger supporters of the government have already started to celebrate “the new war of independence” in the name of “revenge for the suppression of Turks as leaders of Muslims” and the end of the “cursed 20th century” to go “back to future glorious times.”

by Burak Bekdil, The Gatestone Institute
Originally published under the title "Russia's Trap: Luring Sunnis into War."


After Russia's increasingly bold military engagement in war-torn Syria in favor of President Bashar al-Assad and the Shiite bloc, the regional Sunni powers – Turkey and its ally, Saudi Arabia – have felt nervous and incapable of influencing the civil war in favor of the many Islamist groups fighting Assad's forces.

Abdullah Bozkurt

The government's failure to rally the nation in the face of the recent carnage in the Turkish capital that claimed the lives of 28 people in a deadly terror attack in the heart of the city shows how the security and stability of the country is in peril because of the growing mistrust of citizens towards the governance of the country, which was inevitable given the weakening of democratic institutions and the crackdown on fundamental rights in recent years.

Lale Kemal
Turkey has been facing a series of challenges at home and abroad amid a fresh terrorist attack on Feb. 17, this time, on military targets in Ankara, killing 28 people, including military personnel, and injuring 61.
A bomb-laden vehicle caused the deadly powerful explosion during the evening rush hour, hitting military vehicles at an intersection.

MURAT YETKİN, hurriyetdailynews

A bomb blast rocked central Ankara at rush hour on the evening of Feb. 17, killing 28 and wounding 61. Government sources stated that a suicide bomber pulled the trigger on 30 kilos of explosives next to two buses stopped at a red traffic light carrying military and civilian personnel back home from military offices.

Omer Taspinar
In many ways, there is nothing new in what we are facing in Syria as far Turkey's strategic approach is concerned.
Turkey lost the initiative in Syria years ago because of two major mistakes. The first was to underestimate the longevity and entrenchment of the regime in Damascus. In other words, Syria was not like Tunisia, Libya or Egypt.


NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has announced the deployment of the alliance’s standing naval force in the Aegean Sea to help tackle the refugee and migrant crisis. Apparently triggered by a joint Greek/Turkish/German request, the deployment is ostensibly meant to assist international efforts to stem illegal migration.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu finally put to rest speculation about a possible invasion of Syria by Turkey. It was his remarks which fueled this debate in the first place.

He said last week that if things were based on a result-oriented strategy, then Turkey could mount a land operation against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) together with Saudi Arabia.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews

Speaking at an investors forum in The Hague, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey was a safe haven for investors. If the prime minister was not joking or referring to another country that goes by the same name, his understanding of what is and what is not “safe” must be quite eccentric.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews

Turkey has raised the stakes in Syria by beginning to shell the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Defense Units (YPG) in an effort to deter the group from capturing more territory along the Turkish border. Although pro-government media is drumming up support for this action, one does not need much imagination to realize that average Turks are worried about where this is all leading to.


By Manolis Kostidis
Cengiz Çandar – Political analyst-expert in Middle East- Radikal
Turkey’s policy on Syria is not aimed at opposing the Islamic State. It is determined only by the fear of the relations of the Kurds of PYD with the US.

Author Metin Gurcan
TranslatorTimur Göksel

Syria has become the best-marketed commodity in Turkey, where all foreign policy issues are packaged for domestic consumption. Ankara appears, however, to have lost all perception of reality regarding anything to do with Syria, falling victim to Alice in Wonderland syndrome. The government has embarked on a surreal journey in trying to persuade the public that Turkey is winning, not losing, in Syria.

By Jonathan Marshall

Exclusive: NATO keeps backing Turkey, one of its members, despite its aid to the Islamic State and other jihadists fighting Syria’s secular government — and even though Turkey’s erratic President Erdogan may be leading NATO into a risky showdown with Syria’s Russian allies, writes Jonathan Marshall.

Suat Kınıklıoğlu
Syria has been on our agenda for the last five years.

The pendulum in Syria has swung from the early optimism of the Arab Awakening that predicted a quick downfall of President Bashar al-Assad to the current pessimism, which features the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well as unseen misery unleashed by the regime in Damascus. These days the conflict is threatening to become a larger confrontation, namely one between NATO and its regional allies against Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Damascus.


Rather than view with alarm Turkey’s announcement that it is building at least three military bases abroad, the United States and NATO have welcomed Ankara’s move as a contribution to stability. Nothing could be further from the truth. Turkey’s duplicitous fingerprints are all over support for terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra, and Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews

It’s one of the most manifest collective hypocrisies modern politics has ever created: Someone’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter (one can always replace “freedom fighter” with any other noble wording). But there is always a habitual commonality regardless of who accuses and who is accused that both the accused and the accuser have changed, are changing and will change roles depending on how dictated national interests determine who the terrorist is.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
Turkey’s problem with the U.S. over the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of the Syrian Kurds, and its military wing the Peoples Defense Units, involves a dead-end for Ankara. Turkey has declared both groups to be extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and wants its allies to declare them as terrorist groups too.

Bülent Keneş
Five years have passed since the start of the human tragedy in Syria.
All assumptions regarding the developments in which Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments and the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regime played a central role have collapsed. The shallow prediction that the Bashar al-Assad regime, whose legitimacy became controversial for using weapons against its own citizens five years ago, would be toppled in several weeks proved to lack any strategic depth.

 © Umit Bektas

Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu pledged to return a “historical debt” to Turkey’s “Aleppo brothers” who helped defend the country in the early 20th century, just days after Russia warned of Ankara’s intentions to invade Syria as the rebels there falter.

By The Saker

And how will Russia react if he triggers it 

Week Seventeen of the Russian Intervention in Syria:

"Information Clearing House" - " Unz Review" - The situation with Turkey is rapidly getting out of control: not only have the Turks conducted artillery strikes across the Syrian border, Turkey has refused to comply with its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty and refused to let a Russian surveillance aircraft overfly Turkey. The Russian military has now declared that it had detected signs of Turkish preparations for an invasion. The Turkish refusal to abide by the Open Skies Treaty is an extremely worrisome development, especially when combined with the Russian warnings about the preparation for an invasion of Syria, and the Russians are not mincing their words:

by Burak Bekdil
"Writing anti-Israel speech on the wall of a synagogue is an act of anti-Semitism," Ivo Molinas, editor-in-chief of Salom.Turkey's ruling Islamists have systematically nurtured and exploited anti-Semitic sentiments.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews

It’s the same old Turkish malady: Form over function, or (fancy) words over deeds. Consistency remains one of the rarest qualities in governing politics, particularly in foreign policy.

Author Fehim Taştekin, TranslatorSibel Utku Bila

Turkish involvement in the Syrian war has been heavily dominated by Islamist fighters, but the conflict has also drawn in an unlikely quarter — Turkish nationalists. The far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and its youth branch, the Idealist Hearths, have recently come into the spotlight with high-profile losses on the Syrian battlefield. The MHP is the main body of Turkey’s ultranationalist movement, also known as the Gray Wolves, whose hall of fame includes failed papal assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. The Alperen Hearths, the youth branch of the smaller Great Union Party, which represents the ultranationalist movement’s Islamist-leaning wing, are also visibly interested in the Syrian war.

Erdogan’s Foreign Policy Is in Ruins

 It wasn’t long ago that Turkish foreign policy was the talk of the town. Defined by the catchy phrase of “zero problems with the neighbors,” Turkey aimed to both improve relations with its neighborhood and slowly emerge as the dominant regional power. It was a classic case of enhancing soft power through democratization and economic reforms at home, coupled with shrewd diplomacy aimed at establishing Ankara as a mediator in the region’s conflicts.

By Pepe Escobar

"Information Clearing House" - "RT" - Picture sleepless nights at ‘Sultan’ Erdogan’s palace in Ankara. Imagine him livid when he learns the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), backed by Russian air power, started a preemptive Battle of Aleppo – through the Bayirbucak region - cutting off Ankara’s top weaponizing corridor and Jihadi highway.

by Burak Bekdil, The Gatestone Institute
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (left with Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, right with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal) finds his affection for the Palestinian cause is unrequited.
Although it came as no surprise, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in his weekly parliamentary group speech last December, spoke like a Palestinian politician, not a Turkish one:

DEBKAfile Special Report 

The five-year Syrian civil war, faces its most critical moment. Saturday, Feb. 6, a combined force of Syrian army and Hizballah troops and an Iraqi Shiite militia under Iranian officers, were led by Russian air and Spetsnaz (special forces) officers into pressing forward to encircle 35,000 rebels trapped in Aleppo, the country’s largest city. As they tightened the siege, 400,000 Syrian civilians were also trapped and forced to bear heavy Russian air bombardment and savage artillery fire from the ground forces closing in on the city.


BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews

Until Jan. 29, elementary military technology described a Russian Su-24 aircraft as a supersonic, all-weather bomber developed in the Soviet Union, and a Su-34 as a jet designed for tactical deployment against ground and naval targets on solo and group missions with counter-fire and electronic warfare counter-measures. The main difference between the two aircraft was that the advanced Su-34 was a replacement for the Su-24. Jan. 29 displayed another major difference: Su-24s can be shot down when they violate Turkish airspace while Su-34s cannot.

Tensions between Russia and Turkey continue to escalate following the downing in November of a Russian Su-24 fighter jet that strayed into Turkish airspace.
Questions are being raised now whether the two countries are heading for a military confrontation. A leading Turkish military expert told Al-Monitor that such a Russian move could spell disaster for Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (right) meets with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Jan. 20 in Davos to discuss the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, economic cooperation and other regional issues. Turkey receives 6 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan annually - about 75 percent of the Caucasus country’s annual exports. (Photo: Turkish Presidential Press Service)

 by Dorian Jones and Durna Safarova 

With Russian-Turkish relations bottoming out after Turkey’s downing of a Russian military jet last November, Ankara is scrambling to reduce its dependency on Russian gas. But the help it needs from post-Soviet energy producers may not be swift in coming.


Last month, more than 1,200 Turkish and foreign academics signed a petition calling attention to the continuing humanitarian crisis in many Kurdish-majority towns in southeastern Turkey, which are the site of fighting between the Turkish Army and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K. The petition decried the Army’s shelling of urban areas and the imposition of weekslong, 24-hour curfews, which have left many civilians unable to bury their dead or even obtain food. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly denounced the signers as “so-called intellectuals” and “traitors.” Within days, antiterror police had detained and harassed dozens of the signatories.

Author Pinar Tremblay

Turkey is transforming its National Intelligence Agency (MIT), expanding not only its headquarters, but its operations and reach.

MURAT YETKİN, hurriyetdailynews

Before starting a series of official meetings in Chile on Jan. 31, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters covering his trip that “the people from the southeast” have been sending messages to Ankara that the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) should “go on until the end.” He stressed that the government was resolved to see to this.

Kurdish forces, close to sealing the border, must beware - President Erdogan is unpredictable

By Patrick Cockburn

"Information Clearing House" - "The Independent" - A month before Turkey shot down a Russian bomber which it accused of entering its airspace, Russian military intelligence had warned President Vladimir Putin that this was the Turkish plan. Diplomats familiar with the events say that Putin dismissed the warning, probably because he did not believe that Turkey would risk provoking Russia into deeper military engagement in the Syrian war.

Gökhan Bacık
The Syrian crisis deserves a special place in the history of war. It is a war that breeds many other wars within it. It is a war within another war. What was the main reason for the Syrian chaos? Indeed, it was the toppling of the Bashar al-Assad regime for a better one.