Tag Archives: Erdogan

Commentary- The Escalating Dangerous Conflict Between Turkey and the United States.

In order to appreciate our present, very dangerous relationship with Turkey, it is important to understand its world history however briefly reviewed: The Ottomans Empire lasted a bit over 624 years (ending in 1923). If you were to visualize a map of the Mediterranean Sea with your anchor in present day Turkey and then create a backward letter “C” – moving west on the rim of its northern and southern shores you would begin to visualize its vast control of that part of the world. In essence, the “empire” was an assemblage of voluntary and captured countries. Admittedly, the Empire became one of the most powerful and controlling world powers in all history.

The Empire was very much pro German before the start of WWI. I would suggest you go back to see the marvelous movie: Lawrence of Arabia. It deals with another aspect of the area’s history during the same time-frame as Lawrence led a revolt of the Arab people against the Empire. When the United States entered WWI it declared hostilities against Germany. The Ottoman Empire in April 1917, then severed its diplomatic ties with the United States. It wasn’t until 10 years later, long after the secession of hostilities, that formal diplomatic relations were re-established with the Ottoman Empire’s successor, now the created independent nation state, Turkey. For reasons that are immaterial at his juncture, the United States never declared war against the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey’s place, this very day, is front and center on the United States’ military and political map. The complexities created by the waring parities, local and international, in Iraq, the Syrian civil war, the fight against ISIS and the Kurdish peoples demand for nation status, has created an ongoing volatile conflict worthy of a Shakespeare drama. In this geo-political arena, two long allies– Turkey and the United States– have collided and have escalated their collision on a daily basis as they represent, at the same moment, different, overlapping and in some cases violently competing military goals and parties. In addition, Turkey’s political structure has undergone profound political upheaval that complicates the areas security and our long standing relationship. The future does not present a good picture for our interest in that region of the world as our diplomacy with succeeding administrations has been less than successful. America’s voice in that region is but a feeble croak.

The time line of the United States and its present day confrontation with an ever increasingly anti-American hostile Turkey can start with the Cold War and the West’s confrontation with the swelling political, geographic and aggressive engagements of the Soviet Union. A reasonable marking date is 1974, with the advent of the Truman Doctrine. The United States Congress chose Turkey, among other nations, as the recipient of extraordinary economic and military aid, with the heating of the Cold War. The Truman Doctrine would be the foundation, with its immense financial assistance to help to create a major Turkish military force now attached to NATO and a strong, hardened army in the war against ISIS forces. It would become the basis upon which these two countries would build their relationship for the next four decades. It is also prudent to know that 2.5 billion dollars found its way into Istanbul in just one twenty year period, and help jolted Turkey’s shift toward massive democratic reforms in the election process, political representation and substantial social restructuring, until its recent swift and politically violent flipping of that Muslin nation. Its present stance while not altogether hostile is clearly strongly anti-American.

There were political and military actions that the United States undertook in Iraq that caused increasing strident outrages in Istanbul, but those headlines did not became the reason for its political transformation. Today, Turkey can be defined as a quasi-dictatorship.

Turkey has fought a long, costly insurgent war against the Kurdish people in general and the Kurdistan Worker Party (the PKK) in particular. The PKK is recognized by the EU and the United States as a terrorist group. But, and equally important, there is more than one Kurdistan group seeking its people’s independence. Turkey has been involved in an increasingly hostile war toward the Kurdish people in general and their demands. (Either as an independent Kurdish state within the borders of its destabilizing neighboring state or within its own national boundaries.)

Turkey’s turn away from democracy and its norms began with Erdogan’s grab for political power in mid-2016. He accused the U.S. Military Command of siding with the architects of a failed coup while Istanbul arrested certain Pentagon contacts in Turkey. With the crushing of the coup, there were deep mass arrests ordered by Erdogan not only up and down the ranks within the army but also in the judiciary and civil service. Istanbul then demanded the United States government extradite a Turkish cleric and national living in the States as the coup’s instigator. The United States government, in turn, demanded that Turkey produce the “evidence” that the cleric was in fact connected with the attempted coup. The Turkish controlled press followed, claiming that a United States general was behind the coup which was followed quickly by the American suspension “indefinitely” of all non-immigrant visas from Turkey with the traditional tic-for-tac suspensions by Turkey.

To complicate both the political clash and the war on the ground, during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the United States forces have been openly allied with the Kurdish YPG fighters and have been supporting them with military and logistic help. Turkey considers these Kurdish fighters in the same light as the PKK, namely as terrorists and has told Washington they will attack those Kurds with the same force as those they employed against the PKK. It has been alleged, in current headlines, that the deadly nanpan has been deployed against civilians in the town of Azaz in northern Syria. This puts the United States and Turkey in direct military conflict.

In addition, in its lurch from a secular democratic nation state, Turkey has joined Qatar as the prime source of funding to speed the spread of extreme Islamism “everywhere from western Africa to Southeast Asia”.

The news reports describing the area’s conflict both politically and on the battlefield is Russia’s physical arrival in the area with its continued support of Syria’s Assad against United States’ interests in the region. This in turn will not only complicate the delicate state of our security interests but complicate the ground hostiles. It will then stall or even more than likely collapse any meaningful democratic move in Syria’s future and will permit yet another tyrant, Assad to remain in office.

Intertwined is the predictable direct military clash between United States and Turkish forces with Russia sitting at Istanbul’s side. Turkey, which looks less each day like a NATO ally, it is claimed consulted Moscow before attacking U.S. Kurdish allies in northern Syria and has obtained surface air-to air missiles from its sponsor the Russians.

The future of the Kurdish people and their lives as a people is in jeopardy. And their outcome can be reliably predicted by examining the United States’ previous behavior– it will leave unconscionably yet another weaker ally in the lurch, as we did with the Iraqi Kurds in Kirkuk, and now to abandon the Syrian Kurds as soon as it is expedient, advantageous, and politic for us. Why do we choose the strongest military ally however faulted and compromised instead of the appropriate one?

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

 

Commentary— Turkey: Our Morality and National Security

 

In 2005, as I was flying into Istanbul, a dear friend, Joe Serio, was leaving after attending an international security conference. I remember his comment at the time: “I think things might change here.” How perceptive of today’s Turkey, as we are sitting in the viewing stands witnessing the slide into moral cowardice by a United States’ administration on two security fronts– internationally and at home. Both affect our national security. I will address the first.

This blog and its commentaries are concerned with our national security. Not to promote the idea of isolation as a means of self-protection from the violence surrounding us, but as part of our interaction with the rest of the world — from North Korea to ISIS to Afghanistan and onto any unrest that might have an impact on our lives. Today, Turkey is on the opposite end of a very long national strategic fence of international partners. The history of Turkey has turned increasingly and dramatically ugly within the last decade.

In 2005, when I arrived in Istanbul, this was a beautiful city of charm, great food, exciting architecture and artifices with a different sight and smell at every turn, and notwithstanding my friend’s comment, one felt no sensation of what was to become of this country. Today a geographic anomaly, Turkey is a mass of land that has one-half of this nation sitting in Asia and the other in Europe. The Bosporus, with its amazing bridge spanning both worlds, cuts the nation in half but does not affect its culture or intensity of daily life. Every day brought a different sense of this country from the phony rug salesmen to the kids running thru the streets delivering tiny cups of coffee to the stunning mosques. We slept in a monastery turned hotel, walked the spice markets, and could easily have extended our stay beyond that week but for a boat we had to catch on our way, eventually, to Athens.

Politically, Turkey was a secular country in the midst of a Muslim world. In 2001, the country’s Constitutional Court had the power to ban and to declare that a pro-Islamic political party was far too anti-secular. A stunning move, when we think of our own democratic process. Parenthetically, the following year Turkish men were no longer to be regarded, under the law, as head of the family. But at year’s end, the population went to the polls and gave the PK (Justice and Development Party) — an Islamic based political group — a sweeping victory. A stunning political change. Only to be followed by the newly elected pro-Islamic government ramming through a constitutional amendment that allowed the now infamous president, Eayyip Erdogan, to become its prime minister– although he had been barred from any public positon due to having a previous criminal record. We must remember that all through this period there is the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighting for an autonomous, self-governing Kurdish state within Turkey, and at the same moment the country was seeking future EU membership. The seeking of EU membership is to be a long rocky road with EU concerns regarding Turkey’s human rights stance that have only worsened.

Between 2006 and 2007, Parliament rushes through anti-terror legislation that raises the EU’s concerns regarding civil rights issues, and EU then freezes Turkey’s membership application. At the same moment, toward the end of 2007, Turkey launches a number of air strikes against the Kurdish PKK movement, not in Turkey but inside Iraq. The political issues spiral down. By 2010 there is a poorly organized and executed coup, with hundreds of army officers arrested by Erdogan, that severely cripples the army’s internal power. By June of the following year Erdogan moves into his third year in office and takes control of the army. By 2013, mass anti-government protests are felt around the country because of the nature of the government’s non-democratic rigid and dictatorial methods of governance. The police respond to the protests with violence, and the Prime Minister, Erdogan, responds with dismissive distain. And protestors die. By the end of the year, the future can almost be predicted: The pro-Islamic Erdogan government fires police officials who seek to protect the population from government corruption. This, was followed by Erdogan being elected President of Turkey. The election is declared valid. The Islamic population has turned its back on secularism and in turn democracy.

Then, slowly, one can see the movement toward what can now be truly described as a dictatorship, with democracy to be hurriedly buried. Last year, the government placed Turkey’s largest opposition newspaper under state control, the prime minister was forced out by Erdogan in his continued grab of dictatorial power, thousands of soldiers (!) and judges (!) are imprisoned on mere suspicion of their possible involvement in the failed coup, and the government in order to prevent the dissemination of hard news, closed dozens of media channels and 16 TV channels. In July 2016, the President of Turkey accused two United States military commanders of siding with the coup plotter or being the masterminds behind the coup. In April of this year Erdogan has extended his powers.

Where the United States is today: A survey was conducted between mid-February and early May of this year and found that 72 percent of the Turkish citizens who participated in the survey see us –the United States– as a threat to their security, greater than that of Russia and China. That conclusion is obvious and reasonable because of the total eclipse and suppression of an open and free press in Turkey. The population is only permitted to read what the government selects. Our Secretary of State, under the moral leadership of our President, see tensions “in tone” between the two countries being reduced. How can we accept the notion that the negative tone between these two nations has been ratchetted down, and not upward, notwithstanding the arrest of thousands upon thousands of civilians on the pretext of their alleged involvement or support of the failed coup?

Turkey is a member of NATO—its military bases and air space of operation are utilized by US-Allied forces. Our alliance with them in NATO requires the United States to come to their aid if they are attacked. In addition, and this is a crucial point: Turkey is an “autocratic” government, and its recent passage of a constitutional referendum all but destroyed the remaining vestiges of their civil rights. This has made it mandatory for the EU to stop—and stop they did of all further considerations of Turkey’s admittance to EU.

Let’s be clear with regard to the EU; we are talking of “civil rights”, and an “autocratic” is despotic and tyrannical. Yet we look to Turkey as an NATO “ally”. The prevailing excuse for this relationship can only be the “expediency of war”. Why are we committed to the protection of a nation that violates the civil rights of its citizens and operates a repulsive, tyrannical administration?

Our nation can conduct whatever warfare necessary in the mid-East without the help or assistance of Turkey. We are large enough, strong enough and imaginative enough to undertake whatever is necessary to protect our national security interests anywhere in the world. Will it be more difficult without a Turkey in the equation: yes, but neither will it be impossible nor improbable.

Where are our commitments to international morality?

Shame on us.

Richard Allan,

The Editor