Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘NATO

Turkey: SCO membership?

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Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

Turkey wants to become a member of SCO
BakuToday; July 26th, 2012

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to take Turkey into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). He said this in an interview with “24 TV”.

“Although we have done much for European integration and even created a separate Ministry, but French President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel blocked the process. Before the arrival of Sarkozy and Merkel, I participated in the summits of EU leaders. After the decision was made to minimize the relationship with us. But we have not suffered from it. Now everything is in front of the eyes, where Europe is where we are. Remains to be seen whether Europe until the year 2023. I invited Putin to accept Turkey into the SCO, and he promised me to consider this matter with other partners for this organization, “said Erdogan.

Written by M. James

August 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

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“Threatened” Turkey justifies intervention

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The Arab world provided the moral support, the United States supplied the NATO green light, and now the “threatened” border and a legal justification make straight the path to intervention. All of this has been done to avoid the dreaded title, “neo-Ottoman.”

So if you want to make Erdoğan and Davutoğlu “particularly sensitive” about something (does Davutoğlu get angry?), then call them neo-Ottomans.


Gunfire from the Syrian side of the border has hit a refugee camp inside Turkey, wounding at least three people.

Two Syrian refugees and one Turkish translator were wounded in Monday’s incident when the Kilis border refugee camp in Gaziantep province came under fire from the Syrian side of the border, a Turkish foreign ministry official said.

And here:

Using the provisions of the Adana agreement, signed between Turkey and Syria on Oct. 20, 1998, Turkey has the ability to classify the violent crackdown on the opposition by the Bashar al-Assad government and the ensuing refugee crisis as a threat to the “security and stability of Turkey.”

Use of the khazouk will, presumably, be limited.

Written by M. James

April 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Syria: On your mark, get set…

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I outlined in my last post the reasons to believe that Bashar al-Assad is on the way out. First, the Saudis are now overtly arming the opposition; and second, the U.S. and Turkey are overtly providing “nonlethal” assistance, a vacuous claim in the face of the undoubtedly coordinated effort with Saudi Arabia.

The real significance is in the first event, however, which establishes an ethnic Arab mandate for NATO to latch on to. This anti-Assad mandate has only been strengthened today by Syria’s “rejection” of “any Arab League initiative” to end the crisis. Bashar al-Assad, already ostracized by the Arab community, will now be perceived as completely beyond reason. He is, effectively, no longer an Arab.

The second event, “nonlethal” assistance, is just a first step toward a now-plausible Plan B—NATO troops on the ground (they’re getting ready). But Plan A is still in effect, and the training, assisting, and arming of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) will continue in Turkey. But even more important will be the training of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which has been officially chosen as the sole representative of the Syrian opposition. Though some assure us that the Syrians are well-equipped for a government restructuring, actions have thus far spoken louder than words. The SNC will have all it can do to convince the world it isn’t just another Libyan NTC.

At the moment, though, there is one missing piece. The Turks, the dogs that barked but wouldn’t bite, suddenly seem ready to bite—after a timely meeting from President Obama. But it would be an oversight to say that the Saudis’ lethal assistance in Syria was the Turks’ breaking point. Although the Turks are not ethnic Arabs, and (given their Ottoman past, especially) need the Arab mandate just as much as the rest of NATO, they have also been undoubtedly fearing one particular result of regime collapse in Syria.


And here’s more reason for the Turks to be afraid:

Most of the opposition factions present signed the statement [to recognize the SNC as the formal representative of the Syrian people] except for a few representatives of Kurdish factions upset over the absence of a reference to a settlement for Kurdish Syrians.

So why, suddenly, is Turkey sending its generals to the Syrian border, hosting the SNC conference, and smiling in the face of Syrian anarchy—and unhappy Kurds?

I imagine it has something to do with what Obama said during that “one-hour and 45 minute meeting” with Erdoğan.

Bashar al-Assad knew that his regime’s collapse would change things in the Middle East. We are about to find out what he meant.

Written by M. James

March 28, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Saudis push Syria

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An overt, tangible statement of support for the Syrian uprising (the nearest thing to the “military option” so far) by Saudi Arabia:

Saudi sends military gear to Syria rebels: diplomat
AFP; Mar. 17th, 2012

DUBAI — Saudi Arabia is delivering military equipment to Syrian rebels in an effort to stop bloodshed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a top Arab diplomat said on Saturday.

“Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the Free Syrian Army,” the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“This is a Saudi initiative to stop the massacres in Syria,” he added, saying that further “details will follow at a later time.”

Arising amidst renewed suggestions of a Turkish military buffer zone for Syrian refugees, this move by the Saudis may be an attempt to catalyze a reluctant NATO into action by demonstrating visible support from the Arab world—a world that NATO has no formal part in.

The statement also comes just hours after a deadly, well-coordinated car bombing in Damascus.


Written by M. James

March 18, 2012 at 4:07 am

Converging in Damascus

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I have posted, by now, about how the interests of many global parties—NATO, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia—all converge in Damascus for one reason or another. Understanding the reasons for each group’s interest in what transpires in Syria is complex—much more complex than I can fully convey or understand—but I have attempted nonetheless. That attempt has made up, since my first post, the majority of this blog.

So for a moment, I’d like to briefly and loosely collate—in sound-bite fashion—my analysis on how Syria has been a focal point in the last year or so.

If the Syrian regime falls, it’s a probable BOGO for NATO and anyone who wants unilateral security (in the form of U.S. Nimitz-class supercarriers) in and around the Med. [12/14/11].

But what Russia does have is a Mediterranean naval port. It’s in Tartus, Syria—just south of Latakia. Considerably better developed and defended (complete with Russian surface-to-air missile system), Russia’s port in Tartus will not be given up easily… [12/14/11].

Latakia is the new Persian Empire’s (Iran’s) attempt at a naval base on the Mediterranean… [12/14/11].

Meaning: The Russian and Iranian naval bases at Tartus and Latakia, two Mediterranean access points for NATO antagonists, would be forfeit in the case of regime change.

Will al-Assad leave his post in the near future? It’s anyone’s guess, but it has no bearing on Turkey’s policy toward Syria. If Turkey is to “trust the masses” and maintain its role as a supporter of the Arab Awakening, it cannot support a Syrian regime that appears to oppress its citizens, and it must sell al-Assad’s government short—in spite of recent amicability—to retain its legitimacy [5/17/11].

Meaning: Turkey does not want to be the dog that barks, but doesn’t bite.

The problem is that, with the recent U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Iran will be filling in the political and military void. And if Iran retains al-Assad’s Syria as a close ally—well—look at the map.

The only thing stopping the new Persian Empire from expanding its Shia-powered influence—continuously—from Iran to the Mediterranean (and to Israel’s doorstep), is a new, unfriendly Sunni government in Syria [12/14/11].

Meaning: Syria is an integral part of Iran’s empire-building process.

Saudi Arabia is … caught between a geopolitical imperative to contain Iran and a domestic strategic imperative to contain Islamism as a political force [3/5/12].

Saudi King Abdullah was reported to have said last summer, “nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria.” [1] [1/7/12].

Meaning: Although the danger of expanding Muslim Brotherhood influence is very tangible to the Saudis, the danger of an Iranian oil empire is greater.

The apparent result is team Russia, Iran, and Syria versus team NATO—with Turkey in particular—and Saudi Arabia. But despite what you may call a stacked team against Syria (NATO topples regimes in its sleep), regime change has not transpired, and shows no immediate signs of doing so. Direct intervention by NATO has only been hinted at, and not with much popular support. Even Turkey, despite pressure on many fronts to do so, has still not bitten. The result? A stalemate—no conclusion in sight.

But the reality is that no conclusion is a real conclusion—there are simply too many unilateral interests converging in Syria.

Bashar al-Assad was right when he said that regime change in Syria would mean an “earthquake” in the Middle East, its effects felt across the world. What he failed to mention, though, is that stability in Syria would just mean the same thing in a different way.

Written by M. James

March 10, 2012 at 2:09 am

Posted in Politics, Turkey

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Iranian inroads in Turkey

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The Iranian lobby in Turkey
Gökhan Bacik; Today’s Zaman; Feb. 26, 2012

It is extraordinary to observe that the Iranian effect on Turkey, including its domestic politics, is crucial.

In sharp contrast, Turkey cannot generate the same level of influence on Iranian politics. I am not sure if there is any serious organized group in Iran that is influenced by Turkey. Similarly, Turkey’s influence over the Azeri people in Iran is very limited. More, there is no kind of consequential Turkish influence over Iranian intellectuals or political life. However, there are several, if not many, groups in Turkey who have historically been inspired by Iran. How is this possible, remembering that Turks have been a challenger of Iran since the Ottoman ages?

Here is a simple comparison: Turkey has been part of NATO since 1952. NATO protected Turkey during the Cold War against the Soviet threat. In the post-Cold War period, Turkey has gained a higher profile in many global issues, including the Arab Spring, due to NATO’s support. But, it has become almost shameful to support any NATO project in Turkey today. Opposition parties and journalists frequently criticize the government for being part of various NATO agendas. On the other hand, despite various high-profile Iranian figures regularly and openly threatening Turkey, it is not again easy to criticize Iran in Turkey. Since last year, ironically, it has been a major task of the Turkish government to persuade the public that the NATO radar system is not against Iran.

In like manner, both conservative and Kemalist secular parties have a very tolerant approach to Iran. Even one can easily detect that both Islamists and Kemalists have the same narrative on Iran. For instance, they both argue that the NATO radar system has been installed to protect Israel from Iran. For example, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Kemalist secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Sept. 8, 2011, said: “Why is this NATO radar system being installed in Turkey? Is it to protect Turkey? No, of course not. So what is it for? To protect Israel against Iran.” In this vein, I should note that since the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the traditional Kemalist narrative of “Turkey is becoming Iran” was interestingly left behind.

So, how is Iran successful? Naturally, there are many reasons to explain this; however, I will just focus on two factors. To begin with, it may seem interesting but the 1979 Iranian Revolution had the utmost affect on various Sunni Islamic groups in Turkey. Iran has been an irrelevant sample for the Turkish Alevis. Thus, the early and significant effect of the 1979 Iranian revolution was felt among various Sunni Islamic groups. How was that possible? Various Sunni Turkish Islamic groups took the Iranian case as a political model against the West. Thus, they believed that they would be able to rid the Iran model of its Shia elements. Therefore, the Iranian model was imported to Turkey as if it was a sect-free phenomenon. Consequently, many distinguished people (in various public offices and universities) have a very positive view about the Iranian model in today’s Turkey. In a historical analogy, the 1979 Iranian Revolution was saluted by many Turkish Sunni Islamic figures just like the Arab Spring of the present day: An anti-Western popular revolution that would bring back the oppressed Muslims. A curios scholar will find many interesting things if he studies the Islamic journals and newspapers published in 1979.

The second factor is the economy. Turco-Iranian trade exceeds $15 billion, but it is not possible to send even $100 from Turkey to Iran through the banking system. There are more than 1,000 Turkish firms owned by Iranians in Turkey and there also exist many other informal social and political networks sustaining this huge trade volume. Of course, money is not a neutral phenomenon in politics, and this huge amount of money creates many networks between Iranian and Turkish politics as it travels between the two countries.

Written by M. James

February 29, 2012 at 12:36 am

Posted in Politics, Religion, Turkey

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Taşpınar prods Turkey

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What follows is today’s column by Ömer Taşpınar, senior fellow at Washington D.C.’s Brookings Institution. It is, in essence, a childish jab at Turkish indecision regarding Syria.

Does this give us insight into Washington’s own [indecisive] position on Syria?

Time for Turkey to match words with deeds
Ömer Taşpınar; Today’s Zaman; Feb. 12, 2012

There comes a time in the life of a regional power when action on moral grounds becomes inevitable.

This is usually the time when deeds need to match words. This moment is usually when there is not much left to say. The human suffering on the ground speaks for itself. In such times, there emerges a consensus among democratic countries with informed public opinions. They want to see action and justice instead of more of a diplomatic stalemate. As a regional power that wants to be taken seriously, Turkey is fast approaching this moment in the Syrian crisis. All eyes are on Turkey because it is seen as the actor with the greatest capacity to act.

In a sense, Turkey is becoming the victim of its own success. When Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu repeatedly argued that his country is a central, key player that should lead in the effort to find “regional solutions to regional problems,” Washington listened and took him seriously. Perhaps more importantly, the Obama administration believed Davutoğlu and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. So when this opportunity to lead and to take action came with the crisis in Syria, Washington was more than willing to let Turkey do what Davutoğlu claimed his country was capable of.

The Syrian crisis became a litmus test for Turkish influence and regional credibility in the eyes of an American administration that wished to “lead from behind” as it did in Libya. In Libya, France and Britain took the lead to avoid a slaughter and massacre in Benghazi. Now a slaughter and massacre is happening in the Syrian city of Homs. Eight hundred people were killed in the last 10 days. The death toll has reached 6,000 since the beginning of the uprising. Many in Washington would love to see Turkey take the lead in Syria the way France and Britain did in Libya. No wonder the question “What is Turkey’s Syria strategy?” is now hotly debated in Washington policy circles. No one has a clear answer to that question.

Given the high hopes attached to Turkey’s ability to act, it is with some disappointment that American and European policy makers are now finding out that there is not much of a Turkish appetite to act. In fact, there is not even much of an appetite in Turkey to take the lead in Syria. This is why when asked what the Turkish strategy is, the Turkish answer seems to be to echo back the same question: What is the American strategy? What is clear is that the “regional” superpower, Turkey, doesn’t want to become a superpower that outsources work on its problems. This is also why the best Turkey can come up with now is the idea of an international conference. But to what end? To see once again that there is no consensus among Western democracies and authoritarian regimes — such as China, Iran and Russia — about what to do and what to say about Syria. In any case, the time for more words is coming to an end. We are fast approaching the time to take action.

Cynics will say that we should not underestimate the ability of regional and global superpowers to remain idle as mass slaughters take place. Yes, 6,000 people were killed in Syria. But what about Rwanda, where everyday 6,000 were slaughtered? A total of 800,000 were killed in the Rwandan genocide and today no one even remembers what happened. Cynics will also ask why it would be in Turkey’s national interest to act alone in Syria. Why should Turkey take the lead when America appears so reluctant to do so itself? To be sure, there are many logical factors explaining Turkey’s prudence. They range from Turkey’s Kurdish problem to a fear of the unknown once the Assad regime is gone. But the sad reality of Syria is that a peaceful transition is no longer in the cards. We are fast approaching the time for action, whether Turkey likes it or not. But Turkey has a choice. It can live up to its words by taking the lead or it can watch from the sidelines the emergence of a NATO “coalition of the willing” for military action. The time for more international conferences has passed. It is time for Turkey to live up to its words with deeds. Ankara can do so by reminding itself that it is a member of NATO, too.

Written by M. James

February 12, 2012 at 10:16 pm