The Turkish army has shelled Syrian government forces in Aleppo and Latakia provinces, while also hitting Kurdish targets near the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria, including an air base recently retaken from Islamist rebels, with a massive attack.
Anatolia news agency reported that the Turkish military hit Syrian government forces on Saturday, adding that the shelling had been in response to fire inflicted on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey’s southern Hatay region.
Turkish artillery targeted Syrian forces again late on Saturday, according to a military source quoted by RIA Novosti. The attack targeted the town of Deir Jamal in the Aleppo Governorate.
The agency also cited details of an earlier attack on Syrian government army positions in northwestern Latakia.
“Turkey’s artillery opened fire on the positions of the Syrian Army in the vicinity of Aliya mountain in the northwestern part of the province of Latakia,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions continued for more than three hours almost uninterruptedly, a Kurdish source told RT, adding that the Turkish forces are using mortars and missiles and firing from the Turkish border not far from the city of Azaz in the Aleppo Governorate.
The shelling targeted the Menagh military air base and the nearby village of Maranaz, where “many civilians were wounded,” local journalist Barzan Iso told RT. He added that Kurdish forces and their allies among “the Syrian democratic forces” had taken control of the air base on Thursday.
According to Iso, the Menagh base had previously been controlled by the Ahrar ash-Sham Islamist rebel group, which seized it in August of 2013. The journalist also added that Ahrar ash-Sham militants at the base had been supported by Al-Nusra terrorists and some extremist groups coming from Turkey.
Ahrar ash-Sham is a militant group that has trained teenagers to commit acts of terror in Damascus, Homs, and Latakia provinces, according to data provided to the Russian Defense Ministry by Syrian opposition forces.
The group, which has intensified its attacks on the Syrian government forces since January, was getting “serious reinforcements from Turkey,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a briefing in Moscow on January 21.
A source in the Turkish government confirmed to Reuters that the Turkish military had shelled Kurdish militia targets near Azaz on Saturday.
“The Turkish Armed Forces fired shells at PYD positions in the Azaz area,” the source said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara views as a terrorist group.
A Turkish security official told Reuters that the shelling of the Kurds had been a response to a shelling of Turkish border military outposts by the PYD and forces loyal to Damascus, as required under Turkish military rules of engagement.
Turkey’s PM Davutoglu also confirmed that the country’s forces had struck Syrian Kurdish fighters and demanded that the Kurds retreat from all of the areas that they had recently seized.
“The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding area and will not go close to it again,” he told reporters, adding that Turkey “will retaliate against every step [by the YPG],” Reuters reports.
A Kurdish official confirmed to Reuters that the shelling had targeted the Menagh air base located south of Azaz.
According to the official, the base had been captured by the Jaysh al-Thuwwar rebel group, which is an ally of PYD and a member of the Syria Democratic Forces alliance.
Syrian Kurds are actively engaged in the fight against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group and have been recently described as “some of the most successful” forces fighting IS jihadists in Syria by US State Department spokesman John Kirby, AFP reports.
Earlier, the US also called the PYD an “important partner” in the fight against Islamic State, adding that US support of the Kurdish fighters “will continue.”
Turkey’s shelling of the Syrian Kurds comes just days after a plan to end hostilities in Syria was presented in Munich after a meeting of the so-called International Syria Support Group (ISSG), in which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura participated.
‘We will strike PYD’ – Turkish PM
Earlier on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu threatened Syrian Kurds with military action, saying that Turkey will resort to force against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) if it considers the step “necessary.”
“As I have said, the link between the YPG and the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK is obvious. If the YPG threatens our security, then we will do what is necessary,” Davutoglu said on February 10, as quoted by the Hurriyet Daily.
“The leadership cadre and ideology of the PKK and PYD is the same,” he argued in a televised speech in the eastern city of Erzincan on Saturday, AFP reports.
Davutoglu also said that if there is a threat to Turkey, “we will strike PYD like we did Qandil,” referring to a bombing campaign waged by Turkey against the PKK in its Qandil mountain stronghold in northern Iraq, Daily Sabah reports.
Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the YPG, as affiliates of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decade-long insurgency against Turkish authorities, demanding autonomy for Turkish Kurds.
The latest developments come as Turkey continues a relentless crackdown on Kurds in its southeastern region. Ankara launched a military operation against Kurdish insurgents from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in July of 2015, breaking a ceasefire signed in 2013.
Turkey’s General Staff claim that Turkish forces killed more than 700 PKK rebels during the offensive in the southeastern districts of Cizre and Sur. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has reported that at least 150 civilians, including women in children, were killed in the Turkish military operation, adding that over 200,000 lives have been put at risk.
According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, at least 198 civilians, including 39 children, have been murdered in the area since August of 2015.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Ankara to investigate reports that a number of unarmed people trying to attend to the injured victims of clashes in Turkey’s southeast in late January were themselves shot at.
Ten people were injured when their group, which included two opposition politicians, came under fire while trying to help people injured in earlier clashes in the southeastern town of Cizre in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast on January 20.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein described as “extremely shocking” footage filmed of the incident, which purportedly shows what appear to be a man and woman holding white flags and pushing a cart – possibly carrying bodies – across a street before being shot.
“As they reach the other side, they are apparently cut down in a hail of gunfire,” Zeid said in a statement.
He also expressed concern that the cameraman, who was injured in the shooting, may face arrest under a “clampdown on media.”
Turkey has been engaged in a large-scale campaign against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party in its southern border region in the past few months. The Turkish military has also been conducting offensives against the positions of the group in northern Iraq.
The operations began in the wake of a deadly July bombing in the southern Turkish town of Suruc. More than 30 people died in the attack, which the Turkish government blamed on Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
After the bombing, the PKK militants, who accused the government in Ankara of supporting Daesh, engaged in a series of supposed reprisal attacks against Turkish police and security forces, in turn prompting the Turkish military operations.
US Vice President Joe Biden says the US and Turkey are prepared for military solutions in Syria if a political settlement cannot be found. He added that Washington recognizes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party is as much of a threat to Ankara as Islamic State.
“We do know it would better if we can reach a political solution but we are prepared …, if that’s not possible, to have a military solution to this operation and taking out Daesh,” Biden said at a news conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, as cited by Reuters. ‘Daesh’ is an Arabic term for Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/ISIL).
A US official later clarified that Biden was talking about a military solution to IS, not Syria as a whole.
Biden added that he discussed with Davutoglu how the two allies could try and work together to support Syrian rebel groups who oppose President Bashar Assad. The US vice president backed Ankara in its battle with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying it was as much of a threat to Ankara as Islamic State, and that Turkey must do everything necessary to protect its citizens.
However, the pair disagreed about the status of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, with Biden saying there is a difference between the PYD and PKK.
“To say that these [groups] are separate, one should be unaware that those [PKK] guns are coming to [Turkey] from Syria,” Davutoglu said, according to Reuters.
Ankara believes the Syrian Kurds are looking to create a corridor along the northern border with Turkey, which would cut off Turkey from sharing a boundary with Syria.
“The PYD is a terrorist organization that cooperates with the Syrian regime. Struggling against Daesh does not grant them legitimacy,” the Turkish prime minister said.
Turkey has carried out attacks on Kurdish forces in northern Syria. In late July, the Kurds said they had been bombed at least four times, with civilians being among the casualties. Ankara maintained its airstrikes were aimed at members of the PKK.
Kurdish fighters have proved to be some of the most effective forces in helping to combat Islamic State in northern Syria, while borders in territories under its control have been sealed to stop the flow of foreign IS militants into Syria.
On Friday, Biden said Turkey’s intimidation of the media, curtailing of internet freedom and accusations of treason made against academics was not setting a good example in the Middle East.
“The more Turkey succeeds, the stronger the message sent to the entire Middle East and parts of the world who are only beginning to grapple with the notion of freedom,” Biden mentioned.
“But when the media are intimidated or imprisoned for critical reporting, when internet freedom is curtailed and social media sites like YouTube or Twitter are shut down and more than 1,000 academics are accused of treason simply by signing a petition, that’s not the kind of example that needs to be set,” he said.
Turkey’s top higher education authority vowed to take measures against academics who signed a letter calling to stop military operations against Kurdish militants, local media reported Wednesday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sharply criticized the so-called Academicians for Peace group, accusing them of undermining Turkey’s national security after their declaration was read at press conferences in Istanbul and Ankara on Monday.
After an urgent meeting, Turkey’s Higher Education Board issued a statement saying that the institution would do whatever it took regarding the academics, Today’s Zaman newspaper reported. The body does not have the authority to directly punish the academics, but could pressure university administrations to do so, according to the paper.
Over 1,000 academics from 89 Turkish universities have signed a declaration urging to end the ongoing fighting between Ankara forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.
The declaration calls on the government to restore a peace process with the PKK that was abandoned in July 2015.
The Kurds, Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, have been striving to gain independence from Turkey. The PKK, founded in the late 1970s to promote the self-determination for the Kurdish community, is designated as a terrorist group by Ankara.
Severe clashes between Ankara forces and PKK militants have been arising sporadically since a July terror attack in the city of Suruc, which killed over 30 people, most of them Kurds. As Kurds killed two Turkish policemen in what has been said to be a retaliation strike, Ankara launched a military campaign against the group.
VAN – 12 youths aged between 18-25 have been executed as a result of a house-raid conducted by Turkish terrorists in the central Edremit district of Van province early this morning. ID details of the youths remain unknown.
HDP Van MP Lezgin Botan who spoke to ANF about the incident said bodies of 12 youths, all aged 18-25, have been taken to a hospital morgue. Botan said the youths were shot in the head, and described the incident as not a clash but mass execution. He added that police forces have blockaded the scene of the executions and hospital where youths are being held now.
HDP Van deputy Tugba Hezer told that; “Apart from one, all have been shot in the head. They are all young people in civilian clothes, as has been conveyed to us by those who saw the bodies. Not every single one of them can possible be shot in the head during a clash. It is not possible. This is a mass execution. Police have evacuated and entirely blockaded the hospital.”
Police disperse protesters in Turkey’s east, deputy injured
VAN, eastern Turkey – Police dispersed protesters who were staging a sit-in against a Jan. 10 police raid into a house of militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the eastern province of Van’s Edremit district on Jan. 11, detaining many.
Members of the provincial center of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) gathered in front of its headquarters to make a press statement as some shopkeepers in the district also refused to open their shops to protest the recent police raid. HDP provincial organization members staged a sit-in before the statement. However, police dispersed the crowd with pressurized water and detained a number of protesters.
Meanwhile, HDP Van deputy Lezgin Botan was injured during the police action and has been reported to be in good condition.
Police special forces raided a two-story house around 5 a.m. on Jan. 10, following a tip-off that its occupants were planning a large-scale attack in Van. Twelve suspected PKK militants in the house, along with an officer identified as Önder Ertas, were killed in the raid, which also injured two other officers, as the security forces seized weapons and ammunition in the house.
In five months of battling the Kurdish insurgency in southeastern Turkey, Ankara has killed over 160 civilians, according to a rights group report. Among them was an unborn child, whose mother was shot.
In August, Ankara launched a ground operation to crack down on Kurdish fighters linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The violence ended a two-year truce with the Kurdish militants, who have been fighting a guerrilla war for independence for decades. An estimated 10,000 Turkish troops armed with heavy weapons and armored vehicles, including tanks, were deployed.
Since August 16, Turkish troops have imposed at least 58 curfews in Kurdish regions, disrupting the lives of some 1.4 million people living in the affected provinces, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) said. Some lasted 10 hours or less, but others went on for days and weeks, and some are still ongoing. The curfews affected 19 districts in the provinces of Batman, Diyarbakır, Elazıg, Hakkari, Mardin, Mus and Sırnak.
While the curfews have been in place, at least 162 civilians have been killed. The death toll includes 29 women, 32 children, and 24 elderly people. One of the victims in the city of Cizre in Sırnak Province was an unborn child, who was killed by a gunshot to his mother’s womb, the group said. The mother, Guler Yanalak, was seven month’s pregnant at the time and reportedly survived the injury.
The HRFT said at least 22 people were killed in their homes, some of them from heavy weapons used by the fighting sides. Four people were reported to have been killed in areas where no curfews had been declared. The violence against civilians appears to have escalated since December 11, the group said, with 79 civilian deaths reported since then.
The PKK, founded in 1978, has been fighting the Turkish state for Kurdish self-determination since 1984. Kurds make up between 10 percent and 25 percent of Turkey’s population. In late December, a congress of Kurdish non-governmental organizations called for Turkey’s southeastern regions to be granted autonomy via constitutional reforms.
The escalation of violence in Turkey came two months after the Kurdish militia in Syria, known as the YPG, as well as the Turkish pro-Kurdish party, the HDP, accused Ankara of aiding Islamic State in their offensive on Kurdish territories in Syria. At the time, the terrorists were laying siege to the Kurdish border town of Kobani.
Ankara has been stepping up its military operations on the border with Syria and Iraq since December. The area is a stronghold of the PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to continue the operation until the area is cleansed of Kurdish militants.
Police in Istanbul have raided a district office of Turkey’s main opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Turkish media reports said on Friday that several people were detained and party documents seized during the two-hour raid at the Beyoglu headquarters of the HDP.
The co-chair of the district branch, Rukiye Demir, was among the detainees.
Turkish authorities have stepped up pressure on the HDP while Ankara’s military apparatus has been engaged in a security operation against suspected militants in the Kurdish-majority south and southeast of the country in the recent past, running offensives against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants all the way into northern Iraq.
Turkish authorities accuse the HDP of acting as the political arm of the PKK.
Turkey and countries such as the United States and Britain consider the PKK as a terrorist group. The HDP strongly denies any links with the militants.
On July 20, 2015, a bomb attack in the southern Kurdish-majority town of Suruc claimed more than 30 lives. The Turkish government blamed it on the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group. After the bombing, the PKK, accusing the government of supporting Daesh, engaged in a series of supposed reprisal attacks against Turkish police and security forces, in turn prompting the Turkish military operations.
Ankara said Thursday that 305 PKK militants have been killed since December 14, 2015, when its security operation intensified.
The militant group has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since 1980s.
Inconsistency is common in politicians, who one day decry ‘state terror’ against citizens and some two decades later send tanks against those same people to ‘impose curfews’.
A report published in a Turkish daily newspaper demonstrates the dramatic change in the stated political policy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan since 1991.
The Hurriet published passages from a 90-page report on the “Kurdish issue,” composed by Erdogan while he was an official with the conservative Islamist Refah (Welfare) party in his hometown of Istanbul.
In the report, requested by his party’s leadership, Erdogan clearly denounced Turkish military operations in the Kurdish southeast, referring to them as acts of “state terror” against “Kurdish people.”
Erdogan, at the time, wrote that because “the Kurdish issue” is a “national question,” the correct way to resolve it is “by recognizing Kurdish language as an independent language and which has no relations to the Turkish language.”
But by 2016, some 25 years later and with Erdogan as the boss, Kurds are not necessarily forbidden to learn their mother tongue, but several letters of the Kurdish alphabet are outlawed in Turkey and the number of schools providing education in Kurdish and other minority languages is very small.
“What is called ‘the Southeastern issue’ is, in essence, the Kurdish question, which is no doubt a national question. These areas, which are labeled as Southeast, have since the dawn of history been called Kurdistan,” Erdogan said in 1991. “This region has suffered twice, from PKK assaults since 1985 and at the same time it has been subjected to state terror which has targeted the population for allegedly supporting the PKK.”
In 2016, as the president of the Turkish Republic and playing a nationalist card, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is singing a different song.
“You will be annihilated in those houses, those buildings, those ditches which you have dug,” Erdogan has pronounced recently, referring to trenches created by Kurdish fighters in many southeastern cities. “Our security forces will continue this fight until it has been completely cleansed and a peaceful atmosphere established.”
Many politicians and experts worldwide have described Erdogan’s ongoing military operation against Kurds as “state terror,” a comparison not lost on students of recent Turkish political history.
Some 200 civilians have been killed during recent blockades and attacks by Turkish government forces. Over 100,000 people have reportedly been displaced in ongoing military actions in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish southeast.
Severe clashes between Ankara forces and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), alongside popular resistance units, have arisen since a July terror attack in the city of Suruc which killed over 30 people, most of them Kurds. After Kurds killed two Turkish policemen they claimed were affiliated with Daesh soon after the attack, Ankara launched a military campaign against PKK and self-defense units. The clashes intensified in December 2015 in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, with curfews imposed in numerous Kurdish areas across the southeast.
Kurdish neighborhoods in Silopi and Diyarbakir are under attack from Turkish military forces. Heavy tank bombardment in civilian areas is being reported.
On the 20th day of a curfew, several Silopi neighborhoods in southeastern Turkey have come under heavy gunfire from tanks and armored vehicles, according to local media.
“Residents are trying to find shelter in safe areas as the neighborhoods, which house thousands, are being targeted by heavy fire from tanks and armored vehicles that have surrounded the area under curfew,” ANF News described.
The Kurdish neighborhoods of Barbaros, Basak and Zap have introduced self-rule and have strong local self-defense, including YDG-H youth units, who are resisting government forces attempting to impose the curfew, ANF News reported. YDG-H, or Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement, was founded in 2013 by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) youth members.
“People struggling with hunger and thirst take shelter in the basements of their houses. No passages are allowed out of the blockade,” People’s Democratic Party of Turkey, (HDP) reported on Saturday.
A local Kurdish official, Emine Esmer, a co-mayor of Silopi, was taken into custody and released while investigating a water shortage in the municipality, according to BestaNews.com.
Reports from the Kurdish district of Sur in Diyarbakir, also under curfew, say that tank bombardments in the residential areas intensified on Saturday, with two people injured, according to Jin News Agency.
The HDP reports that almost 200 people have been killed during the blockade and attacks by Turkish government forces. Over 100,000 people have reportedly been displaced in ongoing military actions in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish southeast.
ANKARA – Some 100,000 people have been displaced due to armed clashes between Turkish security forces and militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the country’s majority-Kurdish southeastern regions, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
Severe clashes between Ankara forces and PKK militants have been arising sporadically since a July terror attack in the city of Suruc, which killed over 30 people, most of them Kurds. As Kurds killed two Turkish policemen soon after the attack, Ankara launched a military campaign against PKK. The clashes intensified earlier this week in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.
The Turkish forces’ operations are being carried out in the southeastern districts of Diyarbakir, Silopi, Silvan, Sur and Cizre, where the PKK has a strong presence.
The authorities also declared a police curfew in area most affected by the armed clashes, with a population of 1.3 million civilians.
Over 100,000 of them have been forced to flee their homes due to the ongoing violence and domestic hardships, according to an Interior Ministry report that was cited by the Hurriyet newspaper.
According to the ministry, the security forces have taken control of eight of the 13 high-risk areas where the PKK militants were trying to establish autonomous areas, not controlled by the central government.
The Kurds, Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, are striving to create their own independent state and gain independence from Turkey. The PKK was founded in the late 1970s to promote the self-determination for the Kurdish community. The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey.
The Kurdish struggle for independence gave rise to a conflict between Ankara and various Kurdish militant groups that has been ongoing since 1984.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the well-known fan of air defence systems, is facing impeachment for an endless list of crimes. We have only got to this point because he is probably guilty of most of them.
The Speaker of Parliament, accountable to parliament and not government, has the authority to unveil official documents concerning his actions which have been hidden until now. If that happens, it is very likely that Erdogan’s rule will come to an abrupt end, simply because the list of charges is so long that even if only 10% can be proven that will be enough to sink him.
Many unofficial sources are claiming that Erdogan is going mad at hearing that the nation is no longer following him. Even former supporters who stood by him when he was accused of corruption are now leaving him. Erdogan is blaming all this on his former American aide, the Islamist Sai Baba Fethullah Gulen, the leader of a worldwide movement which is halfway between a faith organization and bunch of jack-of-all-trade agents active from China to the US. But it is not Gulen but Erdogan himself who is the object of criticism, and it would come as no surprise if documents released by his own comrades brought about his downfall.
One of the issues these documents might talk about is the bomb massacre at a rally in Ankara which made world news. Prime Minister Davutoglu has claimed that two suicide bombers committed this attack on behalf of both ISIL and the PKK, the Kurdish separatist movement, working together.
This claim smears all the Turkish public’s bogeymen at once, but is highly unlikely to be true. Many of the people taking part in the rally were Kurds, it having been organised by the democratic Kurdish party, the HDP. The Turkish government is keen to draw a distinction between ordinary Kurds, and their democratic representatives, and PKK terrorists. This is the basis of the accusation that the PKK must have planned the attack.
But the PKK knows it does not have the strength to destroy the HDP, or take full control of the Kurdish independence movement. It also knows that when a longstanding grievance is resolved by political means the more radical elements gain more public support if they then join the political process. In Northern Ireland, for example, the moderate Republican and Unionist parties dominated their communities until peace was achieved, but then the more extreme parties displaced them as soon as they renounced violence, being seen as stronger voices for their people.
The PKK is also fighting ISIL in the hottest combat regions and is fundamentally opposed to it ideologically. It has more to gain by helping Turkey and the US defeat ISIL, in exchange for a Kurdish state at the end of it, than trying to overthrow a Turkish government which retains international support due to the country’s strategic location. A Kurdish state would be an appropriate thank you for the “moderate Kurdish” contribution to the war on terrorism, granted willingly and with public support, providing a get-out for all sides in that conflict.
Word on the street in Ankara is that the terrorist bombing was the work of the local special services, not ISIL, and probably acting with foreign support. In this view, its purpose was to rally the nation round Erdogan, the face of law and order. However, his refusal to make an official statement about the Ankara bombing for days suggests he has spurned the opportunity allegedly provided him.
Erdogan was elected on a platform of reviving the Golden Age, whenever that was, and making Turkey great again. But he is now putting at risk the economic strength and regional political clout which have become effective levers for doing just that. This is causing many to question his conduct over a number of other matters, which the general thrust of his policy and success enabled him to get away with before. With the idea of being imprisoned keeping him awake at night, Erdogan may well be tempted to resort to measures such as murdering his own citizens to maintain his hold on power, like many another isolated ruler before him.
The embattled leader has tried to shore up his position by using another well-worn tactic of leaders under pressure – engaging in foreign diplomacy, which opposition groups can’t do, to show his superiority. But when Angela Merkel – who despises him, and doesn’t try to hide the fact – visited Turkey for multilateral talks on immigration and stopping the flood of migrants to Europe, this was seen as nothing more than a political stunt, on her part as well as his, as she has no intention of pulling out of the wars which are creating these migrants.
Erdogan also piled more pressure on himself by his approach to the talks. He complained that the 3 billion EUR the EU has offered to help Turkey take tougher measures against immigration is much less than Turkey is spending on caring for refugees at present. However, it is widely known that Turkey is encouraging, not stopping, the flow of migrants to Europe so that they can be used as a political weapon whenever suitable. This demonstrates that, having failed to get into the EU by fair, diplomatic means, Erdogan is happy to resort to foul ones. It is this which forms the substance of the documents the Turkish parliament, and his colleagues, might now release.
As in Kazakhstan, governments can get away with a lot if their economies are booming. Its previous economic strength had encouraged Turkey to bid for regional leadership, which every country which has had an empire believes is theirs as of right. But now the Turkish currency is in deep crisis. Last May the official exchange rate was 3.5 Turkish Lira to the British Pound, but this August it was 4.7. This steep decline has made the TL the worst-performing currency in the emerging global economies, and is making entrepreneurs’ lives impossible.
Turkey has few primary resources and suffers from a deep technological gap. Consequently, it cannot produce most of the components industry needs. These have to be imported, processed and then exported to pay for their importation, and with the local currency so weak it is very expensive and not competitive to do this. The new Russian sanctions will cause even more problems.
The high rate of inflation, apparently the product of heavy printing by the central bank, will soon make several businesses go bankrupt. Public debt is also rising, and is calculated in dollars, making Turkey very vulnerable to interest rate decisions made across the Atlantic. Far from being a regional leader, Turkey has become the modern financial world’s equivalent of a banana republic. Its current political position has been given it as a sop, to keep it onside until the time comes to pull the rug from under it.
Emperor’s new clothes
All this is laying bare the fact that it is time to “Talk Turkey” about Turkey. It has always been a US ally because of where it is, not for any other reason. The US doesn’t want it as a trusted ally, or really care about it.
Turkey is traditionally a foe of what is now the political West, which fought wars to liberate Europe from the Ottoman yoke and to keep modern Turkey from allying with Hitler in World War Two. It was made part of the West to stop the Communists, who had encircled it, getting their hands on its strategic ports.
But the West has never liked Turkey or what it does, despite its consistent praise of “improvements” in its continually vicious internal politics or its “support” of US ambitions. It’s not seen as a Western country but a military base in hostile territory, which the West has no choice but to indulge as far as possible.
This grudging indulgence has always been part of broader US calculations in the region. Several years ago Georgia was made the US forward operating base in the region partly because it wanted a way out of Turkey. Georgia isn’t big enough to play this role all the time, but its previous government was nasty enough to let the US do whatever it wanted, including murder, torture, training terrorists and manufacturing and exporting biological weapons, so that some of the reasons it needed Turkey no longer applied.
Now the US operation has moved to Ukraine, and a lot of the nasty Georgians with it. Ukraine does have the size, military capacity and strategic location to replace Turkey to a large degree. At this stage there are still too many vested interests for the US to just walk away from Turkey. But with everybody else also wanting out, how long will Erdogan be able to bank on this remaining truth?
Former Georgian President Saakashvili, who always said he would be back without the need for elections, was recently caught on tape plotting a coup which would be conducted from Turkey. Saakashvili is arrogant enough to think that he can say what he wants without being called to account, but not so stupid as to be caught in such a way by routine methods. These tapes were made somehow, most probably by “protectors” for whom he, like Turkey, has become a deep embarrassment.
Crashing and burning
Those tapes give the West a convenient way out of both Saakashvili’s gang and Turkey, which have now outlived their usefulness. They were one of the reasons Turkey shot down the Russian plane. But this action has provided another reason for Erdogan to be removed, as it was politically inexpedient, a violation of international law and presents Turkey as a supporter of a terrorist organisation, giving the West ample reason to interfere in its affairs yet again.
If Russia responds to the attack militarily NATO is obliged to defend Turkey. However NATO is now trying like hell to avoid expanding to its east, despite the number of countries knocking on its door, precisely because it doesn’t want to find itself obliged to send its forces to these countries. NATO cannot get sucked into war with Russia, or reconstitute the Turkish state, which is not homogeneous to begin with?
The French are fond of talking about their “Fifth Republic”, meaning the state established in 1958, when its current constitution was adopted. France existed before then of course, but under different constitutions and political arrangements. On each occasion, the old France collapsed and was thrown into the dustbin and replaced by a new one, even though it was physically the same country. Erdogan might well achieve his longed-for place in history by being the last president of THIS Turkish Republic, even though it will mean “crashing and burning” with it.
Ankara carried out airstrikes targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) forces in northern Iraq, the Turkish army said on Wednesday. The action comes in the wake of rising tensions between Ankara and Baghdad over the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq.
Ten F-16 fighter jets launched an attack between 10pm and 10:50pm on Tuesday, targeting PKK positions in the Kandil, Hakurk, Zap and Avasin-Baysan regions in northern Iraq, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement. It added that the targets were “destroyed in an aerial campaign.”
Tensions have been rising between Ankara and Baghdad after Turkey deployed hundreds of troops equipped with tanks and artillery to Iraq’s northern Nineveh Governorate last Thursday, saying they will train forces battling Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Baghdad said it had not asked for the help of Turkish forces, and demanded their withdrawal after it said Turkey had “illegally” sent the troops into Iraq. Describing the move as a violation of sovereignty, the Iraqi government also asked NATO to intervene.
Meanwhile, Shiite paramilitary groups have threatened to use force against Turkey unless it pulls its forces out of Iraq. Likening the Turkish incursion to the occupation of Iraq by IS militants, Badr Brigade spokesman Karim al-Nuri said “all options” were available.
“We have the right to respond and we do not exclude any type of response until the Turks have learned their lesson,” Nuri said on Wednesday. “Do they have a dream of restoring Ottoman greatness? This is a great delusion and they will pay dearly because of Turkish arrogance.”
Also on Wednesday, the Iraqi parliament unanimously approved a motion condemning the Turkish intervention, supporting the government in taking whatever measures it viewed as appropriate.
Russia raised the issue at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, expressing hope that Ankara will avoid escalating the situation in the region with any further reckless actions. Following the meeting, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said that Moscow expects Ankara to “settle the situation in Iraq in a way that would satisfy the Iraqi government.”
“Now the situation is within the focus of the attention of the Security Council, so we hope it will help resolve [it] to the satisfaction of the Iraqi government, whose sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence will be respected,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed Ankara’s actions while speaking to Italian media on Wednesday.
Lavrov proposed a thorough examination of how Turkey performs goals set by the coalition in Syria. “We need to examine how a member of the US-led coalition – the Republic of Turkey – performs goals set by the coalition,” the minister said. “Why is it not bombing terrorists as such, but the Kurds instead?”
On Wednesday, Ankara argued that Turkish soldiers were sent to northern Iraq after a threat from IS to Turkish military trainers in the area. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the deployment was an act of solidarity, not aggression.
“The [military] trainers in the Bashiqa camp were threatened by Daesh (Islamic State) because it is 15-20 kilometers from Mosul and they have only light arms,” he told media in Istanbul. “So when these threats increased… we sent some troops to protect the camp, not as an act of aggression but as an act of solidarity.”