The trials and tribulations of Turkish foreign policy

December 01, 2018

The trials and tribulations of Turkish foreign policy

Professor Hasan Unal, a top political scientist based in Istanbul, explains the geopolitics of his region, the eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

When Vladimir Putin visited President Erdogan’s lavish new $500-million presidential palace in Ankara, he had one thing to say: “I’m very impressed.” Professor Hasan Unal, savoring the dry humor, derives as much pleasure in retelling the story as Putin’s remark may have been lost on Erdogan, who is famous for his lack of humor.

Professor Hasan Unal is one of Turkey’s foremost political scientists and international relations experts. I had the pleasure of spending a long afternoon with Unal at Maltepe University in Istanbul, where he now enjoys plenty of time to “just teach” after an extremely busy academic career in Ankara. These are some of the highlights of our conversation:

Tell me your views about the Khashoggi affair?

Unal: “The Turkish government played the first stage very well. When you get to the second stage, what you get is very dangerous articles in Turkish media suggesting that the Turkish government now has a wonderful opportunity to strike at the Saudi Crown Prince [Mohammed Bin Salman]. Once you move to that stage, it’s not in Turkey’s interest. Who’s going to sign on the future of the Crown Prince? Not Turkey. Not Russia. But the United States. They have invested so much in this Crown Prince. Would it be in Turkey’s interest to push the United States into a corner?

What about the explosive new equation in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Unal: “What Turkey should have done is to use this incident in Istanbul to cultivate the [Saudi] King and say, “King Salman, look, your son is implicated.” But if you attack his son, how are you going to cultivate that relationship? Turkey should have said, ‘Let’s improve our relations first’. And also, ‘I need your support over Egypt’. That would be basically a win-win situation. And I would sell it to my gallery as a major victory. We need Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean. What this government has done is a dangerous thing. They have pushed both Israel and Egypt into the hands of the Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean. They have basically formed an anti-Turkish alliance. And that is foolish from the part of the Turkish government. But to get to that stage, Ankara should have realized something first: ‘Get your mind out of Idlib [in Syria]’.

This brings us to ideology and foreign policy. What is your take on this?

Unal: “What the Crown Prince represents is a region-wide, anti-Muslim Brotherhood policy. That is like a Russian matryoshka. You never know who’s going to pop up next. Turkish foreign policy should be focused on the national interest. I would say that an ideologically driven foreign policy went off-track in 2011. And events proved it could not produce the desired effect. That policy was reconsidered a few times, but there’s still fall-out – ideological baggage that seems to be poisoning Turkish foreign policy.”

Professor Hasan Unal, Istanbul

Professor Hasan Unal. Photo: Asia Times

Can we switch now to NATO and the Black Sea from a Turkish standpoint?

Unal: “NATO is forcing itself into the Black Sea through Romania and Bulgaria, not through Turkey. And they are forcing Georgia to act like a NATO country. Georgia in NATO, that would be out of order, it would be like [starting] a Third World War, basically. The Americans want the Montreux agreement, which basically governs the Straits, to be sidelined [under the 1936 agreement Turkey controls the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles and rules on the transit of warships].

“Turkey would never accept that. Over Ukraine, Turkish policy officially is, we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine. You can’t say anything more than that or less than that. What you say in favor of Russia may backfire on you in another dispute. If you recognize Crimea as part of Russia, what you are you gonna say about the Karabagh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan?”

Tell us about Turkey, Russia, Cyprus, and Crimea.

Unal: “In the end, it might actually come to a point where the Russians recognize northern Cyprus and we recognize Crimea as part of Russia. I would basically set up a naval and air base in northern Cyprus jointly used by Russia and Turkey. Don’t forget, the whole geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean has changed since the Syrian conflict. There’s got to be concessions. When states want to do something, they formulate a policy with a little bit of international law, a bit about historical arguments, politics, population, geography, and then you make an argument. And if you don’t want to do anything, again you bring this all together to support the opposite. The other important concession is the Russians should get the Armenians out of Azerbaijan-occupied territories.”

What about a key silent player, Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev?

Unal: “Nazarbayev is a very wise leader. He wields all this influence over Putin and Russia, as much as they wield influence over him. Don’t forget that these guys worked together. Nazarbayev was their superior. Kazakhs, when you talk to them, they say, if the Soviet Union had continued, he was going to be the Soviet leader. When [former Turkish President Suleyman] Demirel visited the Soviet Union, he had heard a lot about imprisoned Turks in the Soviet empire. Then he visited Moscow and saw the Turks running the show – [plus] Uzbeks, Kazakhs …”

How do you see Turkey’s role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative?

Unal: “The only good thing I’m happy about is that at least we have not made an ideologically-driven policy about the initiative to oppose it. The Uighur problem always pops up when it comes to Turkey-China relations. We don’t know the scale of what’s been happening in there [Xinjiang). A certain section of Turkish public opinion would buy the notion of concentration camps for Uighurs. But for the general public, it’s not something they understand. When I was working in Gazi University in Ankara, a group of scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, experts on Xinjiang, they came, challenged prejudices, they were very confident. There are Turkish-Chinese negotiations about joint production of missiles. Building of roads and high-speed railways is something our present government would love to see happening. Perhaps they think they are already supporting it [BRI] without letting it be known.”

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Uber-loser Poroshenko goes “full Saakashvili”

November 30, 2018

[This article was written for the Unz Review]Uber-loser Poroshenko goes “full Saakashvili”

Petro Poroshenko is in deep trouble. His ratings have been in the single-digit range in spite of a vast propaganda effort, and his latest attempt to create a salvific crisis involving the usual “Russian aggression” has not only failed but appears to be backfiring.

The Ukronazi commander-in-chief hard at work 🙂

It is now becoming abundantly clear that the Ukronazi provocation was not only breathtakingly stupid and irresponsible, but also breathtakingly poorly planned and executed. The documents seized by the FSB on the Ukrainian ships show that the Ukrainian captains were given the order to “covertly” sneak under the Kerch bridge. I have no idea what the Ukronazi junta leaders were thinking, maybe they were drunk or terrified to tell Poroshenko that this was a suicidal mission (most likely he was too drunk to care anyway), but the fact that they could even imagine that three old boats could somehow sneak around the Crimean Peninsula and then covertly pass under the Kerch bridge is just amazing (as is the fact that the crews failed to destroy this damning evidence!). One of the most heavily monitored sections of our planet, right next to a war zone, which has been the object of innumerable threats, and yet they thought that they could somehow avoid being detected and intercepted. Wow, just wow!

As for the crews of these three tiny ships, they all owe their lives to the FSB Coastguard officers who could have merely blown all three ships away in seconds, but who clearly did their utmost to avoid killing any of the Ukrainians. Only after many hours of absolutely ridiculous slow speed maneuvering (if you speak Russian, you can listen to the entire radio exchange between the two sides right here), did the Russians eventually fire a few shots and ram the Ukrainian tug.  Frankly, these Coastguard officers deserve some kind of humanitarian award.

[Sidebar: (Soviet and now) Russian Border Guards should in no case be assumed to be some kind of Russian version of the sort of border guards you see in the West. The truth is that the Russian border guards are an elite force whose level of training can be compared with the famous Airborne Forces. Their role is not only to check visas and look for contraband, but also to be a real fighting force which, in case of war, would be tasked with resisting the enemy until the regular armed forces take over. They are subordinated to the FSB (in the past to the KGB) because they do conduct intelligence operations and because they are a key element in the Russian counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency capabilities. This is why such elite special forces as the KGB Vympel Spetsnaz unit so often recruited border guards. A good friend of mine who used to be a Vympel commander with the rank of Colonel told me how in Afghanistan they recruited as many border guards as paratroopers because in his opinion “they were at least as tough and disciplined” as the airborne soldiers. The Russian border guards are also equipped with modern and powerful weapons and can conduct sub-unit level combat operations. The Ukrainian officers must have known this, and thus must have realized that regardless of the number of weapons they had onboard (quite a lot, actually, see here), they had no chance whatsoever to prevail. Besides, the Ukrainian ships are tiny and old while the Russian border guards could count on Black Sea Fleet and Aerospace and Ground Forces support – hence the Ka-52s and Su-25’s scrambled to meet the Ukrainian reinforcements coming from Odessa. Frankly, I don’t think that even a full US Marine Expeditionary Unit could cross the Kerch Strait, let alone the Ukrainians 🙂 the geography just favors the defending side too much]

There is a broad consensus in both Russia and the Ukraine that the primary goal of Poroshenko was to create a pretext to introduce martial law and cancel the elections. Once introduced, such a martial law can easily be prolonged for as long as needed; see what the French did. He planned to introduce martial law over the entire Nazi-occupied Ukraine, and then prolong it for as long as needed; enough to cancel the elections and then harshly deal with any protests. The plan completely failed.

First, all the opposition parties immediately understood what this was all about, and they all vehemently protested.  When the text came to a vote in the Rada, it was massively watered-down and, as a result, the martial law will only be introduced for one month and only in the following regions of the Ukraine:

Martial law areas marked in red (Note: this is a *Ukie* map, *they* put Crimea in blue, not me!)

This is bad, very bad news for Petro.

First, these areas are where the regime suspects the locals of pro-Russian sympathies (they are right, by the way).  But the risk for Petro does not come at all from the pro-Russian folks; the real danger for him comes from the various nationalist legal opposition movements who have their power base in the blue areas which will not be covered by this law.

Second, since the law was introduced for only one month and since it includes an obligation not to cancel the upcoming elections, it will be hard for Petro to crack down on the propaganda capabilities of his opponents (lead by Iulia Timoshenko).

Third, Petro probably hoped that the Russians would simply use a few missiles or blow the Ukrainian three ship armada into smithereens. Alas, the evil Moskal’s did nothing of the sort, and they captured all three vessels and their crews. So as panic-generating incidents go, this one was a terrible flop. In fact, the Russians are now using these ships and crews for their own propaganda which ridicules Petro and (correctly) states that the regime in Kiev sent these sailors to certain death in total, abject indifference. None of that will increase Poroshenko’s ratings…

Fourth, it appears that Poroshenko is really going “full-Saakashvili” and might even become the Empire’s worst Uber-loser which, by the way, can get him into real trouble with his bosses in Washington and Langley (who ditched Saakashvili when he proved to be a worthless loser). Frankly, the Empire would be *much* better off with Timoshenko in charge rather than this Eltsin-like alcoholic imbecile.

So the big question #1 is: is there a viable alternative to Poroshenko for the Empire?

Latest EuroUkros rating according to a Ukrainian source

To answer that we first need to answer another basic question: is there a public, official, opposition in Nazi-controlled Ukraine or not?

The answer is: both yes and no.

First, no, not in the sense of some more or less decent, real, opposition.

But yes, in the sense that the junta which seized power is composed of many different factions including oligarch/mobsters à la Kolomoskii, neo-Nazis à la Farion, bona fide Nazis à laTiagnibok and assorted nutcases like Liashko.  There is also Iulia Timoshenko, a very sharp and therefore potentially dangerous foe who has powerful backers in the USA.

Take a look at these latest ratings, and you will see that in spite of a huge “administrative resource” (Russian euphemism for abuse of government power), Petro barely makes it to 9.9% which means that his real rating must be somewhere in the 3-5 percent range.

And, remember, time is running out. On December 27th the martial law will be lifted (barring yet another Ukro-provocation to prove to the world that Russia has attacked the Ukraine yet again).  Well, that is the official plan.  In reality, it will most likely be prolonged with some more excuses about the mythical “Russian aggression”.

Also, consider this: if Poroshenko gets the boot, so will his criminally psychopathic thugs like (certified clinically insane) Parubii, the “bloody pastor” and war criminal Turchinov and the rest of the gang. Klimkin, since he appears to be in the CIA’s payroll, might make it out in time, but for the rest of them the risk is real and ranges from long jail sentences to being shot. Don’t expect Iulia Timoshenko to show any mercy either; not after Petro stuck her in jail (<<== this is a “Saker brainfart” which I have now removed.  The Saker)

True, while these folks all hate each other, they all feed from the same two mangers: rabid russophobia and total dependence on the Empire. And while they are united in their hatred for everything Russian, they hate each other just only a tiny little bit less (some probably even more). Think of how the SS butchered the SA, how the Stalinists purged the Party from Trotskyists or how the Democrats are trying to overthrow Trump by hook or by crook, and you will see how the factions inside the same gang *always* struggle for power and gun for each other.

Finally, there are many signs that at least Trump himself does not care very much about the Ukraine, albeit there are enough rabid russophobes amongst his puppeteers to compensate for Trump’s lack of interest and alleged dislike for Poroshenko.  For Poroshenko’s point of view, the Americans either don’t care enough or simply lost control of the situation, a time-honored US tradition with their “sons of bitches” like Saddam, Noriega and many, many others.

By the way, various Ukrainian sources also report that both Merkel and Stoltenberg told Poroshenko that the election cannot be canceled. Considering that Poroshenko is almost sure to lose these elections, this might indicate that Germany and NATO are ditching Petro.

Add to this that Timoshenko would be a much better agent for the Empire and you can see why the regime is freaking out.

So the bottom line is this: no, by the standards of a normal civilized country, there is no real opposition in the Ukraine (except the powerless, destitute and terrified population of course). But, far more importantly, by the standards of Petro Poroshenko, there is a real and very dangerous opposition indeed; one which will most definitely oust him in any semi-credible elections.

The Nazi-occupied Ukraine is rapidly coming to a watershed moment. Unless the elections are stolen and the opposition crushed, the current gang in power will be ousted. If the Ukraine attacks the Donbass, this will end up with a military disaster, either at the hands of the Novorussians, or at the hands of the Russian military. If the Ukraine attacks Russia directly, or Russian forces in the Black Sea, then the Ukrainian military will simply vanish in 24-48 hours max.  But in spite of that, Poroshenko desperately needs a victory lest his status of “Saakashvili-like Uber-loser” is publicly confirmed for all to see and for the Ukrainian opposition to blame it all on his incompetence and corruption (which is his real specialty: this is also why, since he came to power the Ukraine became a failed-state while his personal net worth increased many times over).

60 days? Really?

Finally, the fact that Poroshenko is a sinking ship means that, far from taking any risks on his behalf, Ukrainian politicians and military commanders must ask themselves every time they take a decision who will protect them if things go south.  In fact, I bet you that there are a lot of discrete contacts between various high ranking Ukrainian officials and Iulia Timoshenko, something which the SBU probably reports to Poroshenko (or, worse, not!) and which further creates a sense of panic in him and his minions.  This sense of panic might explain why, in the official journal the text of the new law mistakenly wrote 60, and not 30, days.

Putin is quite correct when he says that “Kiev would get away even with eating babies“: the collective hypocrisy of the collective West is truly limitless.  That, however, does not mean that Poroshenko personally could get away with anything and everything.  While the Empire’s leaders have to pretend to back the Ukraine no matter what, even against basic common sense, they are probably getting mighty fed up to have to scream “white!!” every time Poroshenko does something black.  Still, until the Empire puts somebody else in power, Poroshenko will remain “their son of a bitch in Kiev”.  And Poroshenko knows that, which begs the next big question:

Big question #2: could Poroshenko really start large scale war?

“Eating  babies” is all fine and dandy, but a full-scale war with either Novorussia or Russia is a very different and far more dangerous proposition.  The Empire might not care about Ukrainian babies, but it will most definitely care about a big war in the Ukraine.  So, let’s not just look at what the Ukronazis are saying but also looking at what they are doing:

  • There is martial law in all the Ukronazi occupied areas of Novorussia.
  • All the Novorussian cities are now surrounded by military checkpoints.
  • 300 hospitals have been ordered to prepare for a massive influx of casualties by stocking up on blood, beds and meds.
  • The Ukrainian first-line reserves have now been mobilized, as have the Nazi death-squads (aka “volunteer battalions”).
  • Petro is now claiming that the Russians have tripled their forces along the Ukrainian border: “the number of tanks in the bases, which are located along our border, has tripled. The number of units relocated has increased dramatically covering the entire length of our border”; in plain English that means that the Ukronazis are probably doing exactly that – surging their numbers along the line of contact.
  • Petro also said that his intelligence agencies “have clear evidence that an attack on Ukrainian ships is just the beginning“; in plain English this means that the Ukronazis are probably doing exactly that – preparing further attacks.
  • The border with Crimea has been closed to all non-Ukrainians.
  • The Ukrainians are now asking Turkey to close the Bosporus strait (which won’t happen for two reasons: the 1936 Montreux Convention forbids this and, besides, that would be a suicidal act of war for Turkey).
  • The Ukrainian war propaganda induced hysteria has reached new levels:  they are now showing how kids from an orphanage (!) in Mariupol digging trenches to help the Ukrainian army for the upcoming “Russian invasion”.  See for yourself this Ukrainian the report:

The art of surprise attack is one of the most fascinating aspects of warfare (those interested in this topic should read Richard Bett’s superb study “Surprise Attack: Lessons for Defense Planning“).  One of it’s well established strategies is to pretend to go to war and then back down at the last moment over and over again: this wears down the opponent and lures him into complacency until one day you actually strike.  Think of it as a variation on the “crying wolf” strategy if you want: one in which the wolf does the crying.  The Ukrainians have been doing that for years now (how many times have we all heard that a Ukrainian attack was “imminent”?).  The problem here is that this time around the war preparations are larger (and far more costly).  However, you can be certain that the Russians have been on full alert also for years and that they now permanently have more than enough forces available to deal with any Ukie attack, ranging from cross-border small arms fire to a full scale war.

So we can all hope that, once again, the Ukronazis are playing their “crying wolf” strategy only to back down at the last second.  But hope should always remain separate from expectations and to make the assumption that this time around they won’t actually attack would be extremely foolish.

First the Popes tried, then Napoleon,

then Hitler and now these two geniuses…

There are those who say that Poroshenko is not dumb enough to start war against Russia.  My question to them would be: do you really think that Poroshenko is smarter than, say, the various Latin Popes, Napoleon or Hitler?  To me, he looks about as stupid and clueless (not to mention evil and absolutely immoral) as Saakashvili.  Now just remember what happened in 08.08.08.

You might wonder whether the USA would be interested in a major war in the Ukraine.  I have been saying for years now that the Neocon wet dream is to force Russia to openly intervene and that in order to achieve this result all the Ukronazis need to do is to seriously threaten the DNR and LNR.  Will the Novorussians be strong enough to beat back a Ukronazi attack without overt Russian intervention?  Maybe.  Probably.  But that is also not an assumption which we can make because the Novorussians have no strategic depth which places them in the very vulnerable position to have to stop the attackers without trading space for time.  In plain English that means that the Novorussians have to be more or less on constant alert and that their forces must be forward deployed, which is very hard to sustain over time and simply dangerous, especially against an enemy with numerically much larger forces.

Crucially, the Neocons have nothing to lose if their plan fails and the Novorussians succeed in, once again, stopping the Ukronazi forces without a Russian intervention (it’s not like the Neocons care about Ukrainian or Novorussian lives since they don’t even care about the lives of US citizens).

It might well be that Trump is personally not interested in such a war.  But, let’s face it, Trump is the worst overcooked noodle to sit in the White House (he makes Carter look like a roaring lion!).  Just hours after he declared that it was “a very good time to have the meeting” with Putin he then “was changed his mind” and now has canceled the meeting.  Trump is all about narcissistic hot air, but he never delivers anything and he has bowed down to his Neocon masters on everything since he made it into the White House.  The sad truth is that Trump has become simply irrelevant, at least to the Russians (and to those who might still believe that Trump is playing some 4D chess I would say that systematically caving in to all the demands of the Neocons (and thereby making them increasingly more influential) is hardly a chess strategy, not even a 2D one).

[Sidebar: Trumps latest zig-zags about meeting with Putin is yet another example of the glaring ignorance the current US leaders suffer from.  They simply have no idea what the function and purpose of diplomacy is.  Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, was absolutely correct when he tweeted today that “Meeting a US President is not a reward for a RUS leader. Canceling a mtg is no punishment. It is all a matter of necessity. RUS-US relationship today is solely about preventing the confrontation from turning into a collision, and escalating to war. This is all“.  But the Americans are simply to illiterate to understand that.  Besides, the Russians have long given up on any notion of being able to get anything done with this Neocon-doormat President.  He wants to meet?  Sure.  He don’t.  Who cares?  This is the sorry state to which a nuclear superpower has slouched to.]

I am sure that Putin was terrified 🙂

Ditto for his moronic VP who tried to scare Putin by “staring him down” with his rendition of what he hopes was a “steel glare” in Singapore.  Putin just kept smiling, of course.

The frightening reality is that the Neocons are the most rabid russophobes on the planet and that the clowns in the White House will do whatever the US deep state tells them to do.  Don’t count on them for decency or even minimal common sense.

Furthermore, as I have already said many times, Trump is an “expendable President” for the Neocons: should anything he does end in disaster, they will blame it all on him, and put their own trusted person in power to replace it.

For all these reasons, the answer to our question is obvious: yes, Poroshenko most definitely is capable of ordering some kind of crazy attack, including a full scale war.

But “could” does not mean “will”, thank God!  Maybe, just like this past summer, the junta will get cold feet and back down (Putin’s threat that any attack will have most serious consequences for the Ukrainian statehood is still very much valid).  In theory the spineless Europeans (who will suffer the economic and social consequences of any major conflict) might also tell the crazies in Kiev to cool it.  But I am not holding my breath here.

So let’s hope for the best, but keep in mind that the worst is a very real possibility.

Conclusion: it is next to impossible to prevent a “suicide by cop” – but maybe God will!

Right now the situation is extremely dangerous and will remain so for the foreseeable future.  Philosophers say that love is the greatest force in the universe, and I very much agree with that.  But the next two most powerful forces are evil and stupidity, and there is plenty of both in Kiev and Washington DC.  The incident with the “covert operation” of the “Ukrainian armada” might look funny until you recall all the wars which were stared over other such equally minor incidents.  This time around the superb restraint of the Russian border guards prevented Kiev from getting the bloody clash it was obviously hoping for, but ask any policeman and he will tell you that it is almost impossible to prevent what is known as “suicide by cop”.  The Empire badly needs the Russian cop to (finally!) shoot, and so does the Ukronazi junta (all this propaganda, including from Russian pseudo-patriots, about Putin being weak or indecisive or even in cahoots with the Empire is a direct PSYOP product of that imperial agenda, whether those who parrot that nonsense realize it or not).

At this point in time, there is no way to predict whether the Ukronazi junta will attack for real or not.  So, as I have done several times in the past, I will conclude with this passage from the Quran: “and they (disbelievers) plotted [to kill ‘Iesa (Jesus)], and Allah planned too. And Allah is the Best of the planners” (verse 54 of Chapter 3 “Surah Al-‘Imran”); other translations say “And the unbelievers schemed [against Jesus]; but God brought their scheming to nought: for God is above all schemers” and “And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah“.  At a time when the Neocons are trying to convince the planet that Islam, not them, is the biggest danger to our planet, it is good to show them that not everybody is drinking their cool-aid; besides, in this case the Quran is simply right: God is the best of planners and the Ukronazi disbelievers (and their Neocon bosses) will eventually find this out, probably the hard way.

The Saker

صراعات المخابرات والرئاسة في واشنطن: نيكسون وترامب… والسعودية مجدداً

 

نوفمبر 27, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– لا يحتاج تفسير التسريب الرسمي لتقرير وكالة المخابرات الأميركية لوسائل الإعلام وقبلها توزيعه على زعماء الكونغرس إلى كثير تحليل، فذلك يحدث بوجود شرطين متلازمين، وجود قضية تتصل بإعادة رسم الاستراتيجيات على مستوى عالٍ من الخطورة، وتمنع الرئيس عن الأخذ برأي المخابرات، لتبدأ مواجهة بينهما تستعمل فيها كل الأسلحة، بما فيها تصنيع ملفات للرئيس وسوقه للمحكمة أو لمواجهة خطر العزل في الكونغرس. وهذا ما حصل مع الرئيس الأميركي الأسبق ريتشارد نيكسون، وما يتهدّد اليوم الرئيس دونالد ترامب.

– لم يصدق أحد في العالم أن استقالة نيكسون استباقاً لمواجهة خطر العزل تمت على خلفية فضيحة ووتر غيت التي تتصل بتستر الرئيس على التنصت على خصومه واتهامه بإعاقة العمل القضائي. فالفضيحة ذاتها لم تكن لتقع لولا التقارير المخابراتية الموثقة، لاستعمالها في لحظة كهذه، يومها كان سجلّ نيكسون ووزير خارجيته هنري كيسنجر مليئاً بالإنجازات التي نظر إليها الكثير من صقور المؤسسات الأميركية كهزائم، وفي مقدمتها الانسحاب من فييتنام والتفاهم على الحد من الأسلحة الاستراتيجية مع الاتحاد السوفياتي وتطبيع العلاقات مع الصين، والإمساك بمفاصل الصراع في الشرق الأوسط بعد حرب تشرين عام 1973 بمشاريع للتسويات كان أهمها فك الاشتباك على جبهة الجولان عام 1974، وبعد اختبار مخاطر استخدام سلاح النفط مجدداً، وما يوصف بإنجازات نيكسون وكيسنجر في أميركا اليوم جاء بعد اختباره لخيارات المواجهة وزجّه بعشرات الآلاف من الجنود الأميركيين في فييتنام، واكتشافه بمشورة كيسنجر محدودية قدرة القوة على رسم السياسات، ووضع يده مع معاونه كيسينجر على ما يمكن أن يترتب على العنجهية الإسرائيلية في ضوء حرب تشرين وما أظهرته القدرات التي أظهرتها الجيوش العربية فيها، والذهاب إلى البحث عن تسوية تاريخية برأي واشنطن تستدعي الضغط على «إسرائيل» لمفهوم مختلف عن السلام.

– كانت المخابرات قد أتمّت بالتعاون مع «إسرائيل» الإعداد لزيارة الرئيس المصري أنور السادات إلى القدس، وأتمّت السيطرة على القرار السعودي السياسي والنفطي مع صعود مرحلة ولي العهد الجديد فهد بن عبد العزيز، وصارت إطاحة نيكسون وكيسنجر طريقا لمواجهة جديدة، ترجمت في أفغانستان وكامب ديفيد وتخطيط حرب الأخوان المسلمين وتفجير الحرب في لبنان بوجه سورية، تمهيداً لغزو «إسرائيل» الذي تم تباعاً في العام 1978 ثم في العام 1982. وكان محور اللعبة التي تديرها المخابرات ما عرف لاحقاً بالحقبة السعودية التي آن الأوان لها أن تبدأ، وما يبدو اليوم من مؤشرات مرافقة للصراع بين المخابرات والرئاسة يبدو معكوساً لجهة اليقين بأن الحقبة السعودية آن لها أن تنتهي، وأن الخط التراجعي في الحروب التي خاضتها واشنطن، وما ينتج عنه من تقدم في مكانة روسيا دوليا وتعزيز مكانة إيران إقليمياً، بات فوق قدرة الحليفين اللذين تبقيا لواشنطن في المنطقة، إسرائيل العاجزة والمردوعة والسعودية المتآكلة والتي تغرق في الفشل، وقد عجزت عن تحقيق تعهدها بضمان الشريك الفلسطيني في صفقة القرن.

– في الزمن المتبقي من ولاية الرئيس ترامب يبدو الصراع مفتوحاً، تحت عنوان رسم الاستراتيجية الجديدة، بعد سقوط صفقة القرن، وتعافي سورية وتعاظم مكانة روسيا وصمود إيران، ويبدو ترامب الباحث عن تسويات منتصف الطريق كوقف الحرب في اليمن ساعياً للتخفف من الأعباء وهو يدرك أنه وهو يقول بأن التمسك بالحكم السعودي شرط لخوض المواجهة مع إيران أن إيران هي الرابح الأول من وقف حرب اليمن، كما يدرك وهو يقول إن السعودية ضمان لعدم ترحيل «إسرائيل»، أن وقف حرب اليمن يزيد قوة محور المقاومة صاحب مشروع الترحيل، بينما تدرك المخابرات أن تعديل المكانة السعودية وتقاسم ما تمثله سياسياً واقتصادياً مع شركاء جدد منهم روسيا وتركيا وإيران، يستدعي تخريب مساعي ترامب لتسويات منتصف الطريق، فيتم التصعيد في أوكرانيا وسورية بإشارات مخابراتية متزامنة وواضحة.

– الأكيد أن الاعتراف بالحقائق التي بشر بها تقرير بايكر هاملتون قبل اثنتي عشرة سنة، يجمع في نهاية الطريق ترامب والمخابرات، لكنهما يفترقان حول من يدفع ثمن التسويات، فترامب يسعى لحماية السعودية من التحول إلى غنيمة العصر، وحماية القيادة الحاكمة في كيان الاحتلال والسعي الإسرائيلي للتصعيد، ويسعى للبحث عن تسويات منتصف الطريق في سورية والعراق ومع إيران وروسيا، بينما يبدو للمخابرات أن نهاية الزمن السعودي سيكون كافياً لروسيا وإيران وتركيا لصفقة قرن أخرى.

– في هذه المرحلة تطغى الفوضى السياسية والأمنية، ويعمّ ضياع الوكلاء والعملاء في معرفة أي التحالفات يقيمون وأي الخطابات يتبنّون، ويصير عدم الانشغال بتفاصيل الصراعات الجانبية بين حلفاء واشنطن، هو الأصل، شرط التفرغ لفرض الوقائع في الجغرافيا والوقائع السياسية الثابتة. فالمركب الذي يضم جماعة أميركا في المنطقة بلا ربان تائه، وهذه مناسبة لتثبيت الوقائع الجديدة التي كلفت من الدماء الكثير، أهم من تضييع الوقت بانتظار معرفة لمن ستكون الغلبة بين صفوف صناع القرار في واشنطن.

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A Watchdog Media video SITREP about the Kerch incident

November 26, 2018

Repeating Churchill’s Bungles: Will US Drive Turkey into Joining the Shanghai Pact?

Repeating Churchill’s Bungles: Will US Drive Turkey into Joining the Shanghai Pact?

Repeating Churchill’s Bungles: Will US Drive Turkey into Joining the Shanghai Pact?

In 1917, the professional head of the British Army, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson in 1917 explained why the Allies were losing World War I because they kept pouring out lives, weapons and resources on capturing tiny unimportant locations on the Western Front while Imperial Germany conquered Eastern and Southern Europe, invading and occupying one major country after another:

“We take Bullecourt, they take Rumania; We take Messines, they take Russia; We don’t take Passchendaele, they take Italy,” Wilson told Winston Churchill.

Today, Washington is moving heaven and earth to integrate such major world powers as Macedonia, Montenegro and Georgia into NATO to join those vital pillars of world security Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And at the same time, it is obsessed with imposing ruinous sanctions on Turkey.

Yet Turkey has been a major member of NATO for 63 years. It continues to play a crucial role in US strategic deployments across the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Its cooperation is absolutely essential to ensure the supply and – if war were ever to break out Russia – the very survival of all US warships operating in the Black Sea.

Feckless, passive and ignorant President Barack Obama allowed US relations with Turkey to deteriorate to their worst ever state.

It is no secret that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is convinced that the US military were involved in the serious coup attempt that nearly cost him his life two years ago. Those suspicions are certainly widely believed among top Turkish policymakers.

Faced with such unprecedented suspicions and strains in the US –Turkish alliance, President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the US Congress should be working overtime to build relations, cooperation and long-term trust with Turkey.

They are doing no such thing. With stunning insouciance and crass ignorance, both parties in Congress seek out every opportunity to insult Turkey, give aid and comfort to forces traditionally hostile to the country and now are happily supporting devastating new tariffs.

As internationally respected commentator M. K. Bhadrakumar warned on this platform, “The sense of indignation among Turks should not be underestimated, which makes this an exceptional rupture.”

It is not as if Washington could sanely assess that Turkey was internationally isolated. On the contrary, Ankara enjoys excellent relations with Russia, China, India and Iran. US and NATO policies once again are backfiring and isolating their perpetrators, not the countries they target.

It is eerily fitting that neoconservatives and neoliberals worship the deified Winston Churchill so much. For it was Churchill’s personal bungling that that brought the Turkish Ottoman Empire needlessly into World War I on the side of Imperial Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

In August 1914, Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, the political head of the British Navy, ordered the seizure of the Sultan Osman I and the Reshadieh, two state-of-the-art new Dreadnought battleships being built for Turkey in British shipyards (The Turks had already paid four billion pounds sterling for them). Britain did not even need the two battleships. It had a wide margin of maritime superiority over the German High Seas Fleet. But the move was the political and psychological equivalent of telling Turkey today that the United States is not going to sell Ankara the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters it had promised.

Turkey had been a loyal and major British ally at least since the Ochakoff Incident of 1791.But after Churchill’s bungle popular outrage in Turkey was overwhelming. It decisively swung the delicate balance in Constantinople that led the ruling, secular Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) into Berlin’s orbit.

Turkey went to war, cutting off the vital Anglo-French maritime supply route through the Dardanelles Strait into the Black Sea and cutting off Imperial Russia. Toi open that waterway, Churchill pushed the catastrophic and utterly bungled Gallipoli campaign in 1915. It cost the British, Irish, Australians and New Zealanders who fought there more than 140,000 casualties including 44,000 dead. The Turks lost 86,000 dead.

Churchill was sacked from the British government for his bungling. He then devoted the heart of his enormous six-volume postwar memoir “The World Crisis” to trying to pass the blame for his failures off on everybody else.

Today, Washington’s reckless and abusive policies towards Turkey are repeating the catastrophic bungles that Churchill inflicted more than a century ago.

An increasing number of Turks no longer trust NATO: Instead, they fear it. The only other obvious international security body for Turkey to seek protection with is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which in June pulled off the extraordinary coup of expanding to include India and Pakistan at the same time.

As Arkady Savitsky has noted in this journal, Turkey is already a dialogue partner with the SCO. It is also considering a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). President Erdogan has also made clear he would like Turkey to join the BRICS bloc which, like the SCO includes Russia, China and India.

If President Erdogan decides to leave NATO to join the SCO, and drops Brussels to replace it with Shanghai, even Washington and London will have to sit up and take notice. Yet the logic of the policies and rhetoric being spewed out of the Western capitals can only drive Turkey to that outcome, seeking its own security and survival.

So what will The Sanctioned supergroup do?

 

August 20, 2018So what will The Sanctioned supergroup do?

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

Trump’s solo act can’t compete with the hard rock presidents from the electric east

Those were the days, during the Cold War 1960s and 1970s, when the earth was actually ruled by rock supergroups – from Cream and Led Zeppelin to Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends – and the post-truth geopolitical remix of the supergroup. Meet The Sanctioned;  a multinational band starring multi-instrumentalists Vladimir Putin (Russia), Xi Jinping (China), Hassan Rouhani (Iran) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey).

As the whole rock universe knows, The Sanctioned run the relentless risk of being outshined – in the form of multi-layered sanctions – by undisputed glitter solo act Donald Trump (US).

The two real virtuosos in the band relish playing in perfect synch. Putin may indulge only the occasional Jimmy Page solo (as in Caspian-launched missiles against Daesh in Syria); he’s more like Keith Emerson invoking the Russian classical composer Mussorgsky. Xi is fond of orchestral Pink Floyd-esque concept albums, in the New Silk Roads mould. Rouhani could be Jack Bruce in Cream – supplying those subtle moments of faultless musicianship. It’s Erdogan who’s irresistibly attracted to summon the back door man’s antics of Robert Plant.

As for Trump, he’s no Dylan – and certainly not Roger Waters; more like Ted Nugent with some Black Sabbath overtones.

So what will The Sanctioned come up next? A doozy like Deep Purple without Gillan and Blackmore or an epic like ELP’s Fanfare for the Common Man?

The Fanfare for the Common Man geoeconomic scenario reads like this.

Putin-Xi – as in the Russia-China strategic partnership – offer Erdogan membership of both the BRICS (as in BRICS Plus) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organizations (SCO). Erdogan, on the record, has already manifested interest in both.

Turkey pulls out of NATO. The Turkish military will squeal, but Erdogan, after the failed 2016 coup – of which he was alerted by Russian intelligence – now controls the military.

Beijing and Moscow offer an array of trade deals; Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already offered trade in their own currencies. Erdogan for his part said Turkey is ready to begin using local currencies in trade with Russia, China, Iran and the EU.

After Turkey restructures its US dollar debts, China buys up the Turkish lira off foreign exchange markets – an easy play for the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). Ankara is already planning to issue yuan-denominated bonds. China’s ICBC already announced a $3.6 billion loan for energy/transport.

In sharp contrast to the Washington Consensus, Erdogan very well knows that Turkey cannot “rewrite the crisis management playbook for emerging markets” by surrendering to IMF austerity. An answer would be to increasingly rely on the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Then most of the scenario – SCO, BRICS Plus, AIIB, trade bypassing the US dollar – is replayed with Iran, as in those days when Pink Floyd used to engage in full encores of Dark Side of the Moon.

A new sell-out album

The Sanctioned’s new album (in 180g vinyl plus all formats/platforms), titled Eurasian Integration, is destined for multi-platinum status and to fill multi-purpose arenas from Izmir and Hamadan to Chongqing and Vladivostok.

It features Iran as an even more crucial hub of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – in conjunction to the new connectivity drive between Russia and Iran signed at the landmark Caspian Sea Convention.

In a parallel track, the China-Kazakhstan-Iran connectivity corridor already features freight trains plying the route all the way to the Iranian Caspian port of Bandar-e Anzali.

Another key track in the new album revolves around the BRICS’s Contingent Reserve Agreement (CRA), decided at their latest summit; a mechanism to de-dollarize economies which will be expanded as the BRICS turn into BRICS Plus.

After signing an interim agreement three months ago, Iran is already on the way to engage, by the start of 2020, into a full free trade deal with the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). Turkey will follow.

As EU companies leave sanctioned Iran, Chinese and Russian companies go into overdrive. As the US Congress slaps a nyet on Turkey buying F-35 fighter jets because Ankara is buying the Russian S-400 air-defense system, Boeing and Airbus in Iran are bound to lose market share to Russian jets such as the MS-21 or the IL-96-400M.

And as Iran-Turkey trade gets a boost, Turkish Stream – the Russia-Turkey strategic energy partnership – is far from being derailed.

Erdogan knows very well how Turkey is the quintessential East-meets-West strategic connector across Eurasia. And he knows what’s he’s really “guilty” of: buying the S-400s, ditching the “Assad must go” obsession, advancing Turkish Stream and insisting Turkey will continue to buy Iranian oil.

So as he perfects his Robert Plant impersonation – “You need coolin’/ Baby I’m not foolin’/ I’m gonna send ya/ back to schoolin’” – Erdogan is doing the math on how a New Silk Roads partnership among equals, in tandem with a close relationship with the AIIB and the EAEU may be way more profitable than a toxic cocktail of oversized NATO, no EU and IMF neoliberal austerity.

That partly explains Ankara’s whirling dervish dance away from US T-bills, bonds and notes by over 50% since the end of 2017. While, in parallel, Moscow and Beijing (followed at a distance by New Delhi and even Ankara itself) keep piling up gold anticipating the extra bonanza of Eurasian Integration, the hit album.

A very handy thermometer of Erdogan’s popularity may be found in Fatih, a pious, working-class neighborhood on the European shore of Istanbul.

Fatih mirrors Erdogan’s immense popularity all across Anatolia. Whatever his notorious, incandescent illiberal traits, Erdogan’s development program is not only about more mosques and more malls. The AKP over the years did manage to set up a quite decent universal healthcare insurance system – including the upgrading of public hospitals – as well as a pension system.

Now it’s time to deliver again – nationally and globally.

Calling all Eurasian young dudes

Meanwhile, Russia will keep developing a very sophisticated strategy across the Black Sea.

In no time, Putin has already reshaped the Black Sea – geopolitically and geoeconomically. The graphic symbol is the sumptuous Kerch Strait bridge to Crimea – an engineering tour de force inaugurated only three months ago.

Putin’s multi-instrumental riffs are ubiquitous. Erdogan gets S-400s, nuclear power plants and Turkish Stream (which also benefits vast tracts of southern Europe). Rouhani and the Central Asians get a Caspian convention and the prospect of a succession of energy deals. Damascus and Tehran – with Ankara a little far behind – get to see the possible end of the tragic Syria war cycle.

As Erdogan progressively moves Turkey’s reserves to yuan – and gold – benefits can accrue from more interaction with the BRI/EAEU/SCO galaxy in everything from electronics and nuclear technology to advanced weapons. And further connectivity may entail, for instance, Chinese goods transiting through Russian ports in Krasnodar and Crimea to Turkish ports in the Black Sea.

The Black Sea, for all practical purposes, is being configured as a Russo-Turk Mediterranean Sea – much as the Caspian is now configured as a Central Asian, non-NATO, Mediterranean Sea.

In parallel, The Sanctioned is also enjoying a guest performing appearance by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, instrumental in the offer of a $15 billion loan to Ankara. And this after Qatar restored good relations with Iran, including energy collaboration on the shared South Pars/North Dome – the largest gas field on the planet.

It’s crucial to consider that in the event the Qatar-Turkey Combined Joint Force Command may “disappear”, for some reason, the path would be open for a nasty, joint Saudi/UAE invasion of Doha, with   major consequences; the double confiscation of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund and North Dome – to the benefit of salvaging the sinking “Vision 2030” House of Saud.

What’s certain for now is that The Sanctioned face a real threat of having Eurasian Integration – the hit album – dispatched to the bottom of the charts, with the corollary of having new BRI and EAEU connectivity routes to Europe via crossroads Turkey partially blocked or at least seriously disturbed.

As the (real) David Bowie wrote it, for supergroup Mott the Hopple: All the (Eurasian) young dudes, carry the news.

“Who Lost Turkey?” – The U.S.-Kurdish Project In Syria Endangers NATO

By Moon Of Alabama

January 25, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –  Back in the 1950s the U.S. political sphere was poisoned by a groundless smear campaign against country-experts in the State Department  who were identified as those who lost China. If the Trump administration proceeds on its current course we may soon see similar accusations. The accused, those “who lost Turkey”, will again be the ones who warned of the possibility and not the real culprits.

The Turkish attack on the Kurd held Syrian canton of Afrin (Efrin) is not progressing as fast the Turks had hoped. The infantry component of the operation are Turkish proxy forces in Syria. These Chechen, Uighur, Turkestanis and other Takfiris are cannon fodder in the operations, not a well integrated component of an army.


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The Kurds know their local mountainous territory, are well armed and willing to fight. They can holdout for a while. Politically they will still be the ones who will lose the most in the conflict. The above linked piece noted that the Kurdish YPG/PKK leaders had rejected the Syrian and Russiangovernment offer that would have prevented the Turkish attack. The offer still exists but the conditions will become less favorable as longer the Kurds hold out.

Elijah Magnier just published more details on that offer and analyses the strategic situation:

[T]he US is observing the performance of the Turkish army with interest and wishes to see Erdogan humiliated, broken on the rocks of the Kurds in Afrin. Indeed, the US has delivered anti-tank weapons, already effectively used by the Kurds against the Turkish army (many tanks damaged during the attack on Afrin).

The US can’t understand that Ankara is not ready to see a rich and well-armed Kurdish “state” on its borders, disregarding the US’s tempting and generous offer [of a “safe zone” (see below)]. Actually, the US is offering a territory that not only does not belong to the Americans but is actually occupied by the US forces in north east Syria.

The US is one of the losers in this battle, regardless of the results, because Turkey will continue its operations until the defeat of the Kurds, either by military means or if Afrin returns to [Syrian] central government’s control.

I am not convinced that the above prediction will hold. There is still a possibility that Turkey might again change sides and (again) join the U.S. “regime change” efforts in Syria.

This depends on the winner of a conflict within the U.S. military where opposing forces are pulling for the Turkish and respectively the Kurdish side. Should the pro-Turkish side win, Erdogan can be offered a new deal and might be induced to again change sides from his current pro-Russian (pro-Damascus?) position back towards a pro-NATO/U.S. stand. (There is also a tiny chance that Turkey already has a secret back deal with the U.S. administration but I see no indication for it.)

From the very beginning of the conflict in Syria Turkey worked with the U.S., NATO, the Saudis and Qataris, against the Syrian government. It supported the Saudi and U.S. position of “regime change”, let ten-thousands of terrorists pass through its borders and delivered ten-thousands of tons of weapons and supplies to the forces fighting the Syrian government. Finally Russia entered the picture, defeated the Takfiris, put harsh pressure on Turkey and offered new economic deals. At the same time the U.S. attempted “regime change” in Ankara and allied with the Kurdish YPG/PKK in Syria and Iraq.

Erdogan, though unwillingly, changed sides and now works with Russia (and Syria) to bring the war to a conclusion. “Regime change” in Damascus has become an unlikely scenario he no longer supports. At the same time he is still willing to invest money and forces to gain something for his failed investment in the war. Taking Afrin to later incorporate it into an enlarged Turkey is one of those plays. He is clearly still aiming for additional territory. The U.S. now offered him some in form of a safe zone in Syria:


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Ilhan tanir @WashingtonPoint – 7:50 PM – 24 Jan 2018
This map being discussed all day on Turkish TVs as Turkey’s planned security zone/safe zone on Syria border.
Reportedly OK’ed by Sec.Tillerson though nobody on the American side confirms it

If the U.S. indeed made the “safe zone” offer – Tillerson did not deny today to have made such – it found a rather cold response:

Washington’s proposal for the creation of a “security zone” along Turkey’s 911-kilometer border with Syria has received a cool reply from Ankara, with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu urging the U.S. to first take steps to “re-build trust” between the two allies before discussing such military matters.

“The U.S. needs to stop delivering weapons to the YPG. It needs to push the YPG to withdrawing from Manbij if it wants to re-build confidence with Turkey … We have to see all these commitments fulfilled,” Çavuşoğlu said.

It is the U.S. supported founding of a Kurdish state-let in north-east Syria which is Ankara’s most serious security concern. No “safe zone” will help if the U.S. military continues to build and supplies a Kurdish “border force” that can penetrate Turkey’s south-eastern underbelly – now, tomorrow or in ten years. Unless the U.S. stops that project and retreats from the area Turkey will continue to push against it – if necessary by force.

The Turkish people support the fight against U.S. supported Kurds and are willing to pay the price for it. The Kurdish YPK leaders are delusional in their demands and overestimate their own political position. The U.S. can not have both, Turkey as an ally and a Kurdish proxy state-let. It has to decide.

Yesterday President Trump and Erdogan had a phonecall to discuss the situation. It did not help. The White House readout for the call includes some noticeably harsh language:

President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. President Trump relayed concerns that escalating violence in Afrin, Syria, risks undercutting our shared goals in Syria. He urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties and increases to displaced persons and refugees.

President Trump also expressed concern about destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey, and about United States citizens and local employees detained under theprolonged State of Emergency in Turkey.

The Turkish side denied that such language and these issues were part of the talk:

The White House’s written statement differs from the truth discussed between the Turkish and U.S. Presidents’ phone conversation on Wednesday, according to Anadolu Agency sources.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, the sources said President Donald Trump did not discuss any concerns ‘of escalating violence in Afrin’ during the phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The sources also stressed that President Trump did not use the words “destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey.”

They also said that there was no discussion of the ongoing state of emergency in Turkey.

It is very unusual to dispute the content of such readouts. Is Turkey obfuscating here or did someone in the White House put harsher language into the readout than was actually used in the call?

Trump had in general good relations with Erdogan and the readout language does not sound like him. The Turkish side also added this:

“In an answer to President Erdogan’s highlighting request from Washington to stop providing arms to the PYD/YPG terrorists in Syria within the scope of fighting against terrorism, President Trump said the United States are no longer providing PYD/YPG with weapons,” the sources added.

Already in November the Turks had said that Trump promised to stop the delivery of weapons to the YPG forces in east-Syria. But the White House was evasive on the issue and the U.S. military Central Command has acted contrary to that promise. If the Magnier report is correct CentCom also delivered anti-tank missiles to the Kurds in Afrin.

I have for some time presumed that are different opinions in the White House and especially in the Pentagon with regards to Turkey and the Kurds. The realist-hawks and NATO proponents are on Turkey’s side while the neoconservative “liberal” forces are on the Kurdish side. Yesterday the NYT noted the split:

The White House sent out a message aimed at mollifying Turkey’s president on Tuesday, suggesting that the United States was easing off its support for the Syrian Kurds.

That message was quickly contradicted by the Pentagon, which said it would continue to stand by the Kurds, even as Turkey invaded their stronghold in northwestern Syria.

The former director of the Council of Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, takes the pro-Kurdish position. Linking to the NYT piece above he says:

Richard N. Haass‏ @RichardHaass – 12:00 PM – 24 Jan 2018
Pentagon right; US should be working w Kurds in Syria for moral and strategic reasons alike. A break with Erdogan’s Turkey is inevitable, if not over this than over other differences. Time for DoD to come up with plan to substitute for Incirlik access.

It is not only the Incirlik air-base which is irreplaceable for NATO’s southern command. Turkey also controls the access to the Black Sea and has thereby a say over potential NATO operations against southern Russia and Crimea.

In a Bloomberg oped former U.S. Supreme Commander of NATO Stavridis takes a pro-Turkish position:

At the moment, Washington is trying to sail a narrow passage between supporting its erstwhile Kurdish combat partners and not blowing up the relationship with Turkey. But the room for maneuver is closing and a choice is looming. What should the U.S. do?

[W]e simply cannot afford to “lose” Turkey.

The Turks have a strong and diversified economy, a young and growing population, and have stood alongside the U.S. for much of the post-World War II era. Their importance both regionally and globally will continue to grow in the 21st century. Yes, U.S. officials can and should criticize Turkish actions where they violate international law or human rights — but in private, at least at this stage of the situation.

[T]he overall U.S. strategic interest lies in keeping Turkey aligned with NATO and the trans-Atlantic community. It would be a geopolitical mistake of near-epic proportions to see Turkey drift out of that orbit and end up aligned with Russia and Iran in the Levant.

It is unclear where in the Trump administration the split between pro-Kurdish and pro-Turkish positions actually is. (Or is it all around chaos?) On which side, for example, is Secretary of Defense Mattis and on which side is the National Security Advisor McMaster? This clip from the NYT piece above lets one assume that they pull in opposite directions:

For its part, the White House disavowed a plan by the American military to create a Kurdish-led force in northeastern Syria, which Turkey has vehemently opposed.

That plan, a senior administration official said Tuesday, originated with midlevel military planners in the field, and was never seriously debated, or even formally introduced, at senior levels in the White House or the National Security Council.

But the Pentagon issued its own statement on Tuesday standing by its decision to create the Kurdish-led force.

Discussing NATO relations with Turkey, several western “experts” agree that the current situation damages NATO but not one of them expects that Turkey will leave the alliance:

NATO needs Turkey and cannot afford to push it further into Russia’s arms. Erdoğan also needs NATO. He has overplayed his hand in Syria and in his struggle with the Kurds, and is isolated in the EU. His relationship with Moscow is problematic and he does not want to face Putin without NATO membership. This is an alliance that remains based on real strategic interests and that will continue long after Erdoğan is gone.

Maybe. I am not so sure.

The last thing the EU now wants or needs is Turkish membership. The U.S. instigated a coup against Erdogan and its Kurdish project is threatening Turkey’s strategic interest. Trump’s continued push to take Jerusalem “off the table” in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is an insult to all Muslims. An increasingly Islamic Turkey will not accept that. Turkey’s natural gas supplies depend on Russia and Iran. Russia builds nuclear power stations in Turkey and will deliver air defense systems that can defend against U.S. attacks. Russia, Iran, Central Asia and beyond that China are markets for Turkish products.

Putting myself into Erdogan’s shoes I would be very tempted to leave NATO and join an alliance with Russia, China and Iran. Unless the U.S. changes course and stops fooling around with the Kurds Turkey will continue to disentangle itself from the old alliance. The Turkish army has so far prevented a break with NATO but even staunch anti-Erdogan officers are now on his side.

If the U.S. makes a real offer to Turkey and adopts a new position it might be able to turn Turkey around and to put it back into its NATO fold. Is the Trump White House capable of defying the pro-Israel/pro-Kurdish voices and move back to that realist view?

If it can not do that the real answer to the question “Who lost Turkey?” will be obvious.

This article was originally published by Moon Of Alabama 

– See Also –

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