أكراد سورية أمام المفترق

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أكراد سورية أمام المفترق

ناصر قنديل

– يواجه حزب الاتحاد الديمقراطي الكردي أصعب لحظات سياسية منذ حضوره في الحرب السورية، وبعدما نجح في حجز مقعد قوة حاضرة ولاعب رئيسي، بمعزل عن قبول أو رفض أو الاعتراض على السياسات التي انتهجها، لكن هذا الحزب المتأثر بأفكار وتوجّهات حزب العمال الكردستاني الذي يقاتل في تركيا دفاعاً عن حقوق الأكراد، التقط المزاج العام لأكراد سورية بالنظر لتركيا كعدو وقوة احتلال، ورفض الدخول في صفقة تضمن له دور اللاعب الثانوي في الميليشيات التي تديرها تركيا والسعودية، وتحمّل بسبب ذلك إقصاءه عن صيغ التفاوض في جنيف، من دون أن يخسر مكانه في الميدان وينجح باستدراج عروض الدول الكبرى، في موسكو وواشنطن خصوصاً، وصولاً للتحوّل إلى الذراع الرئيسية للأميركيين في الحرب السورية، ومنحهم امتيازات أمنية وعسكرية استراتيجية في مناطق سيطرته.

– إذا كان بعض قيادات أكراد سورية قد اشترى الوهم ذاته الذي اشترته قيادات أكراد العراق من الأميركيين بدعم نشوء كيان كردي مستقل، فإنّ مرور أربعة عشر عاماً على الاحتلال الأميركي للعراق دون تنفيذ هذا الوعد تقول لهؤلاء السوريين المراهنين على الموقف الأميركي لقيام كيان كردي ماذا ينتظرهم، لكن بعض القيادات الكردية الأخرى، وهي الأغلبية باتت على يقين، بعد تجاربها مع الأميركيين، بأنّ وعود قيام كيان مستقلّ أو فدرالية، لا يمكن صرفها في الواقع مع وجود معادلات سورية داخلية وإقليمية ودولية معقدة لا تتيح استسهال التفكير بهذه الخيارات بمجرد الحصول على كلام أميركي أثبتت الأيام أنه عرضة للتبدّل مراراً. وتكتفي هذه القيادات باعتبار العائد المجزي لهذه العلاقة مع واشنطن هو منع الاستفراد التركي بأكراد سورية، وجعلهم هدفاً لحربهم في سورية، بعد فشلهم في تحقيق الهدف الأصلي وهو السيطرة على سورية، وتسليمهم بخطوط حمراء يرسمها الدور الروسي، ليصير النزاع التركي الكردي قائماً على كيف سترسم واشنطن خطها الأحمر، وهل سيكون الأكراد من ضمنه؟

– قدّم الأكراد للأميركيين كلّ ما يريدونه، فمنحوهم الجغرافيا التي يسيطرون عليها، ومعها شرعية شعبية لتدخّلهم، وتتيح لهم الادّعاء بأنهم ليسوا قوة احتلال، وفقاً للخطاب السوري الرسمي الذي يرفع عنهم غطاء الشرعية القانونية، وقاتلت الميليشيات الكردية ضدّ الجيش السوري بطلب أميركي، لإبعاده عن منطقة الحسكة، واشترى الأكراد غضب شرائح سورية تتشارك معهم وستتشارك على مرّ الأزمنة المقبلة مستقبل عيش واحد، فاضطروا لتبلية مقتضيات توسع الجغرافيا العسكرية الأميركية أن يوسّعوا جغرافيتهم السياسية عنوة، بضمّ مناطق ليس فيها أكراد لنطاق ما أسموه بالإدارة الذاتية، وحربهم على الإرهاب التي كانت ضدّ داعش والنصرة في مناطق حضورهم عدّلوا وجهتها لتنسجم مع الأجندة الأميركية، فحصرت بداعش، وصارت تشمل كلّ الحرب على داعش بما في ذلك في المناطق التي سيدخلونها كقوة غريبة وربما قوة احتلال كتصدّرهم عنوان الحرب في الرقة. ووصل قادة الأكراد لقبول تنازلات طلبها الأميركيون عن علاقتهم بحزب العمال الكردستاني تقرّباً للأتراك فجاءهم الجواب بفتح الحرب التركية عليهم تحت العيون الأميركية.

– يقف الأكراد في سورية اليوم أمام نموذجين مختلفين في معاملتهم، النموذج الأميركي الذي لا يقدّم لهم الحماية عندما تدقّ ساعة المواجهة كما حدث في منبج وقبلها جرابلس ويحدث اليوم، مقابل أنهم أعطوه كلّ شيء، ونموذج الدولة السورية التي نكّلوا بها وأساؤوا إليها فتسامحهم، وتمدّ اليد إليهم، كما حدث في منبج ويحدث اليوم بفتح طريق القامشلي إلى دمشق. ومع توسّع المعارك التركية ضدّ الأكراد ينطرح عليهم الوقوف على مفصل طرق، قبول التحوّل مجرد أداة أميركية لتقرّر لعبة المصالح الدولية والإقليمية مصيرهم، أو التطلع لدور وطني جوهره ومحوره التمسك بالهوية السورية والاحتماء بخطاب وطني سوري، ينطلق من اعتبار الدولة السورية حضناً لجميع أبنائها، ومرجعاً لهم، واعتبار دور الجيش السوري سقفاً لكلّ معادلة أمنية وعسكرية، ولا أحد يطلب اليوم من حزب الاتحاد الديمقراطي حرباً هوائية على الأميركيين، بل الاقتناع بخطورة التحوّل أداة أميركية، والاكتفاء بالعودة خطوة إلى الوراء تقول: لا حرب في الرقة بلا ردع شامل للعدوان التركي.

 

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Turkey’s Erdogan Wants Northern Syria and Iraq Annexed

Global Research, March 13, 2017
Erdogan-turquie

His aim is longstanding. In December 2015, heavily armed Turkish forces invaded Iraq, an act of aggression, occupying territory near Mosul, on the phony pretext of combating ISIS he supports.

His real aim is seizing the area’s valued oil fields, a prize he’s long coveted.

Last August, he invaded northern Syria, his aggression code-named Operation Euphrates Shield – aiding anti-government forces, combating Kurdish YPG fighters, not terrorists.

His forces seized Jarabulus in northwestern Syria straightaway, continued advancing east.

Last November, he said his goal is gaining control over “5,000 square km (1,900 square miles) including al-Bab, Manbij and Tell Rifaat, creating a national structure and army for this expanded area to provide solid control and to allow the refugees return to these areas jointly with EU, and after these, focusing on IS’s de facto capital Raqqa and” YPG Kurdish fighters.

In late November, he said he launched cross-border military operations “to end the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” Days later, he retracted his statement. He can’t undo what he said.

America and other rogue states support his aggression, the Pentagon saying it supports YPG fighters. Obama said Turkey is a “strong NATO ally.” He lied claiming both countries are working to defeat ISIS.

US-installed NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg “welcome(d) Turkey’s increasing efforts to fight against ISIL. Turkey has a right to defend itself,” he said, ignoring his naked aggression in two regional countries, along with his tyrannical homeland rule.

Assad calls Erdogan an “invader.” Russia expressed concern. Putin said his actions didn’t surprise. “Intelligence exists so we face few unexpected developments. We understood what was going on and where things would lead,” he explained.

Erdogan lied, calling his action an act of self-defense. “Our borders must be cleansed of Daesh,” he said – failing to explain he supports the terrorist group and others operating regionally.

Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon made similar comments, supporting aggression instead of denouncing  it.

Intervening on the territory of other nations is naked aggression, longstanding US policy, together with NATO and other rogue allies.

Senior Kurdish Democratic Union party member Ewwas Eli said Erdogan seeks control over Syrian sovereign territory. That’s what his cross-border incursion is all about.

His goals are political, using military means to achieve them. He wants a Kurdish federation in northern Syria prevented.

So he equates the PYD and its People’s Protection Units (YPG) with PKK fighters. Ankara calls them terrorists – a pretext to wage war on Kurds in three countries, besides saying he wants to “ensur(e) the safety of life and property of our citizens who live along our southern borders.”

The best way is by waging peace, not war.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Syrian War Report – March 3, 2017: US-backed Forces Surrender Wide Areas Near Manbij To Syrian Army

South Front


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The Syrian army, backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, liberated the ancient city of Palmyra, including the Palmyra Airport from ISIS on March 2. Syrian army servicemen have been examining the historic part of Palmyra with the aim of demining the city.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) primarily consisting of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) will hand over wide areas west of the northern Syrian town of Manbij to the Syrian army, according to a statement released by the so-called Manbij Miltiary Council. The SDF wants to use Syrian army troops as a buffer against Turkish-backed militant groups in northern Syria and refers that this decision is made after talks with “Russia”, aiming to use the Russian and Syrian military and diplomatic capabilities to defend itself from Turkey.

Just in August 2016, Talal Silo, a spokesman for the SDF, argued that the US is the only SDF partner and the group was not going coordinate anti-ISIS efforts or even negotiate with any other side without a signal from the Americans. It seems the SDF/YPG dramatically changed its attitude in March 2017 after it had became clear that photos of few US Special Forces troops were not enough to prevent Turkey from aiming to seize Manbij and Tell Rifat.

Turkey sees the YPG as just a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with which Turkey has been at war almost continuously since 1984. In turn, the PKK seeks to establish an independent Kurdish state in southern Turkey. There are still no official reports which areas the Syrian army will control in the Manbij countryside. However, there are two options:

  1. The Syrian army enters villages west of Manbij. In this case, Turkey-led forces will be able to attack Manbij only from the direction of Jarabulus if they want to avoid confrontation with the Russian-Syrian-Iranian alliance.
  2. Or the Syrian army enters villages west and north of Manbi, preventing possible Turkish military operations in both directions.

In any case, one problem will remain. Ankara-led forces will still be able to attack the YPG/SDF in Tell Rifat. Last months, there were some Russian-mediated negotiations between the government and the YPG in the area, but YPG sources were fast to deny that any agreement had been reached.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army’s Tiger Forces have liberated Alisah, Um Al-Amad, Barlin, Abu Tawil, Rahmaniya, Qaziqli and some nearby points from ISIS in the province.

 

Syrian War Report – March 2, 2017: Syrian Army Is On Verge Of Liberation Of Palmyra

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Voiceover by Harold Hoover

On March 1, Syrian government forces made significant gains against ISIS terrorists in the area of Palmyra, seizing the Palmyra Triangle, Qatari Villa, Aqueduct, and a number of hills: Jabal Muhtar, Jabal Qassoun, and Jabal al-Asafir.

Government troops also engaged ISIS units in the Palmyra Castle and took control of it. The rapid advances of the Syrian army and its allies were actively backed by the Russian Aerospace Forces. If the operation continues with the same speed, Palmyra will be soon liberated from ISIS terrorists.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), consisting mostly of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have seized over 60 villages and killed 172 ISIS members in eastern Syria, ARANews reported citing a spokesman for the SDF.

The SDF is now developing an offensive against ISIS in a wide area east of Raqqah. The goal of the operation is to isolate the ISIS stronghold from the eastern flank and to cut off the roads linking Raqqah, and Deir Ezzor. If this is done, this will put additional pressure on ISIS units storming Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzor.

Pro-Turkish militant groups have captured two more villages – Tall Turin and Al-Qarah – from SDF units west of Manbij.

Meanwhile, reports appear that Ankara-backed militant groups are also preparing to storm the key town of Tell Rifat controlled by the SDF.

Tensions between pro-Turkish forces and US-backed SDF units have been rapidly escalating since Turkey took control of al-Bab earlier this month.

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Syrian War Report – March 1, 2017: Tensions In Northern Syria

March 02, 2017

The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces (NDF), backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, have been successfully advancing on the ISIS-held city of Palmyra in the province of Homs. The army and the NDF have reached the Palmyra Triangle and partly outflanked Palmyra from the southern and northern directions. If government troops are able to secure the Palmyra Triangle, they will de-facto control the western entrance to the city.

Meanwhile, clashes are ongoing at the Al-Mahr gas field where the army and the NDF are also advancing against ISIS.

On February 28, a coalition of pro-Turkish militant groups known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched attacks against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), in the Syrian province of Aleppo. The FSA seized the village of Jubb al-Hamir from YPG force. FSA units also engaged Kurdish forces in Abu Hay but failed to capture this village.

While pro-Turksih forces were attacking the YPG, the Syrian army and Kurdish units regained more villages from ISIS terrorists west of Manbij. The YPG seized the villages of Jubb Abyah and Al Birah. The Syrian army liberated Halisiyah and Amudiyah.

Earlier this week, the Syrian army reached the areas controlled by the YPG in the province and opened a roude between the government-held city of Aleppo and the YPG-controlled town of Manbij. Now, the YPG-held areas in northwestern and northeastern Syria are de-facto linked up with the corridor through the government-held part of the Aleppo province. This will also allow increasing economic ties between the YPG and the Syrian government. The civilian movement through the corridor is free. However, military units of YPG forces are now not allowed to use the area.

After seizing Al-Bab, various Turkish sources, including Ilnur Cevik, adviser to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, announced that Ankara-led operation in Syria is now aiming YPG-held Manbij. Ankara describes the YPG as a branch of the PKK militant group operating in Turkey.Tthe Turkish ability to conduct a wide-scale operation against the YPG is under the question due to a low quality of troops of the FSA. But, the Turkish military has already started to deploy reinforcements to Syria.

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US-Backed Kurdish forces suffer heavy casualties in west Raqqa: ISIS media

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:10 P.M.) – The so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham” (ISIS) claimed on Wednesday that their forces killed a large number of “PKK” (Kurdistan Workers Party) fighters in the western countryside of Al-Raqqa.

ISIS posted pictures of dead fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces on Wednesday, claiming that their militants killed a large number of these Kurdish military personnel during their counter-attack.

While Al-Masdar cannot verify this claim by the Islamic State’s media wing, the terrorist group did post pictures to a JustPaste.It to show some of the SDF’s casualties that were killed by the Islamic State in west Al-Raqqa .

Despite the claims by the Islamic State, the Kurdish forces are rolling in the western countryside of Al-Raqqa, liberating several sites en route to their advance to the Tabaqa Military Airport.

According to the SDF’s official media wing, their forces now overlook the Tabaqa Military Airport, despite the heavy counter-attack by the Islamic State on Wednesday.

Joint Russian, Turkish Bombing Campaign in Syria Deepens NATO Crisis

Global Research, January 20, 2017
World Socialist Web Site 20 January 2017
Israel Claims Airstrikes on Damascus

The launching of coordinated air strikes by Russian and Turkish warplanes against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in northern Syria Wednesday has further exposed the crisis gripping Washington’s intervention in the war-ravaged Middle Eastern country, as well as the deepening contradictions plaguing the NATO alliance on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president.

The bombing campaign struck targets around the Syrian town of al-Bab, the scene of bloody fighting between Turkish troops and ISIS militants over the past several weeks.

From a political standpoint, the joint action by Russia and Turkey, a member of the NATO alliance for the past 65 years, is unprecedented. It stands in stark contradiction to the anti-Moscow campaign being waged by Washington and its principal NATO allies, which has seen the cutting off of military-to-military ties, the imposition of sanctions, and the increasingly provocative deployment of thousands of US and other NATO troops on Russia’s western borders. Just last week, the US sent 3,000 soldiers into Poland, backed by tanks and artillery, while hundreds more US Marines have been dispatched to Norway.

Turkey’s collaboration with Russia represents a further challenge to the US-led alliance under conditions in which Trump has severely rattled its European members with recent statements describing NATO as “obsolete” and charging its members with not “taking care of terror” and not “paying what they’re supposed to pay.”

The joint air attack was carried out under the terms of a memorandum reached between the Russian and Turkish militaries the previous week, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The document, signed on January 12, was designed to prevent “incidents” between Turkish and Russian warplanes, as well as to prepare “joint operations … in Syria to destroy international terrorist groups,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudoskoy said in a statement.

Russian-Turkish relations reached their nadir in November 2015 when Turkish fighter jets ambushed and shot down a Russian warplane carrying out airstrikes against Islamist fighters near the border between Turkey and Syria. The incident brought Turkey, and with it NATO, to the brink of war with nuclear-armed Russia. At that point, Turkey was serving as the main conduit for foreign fighters, weapons and other resources being poured into Syria to wage the US-orchestrated war for regime change, while Russia was intervening to prop up its principal Middle East ally, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In June of last year, Ankara sought to mend it relations with Moscow, which had retaliated for the shoot-down with economic sanctions. Relations grew closer in the wake of the abortive July 2016 military coup, which the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed on the US and its allies.

The turning point in bilateral relations between Turkey and Russia came at the end of last year, with the Russian-backed Syrian army’s routing of the Western-backed, Al Qaeda-linked militias in their last urban stronghold of eastern Aleppo. Turkey joined with Russia in brokering a withdrawal of the last “rebels” from the area and a nationwide ceasefire, which continues to prevail in much of the country.

Washington was pointedly excluded from the negotiations surrounding both Aleppo and the ceasefire. Only at the last moment has Moscow invited the incoming Trump administration—over the objection of Syria’s other major ally, Iran—to participate in talks aimed at reaching a political settlement over the six-year-old war that are to convene in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, next week.

The joint Russian-Turkish airstrikes around al-Bab came in the wake of bitter protests by the Turkish government over the refusal of the US military to provide similar air support for Ankara’s troops in the area. The Pentagon’s reluctance stemmed from the conflicting aims pursued by Turkey, which sent its troops into Syria last August in what the Erdogan government dubbed “Operation Euphrates Shield.”

Ostensibly directed against ISIS, Ankara’s primary target was really the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG). The Turkish government views these groups as affiliates of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), against which it has waged a protracted counterinsurgency campaign within Turkey itself. The offensive against ISIS-controlled al-Bab is aimed principally at preventing it from falling to the YPG and at blocking the linking up of eastern and western Kurdish enclaves along Turkey’s border.

For its part, Washington has utilized the YPG as its principal proxy ground force in the US attack on ISIS, sending in US special forces troops to arm, train and direct these Kurdish fighters.

The US refusal to back Turkish forces around al-Bab with airstrikes led to angry denunciations of Washington by the Turkish president, who charged that the US was supporting “terrorists” instead of its NATO ally. Ankara also began delaying approval for US flights out of the strategic Incirlik air base in southern Turkey and threatened to deny Washington and its allies access to the base altogether.

It was likely these threats, combined with the Turkish-Russian agreement to conduct joint strikes, that led the Pentagon to reverse its previous refusal to support Turkish forces and launch limited bombing runs around al-Bab as well this week.

This crowded and geostrategically tense battlefield is likely to grow even more dangerous following Trump’s ascension to the White House.

Trump has reportedly called for the Pentagon to come up with proposals to deal a decisive defeat to ISIS in Syria and Iraq within 90 days. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday that he would “present options to accelerate the campaign” against ISIS to retired general James Mattis, Trump’s incoming defense secretary.

Citing unnamed Pentagon officials, CNN reports that “The Defense Department is prepared to provide the new administration with military options to accelerate the war against ISIS in Syria that could send additional US troops into direct combat.”

“One option would put hundreds, if not thousands, of additional US troops into a combat role as part of the fight to take Raqqa,” the Islamic State’s Syrian “capital,” according to the television news network. “… in the coming months, the Pentagon could put several US brigade-sized combat teams on the ground, each team perhaps as many as 4,000 troops.”

Plans are also reportedly being drawn up to escalate military provocations against Iran, which Mattis, in testimony before the Senate, described as the “biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East,” adding that the Trump administration must “checkmate Iran’s goal for regional hegemony.”

There is every indication, Trump’s rhetoric about improving relations with Moscow notwithstanding, that US imperialism is preparing for another eruption of militarism in the Middle East that will pose an ever greater threat of spilling over into a new world war.

The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan

JANUARY 16, 2017

Photo by Marc Nozell | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Marc Nozell | CC BY 2.0

As Donald Trump prepares for his inauguration, he is struggling with opposition from the US media, intelligence agencies, government apparatus, parts of the Republican Party and a significant portion of the American population. Impressive obstacles appear to prevent him exercising arbitrary power.

He should take heart: much the same was said in Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2002 when he led his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to the first of four election victories. He faced an army that, through coups and the threat of coups, was the ultimate source of power in the country, and a secular establishment suspicious of his Islamist beliefs. But over the years he has outmanoeuvred or eliminated his enemies and – using a failed military coup on 15 July last year as an excuse – is suppressing and punishing all signs of dissent as “terrorism”.

As Trump enters the White House, the AKP and far right nationalist super majority in the Turkish parliament is this month stripping the assembly of its powers and transferring them wholesale to the presidency. President Erdogan will become an elected dictator able to dissolve parliament, veto legislation, decide the budget, appoint ministers who do not have to be MPs along with senior officials and heads of universities.

All power will be concentrated in Erdogan’s hands as the office of prime minister is abolished and the president, who can serve three five year terms, takes direct control of the intelligence services. He will appoint senior judges and the head of state institutions including the education system.

These far-reaching constitutional changes are reinforcing an ever-expanding purge begun after the failed military coup last year, in which more than 100,000 civil servants have been detained or dismissed. This purge is now reaching into every walk of life, from liberal journalists to businessmen who have seen $10bn in assets confiscated by the state.

The similarities between Erdogan and Trump are greater than they might seem, despite the very different political traditions in the US and Turkey.

The parallel lies primarily in the methods by which both men have gained power and seek to enhance it. They are populists and nationalists who demonise their enemies and see themselves as surrounded by conspiracies. Success does not sate their pursuit of more authority.

Hopes in the US that, after Trump’s election in November, he would shift from aggressive campaign mode to a more conciliatory approach have dissipated over the last two months. Towards the media his open hostility has escalated, as was shown by his abuse of reporters at his press conference this week.

Manic sensitivity to criticism is a hallmark of both men. In Trump’s case this is exemplified by his tweeted denunciation of critics such as Meryl Streep, while in Turkey 2,000 people have been charged with insulting the president. One man was tried for posting on Facebook three pictures of Gollum, the character in The Lord of the Rings, with similar facial features to pictures of Erdogan posted alongside. Of the 259 journalists in jail around the world, no less than 81 are in Turkey. American reporters may not yet face similar penalties, but they can expect intense pressure on the institutions for which they work to mute their criticisms.

Turkey and the US may have very different political landscapes, but there is a surprising degree of uniformity in the behaviour of Trump and Erdogan. The same is true of populist, nationalist, authoritarian leaders who are taking power in many different parts of the world from Hungary and Poland to the Philippines. Commentators have struggled for a phrase to describe this phenomenon, such as “the age of demagoguery”, but this refers only to one method – and that not the least important – by which such leaders gain power.

This type of political leadership is not new: the most compelling account of it was written 70 years ago in 1947 by the great British historian Sir Lewis Namier, in an essay reflecting on what he termed “Caesarian democracy”, which over the previous century had produced Napoleon III in France, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany. His list of the most important aspects of this toxic brand of politics is as relevant today as it was when first written, since all the items apply to Trump, Erdogan and their like.

Namier described “Caesarian democracy” as typified by “its direct appeal to the masses: demagogical slogans; disregard of legality despite a professed guardianship of law and order; contempt of political parties and the parliamentary system, of the educated classes and their values; blandishments and vague, contradictory promises to all and sundry; militarism; gigantic blatant displays and shady corruption. Panem et circenses [bread and circuses] once more – and at the end of the road, disaster.”

Disaster comes in different forms. One disability of elected dictators or strongmen is that, impelled by an exaggerated idea of their own capacity, they undertake foreign military adventures beyond their country’s strength. As an isolationist Trump might steer clear of such quagmires, but most of his senior security appointments show a far more aggressive and interventionist streak.

A strength of President Obama was that he had a realistic sense of what was attainable by the US in the Middle East without starting unwinnable wars as President George W Bush did in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the presidential election campaign, Trump showed signs of grasping – as Hillary Clinton did not – that Americans do not want to fight another ground war in the Middle East or anywhere else. But this naturally limits US influence in the world and will be at odds with Trump’s slogan about “making America great again.”

The disaster that Namier predicted was the natural end of elected dictators has already begun to happen in Turkey. The Turkish leader may have succeeded in monopolising power at home, but at the price of provoking crises and deepening divisions within Turkish society. The country is embroiled in the war in Syria, thanks to Erdogan’s ill-judged intervention there since 2011. This led to the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) establishing a de facto state in northern Syria and Isis doing the same in Syria and Iraq. At home, Erdogan restarted the war with the Turkish Kurds for electoral reasons in 2015 and the conflict is now more intractable than ever.

Every few weeks in Turkey there is another terrorist attack which is usually the work of Isis or a faction of the PKK – although the government sometimes blames atrocities on the followers of Fethullah Gulen, who are alleged to have carried out the attempted military coup last July. In addition to this, there is an escalating financial crisis, which has seen the Turkish lira lose 12 per cent of its value over the last two weeks. Foreign and domestic investment is drying up as investors become increasingly convinced that Turkey has become chronically unstable.

Erdogan and Trump have a further point in common: both have an unquenchable appetite for power and achieve it by exploiting and exacerbating divisions within their own countries.

They declare they will make their countries great again, but in practise make them weaker.

They are forever sawing through the branch on which they – and everybody else – are sitting.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

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