Posts Tagged ‘Ankara’

By Pepe Escobar

So Turkish President, a.k.a. Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan is about to make a high-profile visit to Tehran – the date has not yet been set – to essentially kick start the ATM (Ankara-Tehran-Moscow) coalition in Syria.

Anyone as much as hinting at such a massive geopolitical tectonic shift a few weeks ago would be branded a madman. So how did the impossible happen?

A major strategic game-changer – Russia using an airfield in Iran to send bombers against jihadis in Syria – had already taken place, with its aftermath spectacularly misreported by the usual, clueless US corporate media suspects.

Then, there’s what Turkey’s Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, said last Saturday in Istanbul: “The most important priority for us is to stop the bloodshed [in Syria] as soon as possible.” The rest are irrelevant “details.”

Yildirim added Ankara now agrees with Moscow that Bashar al-Assad “could” – and that’s the operative word – stay in power during a political transition (although that’s still highly debatable). Ankara’s drive to normalize relations with Moscow had an ‘important share’ in this ‘policy shift’.

The ‘policy shift’ is a direct consequence of the failed military coup in Turkey. Russian cyber-surveillance aces – in action 24/7 after the downing of the Su-24 last November – reportedly informed Turkish intelligence a few hours before the fact. NATO, as the record shows, was mum.

Even minimalist optics suggests ‘Sultan’ Erdogan was extremely upset that Washington was not exactly displeased with the coup. He knows how vast swathes of the Beltway despise him – blaming him for not being serious in the fight against ISIS and for bombing the YPG Kurds – Pentagon allies – in Syria. The record does show Erdogan has mostly ignored ISIS – allowing non-stop free border crossing for ISIS goons as well as letting Turkish business interests (if not his own family) profit from ISIS’ stolen Syrian oil.

Compared to Washington’s attitude Moscow, on the other hand, warning Erdogan about serious, concrete facts on the ground in the nick of time. And for Erdogan, that was highly personal; the putschists reportedly sent a commando to kill him when he was still in Marmaris.

Fast forward to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif’s surprise visit two weeks ago to Ankara. Zarif and his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu did discuss serious options by which the budding ATM coalition could come up with a viable exit strategy in Syria. One week later Cavusoglu went to Tehran and talked again to Zarif for five hours.

It’s an uphill battle – but doable. Tehran knows very well IRGC officers as well as Hezbollah, Iraqi and Afghan fighters were killed in the Syrian war theater, and that shall not be in vain. Ankara for its part knows it cannot afford to remain forever trapped in an ideological dead end.

BREAKING: Turkish tanks cross Syrian border in military op to retake city of Jarablus from ISIS https://t.co/Hz1GBbWjNB

— RT (@RT_com) August 24, 2016

Rojava, where and for whom?

And then there’s the rub – the intractable Kurdish question. Iran, unlike Turkey, does not face active Kurdish separatism. A minimum understanding between Ankara and Tehran – central to the current flurry of meetings, face-to-face and ‘secret’, via mediators, necessarily points toward a united, centralized Syria.

That implies no Rojava – a possible independent Kurdish mini-state alongside the Turkish border, part of a not so hidden Washington/Tel Aviv balkanization agenda. Actually what is now in effect official Pentagon policy contains a mob element of Ash “Empire of Whining” Carter’s revenge on Sultan Erdogan; payback because Erdogan did not do enough to smash ISIS.

And that brings us to the current Turkish offensive – for all practical purposes invasion – of Jarabulus. That’s the last fort – as in the last town that allows ISIS back and forth from southern Turkey to Raqqa in terms of smuggling goons and weapons.

Ankara would never allow the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) take Jarabulus. After all, the SDF – fully supported by the Pentagon – is led by the Kurdish nationalist YPG, which Ankara sees as a mere extension of PKK separatists.

Imagine Ankara’s terror at the YPG seizing Jarabulus. They would have crossed the ultimate Turkish red line; closing the gap between two Kurdish cantons across the border and for all practical purposes giving birth to the Rojava Kurdish mini-state.

Yet even if for Ankara an independent Rojava remains the supreme red line, there are declinations. A Rojava might come as quite handy if it became a dumping ground for Turkish PKK fighters. Arguably the PKK would not complain; after all they would have “their” state.

No one seems to be considering what Damascus thinks about all this.

And no one, for the moment, has a clue about the precise geography of a putative Rojava. If it includes, for instance, the recently liberated city of Manbij, that’s a major problem; Manbij is Arab, not Kurd. Kurds once again seem to be thrown into disarray – forced to choose whether they are allied with Washington or with Moscow.

Moscow, for its part, is crystal clear on ISIS. It is dead set on smashing for good, by all means necessary, any militants who consider Russia their enemy.

Erdogan certainly calculated that a rapprochement with Russia had to include being serious against ISIS. Extra incentive was added by the fact the bombing this past Sunday in Gaziantep was most certainly an ISIS job.

So Erdogan’s Syria master plan now boils down to – what else – another wilderness of mirrors. By crossing to Jarabulus, Ankara wants to establish a sort of remnants of the Free Syria Army (FSA)-controlled enclave. The Americans can’t blame him because this will be against ISIS – even though it’s mostly against Rojava. And the Russians won’t make a fuss because Moscow is in favor of Syria’s unity.

#ISIS ‘likely perpetrator’ of fatal #Gaziantep wedding attack – #Erdoganhttps://t.co/A5zYYYTCJipic.twitter.com/ij3RLQrUGb

— RT (@RT_com) August 21, 2016

Got ATM, will travel

Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, previously of “zero problems with our neighbors” then converted into “nothing but problems with our neighbors” is now history. Yildirim is a pragmatist. So the opening to Russia had to be inevitable.

And that leads us back to the – alleged – end of Team Obama’s obsession, “Assad must go”. He may stay, for a while. Yildirim has confirmed this is now Turkish official policy. Although that does not mean Ankara – and Washington for that matter – have given up on regime change. They will keep up the pressure – but tactics will change.

As it stands, the major fact on the ground is that ‘Sultan’ Erdogan seems to have had enough of the Americans (NATO of course included) and has pivoted to Russia.

Thus the sending of certified Keystone Cop Joe Biden to Ankara to plead “not guilty” on the military coup (forget it; most Turks don’t believe Washington) and to implore Erdogan not to pursue his massive purge (pure wishful thinking).

Considering Erdogan’s notoriously erratic record, his embrace of ATM may be just a gigantic illusion, or may open yet another unforeseen can of worms. But there are signs this may be for real.

Cavusoglu has already intimated that Ankara is aiming for a military/technological upgrade that is impossible under NATO’s watch. In his own words; “Unfortunately, we see countries in NATO are a bit hesitant when it comes to exchange of technology and joint investments.

Moscow has every reason to be quite cautious regarding myriad aspects of Erdogan’s pivoting. After all the Turkish military has been part of NATO for decades. As it stands, there’s no evidence Moscow and Ankara are looking at the same post-war Syria. But if we’re talking about the future of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), then it starts to get really interesting.

Turkey is already a “dialog partner” of the SCO, while Iran may become a full member as early as next year. Moscow is certainly envisioning Ankara as a valuable ally in the wider Sunni world, way beyond a role in repelling Salafi-jihadis in Syria. With Ankara and Tehran also talking serious business, this could eventually spill out into a serious debunking of the alleged apocalyptic Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian divide, which is the only Divide-and-Rule strategy spun and deployed non-stop by the US, Israel and the House of Saud.

It’s this enticing SCO-enhancing possibility that’s freaking Washington out big time. Russia pivoting East, Turkey pivoting East, Iran already there, and China now also actually involved in a stake in post-war Syria, that’s a geopolitical reconfiguration in Southwest Asia that once again spells out the inevitable; Eurasia integration.

Advertisements
German parliament member Rainer Arnold told reporters that Berlin must pull its weapons and soldiers from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, claiming that Ankara has been blocking official visits to the site.
On Thursday, the German armed forces, known as the Bundeswehr, began considering moving of its operations, along with its Tornado reconnaissance jets, to Jordan or Cyprus. Turkey currently hosts around 240 German soldiers and six warplanes at the Incirlik base. The jets are currently being used in the conflict against Daesh.
Diplomatic disputes between the two countries have resulted in German lawmakers being banned from entering Incirlik, allowing only technical and military teams. The issue first began in June, after the German parliament passed a resolution calling the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in the former Ottoman empire a “genocide.”
“As lawmakers who send soldiers to places, we must know where they are, how they are and be able to talk to the soldiers,” said Cem Özdemir, co-leader of Germany’s Green Party. “If that is not possible in Turkey, then the soldiers must come back to Germany.”
Reiner Arnold, defense spokesman for the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) said, “If we are not allowed to visit our soldiers, the continuation of the mandate is impossible.”
But Ankara has held its position despite pressure from Berlin.
“The German government must immediately find other bases for the German soldiers,” said Arnold. Pulling out of Turkey has been called a “nightmare,” as it would raise costs, present daunting logistical challenges and end sorties against Daesh for at least two months. German troops would also be separated from US forces, who are leading the mission.
The German Defense Ministry has not confirmed any plans to remove the tanker jets and Tornados from the Turkish base. One ministry spokesman was quoted as saying, “We would like to continue our mission from Turkey, but the Incirlik base is not the only option.

Amid the visit by Iran’s Foreign Minister to the Turkish capital Ankara, where he is set to meet an array of senior Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish political analyst Bayram Sinkaya tells Sputnik that the two countries are very likely to set up a platform to discuss the settlement of the Syrian conflict.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is on his official visit to Turkey on Friday to hold talks with high-ranking officials of the neighboring country, which is still reeling from a failed military coup.

Mohammad Javad Zarif comes at the invitation of his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and is set to hold talks with Cavusoglu and to be received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at his palace.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif address a joint press conference following their meeting, next to a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, at the Foreign Ministry in Ankara on August 12, 2016
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif address a joint press conference following their meeting, next to a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, at the Foreign Ministry in Ankara on August 12, 2016

Sputnik Turkiye sat down with Turkish political analyst Bayram Sinkaya to discuss the possible outcome of the talks.

“The parties to the talks will unilkely set a joint mechanism for the settltement of the Syrian conflict on such a high level, as it was done between Turkey and Russia,” Bayram Sinkaya, who is Faculty Member at Yildirim Beyazit University, told Sputnik.

However, he added, Turkey and Iran might open a dialogue within a so-called “consulatory mechanism” where both sides could exchange opinions on the key issues in the bilateral relations.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Istanbul, Turkey March 19, 2016
The expert stressed that it won’t be a Turkish-Iranian regional alliance, as both Ankara and Tehran don’t currently have the potential for such bilateral relations that could alter the balance of power in the region.

Nevertheless the two countries could set a platform for the comprehensive exchange of views and ideas regarding their bilateral relations and, in particular, regarding the settlement of the Syrian conflict.

The expert noted that the earlier phone conversation between Turkish President Erdogan and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani, where Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed his intention to more actively cooperate with Russia and Iran on finding the decisions to the regional problems, also might serve as a proof to his suggestions.

In his first foreign trip after the failed coup attempt in his country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in St. Petersburg with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the hopes of mending ties as Ankara is increasingly isolated from the West.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a public goal of reestablishing between the countries diplomatic and economic relations frayed in the wake of a Russian bomber aircraft shot down along the Turkish-Syrian border. At the time, Russia contended that its bomber was over Syrian airspace, while Turkey claimed the aircraft drifted some meters into Turkish airspace for all of 16 seconds.In the wake of the failed coup attempt against Erdogan, Turkey is now reconsidering that decision, as well as its friends and allies around the world. Erdogan has repeatedly accused the United States, alongside his leading Turkish ministers, of playing an active role in the failed overthrow attempt or sympathizing with coup plotters. The Turkish leader at one point referred to his former ally Fethullah Gulen, now the number one candidate for Erdogan’s ire, as only “a pawn.”

The United States, for its part, provided no warning to the Turkish regime, if it did indeed know prior to events that there was a threat of overthrow, and had been hesitant to provide an endorsement of the Erdogan regime, until it became clear that the government would survive the coup plot.

Turkey has similarly received a cold shoulder from European Union member states, who refuse to consider fast-tracking Ankara’s accession into the EU or providing visa-free travel to its citizens, citing what they view as the Erdogan regime’s human rights violations in the post-coup attempt purge that has led to the arrest of some 18,000 soldiers and judges and the firing of nearly 100,000 people for purportedly sympathizing with the coup from all sectors of civil service.

Scorned by those he once considered his closest foreign allies, facing growing hostility from neighboring states for supporting the US-led effort against Assad in Syria, and dealing with the difficult aftermath of conducting society after an attempted government overthrow, Erdogan now looks to Russian President Vladimir Putin as perhaps his last resort.

On Monday, Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down with security analyst Mark Sleboda to discuss the implications of the thaw in relations between Turkey and Russia, as well as what can be expected from a meeting between Putin and Erdogan.

“Well, it would be false to say that it is without significance, but I think that the press in both Turkey and Russia, and to some extent the West, are blowing this out of proportion,” said Sleboda. “I think that the best that can be expected, not only out of this meeting, because this is only the beginning of a process, would be the restoration of ties between the two countries — something approximate to what it was before last November, when Turkey shot down a Russian plane along the Syrian-Turkish border, but not quite to that same level.”

Does Putin have the upper-hand as Erdogan has become scorned by the West?

“It has to be remembered that for a long time now, and particularly in the beginning years of Erdogan’s regime in Turkey, Ankara has had a policy of no problems with their neighbors, peace abroad and peace at home was their mantra,” said Sleboda. “However, as a result of Turkey siding with the US, Saudi Arabia, and the EU in the attempt to overthrow the Syrian government with this proxy war, they have managed to alienate everyone, all of their neighbors, their partners in NATO, the EU, and Russia, who was an important economic partner.”

From right: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Constantine Palace

“Erdogan was already seeking to improve relations with Russia before the coup took place, as well as Israel and Egypt. But there can be no doubt that after the coup these plans were vastly accelerated.”

“I don’t think the West had a direct hand in orchestrating it, as Erdogan himself and members of his party have put out or insinuated, not very subtly, but I believe the West knew about it, and while it was going on they stood back and didn’t provide the assistance to a NATO member, as they have done in previous coups of Turkey,” said Sleboda. “They stood back to see what would happen before they very belatedly announced their support for Erdogan’s government.”

“Erdogan finds himself in a much tighter place now.”

In his first foreign trip after the failed coup attempt in his country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in St. Petersburg with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the hopes of mending ties as Ankara is increasingly isolated from the West.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a public goal of reestablishing between the countries diplomatic and economic relations frayed in the wake of a Russian bomber aircraft shot down along the Turkish-Syrian border. At the time, Russia contended that its bomber was over Syrian airspace, while Turkey claimed the aircraft drifted some meters into Turkish airspace for all of 16 seconds.In the wake of the failed coup attempt against Erdogan, Turkey is now reconsidering that decision, as well as its friends and allies around the world. Erdogan has repeatedly accused the United States, alongside his leading Turkish ministers, of playing an active role in the failed overthrow attempt or sympathizing with coup plotters. The Turkish leader at one point referred to his former ally Fethullah Gulen, now the number one candidate for Erdogan’s ire, as only “a pawn.”

The United States, for its part, provided no warning to the Turkish regime, if it did indeed know prior to events that there was a threat of overthrow, and had been hesitant to provide an endorsement of the Erdogan regime, until it became clear that the government would survive the coup plot.

Turkey has similarly received a cold shoulder from European Union member states, who refuse to consider fast-tracking Ankara’s accession into the EU or providing visa-free travel to its citizens, citing what they view as the Erdogan regime’s human rights violations in the post-coup attempt purge that has led to the arrest of some 18,000 soldiers and judges and the firing of nearly 100,000 people for purportedly sympathizing with the coup from all sectors of civil service.

Scorned by those he once considered his closest foreign allies, facing growing hostility from neighboring states for supporting the US-led effort against Assad in Syria, and dealing with the difficult aftermath of conducting society after an attempted government overthrow, Erdogan now looks to Russian President Vladimir Putin as perhaps his last resort.

On Monday, Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down with security analyst Mark Sleboda to discuss the implications of the thaw in relations between Turkey and Russia, as well as what can be expected from a meeting between Putin and Erdogan.

“Well, it would be false to say that it is without significance, but I think that the press in both Turkey and Russia, and to some extent the West, are blowing this out of proportion,” said Sleboda. “I think that the best that can be expected, not only out of this meeting, because this is only the beginning of a process, would be the restoration of ties between the two countries — something approximate to what it was before last November, when Turkey shot down a Russian plane along the Syrian-Turkish border, but not quite to that same level.”

Does Putin have the upper-hand as Erdogan has become scorned by the West?

“It has to be remembered that for a long time now, and particularly in the beginning years of Erdogan’s regime in Turkey, Ankara has had a policy of no problems with their neighbors, peace abroad and peace at home was their mantra,” said Sleboda. “However, as a result of Turkey siding with the US, Saudi Arabia, and the EU in the attempt to overthrow the Syrian government with this proxy war, they have managed to alienate everyone, all of their neighbors, their partners in NATO, the EU, and Russia, who was an important economic partner.”

“Erdogan was already seeking to improve relations with Russia before the coup took place, as well as Israel and Egypt. But there can be no doubt that after the coup these plans were vastly accelerated.”

“I don’t think the West had a direct hand in orchestrating it, as Erdogan himself and members of his party have put out or insinuated, not very subtly, but I believe the West knew about it, and while it was going on they stood back and didn’t provide the assistance to a NATO member, as they have done in previous coups of Turkey,” said Sleboda. “They stood back to see what would happen before they very belatedly announced their support for Erdogan’s government.”

“Erdogan finds himself in a much tighter place now.”

According to the Turkish trade minister, July’s failed coup attempt in Ankara that sought to remove President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cost the the country $100 million.

Customs and Commerce Minister Bulent Tufenkci was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as saying that the cost of the thwarted coup could rise, but that Turkey’s economy overall was secure.

Considering the destruction wreaked on the night of the coup, Tufencki said, “Warplanes, helicopters, weapons, bombs, buildings: 300 billion lira. Maybe I am underestimating a bit. It might go up even more.” The minister added that the economy should viewed from a medium-term perspective even if some investors are scared off in the short term.

“The putschists made Turkey seem like a third world country. (Investors) are not coming after the images revealed tanks were deployed on the streets, parliament was bombed.” Despite all this, Tufencki said that the country has its affairs under control.

“Had the coup taken place in another country, markets would not have opened earlier than in a week.” The coup occurred on July 15, a Friday, but Turkish financial markets were reopened that weekend.

“The interest rates didn’t rise extraordinarily. The stock exchange’s losses have been limited. There’s no need to revise growth or export figures. The nation has stood firm,” he explained.

In the wake of the coup, the government suspended annual leave of personnel, whom the government accusing of being in cahoots with Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric.

This move has negatively affected an already ailing tourism industry, suffering from travellers keeping their distance over fears of unrest and conflict with Russia. Tufencki said, “Because of a ban on annual leave, one million (tourism) reservations have been canceled.”

Turkey has seen a 40% drop in foreign visitors since June.

One of the biggest questions in the wake of the July 15 failed coup of the Erdogan regime in Turkey is whether American Hydrogen bombs stored at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base will remain safe or could they potentially fall in the hands of terrorist organizations.

The Incirlik Air Base, in southeast Turkey, houses NATO’s largest nuclear-weapons storage facility. In the wake of the coup, Turkish officials cut off power to the facility and local authorities denied movement on to or off of the base forcing the troops stationed at Incirlik to rely on backup generators.

US Air Force planes stationed there were prohibited from taking off or landing due to the heightened security level in the country and Turkish police rushed in to arrest the base commander, General Bekir Ercan Van, and nine other Turksih officers at Incirlik for allegedly supporting the coup.

In the days that followed, American flights have resumed albeit with significant delays from the base, but the base has become a point of contention for Turkish nationalists with over 5,000 nationalists charging towards the base on Thursday chanting “death to the US” and demanding that the “Yankees go home” or that the Incirlik base be shuttered immediately.

Then on Saturday, over 7,000 armed Turkish security forces joined by heavy vehicles surrounded the Incirlik Air Base restricting any access to or away from the facility. Turkey’s European Affairs Minister said that it was a “general security check” that yielded nothing, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that Adana police received a tip of a second coup attempt, and the limited Western media coverage spun a narrative that security forces were there to disperse protesters although video suggests the demonstrators arrived after, not before, the blockade.

Tension around the facility has been followed by unrest throughout the country with mass anti-American and anti-NATO protests and with a massive fire near another major base in Izmir with Turkey’s T24 news reporting that officials suspected “anti-US sabotage.”

The anger towards the United States with a particular focus on the Incirlik Air Base in the recent week is palpable,  but if Turkish officials are worried about the situation unravelling to the point where a loose nuke situation could unfold, they are hardly doing anything to calm the public.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that arch-nemesis Fethullah Gulen was “only a pawn” used by some more powerful mastermind which appears to be a direct reference to the United States in light of other recent comments. Earlier this week, Erdogan suggested that there was a “superior intelligence behind [the coup]” and told the US CENTCOM commander that the US is “revealing yourselves, you are giving yourselves away” by taking a critical stance on the post-coup attempt purge.

This has also been in keeping with accusations hurled by the country’s Labor Minister, Prime Minister, a leading pro-Erdogan Islamist newspaper, and most recently an Erdogan loyalist prosecutor who contends that the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) was supported by the FBI and the CIA.

Although recent security concerns at Incirlik Air Base prompted a major upgrade to the perimeter fence that surrounds the nuclear-weapons storage area, the base is only 60 miles (96km) from the Syrian border and a rash of terrorist incidents led the Pentagon to issue an “ordered departure” of all the family members of US troops at Incirlik who were asked to leave immediately.

The base holds anywhere between 50 and 90 B-61 hydrogen bombs each with a yield of 170 kilotons or more than ten times the destructive force of the Hiroshima bomb that killed 140,000 people in 1945 – weapons with the collective destructive capacity to exterminate millions even if improperly used resting at a base that was deemed prior to the failed coup to be too unsafe for US troops’ family members.

Security analysts estimate that within a matter of hours a terrorist with the right training could open up a nuclear weapon to disperse a radioactive cloud effectively converting a warhead into a dirty bomb and within a matter of minutes a prospective terrorist could breach the security perimeter while a well-organized group of militants would likely be successful in an attempt to besiege the facility if Turkish security forces decided against intervening.