Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Turkey Changes Sides.

They say that a week in politics is a long time, but for Turkey it was just a few short hours. First, scattered reports of soldiers blocking bridges. Then tanks at the Parliament. Fighter jets and helicopters appearing over the capital. Suddenly all hell was breaking loose on the streets - all covered by social media with main stream media playing catch up. Deathly silence from the US government for several hours. Ditto for Turkey's NATO allies. And then it all failed. Erdogan wasn't killed, and his call to supporters filled the streets. The mutineers were overwhelmed and the world went into damage control.

It was immediately evident to me, at least, that the attempted coup was a result of Erdogan's attempt at reconciliation with Moscow over Syria, and the role it had played there - including shooting down a Russian bomber. It was also clear to me that Erdogan was making such moves, because his allies in the West were supporting the Kurds wholeheartedly in Syria. Essentially the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and for Turkey there is no bigger national security threat than the Kurds as they attempt to form a Kurdistan partially out of southern Turkey.

It must have become evident to Erdogan that US special forces embedded with the Kurds, and a US air base being constructed in Kurdish controlled areas of northern Syria was as big a signal as you will ever need - the US was an ally of the Kurds. You would have to be completely blind not to see that, and apparently the Turkish President is not blind. So, after giving an ultimatum to his Western allies of "the Kurds or us". Erdogan made good and shuffled toward Russia - the one country that could still turn the tide against the Kurds. I wrote about this eventuality last year here .

As ISIS is destroyed in Iraq and Syria the focus becomes the end game. The Kurds already controlled the northern region of Iraq as an "autonomous Kurdish area". ISIS put a large dent in that with its capture of Mosul, but the Iraqi army is positioning itself to assault ISIS in Mosul, and it's only a matter of time before it recaptures it - months even. So Turkey has positioned itself now, with Syria and Russia, to turn on the Kurds even before the war with ISIS is finished. In fact, this week saw the first major clashes between the Syrian army and the Kurds. It also witnessed the US scramble fighter jets against Syrian bombers hitting the Kurds. This is a foreboding of things to come.

The Americans are in northern Syria for good. Their construction of an airbase there is a signal of that. By doing so, the US has signalled not just to Syria, but to Iraq and Turkey, that they intend to assist the Kurds in the creation of a Kurdistan that takes territory from all three countries. This naturally concerns countries like Russia and Iran that are allies of Syria, and becoming very close allies of Iraq. Now Turkey is leaving the American club and heading over to the Russian club to take care of its own interests. Hence the often repeated word Erdogan uttered during his speech to the Turkish nation after the failed coup: " independence". Turkey is not saying that it is leaving NATO yet, but in effect it has "quit and stayed on". It is negotiating to allow Russia to use the massive air force base currently used by the US just 65 miles from the Syrian border - an unprecedented move for a NATO ally, which spurred the US to remove its nuclear weapons from the base this week.

It is becoming ever apparent that the West has really blown its own strategic legs off in the Middle east over the last two decades. Russia, and Eurasia in general, are simply filling the spot left in many ways. The US did the heavy lifting for them by its policies in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and now Turkey. Speaking of Eurasia, China announced this week it will be massively upping its commitment to the Syrian conflict with "advisers", and supplies (read weapons, ammunition, etc). Rather than isolating Russia, and by ricochet Eurasia, in the Middle East, the US is now isolated in a land locked spot in between three countries - a hopeless position. The coup-de-grace is that it is also severely alienating itself from all these extremely important and strategically desirable nations.

As Turkey gravitates now toward Eurasia, slow at first but then very quickly, the West will only have itself to blame. It's hard to see it any other way. The fact that it is in northern Syria without the consent of the Syrian government would normally be considered in international law as an act of war. The fact that it is directly assisting the Kurds to overthrow the elected Syrian government is a blatant violation of internal law. You can't claim to be the world's superpower rooted in democracy and the rule of law, and then blatantly toss those principles to the side for expediency whenever the notion suits. It's that very attitude, that very "real polik" that has been the undoing of US foreign policy and influence over the last 20 or so years. Yet, it appears to be a hard habit to break.

In any case, Turkey is on the verge of becoming a new Iran. An Islamic state that asserts its independence through a distinctly national defence industry and close ties to powerful friends to its north and east. A realignment that will be all consuming. Gone will be the German political and economic influence in Turkey. A relationship that is being tested by Turkey as I write this post. It's the "you're either with us or against us moment" or, as Erdogan put it:

"The PYD (Kurds) has been getting closer with both the United States and Russia of late. We view the PYD as a terrorist group and we want all countries to consider the consequences of their cooperation."

Apparently the ever wise Putin did, and the ever self-righteous US administration did not. This monumental shift in geo-politics is far greater than most people on this side of the world are giving it credit for. Turkey isn't just " another hot-headed country in the Middle East" as our media seems to paint it. It has one of the largest standing armies in the world, but far more importantly than that, Turkey is the southern flank of Russia and the bridge between Europe and the Middle East. That should signal something to western governments. What has been lost, and what has been gained? A sobering thought indeed.

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