07/30/2015, 00.00
TURKEY – SYRIA – IRAQ
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Erdogan’s ambiguous policy and the beginning of the Turkish (and Kurdish) tragedy

by NAT da Polis
Air strikes against IS in Syria and PKK targets in northern Iraq are a last ditch attempt to save Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman policies. A great game is being played out in the Middle East to redesign the borders between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The United States also seems to be using IS. The Incirlik air bases is part of the bargaining between Washington and Ankara.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Turkey seems to have started a two-front war: one against the Islamic State (IS) group and one against the Kurds, opening itself up to a political situation with unpredictable outcomes.

This comes almost two months after the country’s last parliamentary election on 7 June, which saw the AKP, the party of President Recep Tayyp Erdogan in power since 2002, lose its absolute majority, and the simultaneous arrival of the Kurdish-based HDP, a first in the history of the Turkish Republic.

The crisis began with the inability to form a coalition government, which has reignited the Kurdish question, the bane of Republican Turkey.

Ostensibly, it all began with the massacre at a cultural centre in the city of Suruc, where 32 people were killed. As a result of this, Turkey attacked IS positions near Kobane for inspiring the attack.

At the same time, Ankara attacked the positions of the PKK in northern Iraq. The PKK or Kurdish Workers Party is considered a terrorist organisation.

These two attacks highlight again the long-term ambiguity and evasiveness of Turkey’s policies, this according to American historian Weber. But they have angered Kurds in Turkish cities where their presence is significant.

If the bombing in Suruc was the spark, the fuel came from Kobane, Syria’s third largest city at 10 km from the Turkish border, where Turkey made a terrible mistake when it refused to defend Kurds from IS attacks.

Yet, Turkey could not do otherwise after providing logistical support to IS’s brutal Islamic mercenaries with Saudi approval. Past statements by US Vice President Joe Biden highlighted Turkey’s ambiguity. Comments by diplomatic sources in Istanbul suggest that Biden's statements in early 2009 marked the end of the status quo in the Middle East.

The long-standing friendship between Turkey and Israel came to an end after then Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan slammed Israeli President Perez in Davos. This reached its apex with the recent agreement between the US and Iran.

Historically, the United States has always pursued its own interests ahead of friendship. In order to stop China and keep in check Russia’s presence in the Mediterranean, it has turned a deaf ear, tacitly endorsing the rise of IS and Turkey's policy towards the Islamist group.

However, the recent agreement between Iran and the United States - achieved, by President Obama's own admission, with the contribution of Vladimir Putin – has called into question the geopolitics of the Middle East.

According to some geopolitical strategists, IS has become as a catalyst to redefine the borders between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, with the birth of the state of Kurdistan, which in addition to ensuring US control of energy sources in northern Iraq, would also ensure the security of Israel.

This attempt to redefine the borders in that part of ​​the Middle East has had its first victims, namely the vanishing Christian communities in the Mideast.

In the new environment, Turkey has had to limit its neo-Ottoman aspirations, and now finds itself handling the Kurdish hot potato ad a time of a domestic political crisis.

Unable to form a coalition government, Erdogan is using the traditional anti-Kurdish sentiments of many Turks to consolidate his power.

Under the Turkish Constitution, the president can form a government of national unity if parliament fails to express a majority government within 45 days of an election.

Should such a situation emerge, the president can appoint the ministers of the Interior, Justice and Media, while other ministries are distributed among the other parties in proportion to their parliamentary strength.

For now, a majority based on a deal between the AKP and the ultranationalist MHP is still feasible. Alternatively, new elections could be held.

From this point of view, the nationalist hysteria encouraged by President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu is easy to understand.

However, for Burak Copur, a Turkey expert, this strategy is "explosive" because Erdogan is now facing a war on two fronts: against the Kurds and IS, both with unpredictable consequences.

For some diplomatic experts in Istanbul, authorising the Americans to use the Incirlik Air Base represents a last ditch attempt by Erdogan’s regime to survive.

The Turks will let the Americans use Incirlik to fight IS. In exchange, Turkey can get a free hand against the Kurds. Yet, the outcome to such a fight remains volatile and some are already talking about "the beginning of the Turkish tragedy".

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