Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Caliphate Prime

If Turkey is pivoting toward Russia and Iran, it is only temporary until Turkey has more military power and nukes.

Good question:

“Turkey needs Russia, to have a seat at the table in Syria. Turkey needs Russia as some kind of bogeyman to show the Americans and Europe,” says Mr. Brakel. “But there are so many diverging interests, when it comes to Syria, when it comes to Crimea, the Black Sea. I think chances are really slim … that Russia could supplant NATO.”

“The current strategy – if there is any strategy – seems to be to diversify the options that Turkey has at its disposal,” adds Brakel.

Those options have grown in appeal since the coup attempt last year, after which Erdoğan and his ruling party castigated Washington and European capitals for the supposed lack of their swift support to “defend democracy.” Seen from the West, however, the wave of 50,000 arrests and purges of 150,000 from Turkish security and educational institutions that followed the coup have helped Erdoğan secure his hold on power.

Turkey has historically fought Russia and Iran quite a bit.

Alliance with America and Western Europe through NATO held off the Russians (when they were Soviets).

But Western Europe clearly doesn't want Turkey within Europe. And Erdogan's autocratic slide eliminates even the European pretense that Europe will let Turkey into the European Union.

And Russia isn't the threat it once was to Turkey. Russia is both weaker and pushed back from Turkey's land borders.

So Turkey neither needs the West as much as it once did nor does it have much hope of becoming part of the West under Erdogan.

In theory, Turkey has room to pursue a more independent policy that rebuilds the influence in the region that the old Ottoman Empire once had.

As for Iran, Turkey has to worry that its long-time foe will get nuclear weapons and pose a bigger threat.

Who will protect Turkey from Iran with nukes? America? Which allowed Iran to get to the cusp of nuclear weapons and blessed that path?

Turkey may think that the America-Arab coalition could defeat Iran. If that coalition gets going. But the Turks might think it safer to act nice to Iran while cultivating ties with Russia to restrain their Iranian ally.

Yet as much as Turkey can afford to push away Europe to some extent politically, this indicates that Turkey has an interest in not cutting off ties with America. Russia may seem to have more influence over Iran, but Russia is not a friend of Turkey. Turkey needs America to balance Russia and encourage Russia to be nicer, as much as Turkey could use outreach to Russia to encourage America to be nicer.

In the long run, if Turkey wants to rebuild its influence as the leading Moslem power, it has to restore relations and reputation with Arabs who still have a sour view of Turkey from long colonial rule over Arab people from North Africa to the Arabian peninsula. This could be done by opposing Iran.

Turkey has incentive to be nicer to Israel now, given Israel's potential to resist Iran. But in the long run, Turkey might see Israel as a target to rally Arabs to the Turkish banner. Arabs may not like Turkey much because of the old colonial history, but Israel is more immediate and less popular. That could be an opening for Turkey to grab leadership from Saudi Arabia.

The Kurds are an issue, too. As an internal threat to Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, abusing the Kurds is perhaps a common issue that could unite those countries and give Turkey room to maneuver independently.

Although that play could fail if America can pressure Iraq into behaving nicely; if Assad cuts a deal with his own Kurds; or if Iran's mini-Persian empire falls apart and the Kurds of Iran break free of the Persian core.

The play between ambitions and the various powers that push against Turkey perhaps explains why Turkey's policy seems reactive (not "reactionary" as the article says, which is a different thing altogether) and short-term. Turkey lacks the strength to do more for now. Now Turkey needs to balance between Russia, Europe, America, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China--with an eye on their own growing Kurdish population.

I could see Erdogan taking Turkey out of NATO in order to create a European "enemy" that is conveniently weak as a foil to demonize in order to rally enough supporters to hold power; while maintaining bilateral ties to America just in case.

To have more independent power, Turkey wants more indigenous arms production capacity and I have no doubt Erdogan wants nuclear weapons.

Personally, I'd pull our small number of nuclear bombs that we store in Turkey out of that country to prevent them from being seized by Erdogan's people. Even if we have iron-clad processes to keep them from being used, they would provide a lot of obviously weapons-grade nuclear material to Turkey if Erdogan ordered his forces to seize the bombs.

This is just kind of stream of consciousness that got a little out of control that complements this older post about the potential for Turkey to pursue a new role built on their old role as the caliphate of the Moslem world.

UPDATE: Turkey has opened its Somalia base:

The $50 million base was opened on Saturday (Sept. 30) and will train more than 10,000 soldiers. The move is part of an effort to institutionalize and restructure the police and military services, battle the terrorist group al-Shabaab, and help expand the government’s authority into more towns and regions. ...

The military base in Somalia is also a reminder that despite Turkey’s growing regional and national problems, Africa remains central to its global expansion strategy. Since 2005, Africa has remained a policy priority for Ankara, with engagements taking place in the fields of diplomacy, trade, investment, aid, education, and security.

Arab hostility in some ways requires Turkey to leapfrog their old colonial domains to reach out to new areas in need of a friend and patron.

And a base there does offer Turkey the ability to help important Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia if they need help unencumbered by human rights strings.

UPDATE: Turkey is helping Syrian rebels (are they still actually "rebels" or just "warlords"?) in Idlib province to defeat jihadis opposing Assad:

Turkey said on Saturday that it and Syrian rebel groups it backs are starting a military operation in Syria's Idlib, where a jihadist alliance is blocking efforts to impose a truce between insurgents and the Syrian government.

Turkish military support will take place from Turkish soil.

What will Turkey do when the jihadis are finally defeated? Will Turkey continue to support "rebels" who aren't jihadis in their fight to overthrow Assad?

Or are the rebels even in that business anymore? Will they be Turkish auxiliaries who defend a Turkish buffer zone? Will the rebels make a deal to surrender to Assad or be incorporated as a friendly militia that controls the region?