Thursday, December 12, 2019

Eastern Question and Answers

Turkey has run into problems with its ambitions in former colonial realms in the Arab Middle East. Namely that the former colonial subjects don't have fond memories of that caliphate. But there is always the seas where people don't live.

I mentioned this before, but here is more on Turkey's Libya gambit:

Turkey is seeking to rewrite the rules in the Eastern Mediterranean. Last week, the Turkish government signed a maritime agreement with one of Libya’s two aspiring governments that strengthens Turkey’s position in the region. While legally ambiguous and fraught with logistical challenges, the deal represents Turkey’s latest effort to assert its dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean, to capitalize on the region’s energy resources and to restore the regional influence it lost over a century ago when the Ottoman Empire fell.

It is interesting. When I speculated about a 21st Century Eastern Question I thought it would involve Russia and not Ottoman Empire 2.0.

And while Russia has advisors in Libya backing Hiftar, the Turks don't rule out sending troops to back their losing side. This could make Turkish-Russian rapprochement more difficult if Russia won't play second fiddle to the Turks or vice versa, eh? Which full-of-himself autocrat, Putin or Erdogan, will cave in?

America wants to work with Russia on Libya. This is kind of a favor to Europe given that Russia likes chaos in Libya and is more than happy to have its hand on the migrant spigot to pressure Europe to be more cooperative with Russian aggression.

As an aside, if we'd backed Hiftar for as long as I argued we should, the Russians wouldn't have had the opening to move in a year ago. Now we have to compete with the Russians.

Perhaps after a break in the US-Turkish relationship, the Turks will find that there really aren't lots of fish in the sea to choose from.

Also, it will be interesting to see how Egypt--now with Mistral amphibious warships--will react to Turkey's ambitions in yet another region in the Arab world. The Saudis would subsidize Egypt to block the Saudi rival for influence.

And the Greeks, too, will have problems with this. Once a problem child of NATO, that membership will be even more important for Athens.

UPDATE: Hiftar promised a renewed offensive on Tripoli. If the UN-recognized government loses Tripoli, I'm not sure what will be left of the Turkish gambit.