Daily Briefing: TURKEY’S AGGRESSIVE FOREIGN POLICY: AS “RECKLESS” AS IT APPEARS? (May 21,2020)

Table of Contents:

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 27JAN06 – Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey captured during the session ‘The New Comparative Advantages’ at the Annual Meeting 2006 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 27, 2006. (Source:Wikipedia)

Turkey vs. Egypt, UAE, and Russia in Libya, Who is Winning?:  Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2020


Turkey’s Dangerous New Exports: Pan-Islamist, Neo-Ottoman Visions, and Regional Instability:  Marwa Maziad, Jake Sotiriadis, Middle East Institute, Apr. 21, 2020


Are the Kurds the Next Kingmakers in Turkey?:  Burak Bekdil, BESA, May 11, 2020


Turkey: Judeopathy Taises its Ugly Head Again:  Uzay Bulut, Jihad Watch,Apr. 24, 2020

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Turkey vs. Egypt, UAE, and Russia in Libya, Who is Winning?
Seth J. Frantzman
Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2020

Turkey is fighting a proxy war in Libya against a series of other countries, including Egypt, the UAE, and Russia. This week Turkish-backed fighters aligned with the government in Tripoli took a military base called Watiya. They also captured and destroyed Pantsir Russian-made air defense trucks. This is important because it shows that despite the backing of important countries, the fighters of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which is based in Benghazi, were forced to retreat.

Turkish media is celebrating this a great victory. Turkey has recruited poor Syrian rebels to fight in Libya and violates an arms embargo. But Ankara gambles that might make right and western powers are weak. It brushed aside the Americans in Syria, it hosts Hamas, and it can do what it wants in Libya. 

Turkey’s role in Libya is not a secret. It sends drones and armored vehicles. It sends mercenaries. Its media, including the plethora of pro-government propaganda channels such as TRT, Anadolu, and Daily Sabah, all are reporting on the victory in Libya. In Turkey journalists that are critical of government policies end up in prison, so it’s natural that the campaign in Libya is reported on in a positive way.

Turkey appears to be winning in Libya because it set limited goals. It sought to prevent Tripoli from falling to Haftar. Haftar meanwhile had boasted for months that the LNA would take the capital. Turkey set narrow goals, while the UAE and Russia and Egypt had unclear goals. This is important because it appears that the policy shortcomings of Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and Moscow are similar to their struggles in Yemen, Sinai, and Syria. These countries are not that good at waging proxy wars to win. They are good though at keeping conflicts going. Russia learned this in Georgia and Ukraine. Russia saved the Assad regime from defeat in 2015. But Russia likes to play both sides and also sell Turkey S-400s and agreed to let Turkey take over areas in Syria, such as Afrin and Idlib and Tel Abyad.

Russia appeared to be winning everywhere between 2015 and 2020. This was largely a result of the US global retreat. When Washington retreats, Russia goes in. That was clear in eastern Syria where a successful campaign by the US against ISIS was scuttled in October 2019 as the US walked away and let Kurdish partners be massacred by Turkey.

Russia swept in to sign a ceasefire. Russia likes to swoop in. But when it comes to actually training the Libyans to use the Russian Pantsir system it’s unclear if the Russians helped. Why did Haftar send his Pantsirs to Watiya base and near Sirte, to be knocked out one by one, apparently by Turkish drones?

Air defense is supposed to defend against drones, not be hunted down. We don’t know why the Russian systems failed, or precisely how they got to Libya. Maybe via the UAE or Egypt. But they are destroyed now. There are not an endless supply of them. There are an endless supply of Turkish Bayraktar drones made by the Turkish president’s son-in-law and sent to Libya so Turkey can learn what works.

Turkey’s goal is to checkmate the UAE and Egypt and Russia and hen squeeze Moscow for more for its S-400 deal while portraying itself as “fighting Russia” to US Cold War-era policymakers such as Syria envoy James Jeffrey. Turkey also wants to break a Greek pipeline deal with Israel and pressure Israel into some kind of arrangement. Turkey sets clear, obtainable goals. Russia plays both sides, just as it does in Syria. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Turkey’s Dangerous New Exports: Pan-Islamist, Neo-Ottoman Visions and Regional Instability
Marwa Maziad, Jake Sotiriadi
Middle East Institute, Apr. 21, 2020

There is certainly no shortage of writings on Turkey today regarding that country’s “drift” away from its Western orientation. Some who espouse this argument frame the consequences in terms of Turkey’s increased ties to China.[1] While Turkey itself has launched an “Asia Anew” policy,[2] the outsized focus on this and other alleged signs of Turkey’s “drift from the West” distracts from the very palpable effects of its adventurism in the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s increasingly reckless foreign policy is on full display — from weaponizing refugees to extort the European Union to exporting mercenary Jihadist fighters to Libya.[3] These are hardly the actions of a responsible regional power, much less a key member of the NATO alliance.
Taken in total, one might logically conclude that such actions are “irrational,” as they diminish Turkey’s standing in both the region and the world.  But if we interpret these dynamics as the consequences of ideology warping a state’s rational self-interest, their underlying rationale becomes less opaque.  Unlike other Islamic ideological models, Turkish Neo-Ottomanism focuses on a revival of a “greater Turkey” that renews a classical, civilizational model of the Ottoman Empire’s legacy anchored by economic, military, and political power.[4]

Western media narratives largely ignore these nuances, painting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as an autocrat who seeks to increase his domestic powerbase in Turkey at any cost. But by this standard alone, then, authoritarianism itself becomes the scapegoat.[5]  By contrast, Erdoğan is merely the symptom of a broader problem — that is Ankara’s promotion of a Pan-Islamist, Neo-Ottoman ideology that has dangerous implications for the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and beyond.  This misguided vision of pan-Islamism evokes a culturally hegemonic form of political Islam (as well as a form of militant Jihadism).

How did Ankara arrive at this juncture? The concept of Pan-Islamism certainly is not a new phenomenon.  In historical terms, the Ottoman Empire (1517-1923) represented the last Caliphate and Islamic State. A series of military defeats in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and World War I (1914-1918), followed by a crucial victory in the Turkish War of Independence (or Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922), culminated with the founding of the secular Turkish Republic in 1923. The establishment of the modern Turkish state effectively extinguished traditional Ottomanism as a viable political ideology. In its place, widespread Kemalist reforms generated a seismic shift in Turkish society: the abolition of the Sultanate, adoption of the Latin alphabet in place of Arabic script, and a new legal code modeled after European, not exclusively Islamic principles.[6]
Moreover, following this critical juncture in Turkey’s own history, the Middle East region subsequently witnessed a series of independence movements throughout the early to the mid-20th century. These independence movements resulted in the creation of the modern republics of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Algeria, and Tunisia, among others. The newly independent regional states largely modeled their governments in the image of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.  As such, this unique historical experience and legacy explain the present-day resistance to Turkey’s expansionist, pan-Islamist project by Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Turkey’s burgeoning alliance with Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood as a transnational movement serves to further exacerbate existing tensions. But Ankara’s Pan-Islamist, Neo-Ottoman ideology is essentially drawing new fault lines across the region—pitting statist, secular, republican governance models against the culturally-expansionist, militant, and pan-Islamist alternative in Turkey. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Are the Kurds the Next Kingmakers in Turkey?
Burak Bekdil
BESA, May 11, 2020

The recipe for the spread of political Islam, as founded by ideologues like Hasan Banna and Sayyid Qutb, is well-known: win Muslim hearts and minds by establishing and spreading religious, welfare, and educational institutions and facilities. The object is to create a classless, populist network that will ultimately legitimize political Islam at the ballot box. You cannot defeat the enemy by guns and artillery, but you can do it with headcount.

Turkey was no exception to the principle of Islamist ascendency via demographics. For decades, Turkey’s secular, better-educated modern families (which Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would later call the ”white Turks”) sufficed with one or two children in the family while pious, less educated, lower- and middle-class Muslims Turks were the baby boomers. In November 2002, the “white Turks” had to face that they were no longer the majority in their country. The “black Turks” had come to power.

But now, 18 years later, the “black Turks” have become the new “white Turks.” Ignoring their leader’s campaigns imploring them to produce “at least three children in every Turkish family,” they are now facing the same demographic threat with which they once captured power: a greying Turkey versus a baby boom in Kurdistan.

Kurdish votes in Turkey came under the institutional umbrella of a political party for the first time in 1994. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HADEP) won 1.1 million votes (4.1% of the national vote) in parliamentary elections in 1995 and 1.4 million votes (4.8% of the vote) in 1999. HADEP failed to win parliamentary representation as it failed to pass the 10% national threshold.

In 2002, HADEP’s successor, the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP), won 6.2% of the vote in the elections that brought Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power with 34% of the national vote. In 2007 the Kurds changed tack and entered the race with independent candidates instead of a party that would surely fail to pass the 10% threshold. Independent Kurds won 5% of the vote and 20 seats in the Turkish parliament. The threshold was no longer meaningful to stop Kurdish representation in parliament. In 2011, Kurdish independents won 6.6% of the national vote and 35 parliament seats.

On June 7, 2015, the Kurds, this time under the corporate umbrella of a new political party, the People’s Democracy Party (HDP), won 13.1% of the vote and 80 seats. The “Kurdish miracle” deprived the ruling AKP of its parliamentary majority for the first time since it came to power in 2002. Most recently, in municipal elections in 2019, the Kurdish vote cost AKP its crown jewel. Ekrem Imamoğlu, an opposition candidate, defeated AKP’s Binali Yıldırım by a margin of 800,000 votes.

As the Islamists lost Turkey’s biggest city for the first time in a quarter-century, Erdoğan had cause had to lament his motto, “He who wins Istanbul wins Turkey.” Millions of Kurdish voters in Istanbul had become kingmakers.… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.[
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Turkey: Judeopathy Raises its Ugly Head Again
Uzay Bulut
Jihad Watch, Apr. 24, 2020

Turkey – like much of the world – is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, the number of cases and casualties continues rising. Yet many anti-Semites in the country are busy on social media, demonstrating their pathological hatred for Jews, otherwise known as Judeopathy. The Turkish news website Avlaremoz, which covers Jewish-related incidents, is monitoring related posts on Twitter.

When Turkey officially confirmed the first case of Covid-19 on March 11, many Turkish Twitter users shared anti-Jewish social media posts targeting Jews and Israel. These posts accused them of creating and spreading the virus for political and economic gain. Some of the Twitter posts included:

“The virus is in Turkey. Okay. It is almost all around the world. But why is it not in and around Israel? It is certain that they also have the cure but let’s see when the Jew will bring it out.”

“The company that will find the medicine will be the richest company in the world. It is no coincidence that it will definitely be a Jewish company.”
“People are flocking to cleaning products whose owners are Jewish. People are waiting for a medication whose owner is also Jewish. No Jew has caught the virus yet. May you drown in the perceptions [you’re falsely creating]. Allah is great.”

One user claimed that “ahl as-sunnah,” or the adherents of Sunni Islam, will not be affected by the virus. This user also said that the reason why Saudi Arabia and Iran have Covid-19 cases is “because they are Jews who think they are Muslim.” Another user urged that as a precaution against the disease, “people should not watch Fox TV and other Jewish TV channels.”

On March 11, the Turkish website of the Sputnik news channel reported that scientists at the Ness Ziona Institute for Biological Research in Israel was to announce that their work on the coronavirus vaccine was nearly completed.

Many anti-Semites in Turkey again spread hateful, anti-Jewish conspiracies on social media. This included comments such as “it’s Israel that has created the poison so they should have its antidote.”

Some claimed that Israel invented the virus to later come up with a vaccine, which it already had in store, to achieve some hidden agenda such as “making nations grateful to Israel and seizing Jerusalem” or “taking hold of people.” They asserted that “Jews are not to be trusted” and “if it is Israel, it is hard to look for innocence.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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For Further Reference:

Turkey Sends Aid to Gaza, Prevents Aid to Cyprus:  Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, May 14, 2020 –– Turkey claimed medical aid it sent arrived in Gaza on Thursday even as it prevented Chinese medical aid from arriving in Cyprus. Ankara forced a plane to divert to Moscow for refueling after refusing to allow it to fly over Turkey’s airspace, according to a report in Anadolu and Russia’s TASS.

Turkey Censures Israel’s ‘Modern Vandalism,’ Warns of More Conflict:  The Frontier Post, May 17, 2020 –– In a statement on Saturday, Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that the Tel Aviv regime must halt its illegal campaigns, calling on the international community to stop Israel’s “modern vandalism.”

Turkey Could Damage Nato Alliance If It Starts Up Russian Air Defence System, Analysts Warn Thomas Harding, N World, Apr. 15, 2020 –Turkey risks fracturing the Nato alliance and destroying its economy if it activates its Russian-made air defence missile system, experts have warned.

Turkey’s Top Court Says Ahrar Al-Sham is Not a Terrorist Group, Overturns Al-Nusra Conviction:  Abdullah Bozkurt, Nordic Monitor, May 14, 2020 — Turkey’s top appellate court certified that jihadist, Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of Syria) is not considered a terrorist organization and overturned the conviction of a militant who fought for the group as well as for Jabhat al-Nusra.
Turkey Continues Efforts to Carry Out ‘Demographic Change’ in Northeastern Syria Said Abdel Razek, Asharq Al-Awsat, Apr. 26, 2020 — The Turkish army and its loyal factions continue displacing the remaining residents in areas that fall under their control in northeastern Syria as part of the “demographic change” policy, a human right observatory announced.