As to treachery, from the Turkish point of view that word appropriately describes the readiness of the Americans to collaborate with the subsidiary of an organization the West itself officially labels terrorist and that has been the cause of a conflict that has taken the lives of an estimated 40, Turkish citizens. Whereas in the June parliamentary elections, Kurdish voters abandoned the AKP en masse, substantial numbers came back to the party in the recent snap elections of October But the AKP has burned up much of its credibility with the Kurds.
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Turkey today teeters on the brink of a civil war. The country once thought to be the dynamo that would pull the rest of the Middle East to liberal democracy is being dragged into the sort of self-destruction that has been grinding up Syria and Iraq, not to mention Yemen, Libya, and other Middle Eastern states. Russia and committed enemies e.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It is difficult to know where to begin in critiquing the approach.
Turkey`s international relations
Unable to decide which state posed the greater threat, Washington attempted to confront and contain both at the same time, forfeiting the opportunity to exploit their mutual antagonism. By the end of the s, that policy was coming undone. Now again, this time in Syria, Washington is attempting to confront two mutually antagonistic parties simultaneously. Yet what the Obama administration seeks to accomplish in Syria is more difficult by orders of magnitude. The lightly armed Kurds, for example, have neither the capability nor still less the motivation to drive deeply into predominantly Arab lands.
Such strategic overreach would have potentially catastrophic consequences for any project of Kurdish autonomy or independence.
Libya’s global civil war | European Council on Foreign Relations
The greatest regional beneficiary from the crushing of ISIS would be Iran, and this alone would probably suffice to ensure that ISIS would draw on enough support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two regional powers desperate to stem the spread of Iranian influence, to maintain itself. If the destruction of ISIS is a desirable but improbable outcome, it is not clear that the toppling of Assad is necessarily desirable. The first is that Assad is a vile character responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands and the radicalization of many more. Breaking that link has long been a US objective, and four years ago at the beginning of the Arab Spring it looked imminent as a popular uprising against Assad began to take shape.
Over four years later, however, Assad is still in power. Iran and Hezbollah lent critical backing.
Foreign relations of Turkey
Although American officials greeted that intervention with a mixture of befuddlement, anger, and offense, the fact is that Putin may well have rescued Washington from a fiasco of its own making. In order for Washington to realize its goals, these moderates need to be strong enough to topple Assad, beat out any rivals, take control of Syrian territory, and restore order upon it. Yet there no evidence that any such force exists or will ever come into being. This is not for a lack of effort or resources. Given this monumental failure, what good reason is there to expect that the fall of Assad and his regime would not lead to more violent chaos or the triumph of radical Sunnis or, still more likely, ISIS itself?
It is difficult to see how such outcomes serve the American interest. Among many Sunni Arab fundamentalists there is a bizarrely ahistorical yet widespread belief that Christianity in Syria represents not an indigenous faith that took root in Syrian soil centuries before the arrival of Islam to that land but is instead an alien entity transplanted to Syria by the Crusaders. That the Alawites deserve contempt and even hatred is a tenet of the many strains of Sunni fundamentalism that take their guidance from the immensely influential theologian of the fourteenth century, Ibn Taymiyya.
The situation in Syria is complex and does not point to any self-evident solutions, let alone easy ones. Yet because ISIS does constitute a real threat to regional order and even world order, the situation in Syria cannot be ignored. The hope is that the admixture of the efforts of local proxies on the ground with the limited but cumulative efforts of a broad coalition of countries executing airstrikes, economic sanctions, and covert operations will suffice to neutralize ISIS.
The project, however, has two fatal flaws. The second and greater flaw is that virtually none of the key members of the anti-ISIS coalition hold the destruction of ISIS to be their number one priority. Thus even as they contribute to operations to destroy ISIS the coalition members inevitably work competitively to outmaneuver their nominal coalition partners.
The weaker ISIS gets, the more intense the intra-coalition competition is likely to become. This is not unusual.
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This is the classic dilemma of coalition warfare. As the clash between Turkey and Russia has shown, the inclusion of so many parties with contradictory and even antagonistic goals in a nominal alliance against a highly unusual opponent carries considerable risks. The crisis between Turkey and Russia has not passed and perhaps not even peaked. Russia has a wide range of options for retaliation.
But as Putin explained, he will not confine his response to disrupting trade. This should worry Ankara. Russia has a long and rich history of interest —diplomatic, military, and academic — in the Kurds that dates back to the eighteenth century. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Russian Imperial Army employed Kurdish auxiliaries with success in it multiple wars with the Ottomans and Persians, and in the years leading up to World War I the Russian Foreign Ministry and army were running a comprehensive program of subversion and insurgency among the Kurds of eastern Anatolia against the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey, of course is not helpless before Russia in the realm of proxy warfare. The North Caucasian diaspora inside Turkey is significant, and throughout the past two decades Chechen and other Caucasian insurgents have used Turkey as a base for recruitment and recuperation.
Turkey, Russia, and NATO Enter the Danger Zone
Many believe that the Turkish National Intelligence Organization sponsored some of these insurgents in the s. It would not be difficult for Turkey to revive such an approach. Erdogan and Davutoglu in the past were quite sympathetic to the Chechen rebels, as were many Turks, particularly Sunni activists. Such an undertaking, however, would be treacherous. Because jihadists thoroughly dominate the organized resistance in the North Caucasus today, such an undertaking would effectively place Turkey on the side of ISIS, in whose ranks a substantial number of mujahidin from the North Caucasus are actively fighting.
Some news reports indicate that US special operations forces and local proxies are currently enjoying ongoing tactical successes against ISIS, in particular in targeting and killing its field commanders. The real challenge will be restoring governance throughout Syria and Iraq, and it is difficult to imagine that the coalition against ISIS will hold together until that point.
The rift between Turkey and Russia looks set to widen and could explode. Nor is it the only rift. Islamist parties like the Ennahda in Tunisia, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, were looking at Turkey as a model for future development. The unexpected actions of Ankara alarmed other NATO members, who feared being drawn into a war with Russia, defending a too ambitious and unpredictable partner.
According to Maxim Samorukov at the Carnegie Moscow Center, the main factor for the failure of this project was the Montreux Convention of , an agreement that gives Turkey control over the Bosphorus Straits and the Dardanelles and regulates the transit of naval warships. With its huge fleet, obviously Turkey would become the leader of this project. This situation did not please Bulgaria, whose policy is based on anti-Turkish rhetoric. An important reason behind the restoration of full-fledged bilateral relations has become the economic factor.
Turkey, as a result of the sanctions imposed against it by Russia, suffered huge losses in the agricultural, construction and tourism sectors. Turkish small and medium-size businesses lost money and markets for their goods, to which they had become accustomed to, and for which it was hard to find replacements. Given these facts, President Erdogan simply could not lose this section of his electorate in favor of his foreign policy ambitions, which were becoming strictly criticized domestically.
Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson for the Turkish president, said that Turkish business leaders played a role in normalizing relations between Russia and Turkey. The future prospects of good Russian-Turkish relations will depend on how much the parties are willing to restore lasting confidence in their bilateral relations.
This means development of specific projects of close cooperation in strategic areas, especially the fight against terrorism and restoration of the infrastructure in Syria. Turkey is gradually beginning to realize that in its Middle East policy, it seriously overestimated its capabilities. Now Ankara is restoring relations with Israel and Russia, which are important partners in the security sphere.
The future state of bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey will depend on how much both partners are willing to work together so that there are not any surprises in their relationship. That means, too, that Ankara and Moscow cannot present the other with a fait accompli and expect it to go unchallenged.
The second important point is how the partners will be able to find areas for dialogue on contentious situations, all while avoiding confrontation. It is expected that Turkey is now ready to play by these new emerging rules. The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff. Two scenarios for what Turkey wants from Russia now.
Turkey and Russia, partners by necessity not by choice. The foreign policy dimensions of Turkey's coup. What's behind Turkey's sudden rapprochement with Russia? Become a subscriber to Russia Direct in one easy step and get:. Please, share your thoughts or questions with us in the field below, and we will pass your message to the corresponding member of the team.
Photo: AP On Aug.
Russia-Turkey rift was not good for Ankara There is a big difference in the crisis between Turkey and Russia and the one between Turkey and Israel. Also read: " Turkey and Russia, partners by necessity not by choice " An important reason behind the restoration of full-fledged bilateral relations has become the economic factor. Middle East. Related Stories Two scenarios for what Turkey wants from Russia now Turkey and Russia, partners by necessity not by choice The foreign policy dimensions of Turkey's coup What's behind Turkey's sudden rapprochement with Russia?
Rafael Sattarov is a political analyst. His research interests include reforms of the socio-political and economic systems in the post-Soviet space, U. Sign up to our newsletters. Russia Direct. Subscribe now Sign Up Become a subscriber to Russia Direct in one easy step and get: free newsletters, white papers, analytical memos.