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Regional geopolitics

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  • Re: Regional geopolitics

    The Fall of Turkey

    Published on: December 7, 2016
    Western policymakers need to get comfortable with the fact that the Turkish Republic as we have known it is no more.

    Western policymakers need to get comfortable with the fact that the Turkish Republic as we have known it is no more.

    The Turkish Republic—as we’ve known it for about the past half century since its transformation from an initial authoritarian phase (1923–50) into a creaky but democratizing multiparty polity—has fallen. For any practical purpose it is no more, and Western policymakers need to shake themselves from their mental torpor and wishful thinking to take the full measure of what this means.

    It has been clear for years that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) phenomenon is grounded in seismic changes in Turkish society and not a transient phase between periods of modern republican rule owing to the corruption and poor leadership of the old secularist parties. Many older Western hands, used to the “Six Arrows” Atatürkist Turkey of the Cold War era, have still not resigned themselves to that reality, because it is painful and because it goes against their deep-seated belief that the process of modernization does not have a reverse gear.

    Now the conceptual challenge is much greater: It’s not just about who runs the Turkish Republic but about its existence. The country is either headed back toward its pre-democratic phase, only with Eurasianists and Islamists rather than Western-oriented modernists at the authoritarian helm, or it is headed toward some as yet undefined form.
    Turkey has suffered under emergency rule since this past July, when a breakaway military faction tried but failed to topple the elected government of strongman Recip Tayyip Erdogan and slaughtered more than 300. Since then, a process set in motion years ago by the ruling AKP to dramatically remake the political foundations of the country has accelerated. What legal and institutional constraints on the President’s powers existed before have been systematically dismantled. With dizzying speed and efficiency, tens of thousands have been detained or purged from the judiciary, the free media, the national educational system, and the military, with the intent of subordinating all these institutions to the party.1 Civil opposition has been muzzled, with many fearing for their reputations and livelihoods if they speak out against the “palace” in Ankara. A push is now underway to formally codify Erdogan’s powers via a constitutional referendum, slated for early 2017.

    The demise of the Turkish Republic intermingles in several ways with the ongoing collapse of the post-1991 geopolitical settlement across Southwest Asia. Our Turkish allies, for their part, are asking where NATO has been—really where Washington has been—as the world has come crashing down around them. Russian dominance has been established in the Black Sea, and now its strategic reach is being enlarged across the Mediterranean thanks to its new, seemingly permanent deployments in Syria. Iranian-backed militias have poured into the Greater Levant, opposed only by the metastasizing forces of Salafi jihadism, which are arguably stronger now than ever despite the territorial retreat of the ISIS caliphate. President Obama has ramped-up U.S. military efforts against ISIS, but the core strategic problem—the crisis of governance among Sunni Arabs and Iranian expansion into the resulting vacuum—has gone unaddressed, thereby undercutting the U.S. military’s mission, and possibly making it futile.

    Meanwhile, ISIS attacks on Istanbul and elsewhere inside the country have shown that Turkey, once imagined as a bulwark against Middle Eastern chaos, is perilously exposed to it; the AKP government has proven unable, or unwilling, to police its long southern border. To secure access to the Incirlik Air Base, as well as Erdogan’s help in walling off Europe from the multitudes fleeing for their lives, Western officials have preferred to raise concerns over the steady dismantling of Turkey’s free institutions only privately with their counterparts in Ankara. This approach has failed.

    That failure has left many millions of pro-democracy Turks to fend for themselves, while a once-fringe ideological element in the AKP, reared on Islamist supremacism, has been emboldened. Indeed, many Turks have greeted the fraying of their relations with the West as a liberating chance to make their country into a great Eurasian-Islamist power.

    In the meantime, the Turkish military, the historic mainstay of republican ties to the Atlantic world, is being thoroughly gutted and remade. This renovation of the armed forces is undermining their capacity and will as a cooperative NATO ally. In the crises of recent decades, the U.S. and Turkish governments have, to be sure, not seen eye to eye sometimes. But that now looks to be not the exception within the bilateral relationship but very much the rule. The West’s conceit that Turkey has no alternatives to it is mistaken; Erdogan is not looking for allies to rally to the defense of the republic so much as enablers of his own rule. In the palace’s view, Russia, and even more likely cash-rich China, could become that, with the Shanghai Pact and the Silk Road Belt the basis of a new Trans-Asian configuration of power.

    Erdogan sees himself as surpassing Atatürk, the father of a New Turkey. But unlike Atatürk he is not a state-builder; he is a social-movement builder. The emergent AKP-state wants to monopolize power, and it has relied on religious nationalism—with hatred and fear deployed as means—to whip into line the parliamentary majority it needs for constitutional restructuring. But the AKP vision is not meshing well with the sociological mosaic that is Turkey. Instead sectarianism is breaking down the country’s cohesion and civil defenses, making it more vulnerable to factionalism and to outside coercion. Tellingly, the AKP’s internal security has been more effective at cracking down on schoolteachers and journalists because of their dissenting political or religious views than in rolling back ISIS and other jihadi sympathizers inside the country.

    The most dangerous fault lines to deepen under AKP rule are along the three borders Turkish society shares with Kurds—in northeastern Iraq, in Syria’s autonomous enclaves, and internally in the southeast. The Kurds in these areas are politically fragmented, yet they are swelling in numbers. This is bringing enormous pressure to bear on what’s left of the state-based order; politics as usual cannot contain them. In the Southeast, Ankara needs a federal arrangement for the sake of preserving the republic. Farsighted Turks also think a condominium with the PKK-linked Kurdish polity of Syria, like the one with the KRG in Iraq, is attainable.

    Yet anti-Kurdish sentiment is proving politically useful to the AKP leadership, and so Erdogan has chosen war. As the PKK has become a more urban movement, its organization has broken down and spawned radical offshoots, making the rebellion more amorphous and terrorism harder to suppress. The Turkish army’s heavy-handed tactics in the southeast have left cities in ruin, displacing as many as 500,000, according to Kurdish sources. Meanwhile, the AKP-state is imprisoning the very civilian Kurdish leaders it needs to make peace. In this, Erdogan’s will to power is putting Turkish national security at risk.Erdogan’s will to power is putting Turkish national security at risk. ISIS is zeroing in on these glaring divides, trying to exploit them for its own purposes. In time, the collusion of intransigent PKK factions with Iran or Russia, Turkey’s centuries-long rivals, may pose an even greater threat.

    All this has left NATO contemplating a future without its southeastern anchor. The West has positions to fall back to, and the ongoing implosion of regional order, which is dragging Turkey along with it, obliges the alliance to seek out alternatives and to harden them. Even so, Turkey’s significance remains profound; as President Truman saw in 1947 when he urged Congress to shore-up Turkey’s “free institutions” in a policy that led to the formation of NATO, the country’s political character affects the strategic construction of all of Eurasia. The Trump Administration will need to see if it is possible to get the republic back, and if so, how.

    Erdogan is an erratic opportunist. When his ambition hits a wall, at home or geopolitically, his survival instincts prompt him to change course. The clientalist basis of the AKP-state is also susceptible to economic pressure. This month the European Union will consider sanctions on Ankara, and, unless the palace undertakes to restore the republic, the U.S. government should join them. Reassuring the estranged U.S. protectorates in the Arab Gulf against Iranian aggression may also help secure their cooperation. The Gulf Arab leaders have lavished Erdogan’s court and the AKP-controlled economy with aid to fend off Iranian influence, but an AKP-state in conflict with Turkish society cannot possibly restore the Middle Eastern balance.

    The Trump Administration also needs to make the case for the Atlantic Alliance boldly to Turks on both political and strategic grounds. The prospect of cementing Russian power on the Mediterranean has implications for European and Turkish security that need to be addressed. But the urgent priority is to end the wars in Syria. As a first step, a deal between NATO and Russia, Syria’s Alawi ruling structure, and elements of the majority Sunni and minority populations for the managed decomposition of power across Syria may be attainable—but only on the condition that foreign proxies, those of Iran especially, be expunged from the country. If that does not happen, one way or another, suppressing Salafi jihadism is inconceivable.

    Meantime, a plan for peace sustained by free institutions inside Turkey must be foremost on the U.S. diplomatic agenda. Among Turks and among the Kurds the U.S. government still has influence with critical masses of people of goodwill that it must use. This is likely to take years to work out, but it is now crucial both for resuscitating republican government in Turkey and for reconstituting order in the Middle East.

    1=For example, Turkish military personnel assigned to NATO headquarters in Brussels have found themselves in a kind of no-man’s land. Most have been ordered back to Turkey; some have obeyed orders only to be arrested on arrival. Some have requested political asylum in Belgium. Others are just staying put for the time being, keeping low; but they are without passports, jobs, or a sense of the future, and are worried about government AKP pressure on their families still in Turkey.

    Eric Brown is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.


    • Re: Regional geopolitics

      Թուրքիայի անկումը. The American Interest
      Քաղաքականություն - 11 Դեկտեմբերի 2016

      The American Interest հանդեսում հրապարակվել է Էրիկ Բրաունի վերլուծությունը Թուրքիայում տեղի ունեցող գործընթացների վերաբերյալ: Հոդվածը վերնագրված է «Թուրքիայի անկումը», որը ներկայացնում ենք որոշ կրճատումներով:
      Արևմուտքում քաղաքականություն մշակողները պետք է համակերպվեն այն փաստի հետ, որ Թուրքիայի Հանրապետությունն այլևս այնպիսին չէ, ինչպիսին գիտենք: Թուրքիայի Հանրապետությունը, ինչպիսին որ գիտեինք վերջին կես դարի ընթացքում, երբ ավտորիտարիզմից անցում կատարվեց կաղացող, սակայն դեմոկրատական բազմակուսացական համակարգ, չկա այլևս:
      Դեռ տարիներ առաջ պարզ էր, որ Արդարություն և զարգացում կուսակցության վերելքը կապված է թուրքական հասարակությունում սեյսմիկ փոփոխությունների հետ և պարզապես անցումային փուլ չէ: Արևմուտքում քաղաքականություն մշակողները դեռ չեն ցանկանում տեսնել իրականությունը, որովհետև ցավալի է ընդունել և դեմ է խորն արմատացած այն մտայնությանը, որ արդիականացման գործընթացը չի կարող հետընթաց ունենալ:
      Այժմ խնդիրն այն չէ, թե ով է կառավարում Թուրքիան, խոսքը երկրի գոյության մասին է: Այն կամ հետ է վերադառնալու նախադեմոկրատական փուլ, որտեղ ներկայացված կլինեն միայն եվրասիական ուղու կողմնակիցները և իսլամիստները, կամ էլ գնալու է մեկ այլ ուղով, որը դեռ պարզ չէ:
      Այս տարվա հուլիսին հեղաշրջման փորձի ձախողումից հետո ԱԶԿ-ի կողմից տարիներ առաջ սկսված գործընթացը, որի նպատակն է վերաձևել երկրի քաղաքական հիմքերը, արագացել է: Նախագահի իշխանությունը զսպող ինստիտուցիոնալ և իրավական նորմերը կանոնավոր չեզոքացվել են: Մեծ արագությամբ տասնյակ հազարավոր մարդիկ ձերբակալվեցին և դուրս մղվեցին իրավական համակարգից, մեդիայից, կրթական համակարգից, ռազմական ոլորտից, որի նպատակն է այս ինտիտուտները ենթարկել կուսակցությանը: Այժմ էլ սահմանադրական բարեփոխումների գործընթացի միջոցով ամրագրվում են Էրդողանի լծակները:
      Էրդողանը համարում է, որ գերազանցում է Աթաթյուրքին՝ նոր Թուրքիայի հիմնադրին: Սակայն, ի տարբերություն Աթաթյուրքի, նա պետություն ստեղծող չէ, նա սոցիալական շարժում ստեղծող է: ԱԶԿ-ն ցանկանում է մենաշնորհել իշխանությունը և հենվում է կրոնական ազգայնականության վրա: ԱԶԿ քաղաքականությունը երկիրը խոցելի է դարձրել պառակտվածության և արտաքին միջամտության հանդիման: ԱԶԿ ներքին անվտանգությունն ավելի շատ կենտրոնացել է լրագրողներին ու ուսուցիչներին ճնշելու, քան երկրի ներսում Իսլամական պետության և այլ ջիհադական խմբերի համակիրների վրա:
      Թուրքական հասարակության համար լուրջ խնդիր է երեք երկրներում քրդաբնակ տարածքների հետ սահմանակից լինելը: Չնայած քրդերը քաղաքական առումով մասնատված են, սակայն մեծ թիվ են կազմում: Դա հսկայական ճնշում է գործադրում պետական կարգի վրա: Անկարան պետք է խնդրին դաշնային կարգով լուծում տա, որպեսզի պահպանի հանրապետությունը: Հեռուն նայող թուրքերը մտածում են նաև Սիրիայի քրդական կազմավորման հետ կոնդոմինիումի հնարավորությունը:
      Սակայն հակաքրդական դիրքորոշումը քաղաքական առումով ձեռնտու է ԱԶԿ ղեկավարությանը, և Էրդողանը նախընտրել է պատերազմը: Քանի որ քրդական աշխատավորական կուսակցությունը վեր է ածվել քաղաքական շարժման, ապստամբությունն ավելի ամորֆ է դարձել, իսկ ահաբեկչության դեմ պայքարելը՝ ավելի բարդ:
      Էրդողանի իշխանական ձգտումները երկրի ազգային անվտանգությունը ռիսկի տակ են դնում: Առիթից օգտվում է ԻԼԻՊ-ը՝ իրավիճակն օգտագործելով իր նպատակների համար: Թուրքիայի համար ավելի մեծ սպառնալիք կարող է լինել, եթե ՔԱԿ որոշ խմբավորումներ համագործակցեն Թուրքիայի մրցակիցների՝ Իրանի կամ Ռուսաստանի հետ:
      Էրդողանն անկայուն օպորտունիստ է: Երբ նրա հավակնությունները բախվում են պատին, ինքնապահպանման բնազդը ստիպում է փոխել քաղաքական կուրսը:
      ԱՄՆ դիվանագիտական օրակարգում պետք է լինի Թուրքիայի ներսում ազատ ինստիտուտների կողմից խաղաղության ամրապնդման ծրագիրը: ԱՄՆ կառավարությունը դեռ ազդեցություն ունի թուրքերի և քրդերի մեծ զանգվածների մոտ և պետք է օգտագործի այդ հանգամանքը: Դա կարող է տարիներ տևել, սակայն կարևորագույն նշանակությունի ունի Թուրքիայում հանրապետական կառավարումը և Մերձավոր Արևելքում կարգը վերականգնելու առումով:


      • Re: Regional geopolitics

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        • Re: Regional geopolitics

          Main problem of the regime in Syria: it needs weeks of bloody battles to capture Palmyra, or villages in Northern Latakia , districts around Haleb, villages north of Hama... yet once concentrated elsewhere, looses the same objects in sweeping 48 h period to the insurgents....
          That tells all about the lack of manpower on the ground....


          ISIS fully retakes Palmyra in stunning blitz offensive – Map update
          By Chris Tomson - 11/12/2016

          In a remarkable coup, ISIS managed to wrestle the legendary city of Palmyra from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) on Sunday after assembling a massive jihadist fighting force in eastern Homs.

          Between 4,000 and 5,000 Islamic State insurgents poured into Palmyra from several flanks, prompting the SAA to withdraw to more defensible positions west of the ancient city after initially fending off several assaults.

          Stationed on the Palmyra front were approximately 1,000 SAA soldiers, including contingents of the National Defence Forces (NDF), the 11th Division, elements of the 18th Division along with the Shaheen Group (Tiger Forces branch).

          Facing overwhelming ISIS numbers and an imminent threat of encirclement, these government forces found themselves forced to regroup on the western outskirts of the city.

          In addition to capturing Palmyra city itself, the Islamic State also seized Palmyra Airbase, the Hayyan gas field, Al-Dawa village, and the Al-Bayarat area following other territorial gains over the past 48 hours.

          Recently, the SAA deployed the bulk of its elite factions in the battle for Aleppo; in the meantime, thousands of ISIS fighters crossed the border from Iraq, narrowly escaping the battle for Mosul in order to spearhead the ongoing Palmyra offensive.

          Effectively, with manpower utterly disproportionate between the warring parties, local SAA commanders had to choose between a full-scale tactical retreat or leaving outnumbered government troops to be slaughtered by the rapidly advancing jihadist militants. To little surprise, the SAA's Palmyra command center opted for the former option.

          Palmyra was otherwise liberated by the SAA in late March 2016 and strategically represented an important government salient which could have been utilized to relieve besieged government soldiers in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.


          • Re: Regional geopolitics

            I agree with your analysis on the lack of manpower by the SAA.
            What we are witnessing is a --- criminal act --- by USA/Europe/ sheikdoms/ terks/Israelis.
            They have funded and facilitated criminals to accomplish their conniving manipulations. Each for their own personal desires.
            Yet the criminals are some of this worlds most honored and respected.
            How ass backward is that ???.
            Welcome to planet earth.
            Engenders high hopes provided your into drinking booz.


            • Re: Regional geopolitics

              These attacks need a lot of preparation, coordination, and ammunition . Losing Palmyra is a strategic blow to the Syrians but also a blow to Russia's Image ( Russian Concert in Palmyra, etc...). I would say the Turks would refrain from doing such a move against Russia indirectly, I would suspect this is the work of a gulf country to remind the world that they exist and need to be part of any Syrian deal.
              The big bombing returned to Egypt just when Egypt started having a more Pro-Assad position, maybe not a coincidence ?


              • Re: Regional geopolitics

                Syrian state TV has announced the fall of Aleppo! Acording to reports there are two small districts with insurgents still inside. Its night time in Aleppo now. By midday tomorrow Aleppo will be cleared. 4 years 4 months 3 weeks and 2 days since the Battle Of Aleppo started. Cheers boys!


                • Re: Regional geopolitics



                  • Re: Regional geopolitics

                    TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday ordered the country's nuclear agency to start plans to produce nuclear fuel and propulsion systems for ships and submarines in response to the violation of the Vienna deal by Washington.

                    "Considering that the US administration has ignored and delayed compliance with its undertakings under the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and given the recent extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) that had already been declared as a violation of the nuclear deal by the Islamic Republic of Iran..., the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is ordered to develop the country's peaceful nuclear program within the framework of the Islamic Republic of Iran's international undertakings as defined in the following missions," President Rouhani said in a letter to AEOI Chief Ali Akbar Salehi on Tuesday.

                    First, President Rouhani said, the AEOI is required "to plan for designing and building propulsion systems to be used in marine transportation in cooperation with scientific and research centers".

                    He also asked the Iranian nuclear agency to conduct studies to design "production of fuel for nuclear propulsion systems".

                    The president also required Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to file a complaint at the commission envisaged in the nuclear deal against the extension of the sanctions and take other necessary legal and international actions.

                    Rouhani required Zarif to inform him of his actions and their results in one month, while he asked Salehi to report back to him in maximum 3 months.

                    Nuclear propulsion uses a nuclear power reactor to generate electricity on a vessel. Such systems are best known for their use on strategic nuclear submarines, which allow them to stay submerged for weeks avoiding detection. Nuclear propulsion is also used on some big surface ships like aircraft carriers or icebreakers.

                    Iranian officials have warned several times in the last few years that the country would embark on enriching uranium for nuclear-fueled vessels if provoked by hostile actions.

                    In 2012, a senior Iranian Navy commander stressed Iran's high capabilities in designing and manufacturing different types of submarines, and announced the country's move towards manufacturing nuclear-powered submarines.

                    Speaking to FNA at the time, Lieutenant Commander of the Navy for Technical Affairs Rear Admiral Abbas Zamini pointed to the navy's plan to manufacture super heavy nuclear-powered submarines, and stated, "Right now, we are at the initial phases of manufacturing atomic submarines."

                    He noted Iran's astonishing progress in developing and acquiring civilian nuclear technology for various power-generation, agricultural and medical purposes, and said such advancements allow Iran to think of manufacturing nuclear-fueled submarines.

                    Admiral Zamini further reminded that using nuclear power to fuel submarines is among the civilian uses of the nuclear technology and all countries are, thus, entitled to the right to make such a use.

                    In July 2012 and before Rouhani rose to power, a senior legislator declared that some parliamentarians were discussing the plan to use nuclear fuel in Iranian vessels, and urged the government of President Ahmadinejad to enrich uranium to the needed levels to be used in such nuclear-powered ships.

                    "The government should enrich uranium to the needed level to supply fuel for the ships," former member of the parliament's Industries Commission Allahverdi Dehqani told FNA at the time.

                    "Given the western states' sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which include an embargo on the supply of fossil fuels to Iranian vessels, the Islamic Republic will replace the fossil fuel with nuclear fuel to counter the sanctions so that Iranian ships would not need refueling for long-distance voyages," he added.

                    "The government should enrich uranium to the necessary levels to supply fuel for such ships since we cannot cut our trade relations with other countries due to the western sanctions," Dehqani said.

                    In December 2013, Iranian lawmakers drafted a bill that would require the government to produce 60-percent enriched uranium in line with the requirements of the nation’s civilian nuclear program.

                    The draft bill was presented after Washington breached the Geneva deal between Iran and the world powers by blacklisting a dozen companies and individuals for evading US sanctions.

                    Hayastan or Bust.


                    • Re: Regional geopolitics

                      Syrian Army repels second ISIS assault on key airport near Palmyra
                      By Leith Fadel - 14/12/2016

                      BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:25 A.M.) - The so-called "Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham" (ISIS) launched a vicious assault at the T-4 Military Airport on Tuesday night, striking this installation in eastern Homs from two different flanks.

                      ISIS began the assault by storming the Syrian Arab Army's defenses at a number sites around the airbase; this resulted in a fierce battle that lasted several hours last night.

                      With help from the Russian Air Force, the Syrian Arab Army was able to repel the major ISIS assault, killing and wounding several enemy combatants, while also destroying a number of enemy vehicles.

                      The Islamic State militants are expected to launch their third assault in the coming hours, as they look to expel the remaining Syrian Army presence near the ancient city of Palmyra.