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Autocratic Turkish President Fosters Global Crises

Monday, April 4, 2016 10:01
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The U.S. State Department last week ordered American military and diplomatic families to withdraw from Turkey. The pullout shows the West’s growing concerns about the NATO member’s shift to authoritarian, belligerent and pro-Islamic policies.

Regarded just a few years ago as a stable, prosperous nation with a rare combination of pro-democratic traditions and a Muslim majority, Turkey’s geo-political position and internal security are rapidly declining and fostering threats to a larger region.

Today’s column summarizes these developments, documented by a long appendix of news stories since Turkey’s ruling AKP party won a surprisingly strong (and some say suspicious) election victory Nov. 1 with just short of 50 percent of the announced vote. The news reports are drawn from a mixture of alternative and mainstream sources and present a far different view of ISIS, Turkey and United States-led activities than Western audiences normally see.

The gist is that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ambitions have boomeranged, thereby diminishing his clout and country.

He has helped his allies foster the disgraceful covert actions enabling the civil war in Syria, thereby generating the massive refugee crisis destroying many lives and undermining the European Union. His fatal shootdown of a Russian fighter in Syria last November could have prompted a much Recep Erdoganwider war involving NATO but instead seems merely to have strengthened Russian resolve to punish Turkey, expose its ties to ISIS and other jihadists — and otherwise ensure that the ambitions of Turkey and its allies are thwarted in the key battlefield of Syria.

A columnist in Newsweek last month described Erdoğan, shown in a file photo, “as out of control” and in danger of overthrow, as described more fully below.

For years, however, Western media have failed for the most part to report except in isolated instances how Turkey, the United States and other allies have secretly supported a rebellion in Syria by smuggling in arms and foreign fighters to foster the illusion that the intended overthrow was domestic unrest.

At this point, Turkey’s troubles include two major terrorist atrocities recently in major cities and reprisals by government. The mayhem includes its ongoing covert war against neighboring areas of Syria, plus crackdowns on accused terrorists, journalists, dissidents, religious and ethnic minorities. 

Turkey’s flailing and repressive responses carry huge implications for both its population as well as for NATO, and regional players that include Israel, the Persian Gulf Monarchies, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon 

A major part of the decline in Turkey’s global position stems from Erdoğan’s zeal for his multi-nation alliance to keep trying to overthrow Syria’s government. Since the effort began in 2011Turkey has supported rebels that include ethnic Turks located in northern Syria, the so-called Free Syrian Army, and radical jihadists whom Turkey has helped smuggle into Syria from elsewhere around the world.

The war has killed hundreds of thousands and created millions of refugees, including two million now living in Turkey. Turkey, located partly in Asia minor and partly in Europe, has recently allowed smuggling operations sending many refugees northward to Europe. More than a million refugees (including from North Africa and central Asia, not simply from Syria) have flooded into Germany alone in 2015.

Suffering, resentment and fear are running high, as reported in a Washington Post article, which focused on just one German city: At least 21 asylum seekers suspected in New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Germany.

More generally, Turkey is now taking much of the blame for the disastrous attempted regime-change attempt in Syria even though many other nations have been complicit in the U.S.-led effort.

Turkey over-extended itself, especially because its president has doubled down on his country’s losses and risks.

President Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Susan Rice confer in Turkey 11-15-15Meanwhile, President Obama and Western Europeans have adapted to changing circumstances, including Russia’s military intervention that has enabled Syria’s government and its allies from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah to secure many of Western Syria’s vital areas.

The Syrian government and its allies are now begin to destroy ISIS in eastern and central Syria — much to the secret dismay of regime-change enthusiasts in surrounding nations and allied circles in Western capitals.

The beginnings of the Obama administration’s adjustments to this new reality are illustrated by the adjoining White House photo, which shows the president meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit Nov. 15 at the Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey. National Security Advisor Susan Rice listens at left. Both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met briefly with Turkey’s president, generating little news, during his visit in early April to the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC skipped by Putin.

The relevant military, politic and strategic developments are summarized in this column’s long appendix. It excerpts recent news columns and portend major problems both for the current governments of Turkey and many Western European nations being overwhelmed with refugees far exceeding the previous norms. The European Union has an open border policy for the most part.

The refugee crisis could help blow apart the essence of EU, beginning with a referendum later this spring in the United Kingdom.

European governments recently reached a near-desperation deal with Turkey to pay an estimated 6 billion euros if Turkey would take back some recent refugees and restrict future smuggling.

Under that deal, Greece is scheduled April 4 to begin returning refugees to Turkey. But the arrangement seems likely to patch merely in stopgap fashion the immense problems generated by the regional wars. Additionally, it smacks of blackmail by Turkey against other nations, even though Turkey undoubtedly needs and deserves more help after housing so many refugees from the hellish war in Syria.


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