sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Turkey - Friend or Foe?

Since the 24 hour news cycle in the US is focused on the primary election process, I thought to update this blog's readers on what is going on elsewhere because there are implications for the US in the near and longer terms.

Turkey is theoretically an ally of the United States. So is Pakistan. Pakistan created the Taliban and continued to support them during the war there up to the present day. Without Pakistan there would be no Taliban. That is also Turkey’s role in supporting the Syrian opposition. It provides the same style of safe haven and logistics for the Syrian opposition that Pakistan provides for the Afghan Taliban. Without Turkey’s support, most of the opposition would collapse.

Yesterday, the UN Special Envoy for Syria announced a pause in the Syrian peace talks in Geneva until 25 February. In his press statement, Staffan de Mistura said that, based on the first week of talks, he concluded that more work needs to be done by the stakeholders. He said the UN staff is prepared for talks.

The Syrian Opposition (various groups backed primarily by Turkey - partially because they will attack the Kurds as a Turkish cat's paw) took a large hit militarily and it shifted the situation on the ground for them. Thus their negotiating position changed and they needed to regroup.

The Syrian government and allied forces consisting of Russian and Cuban advisors succeeded in cutting the main line of communications from Aleppo to Turkey.

The behavior of the opposition negotiators suggests that the Syrian/Russian offensive caught them off-guard. They appear to have been outsmarted by the government. Had they suspected a major offensive to reduce opposition in Aleppo, they would not have sent a team to Geneva.

Ria Novosti reported on 3 February that a Russian military advisor was killed in Syria.
"The Russian military advisor in Syria was carrying out tasks to do with providing assistance to the Syrian army in mastering new arms supplied under the existing interstate military-technical cooperation contracts," an unnamed source in the Defense Ministry was quoted as saying. 
"On 1 February, the officer sustained a fatal wound as a result of mortar shelling by ISIL terrorists of the military garrison where one of the Syrian army formations is deployed," the source said.
This is the second Russian officer to be killed in Syria and acknowledged by the Russian government. The first was the Su-24 fighter-bomber pilot. The Russians did not release the location of the incident. Nevertheless, considering the short range of mortar fire, the officer was with the combat forces. Several reports in the past two months related that some Russian ground advisors are focused on improving Syrian artillery.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that there can be no lasting cease-fire in Syria if smuggling continues between Turkey and areas of the country not controlled by the government in Damascus. Lavrov's remarks, which he made on a visit to Oman on 3 February.
"As far as the specific issue of a cease-fire is concerned, we have our ideas about it, ideas that are purely pragmatic and dictated by the need to ensure that this cease-fire can happen in practice," Lavrov said.  
"For the cease-fire to work, a key component is to stop smuggling across the Turkish-Syrian border, which has become one of the most pressing tasks. It is a supply line for the militants. Without cutting it, it is hard to expect the cease-fire regime to materialize."
The US Government understands the role that Turkey has played in the development and sustenance of ISIL, but has been reluctant to mention it because Turkey is a member of NATO, and hosts a US Military presence to a far greater extent than Pakistan ever has. Incirlik Air Base (home to the 39th Air Base Wing) supports most of the UAV/Drone activity in the Middle East and provides a hub useful to the US in the event that there would be a need to "gear up" for activities in Iraq and Syria. In the past, the Turks have been less than hospitable when it came to America projecting other than drone strike-related activity along their southern border. Much of that opposition has come because US strikes against ISIL often damage their own supported interests in ISIL controlled territory.

Turkey is both an American friend and foe -- does that sound familiar?

There was a time when an increasingly secular Turkey had a close allied relationship to the US. Increasing hard line Islamists in the Turkish government has eroded that relationship considerably.



19 comments:

  1. Yes that does sound familiar.
    Turkey is not a country that can be flattered and then fooled. Allegedly...

    I think you should be a guest on the Andrew Marr show, LL.

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    1. Understanding history is understanding the future. That's why the intricacies of the past are so important and it's why viewing these situations from different perspectives is critical.

      Examining any given situation is like taking off one suit of clothes and putting on another.

      If you never change your clothes in this way, you often forget what is underneath. (many people go through life believing that they are their their clothes)

      The Turks have good cause for their actions, so do the Russians in this case and so do the Americans, Kurds, Syrians and the Iraqi's who are part of ISIL...you have to take off and put on lot of suits of clothes to get a clear picture. People are often unwilling to do that and because of that they make mistakes.

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  2. To me the answer is "it depends on the day". Perhaps a bigger component currently is Putin. He seems to be really working on his new "street cred" and appears to be committed to Asad remaining in power. After taking the Crimea, firmly inserting himself in the Mideast and increasing the pace of operations of his sub fleet . . . it seems apparent he intends on replacing the US as the big dog. I suspect this means he'll push back on Turkey hard if need be. Thoughts of 1914 roll in pretty darn easy . . . Going to be a truly unsettled area for some time.

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    1. Nature abhors a vacuum. The US abandoned its traditional role and Russia stepped in. I don't think that it means that we need to fight the Russians, but they clearly inserted themselves into the dialog.

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  3. Thanks for the update. But isn't it about time we took back Constantinople? I'm not sure it's wise for the Religion of peace to hold the Bosphorus.

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    1. If we took it back, we'd have to fix it. Maybe the Greeks could do it for us. After all it started out being theirs. There are a number of mosques in Constantinople that started out as Christian churches.

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    2. Maybe an Orthodox Alliance between Moscow and Athens would sort it out. Hagia Sophia has no business being a mosque, and that's for starters.

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    3. I'm sure that the Russians would be down for that, or anything that humiliates Turkey.

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  4. We have lots of 'friend/foes': Saudi Arabia, France, Egypt, Mexico, and of course the Maldives. Turkey will probably come back around to more friend than foe once their ox is gored by our 'foe/foes.'

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    1. The ox is about to be gored...and the Russians still don't have their pay-back for that SU-24 that the Turks shot down over Syrian airspace.

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    2. I have to agree with Fredd. We've certainly got a lot of frenemies.

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    3. The 911 Hijackers were Saudis - our allies.

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    4. Yeah, Turkey is going to get whacked by Vlad Putin but good, the Ruskies have long memories, and 'proportionality' is not in Vlad's vocab.

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    5. I have a meeting scheduled with Vlad later in the Spring. I will post a selfie with him.

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  5. Frankly, I'm surprised we're still allowed in there, even on as limited a role as it is these days...

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    1. If you look at the order of battle for the 39th Base Wing, it's 100% support and some predator drones.

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    2. Yep, not like the old days...

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  6. With friends like these, the US doesn't need enemies. Duplicitous allies are not to be trusted, but unfortunately dealing with them is necessary.

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    1. Dealing with them from a position of strength is critical. We don't do that anymore. Dear Leader bows to them.

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