The guardian daily newspaper wrote an article on Turkey and Putin’s malign patronage
Little noticed amid the uproar over last week’s terrorist attacks in Izmir and Istanbul has been Turkey’s linked escalation of a bitter dispute with Washington over US actions in Syria. Supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, say that by aiding and arming Syrian Kurdish fighters, Washington is, in effect, facilitating terrorist outrages of the kind that left 39 people dead in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve and claimed four lives at Izmir’s courthouse on Thursday.
WHILE ISLAMIC STATE CLAIMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE NIGHTCLUB ATTACK
While Islamic State claimed responsibility for the nightclub attack, Kurdish extremists are regularly blamed for similar atrocities such as last month’s Istanbul football stadium bombings. In Izmir, Turkish authorities say heavily armed PKK separatists from Turkey’s large Kurdish minority, allied to Syria’s Kurdish PYD, were behind a plot that, had it not been thwarted by the mortal bravery of a lone policeman, Fethi Sekin, could have produced mass casualties.
REPEATED TURKISH DEMANDS THAT THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION CUT ITS TIES TO THE PYD
Repeated Turkish demands that the Obama administration cut its ties to the PYD, which shares its aim of toppling the Syrian regime, have been ignored. A day after Izmir, defence minister, Fikri Işık, voiced Ankara’s mounting anger and frustration. If the US did not think again, Turkey could bar US and western coalition forces from the İncirlik air base used for operations against Isis. More than that, he warned, Turkey would review its membership of Nato.
“The US chose the PYD as a partner in the fight with Daesh (Isis). From the beginning, we have been saying this is wrong,” Işık said. “The PYD is the Syrian wing of the PKK. The US made a strategic mistake. We are paying its price as the US will also pay the price… The US is our ally in Nato. The basis of our alliance should be transparent and genuine. In the absence of these, it would be hard to sustain this alliance.”
Işık’s implicit threat brought a quick response from the Pentagon. “We are operating out of İncirlik… and we look forward to that continuing,” a spokesman said. No mention was made of the possible loss of a strategically vital Nato ally. Nor was any response offered to an earlier Turkish complaint that the US was failing to give air support to Turkish groundforces fighting Isis in northern Syria.
TURKEY FEARS THAT INCREASED KURDISH AUTONOMY
Erdoğan’s increasing collaboration with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president and Obama’s chief bogeyman, over a Syria ceasefire and possible peace deal adds to the sense ofdeepening unease. Turkey, positioned at the disputed nexus between Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East, has long been viewed as a key western ally. But under Erdoğan’s authoritarian, neo-Islamist and anti-western leadership, the old ties are fraying. This process precedes the Obama era, dating back to the 2003 refusal to allow US invasion troops to transit Turkey into Iraq.
So the looming question – “Who lost Turkey?” – is not one that can be fairly directed at Obama alone. But it is a question that is becoming increasingly pertinent. The successful drawing of Turkey into Russia’s widening orbit, cemented in place by converging security interests, canny diplomacy, energy deals and shared disdain for the Americans, would be a strategic coup for Putin. It would confirm Moscow’s return as a majorMiddle East player and extend its military reach across the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean regions.
As Erdoğan scolds the US and cosies up to Putin, Turkey’s relationships with other traditional partners, notably the western European democracies and the EU, are also deteriorating. Erdoğan fiercely rejects their criticism of the massdetentions and sackings and human rights abuses that followed last July’s failed army coup (which he claims was a US-based conspiracy). Likewise, foreign dismay over his arrests of leading pro-Kurdish politicians, his undermining of Turkey’s secularist tradition and his brazen,anti-democratic bid to create an all-powerful executive presidency receive short shrift.
Yet at the very moment Erdoğan is emerging as the supposedly most powerful Turkish leader since Ataturk, the deeply divided country he dominates is riven by justified fear of more terrorist outrages and civil strife, more Stalinesque purges and more instability spilling over from Syria. Perhaps, after all, the question “Who lost Turkey?” can be answered in one word: Erdoğan.