Turkey President Erdogan / Unknown
Note: This article was written before the failed coup attempt in Turkey
In this article I will try to show how the regional policies, executed by Erdogan and his AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – Justice and Development Party) in respect of Rojava (N.Syria), Bakur (SE. Turkey) and Iraqi Kurdistan, meet the goals of Turkey’s president.
None of the policies I will list are in the interest of Turkey. They already have a suicidal impact on the country’s social, economic and political situation. In future it may even cause a military coup in Turkey.
As for the economic situation, the biggest damage is done to the tourism sector.
- 8% of the workforce working in the tourist industry generates 12.9% of Turkey’s GDP.
- According to Burak Cosan, The Daily News Istanbul, in 2014 almost 42m people visited Turkey.
- Murat Ersoy, the head of the Tourism Investors Association in a press meeting on the 1st of June 2016 said “Our country’s loss in tourism revenue may increase up to $15 billion over this year and the decline in tourist numbers by 30 percent compared to 2015”.
- The number of foreign arrivals visiting Turkey declined by 28% in April to 1.75 million compared to the same month of 2015, marking the steepest decline since May 1999, according to data by the Tourism Ministry.
- The number of foreign people visiting Turkey decreased by 16.5% to 5.82 million in the first four months of this year compared to the same period of 2015.
- In the first three months of 2016, tourism revenue decreased to $4.07 billion with a 16.5% drop, according to data that was released by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) on April 29.
- Tourism revenue was $31.5 billion in 2015, an 8.3 percent decline compared to the previous year. Leading Turkish tourism player expects $15 bln loss in revenue
We can all see at present that the social and political situation is getting worse as well. I believe the problems Turkey is currently facing are caused by ISIS, which Erdogan has based his entire policy on.
How did this come about?
From the very beginning the main aim of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) invasion of Mosul in 2014 was to prevent Rojava and its social movement. The Democratic Self Administration (DSA) in Rojava up to this moment is exemplary not only in this region, but also other parts of the world. As much as Erdogan is unhappy with the type of administration like the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), compliant in meeting his demands completely, he deeply hates DSA, which does not yield to his will.
The so called “international community” may have approved Erdogan’s war against Rojava in 2014. But instead of getting Turkey involved directly, Erdogan decided to use a proxy – a terrorist group, ostensibly independent from Turkey. The problem was the terrorist groups supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar were not strong enough to defeat YPG/J (the People and Women’s Protection Units). Erdogan had to choose the most fanatical, brutal and ideological one, ISIS, to achieve all his plans with very little risk.
Why Erdogan and his MIT chose Mosul for ISIS?
There were many reasons for Mosul to be chosen by Erdogan and his National Intelligence Organization (MIT) planners. The historical reason is that Mosul was one of the strategically important regions of the Ottoman Empire; it is very close to both Turkey & Syria; it is also well connected by public transport with both of these countries. The Community of Ezidis (Yazidis) mainly situated in that area, and also the closeness of Mosul to Kurdish towns like Erbil, Duhok, Tikrit and Kirkuk are other reasons. The region of Mosul is very rich with oil. It was one of the weakest points in the country, probably second to Fallujah. The vast majority of its residents are Sunni who resent the central government. They were marginalised and were having very difficult time at the hands of the Iraqi army, police and the security.
Using ISIS to invade Mosul
Without the invasion of Mosul it would have been impossible for Erdogan to carry out the rest of his plans successfully and to play a major role in the region.
Following the invasion of Mosul, ISIS spread to Raqqa in Syria and declared it the Caliphate capital. These two cities, which have strong ties and resources were connected to expand ISIS controlled land. The invasion made it easy for Turkey to support ISIS politically and militarily. In return ISIS supported Turkey by supplying it cheap oil and caused an influx of refugees, used later by Erdogan as a bargaining chip in trading with Europe. Meanwhile Erdogan was making it easy for ISIS militants to enter Turkey and Rojava to terrorize the Kurds.
In Mosul, the number of ISIS militants was under 5000, whereas the Iraqi forces were over 60000 and equipped with new weapons including helicopters and tanks. It appeared that there was a conspiracy between Erdogan, the KRG, Qatar and the Iraqi military generals in Mosul as the Iraqi folded to give ISIS an easy victory. There was no bloody battle; the entire town was taken within less than 24 hours. ISIS managed to gain many new powerful weapons easily that nobody could have expected. This boosted their confidence to make the next move, to Kobane.
Why Kobane and not Jazeera?
In order to execute their plans, Erdogan and the MIT had to choose Kobane or Jazeera as their next target. Distance wise, Qamishli in Jazeera is closer to Mosul at around 150 km, whilst from Raqqa it is around 370 km. However, there were many other reasons to choose Kobane instead.
- Kobane is smaller than Jazeera in size and in population, as such it would be easier to control.
- Secondly, Kobane is between Afrin and Jazeera. Taking Kobane would cut the communications between remaining cantons.
- Thirdly, Kobane is poorer than Jezeera economically; its YPG/J forces are smaller as compared with Jazeera. Furthermore, Assad’s has an army stationed in Qamishli and it is still there till now; the army controls a few kilometers within Qamishli, the postal service and the airport. Kobane is free from Assad’s control.
- The state of Turkey could support ISIS in Kobane and around Kobane through Suruç easier and better than supporting ISIS though Nusaybin, neighboring Qamishli.
- Finally, Raqqa is much closer to Kobane than Qamishli to Kobane.
Until the defeat of ISIS in January 2015 in Kobane, Erdogan and MIT policies were successful. In June and July of last year Erdogan adopted a couple of more policies. Both policies were created to terrorize Kurdish people.
First, Erdogan and the AKP did not approve the outcome of the general election held in June 2015, in which the left-wing pro-autonomy Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) achieved 13% of the vote and crossed the election threshold to gain 80 seats in parliament.
The second policy was the use of terror, the murder of innocent people in Amed, Suruç and Ankara using suicide bombers and the arrest of activists, politicians, journalists and others to create a climate in which it would make it easy for ISIS to wreak havoc. The perfect example is the suicide bombing attack in July 2015 on a gathering of a large group of leftist youth, communists and anarchists in Suruç in which more than 30 people were killed and a hundred wounded.
Erdogan was the sole beneficiary of using a terror policy for three reasons: First, deploying a lot of forces in Kurdish cities restricted the freedom of movement. Second, it made the claim to the Turkish people, Europe and the world that ISIS is his enemy too. Third, it provoked the PKK to engage in a war that gave him the justification to cease the peace process and enter a full-scale war against the Kurds.
Since last year hundreds of civilians have been killed, wounded and arrested during sieges and curfews on Kurdish towns and cities, people have been left starved and their homes have been destroyed. This continues now in military operations and also in the political field with the withdrawal of political immunity for HDP MPs. Furthermore 134 pro-autonomy Democratic Regions Party (DBP) co-mayors of municipalities have been suspended from their posts and replaced them with Erdogan’s supporters (trustees). All of this has been done in front of the eyes of the U.S. and western countries. And it has damaged the social movement in Bakur and to serve the interests not of the people but of Turkey’s government, its MIT, the right wing and racist groups.
Another of Erdogan’s policies was that since 5 April 2015 he hasn’t allowed for any meetings between PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and his people including his own lawyers. This has cut off all communication between Ocalan, the PKK and other forces. This policy has again served the state of Turkey but not the Kurds from Rojava or Bakur.
Erdogan’s policy in regards to Syria and Rojava
I’d like now to draw the attention of readers to both Erdogan’s successful and failed policies.
- Bringing down a Russian fighter Jet and killing its pilots was a disaster for Erdogan. He was not able to participate in an aerial war in Syria, and it also economically and politically damaged Turkey. In retaliation, president Putin introduced a boycott of Turkish products, businesses and Turkey as a tourist destination.
- Erdogan also failed in convincing U.S. and western countries to set up a no-fly-zone in Rojava. His main aim was just to fight the YPG/J forces there.
- Another failed policy was Erdogan could not go ahead with the joint plan with Saudi Arabia to take their forces into Syria to support terrorist groups against Assad’s forces and YPG/J at the same time. By supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups damage was done to diplomatic relationship between Turkey and the USA.
- Economically, ISIS supported Turkey by providing very cheap oil.
- Cheap labour from Syria, including child labour, is being used by Turkish companies and having a great effect on the economy.
- Erdogan is using the refugees as a bargaining chip against Europe but also as a card against internal opposition: giving Syrian nationals citizenship to vote for him, using them to change the demographics of majority Kurdish or Alevi towns and cities.
- Normalizing diplomatic relationship with Russia and Israel with Egypt and possibly Syria on the way.
- Erdogan and MIT managed to form a military group from Syrian Turkmen against Assad and used them directly, supporting and providing them logistics, weapons and training to make them powerful enough to claim that they represent all Turkmen in Syria.
- He also managed to make Kurdish opposition political parties (ENKS), the Syrian Kurdish National Council (that occasionally commit terrorist act especially in Jazeera), stand up against YPG/J and DSA.
- Erdogan’s and MIT’s most successful policy was strengthening ISIS and other jihadist groups against the YPG/J, which has pushed them in line with the U.S. to jointly fight ISIS. YPG/J now are facing the most terrible war perhaps after Kobane, to liberate the Caliphate capital, Raqqa with the support of the U.S.
Erdogan’s Iran policy
Erdogan and the MIT have a double policy towards Iran. On one hand the Kurdish question is a common problem for both of them and brings them together, but on the other hand the same issue can make them enemies if Iran starts supporting the PKK or PYD.
It is also well known that a large number of Iranian solders are taking part in the war side by side with Assad’s forces and Assad is receiving other help from Iran. Assad also relies on support from the Lebanese “Hezbollah” who are supported by Iran as well. Meanwhile Turkey is indirectly working on weakening Iran as a close ally of the Iraqi government by supporting ISIS against Iraq. At the moment Iran and Turkey’s financial relationship is strengthening and improving their political relationship too.
Erdogan’s KRG and Iraq policy
Erdogan and MIT used ISIS not only in Syria and Rojava. In fact ISIS is the most powerful and active group Turkey has been using to execute their policy against the Iraqi government and KRG.
ISIS invading Mosul meant the other towns and cities in that region, like Erbil, Tikrit and Kirkuk faced a big threat as well. ISIS managed to control entire oil fields and refineries in the area; the income from their production fueled ISIS’ war effort instead of the government’s. Invading Mosul revived the historic question of whom Mosul belongs. In Erdogan’s mind it belongs to Turkey and he wants to annex it.
This is one of the reasons why Erdogan last year, before the eyes of the so called “international community,” brought 5000 military forces with variety of different weapons, including tanks, to Bashiqa in Ninawa, only a stone’s throw away from Mosul. Since then Iraq keeps demanding Turkey withdraw its forces, but Erdogan keeps ignoring these demands.
By invading Mosul ISIS took control of the Mosul dam, which can be a threat in flooding Baghdad and many small towns and villages in the middle of Iraq. In supporting ISlS, Erdogan also strengthened Arab Sunni tribes in the region, now even if they do not support ISIS, they abstain to support the Iraqi government. Invading Mosul also pushed the Iraqi government into debt by borrowing lots of money and buying more weapons. ISIS became more powerful and started to threaten to occupy Baghdad.
In 2014 ISIS rendered nearly a third of the country out of government control by taking more cities like Fallujah, Tikrit, Ramadi, Hit, Rutba and Telafar, with many villages. The threat of ISIS to Iraq was very real; up to this moment there has been no peace, no security in Baghdad and a few more towns in central Iraq.
In addition to all this, Erdogan’s fighter jets since July 2015 and even before that, regularly crossed the border between Turkey and Iraq to bomb PKK bases in Qandil Mountain but also the villages at the bottom of the mountain. This has caused the killing and injuring of many civilians and the displacement of hundreds of families and the destruction of their livelihoods and environment.
In regards to Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Erdogan has brought them endless war. In this war the Kurdish Peshmerga have become the main forces to fight ISIS. The war between the Kurds and ISIS has created enmity between Kurds and Sunnis and to a certain extent Arabs as a whole, but also the Iraqi government. Concurrently the war has made the KRG more dependent on Turkey and closer to U.S. and western countries. In effect Iraqi Kurdistan has become a big military base for Turkey and U.S.
By using ISIS in Mosul successfully, Erdogan has managed to make the KRG in particular and Kurdistan in general almost a part of Turkey. He is still working on Iraqi Turkmen to increase the dispute between them and Kurdish communities and to escalate the tension. The dependence on Turkey has also made the KRG, particularly Barzani’s party, the KDP, the main enemy not just of the PKK and PYD, but the whole of Kurdish society in Rojava and Bakur. From time to time, Barzani even closes the KRG’s borders to Rojava completely. The most recent embargo was almost for 3 months between March-June 2016. Even worse is the fact that Barzani is silent about everything that happens in Bakur and Rojava. He neither supports the Kurds there, nor protests against Turkey’s actions.
The rise of ISIS has also put Kurdish Islamic political organizations under pressure. They must clarify their attitude towards ISIS, either as “with or against us“. In Iraqi Kurdistan we have a couple of Islamic political organizations and both have their MPs in KRG’s Parliament. However one of them is very pro-Erdogan and both of them so far have not denounced ISIS as a non-Islamic group. The vast majority of Kurds believe they are sleeper cells of ISIS or at least in sympathy.
A final effect of ISIS’ arrival in Mosul and other Kurdish areas has been Barzani’s preservation of his position and his government. Despite the bad situation of the KRG’s economy, people there are reluctant to protest. People have become scared to go on strike, protest, or even demand their salaries. At the moment KRG employees are getting less than half of their salary when they do get it regularly. They are three to four months behind. This has affected the markets badly, whole services, projects have been stopped and poverty for many people will soon become unavoidable. Whenever and wherever people try to complain and protest they are told “they have to be grateful, at least they do not live under ISIS control and should not rock the boat because this is in the interest of ISIS and other our enemies.” The nationalist and independence card is employed well to silence dissent. For now.
Erdogan and his MIT’s policies have benefitted him and met their aims for the time being, even though they are going to damage Turkey in the long run. They were good for Erdogan and the AKP but bad for the Kurdish people and the rest of the region. It looks like Erdogan and his AKP now want to change their policy from war to peace with everybody except Kurdish society. His future peace policy in the region certainly will be if not aimed at eliminating Rojava, at least reforming it in the KRG manner.
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