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Turkey seems to be squeezed between NATO and Islamists and becomes “unpredictable”

For Ted Galen Carpenter, of Cato Institure Ankara’s duplicitous policy regarding ISIS that should be the final straw for the rest of the NATO alliance.  Turkey, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were major supporters of the Sunni groups that eventually coalesced to form ISIS.Even when it became apparent that ISIS had become a Frankenstein monster with its own agenda, Ankara has been less than committed to combating the organization.  Indeed, Turkish military actions seem more focused on weakening Kurdish forces in both Syria and Iraq than going after ISIS.

The latest provocation by Turkey to invade northern Iraq and deploy troops near Mosul, even being “frozen” for now after the initial reaction of the Iraqi government, however, it is still  an act of aggression against Iraq, which if not addressed directly, it threatens to create a status quo of occupying Iraqi territories by Turkey.

According to Washington Times and RT, Turkey has sent hundreds of troops and at least 20 tanks and artillery to Iraq’s northern Nineveh Governorate last Thursday, saying they will train forces battling Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Ten F-16 fighter jets launched an attack between 10pm and 10:50pm on Tuesday, targeting PKK positions in the Kandil, Hakurk, Zap and Avasin-Baysan regions in northern Iraq, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement. It added that the targets were “destroyed in an aerial campaign.”

Turkey fights ISIS ?  Yesterday, Ankara carried out airstrikes targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) forces in northern Iraq, the Turkish army said on Wednesday. Baghdad  (Iraq) said it had not asked for the help of Turkish forces, and demanded their withdrawal after it said Turkey had “illegally” sent the troops into Iraq. Describing the move as violation of sovereignty, the Iraqi government also asked NATO to intervene.

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Many analysts (see previous posts below) have suggested that Turkey is attempting to protect oil pipelines siphoning oil produced in the region and smuggling it into Turkey. It seems a given that Turkey, a NATO member, does not have the best interests of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at heart.

While USA and the West remain silent and keep opening chapters for the ascension of Turkey in the EU, Russia raised the issue at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, expressing hope that Ankara will avoid escalating the situation in the region with any further reckless actions. Following the meeting, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said that Moscow expects Ankara to “settle the situation in Iraq in a way that would satisfy the Iraqi government.”

The Iraqi government, knowing Ankara’s predispositions  (both for northern Iraq and Mosul, and for the Nortwestern part of Syria where Turkmen live) and their ongoing tactics of indirect engulfment in Turkish territory in Cyprus, reacted strongly and now the whole region is threatened  with escalation, namely with an imminent attack against the Turkish military deployemnt  inside the Iraqi territory.

Iraq has  directly threatened Turkey that it will proceed with aerial bombing on the Turkish military forces which invaded northern Iraq without asking and be authorized by the legitimate government in Baghdad. It has to be mentionned  that this threat was made  by the Iraqi aviation’s leader.

Exclusive: See Turkey’s military base in Mosul

These events have further demonstrated that Turkey has been becoming more isolated in the region and this should largely be blamed on its ill-conceived policies, which have taken, among other things, the form of asserting its power on others. In addition, NATO allies are not happy either with Turkey’s acts complicating their fight against ISIL.

Turkey, until a few months ago held the role of “catalyst” of developments in the wider Middle East region. Today, many Western analysts fear that Turkey has moved to the role of detonator” a development that Westerners don’t appreciate a lot, then because of Turkey’s membership in NATO  there is the possibility that Turkey’s cause or to  compel NATO’s involvement in a conflict that will have the characteristics of an unprecedented magnitude war.

With the risks on Turkey’s doorstep in the East further heightened, this requires a much more thoughtful policy on the part of Ankara to minimize the spillover effect of the pending threats onto its soil. However, the Turkish government has been playing a risky game in the region, while the internal security situation poses additional threats for the country. There has been ongoing fierce fighting between the Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), mainly in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeastern regions, with the conflict having the potential to turn into nationwide violence.

At this point, two valuable academic papers published recently about the Turkish state of affairs both domestically and externally deserve a mention in this column. In an article published on Dec. 7 by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Dr. Ian Lesser recalled that no NATO member has been more deeply affected by the chaos and conflict on Europe’s periphery than Turkey.

“The country is in a critical position as a consequence of both its proximity to multiple crises and its unique exposure to deteriorating security relationships in both the south and the east,” he said.

“The collapse of the regional order around Turkey also poses special problems of adjustment for a state whose recent international strategy was predicated on benign conditions and receptive neighbors,” Lesser asserted. “Ankara faces a double challenge.”

“It must keep regional conflicts from further undermining the country’s internal security [fighting with the PKK]. It must also strengthen ties to NATO and EU partners whose demands on Turkey are set to increase, but whose cooperation will be essential to meet proliferating regional security threats. The prevailing atmosphere of mutual suspicion between Ankara and its Western allies suggests that this will not be an easy task. But it will be an essential one if Turkey, Europe, and the United States are to deal with new risks emanating from the Middle East and Russia,” he added.

  • The Turkish government warned all its citizens traveling in Iraq – excluding Kurdish provinces – to leave at once, as Ankara refuses to end aggression and withdraw hundreds of troops deployed near Mosul in Northwestern Iraq.

    On Wednesday, Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a statement calling for any citizens in Iraq to leave immediately.

    “We strongly advise those whose stay is not essential to leave those provinces as soon as possible,” the statements reads. “The scope of our travel warning to Iraq has expanded to include all provinces except for Dohuk, Arbil and Sulaymaniyah.”
    All of the exempted provinces are in the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

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