Turkey and Russia in the Arab Spring: Straining Old Rifts Further? (On Turkey)

US and Turkey at odds in Syria ahead of Rex Tillerson's visit
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With the first and then second Iraq Wars, however, Washington found itself supporting Iraqi Kurds in their bid for autonomy. This fueled a paranoid conviction among many Turks that Washington was also directly supporting Kurdish insurgents in Turkey as a way to break up the country. Of course, nothing did more to make foreign policy feel existential to Ankara than the coup attempt. Erdogan concluded that members of the Gulen moment were behind the failed coup and that this meant Washington was as well.

After the coup attempt, U. From this perspective, ordering Ss from Russia was a bargaining chip for a better deal on U.

US and Turkey at odds in Syria ahead of Rex Tillerson's visit

And yet Ankara has consistently presented such moves in terms that are both more defensive and more ambitious. That is, its confrontational actions appear motivated by a belief that they alone can help Ankara reset the terms of its relations with the West and force Washington to reconsider its hostile policies. Convinced that Turkey is too important for the West to lose, Ankara has sought to raise the price of ignoring Turkish interests with the expectation that the United States will eventually back down.

In a more chaotic and threatening world, Ankara is also increasingly putting its faith in hard power. Turkish commentators declared that this show of force would prove Turkey could not be ignored, and they claimed vindication when U.

Warming Ties Between Russia And Turkey - Russia Wants Turkey To Stay In NATO

President Donald Trump announced his pullout from Syria later that year. Turkey, in turn, faces an even greater problem. Provocative moves might check some of the policies it finds most problematic in the short term, but, as is already happening , they will ultimately deepen the hostility and encirclement Ankara fears.

Turkey’s Role in the Arab Spring

The weaker ISIS gets, the more intense the intra-coalition competition is likely to become. Furthermore the commission underlines structural consequences of the July attempted coup concerning the functioning of the Turkish government system. COM has chosen English as your language setting. In that role it is used as a logistics base, a training center and a forward base for UAE air and naval assets. A nomad herds sheep on a highland on their way back home in Van, Turkey on Oct.

In short, both sides have every reason to find an opportunity for rapprochement, and every reason to fear that, without one, relations will become even more confrontational. Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola. The United States uses the fighter jet program to further its own influence while leaving allies dependent. Can Ekrem Imamoglu beat him at his own game? Sign up for free access to 1 article per month and weekly email updates from expert policy analysts.

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To get access to this special FP Premium benefit, subscribe by clicking the button below. View Comments. Tags: Argument , Trump , Turkey , Weapons. More from Foreign Policy. The idea was that a state married to a homogenous society would be more powerful and resistant to process of ethnic fissure and partition that helped bring down the Ottoman empire. Accordingly, the Turkish Republic for some seven decades vigorously insisted on the specifically Turkish character of its population.

Over the course of the past decade, Erdogan and Davutoglu have taken fitful but bold steps to accommodate Kurdish identity and demands for greater cultural freedom. The Turkish Republic faces a dedicated, disciplined, and highly lethal foe in the form of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which in the name of Kurdish nationalism has been waging war against the Turkish Republic for over three decades.

Long isolated from the West due to its extensive employment of terror tactics including suicide bombing, the PKK in the past year has found new and unaccustomed favor in the West due to the success of its armed units in combat with ISIS.

The Neo-Ottomanist Turn: Three Lenses

Moreover, the American and European media, conveniently albeit ignorantly lumping together all Kurdish organizations from the quasi-tribal political parties of Iraqi Kurdistan to the revolutionary PKK, now sing the praises of the Kurds. Western commentators and opinion-makers imagine the Kurds as not just opponents of ISIS but indeed an innately secular, liberal, and democratic people.

This image represents a remarkable turn around for the Kurds. The Western press in the nineteenth century routinely demonized the Kurds as semi-barbarous tribesmen and fanatic anti-Christians.

Turkey, Russia, and NATO Enter the Danger Zone

Accordingly, the PKK is striving today to exploit this unaccustomed favor and is again pressing ahead with its war against the Turkish Republic. In July it pre-empted the Turkish airstrikes against its headquarters in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq with a comprehensive campaign of attacks on targets throughout Turkey.

It continues to mount attacks. The Syrian civil war has greatly complicated Kurdish politics inside Turkey.

It would have been just short of miraculous for Ankara to have had intervened to save its most bitter and dangerous foe, particularly as it was striving to carve out an enclave extending along the length of the Turkish-Syrian border. The latter alone poses a bona fide existential threat. As to treachery, from the Turkish point of view that word appropriately describes the readiness of the Americans to collaborate with the subsidiary of an organization the West itself officially labels terrorist and that has been the cause of a conflict that has taken the lives of an estimated 40, Turkish citizens.

Whereas in the June parliamentary elections, Kurdish voters abandoned the AKP en masse, substantial numbers came back to the party in the recent snap elections of October But the AKP has burned up much of its credibility with the Kurds. Turkey today teeters on the brink of a civil war. The country once thought to be the dynamo that would pull the rest of the Middle East to liberal democracy is being dragged into the sort of self-destruction that has been grinding up Syria and Iraq, not to mention Yemen, Libya, and other Middle Eastern states.

Russia and committed enemies e. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It is difficult to know where to begin in critiquing the approach. Unable to decide which state posed the greater threat, Washington attempted to confront and contain both at the same time, forfeiting the opportunity to exploit their mutual antagonism.

By the end of the s, that policy was coming undone. Now again, this time in Syria, Washington is attempting to confront two mutually antagonistic parties simultaneously. Yet what the Obama administration seeks to accomplish in Syria is more difficult by orders of magnitude. The lightly armed Kurds, for example, have neither the capability nor still less the motivation to drive deeply into predominantly Arab lands.

What Turkey's new policy of reconciliation means for Russia

Such strategic overreach would have potentially catastrophic consequences for any project of Kurdish autonomy or independence. The greatest regional beneficiary from the crushing of ISIS would be Iran, and this alone would probably suffice to ensure that ISIS would draw on enough support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two regional powers desperate to stem the spread of Iranian influence, to maintain itself. If the destruction of ISIS is a desirable but improbable outcome, it is not clear that the toppling of Assad is necessarily desirable. The first is that Assad is a vile character responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands and the radicalization of many more.

Breaking that link has long been a US objective, and four years ago at the beginning of the Arab Spring it looked imminent as a popular uprising against Assad began to take shape. Over four years later, however, Assad is still in power. Iran and Hezbollah lent critical backing.

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Although American officials greeted that intervention with a mixture of befuddlement, anger, and offense, the fact is that Putin may well have rescued Washington from a fiasco of its own making. In order for Washington to realize its goals, these moderates need to be strong enough to topple Assad, beat out any rivals, take control of Syrian territory, and restore order upon it.

Yet there no evidence that any such force exists or will ever come into being. This is not for a lack of effort or resources. Given this monumental failure, what good reason is there to expect that the fall of Assad and his regime would not lead to more violent chaos or the triumph of radical Sunnis or, still more likely, ISIS itself?

It is difficult to see how such outcomes serve the American interest.

The dictator

The Arab Spring has put stress on certain fault lines between Turkey and Russia. How these fault lines might affect future Turkish-Russian. Summary: The Arab Spring has put stress on certain fault lines between Turkey and Russia. How these fault lines might affect future.

Among many Sunni Arab fundamentalists there is a bizarrely ahistorical yet widespread belief that Christianity in Syria represents not an indigenous faith that took root in Syrian soil centuries before the arrival of Islam to that land but is instead an alien entity transplanted to Syria by the Crusaders. That the Alawites deserve contempt and even hatred is a tenet of the many strains of Sunni fundamentalism that take their guidance from the immensely influential theologian of the fourteenth century, Ibn Taymiyya. The situation in Syria is complex and does not point to any self-evident solutions, let alone easy ones.

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Yet because ISIS does constitute a real threat to regional order and even world order, the situation in Syria cannot be ignored. The hope is that the admixture of the efforts of local proxies on the ground with the limited but cumulative efforts of a broad coalition of countries executing airstrikes, economic sanctions, and covert operations will suffice to neutralize ISIS. The project, however, has two fatal flaws. The second and greater flaw is that virtually none of the key members of the anti-ISIS coalition hold the destruction of ISIS to be their number one priority.

Thus even as they contribute to operations to destroy ISIS the coalition members inevitably work competitively to outmaneuver their nominal coalition partners. The weaker ISIS gets, the more intense the intra-coalition competition is likely to become. This is not unusual. This is the classic dilemma of coalition warfare.

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As the clash between Turkey and Russia has shown, the inclusion of so many parties with contradictory and even antagonistic goals in a nominal alliance against a highly unusual opponent carries considerable risks. The crisis between Turkey and Russia has not passed and perhaps not even peaked. Russia has a wide range of options for retaliation.