Archive for the ‘Turkey’ Category


As tensions rise in the Black Sea, the Turkish Navy sails

March 19, 2014

Ukraine lies along the northern edge of the Black Sea, and the Crimean peninsula, with its naval bases, dominates that portion of the sea.  Turkey, however, controls the entire southern rim of the Black Sea along with the Bosphorous and Dardenelles straits that control the egress from the Black Sea to the wider world.  Russia’s Black Sea fleet, today as in centuries past, must contend with Turkey if it seeks to project power beyond that inland sea.   So, as tensions rise with Russian annexation of Crimea and massing of troops on Ukrainian borders, the Turkish Navy has set sail . . . for Africa.

In the days of the Cold War, Turkey was seen as the formidable anchor of NATO’s southern flank; in recent years, Prime Minister Erdogan has embarked on a mission of “neo-Ottomanism,” which seeks to reclaim Turkey’s role as the predominant regional and sometime world power. Erdogan may see these ambitions more closely aligned with current Russian practices than with the West.  Meeting directly with Putin early in the crisis, Erdogan reportedly received serious concessions about the treatment of Turkic Tartars in the region, possibly in exchange for Turkish closure of the straits to Western warships.   Perhaps, then, the continuation of the African mission is yet another signal that Turkey has no inclination to aide the West in any campaign against Russia.


Weekend links post: #China, #Syria, #Turkey, #Kurdistan

January 24, 2014

While reporting often makes the rise of China to global dominance seem inevitable, the Chinese elite might not be quite so confident themselves, as thousands of the richest and most powerful in that nation are busily expatriating their wealth to safe havens offshore.

In Syria, Assad has managed to cling to power by importing a mercenary force of foreign fighters, most of whom serve interests with their own designs on Syria.  This Washington Institute analysis indicates that Assad may have mortgaged his ability to lead his nation in the future by using these forces to maintain power in the present.

In Turkey, we see the results of Erdogan ‘s paranoid style.  He purged the military over fears of a coup; now, he is attempting to purge his former Islamist allies against the military, thinking they are more likely to stage a coup.  Turkey is more threatened by the Wars of the Kurdish Unification which are being waged on its very doorstep; this kind of internal division could open the door for another Kurdish front within Turkey itself.




The Wars of the Kurdish Unification

September 6, 2013

The more I think about it, the more I believe that future generations will come to call the early 21st century wars in Southwest Asia the Wars of the Kurdish Unification.

The US led Iraq War was the First War of Kurdish Unification, creating a de facto autonomous Kurdish state within the dysfunctional Iraq.

There is a very good chance that the  Syrian Civil War will result in a partial dissolution of that nation, with the Allawite and Kurdish regions forming their own mini-states.  This will be known as the Second War of Kurdish Unification.

The Third and Fourth Wars will involve Turkey and Iran (one or both of these will also spill over into Armenia and Azerbaijan).   Turkey is in the most difficult spot, with an active Kurdish opposition combined with a demographic time bomb – regions of majority Turkic ethnicity have declining birthrates while regions of mainly Kurdish ethnicity have growing birthrates.

That leaves Iran, which has a heavy Kurdish minority of its own, primarily in its eastern provinces.

The first two of these wars have already encompassed a full decade of sporadic warfare; the final two will take even longer, but it is very likely that a child born anywhere in Greater Kurdistan today could celebrate its 25th birthday as a citizen of the new State of Kurdistan.

Greater Kurdistan and the (former) nations of its constituent parts


Turkish unrest and the threats to energy security in the Turko-Caspian region

June 4, 2013

Turkey has long been the most stable regime in the Middle East (with the possible exception of Israel, which is relatively stable internally but under constant external pressure).  However, the ongoing uprising in Turkey has surfaced many underlying issues that have been long percolating in that nation.

Turkey is critical to US geostrategic positioning in the region.  Turkish power is the natural counterweight to Iranian influence from the Transcaucasus to Central Asia.  Last Fall, Robert Cutler wrote about threats to energy security in the Caucasus that didn’t even consider a wobbling Turkey (link will take you to, where you will be required to register in order to download the free essay).  Erdogan has not always been our most reliable partner, but he has been steady enough.  The US cannot afford to let another Islamic nation fall under the sway of Islamism . . . we probably should be hoping that the military stages a coup, because if Erdogan falls, the odds that a reformist bunch outmaneuvers the politically adept Muslim Brotherhood in yet another Middle Eastern nation seem slim to me.


Turkey reshuffles the Eurasian coalitioning deck

April 29, 2013

In Modelski’s version of Long Cycle Theory, coalitioning is the final phase before the final conflict between the existing hegemonic order and its challengers.  The coalitioning phase sees shifts in alliance structures, sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic.  EnerGeoPolitics has been watching the coalitioning efforts of the United States, Russia and China in Eurasia from its inception.  Early in this century, the US tried (and failed) to form an alliance of Caspian Sea states under the name of the Caspian Guard.  It has has better – though limited – success in expanding NATO to Eurasian states through its Partnership for Peace program.   China and Russia came together to create the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with several Central Asian nations.  Russia has organized several of the former Soviet Republics into the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has been the most successful effort – success which has led Russia to de-emphasize its participation in the SCO.

Late last week, there was an upheaval in the coalitioning field as charter NATO member – a lynchpin of US efforts in Eurasia – officially became a “dialogue partner” of the SCO.  This is not full membership, and Turkey has not left NATO, but it has been drifting away from the Atlantic alliance and toward the Heartland for a decade.  Atlanticism, it seems, is in retreat, and Eurasianism is on the march.  The good news (from this American’s perspective) is that the competing versions of Eurasianism (Russian, Chinese and don’t forget pan-Islamic) will have to settle things out among themselves before they can look outward.


The disarticulation of Syria?

January 10, 2013

There are indications that the Alewite dominated Assad regime may be making preparations for a retreat to their traditional homelands to continue the fight, perhaps even hoping to secede from greater Syria.  Whether this is a likely outcome or not,Israeli scholar Itamar Rabinovich examines the potential that the Syrian civil war could result in a break up of that nation (link opens  a pdf file).  Rabinovich details Syria’s history, especially its history under the French colonial mandate, to show that a four way sectarian separation is actually within living memory in the nation.

french ruled Syria

Even if such a breakup occured, a modern disarticulated Syria would not look like this 1930s era map.  The large Kurdish population of the north would certainly demand their own state – perhaps even joining with their fellows in Iraq and Turkey to carve a larger state out of  all three nations.  This would be a messy business all around and would undoubtedly draw Turkey and possibly more powers into the war.  However, the Kurds are growing in demographic power throughout the region and could end up being the dominant faction in both Turkey and Syria by century’s end, so it might be in their best interest to take any opportunity to grant them their own state, rather than seeing them struggle for – or even seize – power in 2 or 3 existing nations.



The Return of the Ottoman Empire

October 9, 2012

The continuing rise of Turkey as a major economic, political and military power in the Middle East is catching many by surprise.  Long called “the sick man of Europe,” Turkey today has the fastest growing economy in the Mediterranean region and, with Israel, is the regions dominant power.  After years of getting the high hat as it attempted to join the European Union, Turkey today holds the whip hand.
In the last week, two articles in the Israeli press have provided insight into Turkey’s growth and how it sees its position both regionally and globally.  First, from the Jewish Review of Near East Affairs, Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak presents a profile of Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.  Davutoglu has been foreign minister since 2009, but as an adviser, he has been the architect of Turkish foreign policy since 2006 and, as a scholar, he laid the foundation for Turkey’s current neo-Ottomanism with his influential 2001 book Strategic Depth.   There is no English translation of Strategic Depth, but the Jewish Review article gives a good background, as does this Turkish working paper from 2010.   In a nutshell, Davutoglu’s formulation is one of classical geopolitics; he argues that Turkey’s geographic position (at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East, her control of passage to the Black Sea, her position near the transits of the Eastern Mediterranean, all buttressed by the large numbers of ethnic Turks throughout the Balkans, Caucasus, and Central Asia) plus her status as the heir to the once powerful Ottoman Empire, argues that Turkey should not be a secondary player to the EU or NATO, but that she should be the dominant regional power in the Middle East in the near term and a world power of the first class in the middle term.  He also argues that Turkey should end her close relationship with Israel in favor of developing stronger ties with the rest of the Muslim world – an argument that has been coming to fruition of late.

A second article, in the Jerusalem Post, traces the rise of neo-Ottomanism back further than the influence of Dayutoglu.  The same author of the Jewish Review piece, Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak,  traces the birth of a growing Islamic power bloc in Turkey to the military coup of 1980.  Curiously, many in the West have considered the Turkish military to be the ultimate safeguard against Islamic rule, but Yaharocak shows that the military’s secularism may have been overstated.  In any case, the current government has purged many secularist officers and replaced them with more reliable Islamist or Islamist-friendly types.

Turkey’s geographic position can dominate energy transit