Sunday,18 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)
Sunday,18 November, 2018
Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Turkey after Raqqa

Turkey’s relations abroad have reached a nadir unprecedented in the nearly 100-year history of the Turkish Republic, writes Sayed Abdel-Meguid in Ankara


Turkey  after Raqqa
Turkey after Raqqa

Ankara just keeps on losing on the foreign policy front, and it looks as if things will go on that way for the foreseeable future.

In spite of all its sabre-rattling in advance of the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey was unable to prevent it or to produce any essential change in its confused relations with Iraq. Closer relations with Iran also failed to dispel the Iranian regime’s suspicions towards Ankara because of the inconsistencies and U-turns that have become the hallmark of Turkish foreign policy.

In Syria, Turkish influence is eroding by the day, and its involvement in the city of Idlib has meant the country’s collaboration with jihadists and takfiris in military operations that, at least judging by the record so far, tend to reap shame before gain.

As for relations with its neighbours to the north and across the Atlantic, these have reached a nadir unprecedented in the nearly 100-year history of the Turkish Republic. Ankara has lost virtually all its influence with such capitals, largely thanks to its deteriorating human rights record in the course of the coup-like purges it has waged at home following the coup attempt in mid-July last year.

The Turkish government’s moral standing has sunk to an all-time low as it races headlong towards dictatorship and further corruption.

Against this backdrop, there have been rumours that the US may soon level billions of dollars’ worth of fines against Turkish banks for violating sanctions against Iran. The reports surfaced in connection with judicial proceedings in New York against Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, a senior official at Halk Bank, and other Turkish figures on charges of money laundering and conspiring to violate the sanctions.

In tandem have come proceedings against members of the Turkish presidential guard on charges of assault and battery during Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the United States.

To top it all has come the liberation of the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State (IS) group, a battle that Ankara campaigned hard to be a part of. Worse, its much-loathed victor will be rewarded, and ruling AKP Party circles in Turkey are seething now that the largest oilfield in the liberated city has come under the control of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

According to Turkish government sources, the US-led coalition is continuing to train and equip the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which form the main body of the SPD and which Turkey regards as a branch of the Turkish-based PKK Kurdish movement. The purpose of the training is to enable the YPG to secure the rural environs of Raqqa. The same sources report that the soldiers will receive a monthly salary of $150. 

While voices orchestrated from Ankara proclaim that they will never allow “terrorists” (the YPG), inundated with arms from across the Atlantic, to form a separate entity along their southern border, voices from the White House have also called for a tough stance against Erdogan who they say is constantly railing against the US and drumming up anti-American feeling.

US President Donald Trump added a twist of the knife, in his own inimical way, by heralding the dawn of a new era in the region that does not match Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman vision. The “end of the IS caliphate is in sight” now that the “Syrian Democratic Forces, our partners in the fight against IS in Syria, have successfully recaptured Raqqa,” Trump proclaimed.

All this is probably only the beginning of the repercussions of the liberation of Raqqa for Ankara, after the many ruses that Erdogan has resorted to during the past ten months in the hope of obstructing a Kurdish victory.

The forces that the Turkish regime sees as an extension of the PKK are strengthening their presence in northern Syria with international blessings. Any solution to the Syrian civil war without them will be doomed to fail, all the more so if the contours of the “new era” hailed by Washington become more concrete.

As the clouds of this “scenario from hell” darken over Ankara, Erdogan’s paranoia, already gripped by the certainty that he is the butt of a worldwide web of conspiracies being hatched against him, intensifies. But whether due to the workings of a grand scheme or the product of the policies and attitudes of the regime itself, it has become obvious that Turkey has become marginalised and that this once-respected member of NATO is no longer a dependable ally.

Erdogan’s response remains truculent and confrontational, or, as some opposition voices have put it, his recent remarks reflected “an arrogance that is inconsistent with the deteriorating status and prestige of his government.” 

The US “is not a civilised country,” Erdogan said, as arrest warrants were issued for 15 of his own bodyguards filmed beating up peaceful protesters in the US capital Washington as he looked on.

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