August 2016 Special Editor's Notes

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Carl Dow, Editor and Publisher, True North Perspective.

True North Perspective
Vol. 12, No. 12 (372)
August Special Edition 03 - 2016

Editor's Notes

Washington's impatience to control Turkey backfires

Sending Erdoğan into Putin's open but cautious arms

Exasperated by the Mercurial Man of Europe, Washington

takes advantage of a U.S.-friendly military to inspire a coup

Now you can count on one of Washington's favourite weapons

Character Assasination: Erdoğan from political ally to dictator

Image: True North Perspective Editor and Publisher Carl Dow. Photo by the Phantom Phographer. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been all over the political map while enacting laws and supporting causes that have endeared him to a majority of Turks, resulting in a show of public support that was key to defeating the military-led putsch on July 15.

Erdoğan's government introduced several liberal economic reforms, improved the Turkish economy, lifted restrictions on religious expressions, and succeeded in resolving the Turkey–Kurdistan Workers' Party guerilla war by allowing restoration of the use of the Kurdish language and Kurdish names to cities and towns. Erdoğan was able to curb the political power of the military through the ‘Sledgehammer’ and ‘Ergenekon’ court cases.

His government also increased the quality of healthcare by introducing the ‘Green Card’ program that gives health benefits to the poor. Transportation problems were alleviated when high speed railway lines were constructed.

On 23 April 2014, Erdoğan's office issued a declaration that acknowledged Turkey’s responsibility in the mass killings of Armenians during World War I and offered condolences.

Erdoğan increased the budget of the Ministry of Education from 7.5 billion lira in 2002 to 34 billion lira in 2011.

In 2004, Erdoğan was listed in Time magazine's "100 most influential people in the world".

Erdoğan has also been honored with a number of prestigious awards like the Golden Plate award from the ‘Academy of Achievement’, Outstanding Service award from ‘Red Crescent’, the Agricola Medal of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, King Faisal International Prize from the ‘King Faisal Foundation’, United Nations–HABITAT award, WHO 2010 World No Tobacco Award, Gold Statue 2012 Special Award’ by the Polish Business Centre Club.

He has received honorary doctorates from institutions like St. John's University, University of Sarajevo, Istanbul University, University of Pristina, Moscow State University, University of Algiers and İnönü University.

It would take a book to do this man justice. This brief analysis will help put Erdoğan in context and provide insight as to what we may expect next in the shifting sands of power relations in the Middle East.

On 11 May 2016 Erdoğan was haranguing NATO for not sending a flotilla of war ships onto the Black Sea. The Black Sea, complained Erdoğan, was almost a Russian lake. Hardly more than three months later, in August 2016, Erdoğan flew to Russia's St. Petersburg to virtually sit in Putin's lap and purr about the long lasting friendly relationship between the two countries.

Until 2011 when the Syrian, Washington-inspired, armed conflict began against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Erdoğan and Assad were considered both political and personal friends. However, when the U.S. started flexing its military muscle, Erdoğan imagined a repeat of the carpet bombing of Libya, engineered by Hilary Clinton, then U.S. secretary of state, and erroneously foresaw the rapid destruction of the Assad regime. Ergo Erdoğan dumped Assad as a personal friend and as a political ally.

Turkey, with a long border with Syria, linked with ISIS, (a group about which the Americans made much ado but did very little), and other groups opposing Assad. Erdoğan, while the Americans whistled and looked the other way, allowed easy entry of thousands of oil-transport trucks into Turkey organized by ISIS. The oil was being sold in Turkey on the black market. This major source of wealth for ISIS went virtually unscathed by American bombers, to the disgust of American airmen who, as reported last year in True North Perspective, said that they were under orders to drop their tens of thousands of tons of explosives near, but not on, the ISIS. The ISIS therefore were able to expand finances, arms, manpower, and space. The Americans hoped to use ISIS to depose Assad.

The Russians repeatedly pleaded in vain with the West to get Turkey to close its border. Finally, on 30 September 2015, with the agreement of the Assad regime, the Russians embarked on a bombing campaign that seriously disrupted the truck pipeline and helped government forces to take serious and victorious offensives against ISIS on the ground.

It soon became clear to the West, and to Erdoğan, that contrary to their hopes, Assad was not about to fall. In fact during this turmoil, a general election was held in Syria, and Assad, his party, and political allies, received the overwhelming majority of votes.

In November of 2015, Turkey ambushed a Russian bomber that had strayed across the Turkish border for a few seconds. One of the pilots was killed by a Turkey-supported rebel group as he parachuted on the Syria side of the border. There is speculation that the shooting down of the Russian aircraft was prompted by the U.S. and enacted by the pro-American Turkish military with coup on its mind. Russia responded with severe trade and tourist embargoes against Turkey.

As noted above, in May of this year, Erdoğan was calling on NATO to enter the Black Sea in force. The Turkish military was involved in heavy armed conflict with a section of the Syrian Kurds who were being supported by the Americans. Erdoğan was concerned that Kurds who were successful in the battles with the ISIS would establish a mini-country on the Turkish border.

With no NATO armada entering the Black Sea Erdoğan began not-so secret talks with Assad, Iran, and Russia, seeking peace with his adversaries. The neo-cons running Washington, afraid of losing Turkey with its largest army in Western Europe, pulled their ace in the hole, the U.S.-friendly Turkish military, and launched the coup July 15. By overthrowing Erdoğan they would have a stable, America-friendly Turkey at their command. But history has proven, as we now well know,  that they miscalculated.

Erdoğan called on Turks to take to the streets in opposition to the coup. Hundreds of thousands answered the call.

The coup was smothered and within days Erdoğan was making nice with Russia. Putin, while welcoming the change of face, was cautious. "We'll see," he said. The conclusions and practice of new and old negotiations would tell all.

Meanwhile, Erdoğan was wasting no time. On 16 August two Arabic-language newspapers published in London, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Al-Hayat reported that Turkey and Iran had reached a preliminary agreement on fundamental principles for a settlement of the Syrian conflict.

Turkey and Iran reach agreement on conditions for Syria peace

One of the conditions that Turkey insisted on was that the Assad government protect the interests of all religions, but that was a no-brainer because religious tolerance is a hallmark of the essentially secular Assad government. That is a key reason Assad has had such strong popular support by all except the Sunni Muslims. 

The peace-making meeting with the Russians and the Iranians means that Erdoğan has turned his back on Europe and Washington. At least for now.

The new negotiations between Iran and Turkey are the result of a major policy shift by Erdoğan's government toward diplomatic cooperation with Russia and Iran on Syria and away from alignment with the United States and its Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Turkey has been coordinating military assistance to the armed opposition to the Assad government — including jihadists and other hardline extremists — with Saudi Arabia and Qatar since early in the war. However, Erdoğan began searching in May for an alternative policy more in line with Turkey's primary strategic interest in Syria: containing the threat of Kurdish demands for a separate state.

It was this search for an alternative policy that alarmed the neo-cons in Washington causing them to prompt the American-friendly Turkish military to stage a coup. The collapse of the coup joins a growing list of American failures by the destructive Washington cabal whose only sense of reality seems bordered by their posh air conditioned offices and the sycophants who surround them.

If this new Turkey arrangement holds, it will have a profound effect for the better on the balance of power in the Middle East.

Carl Dow

Editor and Publisher
True North Perspective
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