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Turkey

Olivier GuittaFormer Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said in 2013: "The international community cannot tolerate a state in the middle of the Mediterranean that is a source of terrorism, violence and murder.

" Unfortunately, seven years later, the situation has only gotten worse and Libya has become one of the theaters of violence in which all the world powers wage war on a proxy basis. Each nation defends the camp it has chosen to support, but more direct involvement from a country like Turkey will only fuel chaos and violence.

Unsurprisingly, on January 2, the Turkish parliament voted for a one-year authorization to send troops to Libya to support the Fayez al-Sarraj Government of National Accord (GNA), writes Olivier Guitta. President Erdogan had not really waited for this vote since in the last few weeks 300 Syrian mercenaries have already been fighting in Libya alongside the GNA. In addition, 1,000 other Syrian mercenaries are undergoing training in Turkish camps before being sent to Libya. Turkey is already de facto the subcontractor of the GNA, carrying out military operations from Tripoli and Misrata. Also, Ankara had already sent -in 2019- military advisers, weapons and 20 drones, supplied directly by a company belonging to Erdogan's son-in-law. The GNA openly prides itself on receiving military equipment directly from Turkey. This is all the more ironic since GNA, which is the government set up and approved by the United Nations, is in full violation of UN resolutions banning the importation of weapons into Libya.

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Prudent optimism: Turkish Ambassador. The Defence Viewpoints interview by Nick Watts

Turkey sits at the nexus of a region beset with geopolitical issues. Developments in Syria; the prospects for the Middle East Peace Process; developments in the north and south Caucasus; the continuing tensions with Iran and the situation in Iraq. Reflecting on these matters and on its relationship with the EU Turkey’s Ambassador to London HE Mr Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz characterized his outlook as being based on “prudent optimism.”

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HRH Prince Saud al Faisal, Saudi Arabia's long serving Foreign Minister, talked to Defence Viewpoints in Riyadh today. He's calling for greater efforts from the international community to resolve the Syria crisis, but "nobody is asking for a military force to conquer all of Syria." Read more below.

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As Turkish riot police use tear gas around Taksim Square this morning, nearly two weeks  of anti-government protests have exposed a number of long-dormant fault lines in Turkey's complex political landscape. But even as the appeal of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (also known by its Turkish acronym, AKP) is beginning to erode, it will remain a powerful force in Turkish politics for some time to come, with its still-significant base of support throughout the country and the lack of a credible political alternative in the next elections, according to a recent Stratfor analysis.

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In an eight-minute video clip titled "Onward, Lions of Syria" disseminated on the Internet Feb. 12, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri expressed al Qaeda's support for the popular unrest in Syria. In it, al-Zawahiri urged Muslims in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan to aid the Syrian rebels battling Damascus. This analysis by Kamran Bohkari discusses the ramifications not just for Syria but for other Middle East countries

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By George Friedman

Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won parliamentary elections June 12, which means it will remain in power for a third term. The popular vote, divided among a number of parties, made the AKP the most popular party by far, although nearly half of the electorate voted for other parties, mainly the opposition and largely secularist Republican People's Party (CHP). More important, the AKP failed to win a supermajority, which would have given it the power to unilaterally alter Turkey's constitution. This was one of the major issues in the election, with the AKP hoping for the supermajority and others trying to block it. The failure of the AKP to achieve the supermajority leaves the status quo largely intact. While the AKP remains the most powerful party in Turkey, able to form governments without coalition partners, it cannot rewrite the constitution without accommodating its rivals.

One way to look at this is that Turkey continues to operate within a stable framework, one that has been in place for almost a decade. The AKP is the ruling party. The opposition is fragmented along ideological lines, which gives the not overwhelmingly popular AKP disproportionate power. The party can set policy within the constitution but not beyond the constitution. In this sense, the Turkish political system has produced a long-standing reality. Few other countries can point to such continuity of leadership. Obviously, since Turkey is a democracy, the rhetoric is usually heated and accusations often fly, ranging from imminent military coups to attempts to impose a religious dictatorship. There may be generals thinking of coups and there may be members of AKP thinking of religious dictatorship, but the political process has worked effectively to make such things hard to imagine. In Turkey, as in every democracy, the rhetoric and the reality must be carefully distinguished.

Turkey's Shifting Policy

That said, the AKP has clearly taken Turkey in new directions

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Editor's note: This is the fifth installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman will write over the next few weeks as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he will share his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and conclude with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

We arrived in Istanbul during the festival of Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael on God's command and praises the God who stayed his hand. It is a jarring holiday for me; I was taught that it was Isaac whom God saved. The distinction between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between Hagar and Sarah, between Abraham and the Jews and Abraham and the Muslims. It ties Muslims, Jews and Christians together. It also tears them apart.

Muslims celebrate Eid with the sacrifice of animals (sheep and cattle). Istanbul is a modern commercial city, stunningly large. On this day, as we drove in from the airport, there were vacant lots with cattle lined up for those wishing to carry out the ritual. There were many cattle and people. The ritual sacrifice is widely practiced, even among the less religious. I was told that Turkey had to import cattle for the first time, bringing them in from Uruguay. Consider the juxtaposition of ancient ritual sacrifice so widely practiced that it requires global trade to sustain it.

The tension between and within nations and religions is too ancient for us to remember its beginnings. It is also something that never grows old. For Turkey, it is about a very old nation at what I think is the beginning of a new chapter. It is therefore inevitably about the struggles within Turkey and with Turkey's search for a way to find both its identity and its place in the world.

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By Yusuf Yerkel,

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed the fourth round of sanctions on Iran on June 9, 2010. Since then there has been no indication that Iran has become more cooperative and willing to open up its nuclear facility. In fact, economic sanctions against Iran have not prevented the pursuit  of uranium enrichment activities at all. Nowadays the propaganda of waging war against Iran as a resolution has been speculated around various administrations, in particular in the US and Israel. Whether such speculations will materialize remains to be seen. However "appealing" waging war against Iran is for some neo-cons, Turkey's paradigm stands as a potential conciliatory approach for conflict resolution not only in the case of Iran but also in other regional crisis.

The security culture of 'zero problems' with its neighbours is the primary reference point within which Turkey's stance on Iran should be analyzed. Rather than implementing hard power policy, the soft power approach has become the fundamental instrument in resolving regional problems. As the Turkish foreign minster Davutoglu pronounced, Turkey has adopted a new language in regional and international politics that prioritises civil-economic power.

Turkey's new security culture puts more emphasis on economic integration, cultural and political dialogue and room for diplomacy in conflict resolutions. According to Turkey, pursuing merely political engagement among regional actors would render the relationship very fragile in the light of crisis, whereas deepening ties by various non-political mechanisms offers the opportunity to overcome crises. In fact, Turkish President Abdullah Gul in his recent speech at Chatham House raised this point by arguing that boosting economic cooperation, which will in turn translate into prosperity, has the potential to prevent political problems from arising in zones of conflict in various regions.

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By Jamie Ingram

"The next war in the Middle East will be fought over water, not politics". Dr Boutros Ghali's famous 1985 prediction has since been proven wrong but many believe the point is still valid. Observers forecast that increasing populations in an already water-stressed region will inevitably lead to conflict. The Tigris-Euphrates river basin has been highlighted as particularly susceptible to violence, but would its three riparian states (Turkey, Syria and Iraq) really go to war over access to its water?

Over the last 25 years rising populations, coupled with upstream States like Turkey developing rivers through the building of hydro-electric power stations and dams, have greatly increased pressure on many international rivers. Downstream States are understandably concerned that the flow of water reaching them may be disrupted. Fears abound that this could erupt into violence; especially in times of drought. Despite these well founded concerns international rivers have actually been the cause of very little conflict; the opposite is in fact true. The 20th century saw the signing of over 145 water-related treaties, the amount of violent conflicts over water? Seven minor skirmishes.

Crucially no international law governs the use of international rivers. While the 1997 UN Convention on International Watercourses contains useful principles, such as "Equitable and Reasonable Utilisation and Participation" few countries have signed up to it and it is not internationally binding.

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By Alex Shone, Research Associate, U Defence Forum

Syria has been described by some US analysts as a 'low hanging fruit' in the Middle East; a potential partner for resolving some entrenched obstacles to an eventual peace resolution. This fruit many argue is 'ripe' for strategic realignment; a move that would generate new and potentially crucial opportunities.
Syria will become an increasingly important player within the affairs of the Middle East. A comprehensive appreciation of the country and its internal dynamics is a clear requirement and shall form the basis for a new UK Defence Forum country series on Syria.


Syria is a country that bridges military, political and social divides between several key Middle East countries. As a result, a perception lingering over Syria is that of contradiction and 'double-standard games' with the West. Syria's stated aim is peace with Israel and yet they have allied themselves with partners whose stated aim is the destruction of Israel. Syria is a bastion for secularism and yet they promote a common cause with numerous political Islamist groups. Syria simultaneously supports Iraqi Sunni insurgents and Lebanese Shi'ite armed groups.


These glaring and controversial actions have played no small role in obstructing diplomatic progress between Syria and the US. Western perception is that Syria has yet to take the first, genuine steps towards redressing these areas. The other and problematic side of this coin is that Syria believes it has taken these first steps, demonstrated as they see it by their cooling of relations with Hezbollah and warming of relations with Turkey.


Consequently, an impasse exists whereby the US waits for a show of commitment by Syria to rethinking its alliances with such undesirable partners as Hezbollah, Palestinian armed political groups and critically, Iran. Syria in turn waits for a greater show of commitment by the US for support if these entrenched status-quos are to be uprooted. Syria simply does not have the motivation to do so until they feel that the steps they have taken are appreciated; Syria is weary of what Damascus sees as a one-way show of commitment.


Equally, there is undoubtedly safety and comfort for Syria in preserving its current position. The Syrian regime, itself a Shi'ite minority within a Sunni majority nation, has been described as one that must preserve certain instabilities in order to survive. Its relations with such countries as Iran are fraught, and indeed perhaps governed, by parallel shared and competitive interests. Damascus manoeuvres between Ankara, Riyadh and Tehran, pursuing the bilateral relations it has with each whilst holding the others at bay with the 'stick' that it does have at its disposal.


Each side tends to view their own "gestures of goodwill" as holding enormous significance while dismissing the others' as insignificant. Resolution of contradictions on Syria's part will likely require a slow-but-sure start rather than sweeping and dramatic changes. Gambling with their future is clearly not something the Syrian regime can do. The regime is, for the medium term relatively secure. Economics is central, and while the country is faring well in terms of macroeconomics, underlying problems will in the longer term become increasingly problematic for the current regime's survival.


Syria can indeed be described as a low hanging fruit among potential Middle East partners for the West. However, progress in improving relations will have to be seen if it is to be 'plucked' or flipped towards a new regional status quo of power. Not simply normalisation but instead an expansion of dialogue shall be required to discuss the relevant issues and problem areas in order to determine a new regional role for Syria.

 
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