Nov 26 (2/6): Turkey: Pushing Boundaries

Turkey has signaled quite loudly its intention to push forward with its plans.

Ahval: Turkey to push forward with Syria offensive until goals met

Turkey will continue with its military offensive in northeast Syria targeting Kurdish forces until its goals are reached, the country’s National Security Council said on Tuesday.

That’s the only paragraph of 13 that offers anything that can be called new information. And it’s not really new but a statement that there is nothing new. The rest is just taking the opportunity to restate Turkey’s position of what this is all about—and presenting it as news, ostensibly so that people will read it.

NPA: “Turkey is maneuvering, the military operation in northeastern Syria will not be ceased” – Analyst

The Russian expert said that the announcement of the start-up of the [S-400 air defense system] test is a new political maneuver by Turkey, in order to obtain U.S.-European privileges, especially since the Turkish armament is Western, and the Russian system is contrary to the systems operating in the Turkish army. He considered that Turkey is well-practiced in its political maneuvers, and usually preserves cards to help it with the political maneuvering, especially since the Syrian file is still at the international negotiating table on one hand, and at the table of the main parties (Russia- Turkey- Iran) on the other hand, in addition to the fact that there are still heated consultations for ending the presence of the terrorist groups on the Syrian territories.

Turkey plays a pivotal role by supporting many of the terrorist groups in Idlib, despite its alleged promises, more than once to dissolve and stop supporting these groups that refuse to surrender their weapons, according to the Russian expert.

That may have gotten TFSA bombed, but that’s not a lot of skin off of Erdogan’s back. So more analysis favoring the idea that the S-400 test is all about leverage. Politics. Which does suggest that Turkey still seeks political leverage, which is itself interesting insofar as they’ve been pretty much operating according to the FU school of foreign relations thus far.

They go on to suggest that they expect Turkey to resume military operations—perhaps why they wish to maintain political leverage, as with they’re ongoing attempts to mess up NATO—but also suggest that Russia may be considering cards to play, such as weapons sales but also other possibilities, to deter Turkey.

Haartz: Analysis The Slaughter in Syria Still Goes On
Kurds who were in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria during Turkey’s military operation in October belie Ankara’s claims that it’s only fighting terrorists

After a few days in which the world showed signs of concern over the hundreds of people were were killed or wounded and the thousands more who were expelled, the imaginary cease-fire has calmed international public opinion and allowed Turkey to continue with its plans for regional domination. But the fire has not ceased and quiet has not been restored. All the world needs to do in order to realize is to stop plugging up its ears.

So, this is refreshing. Definitely worth a read. Basically, instead of reporting on what Turkey says, they interviewed some people from Syria who told them shit was totally fucked there and described it and they wrote that story.

And in addition to having lots of interesting details to support it, that’s a really solid paragraph. It gets more done than whole articles that detail some nonsense announced to the world precisely to distract it.

simpsons nice jig bullying.gif

So it maybe makes more sense to try to breakdown what Turkey intends based on what they said (and why we think they said it) rather than just taking what they say at face value.

South Front: SYRIA’S NORTHEAST IS ON BRINK OF NEW ROUND OF ESCALATION

Turkey’s statement about pressing on and complaining that this is all US and Russia’s fault for not fulfilling agreement to clear the “terrorists” out. Which means, as the author sees it:

By this statement, Turkey once again accused Russia and the US of not fulfilling their commitments in the framework of the safe zone agreement. The previous accusation of this kind against Russia was made by Turkey’s Foreign Minister, but then rectracted by the Turkish side as a kind of missunderstanding. The new accusations demonstrate that Ankara is once again ready for a more agressive push of its own agenda in the region. The Turkish side seeks to continue its military operation in Syria’s northeast and clear it from the Kurds, most of whom it describes as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.

They also make a great point with respect to the Turkey=sponsor of terror issue combined with their plan to “resettle” refugees in northern Syria:

Another interesting point is that Ankara’s declarations that it’s planning to resettle around 2m of refugees in the cleared region. The interesting fact is that most of these refugees are military aged men that fled the war. A majoirty of these ‘refugees’ does have anti-Assad views. A notable part of them supports various radical groups like ISIS and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (linked to al-Qaeda) or even former members of this or other similar groups.

Therefore, if Turkey achieves a success in its plan to resettle these refugees in northeastern Syria, it will be able to create another strongpoint of its influence in the country.

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that we are well past the point where there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that Turkey is sponsoring ISIS; the only distinction is whether or not an outlet reports it or lies about it. Or is CNN, which lacks sufficient news content to make a determination.

But the key insight here is that there is a bit of a political poison pill to Erdogan’s plan here for Assad and, by extension, Russia. Like, obviously, settling terrorists anywhere isn’t a great idea. But insofar as Erdogan has influence with ISIS types, that influence extends “above” or separate from state government allegiance, which is to say that not only is Turkey trying to rid the area of all the people who call it home, Erdogan also seeks to insert within Syria’s borders a political constituency loyal to him.

Whatever Russia and Assad seek, this complicates it.

Getting back to the sponsoring of terror angle and how it’s public knowledge, that actually sells the issue short: In fact, the war crimes committed by the Turkish backed militias are so well known that Turkey has succumbed to international pressure and taken urgently needed action to rectify the problem.

They’re imposing a code of conduct.

From the Not the Onion file:

Al-Monitor: Ankara seeks to discipline proxies in northeast Syria

Harsh international criticism of the militias’ actions has put Turkey in the crosshairs and appears to have led it to recently issue a code of conduct for the Syrian forces titled “Fighter, Not Killer.”

What? Were they somehow unaware that what they were doing is wrong? Or are they going to Urkel this one? One way or another, I don’t think Scout’s Honor is gonna get it done here. But what’s totally fucked is that this move underscores the fact that the international community knows what’s going on.

And this is what everyone came up with?

This is why women carry guns in Rojava.

The piece is a great read, full of details about the Turkish backed forces, including how they’re bearing the brunt of the casualties for Turkey’s war which people keep coming back to and what their plans for this are since Erdogan actually jerks them around quite a bit, but then also how they often operate independently to “advance their own interests.”

“Interests.”

There’s also a bunch of stuff about the specifics of this honor code thing, and then this gem:

In light of the indignation caused by SNA members filming executions they carried out, some of which were posted to social media, and their use of excessive violence during military operations, the code bans “taking photos and videos during military assignments,” stressing the importance of counter-intelligence measures.

Indignation? Indignation?

And the problem is the recording of atrocities? The recordings? Turkey’s really on the ball on this issue, clearly.

And then there’s some stuff about how this just goes to prove that Turkey is bad at using proxy armies, unlike Iran who is really good at it.

Who wrote this? I guess it’s true. But it’s an interesting criticism.

Anyway, towards the end, along with the analysis that Turkey lacks a deft touch in their mercenary zealot proxy terror operations, there is also this bit of analysis:

Why did Ankara publish a document laying out a code of conduct? The core reason is that with the center of gravity shifting to the diplomatic front, another large-scale Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria is no longer likely. The Western media’s ongoing interest in the campaign was another reason. In sum, with negotiations underway on drafting a new constitution for Syria, Ankara sought to avoid incidents that might put it in a tight spot or negative light.

Interesting thought. Is “public opinion” a euphemism for “the US Army”? Heh.

I’m kidding, of course. But if Turkey is suddenly sensitive to international public opinion, I’d want an explanation of what has changed, because that’s clearly a new development. I wouldn’t expect this to be a function of an internal shift, but rather things that restructure Turkey’s options. And the only things that I can think of that even could change this dynamic is moves made by Russia and the US.

Now, it’s interesting to see that there are different interpretations of what Turkey will do based on similar evidentiary findings. Everyone seems to agree that Turkey is making moves (or forebearing from moves) for political reasons. There is disagreement, though, as to whether this increased focus on politics is an attempt to gain more leverage to push other people around so that they can continue with their operation, or if this new emphasis is Turkey being responsive to existing political realities and pressures.

My POV: Why not both?

Or rather, I think under conditions of uncertainty, it makes sense for Turkey to invest in political capital. Then, if they get the opportunity, they can use it to continue to push people around and proceed with their operations. Absent said opportunity, they have more political capital to play the foreign diplomacy game and see what else they can get away with.

As per above, if they are suddenly responsive at all to public opinion, it would only be because the US or Russia (or both) did something that restructures the available options. I think that “something” they did was to behave in a way that increases uncertainty, putting Erdogan, at least temporarily, in a little bit of a wait and see mode,

Or, what this guy said—particularly in the context of the picture he’s responding to:

So it’s kinda incredible that everyone knows that Turkey is supporting ISIS and all they’ve come up with is an honor code. I  mean, I’m pretty sure we were already on the honor system and it wasn’t working out.

They were posting videos of their crimes for crying out loud. They really seem unwilling to relinquish their terror for anything less than death itself.

Of course, pretty much everyone but Erdogan finds this proposition acceptable.

So, long story short, it seems to me that some political uncertainty has been created for Turkey such that it makes sense to wait a bit, and if they have to wait, try to come up with moves and ways to claim political capital to use in the geopolitical aspect of this conflict.

NATO sure as shit didn’t do anything to pressure Turkey or create uncertainty; if anything, Turkey is pushing them around. So that leaves Russia or the US, and we still don’t know who hit the TFSA near al Bab the other night. But we do know that both of them must now, we just can’t believe anything either says, albeit for different reasons in each case—reasons we also may never know.

In that vein, let’s recall that Erdogan’s plan is and has always been predicated on Trump’s acquiescence, as everyone has known at every point along the way. So it’s interesting that Erdogan seems to be pushing the envelope a bit on the idea of “Trump gave me permission”:

I really don’t think I believe that. Not because it’s stupid and gives up all kinds of leverage and messes up half the alliances the US has—he’s done that with a Tweet.

I simply don’t see Trump endorsing someone else buying anything from someone else instead of him.

Like, that’s what he’s all about. It’s the only thing he’s all about. Like, buying and selling weapons and buying and selling oil appear to be the only two things that interest him in all of the middle east. Well, and threatening to ruin Turkey’s economy even though he decided not to, but that’s about money too. So yeah, I don’t see it. As China has recently suggested, he’s an idiot, but that doesn’t mean he’s actually unpredictable.

But either way, Erdogan is clearly putting out there the Trump permission thing, specifically about the S-400. Seeing as it’s widely believed the mystery air strikes were a response—one that could have been from either the US or Russia as each would benefit from imposing a more deferential attitude upon Erdogan after his sabre rattling. And here we are now seeing Erdogan implicitly being deferential by claiming that he had permission; it’s a statement that he was justified, but it also suggests that he understands that he will continue to need the acquiescence of the heavy hitters if he’s going to successfully complete his objectives.

So, given that conclusion—or, perhaps more accurately, assessment, seeing as there are a few possibilities—I’ll end this post with a peek at public opinion in America.

For a moment, I took some heart from the direction these numbers are trending.

And then I realized that 51% of Americans support withdrawal and 60% favor military support for the Kurds, so, once again, 2+2=apple.

Is Pence responding to or influencing public opinion? I mean, it seemed either silly or brilliant or a bit of both when he said we’d be doing both simultaneously. But maybe he was just truly, as per a good democratic system, simply reflecting our completely incoherent opinion?

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