It seems like Erdogan must already be fighting everyone by now, and then he manages to step it up a notch.
As in, that maritime pact with Libya is turning out to be an emerging conflict encompassing the whole eastern Mediterranean.
As though this didn’t have bad action movie written all over it already, there has been a repeat iteration recreation of the scene in the beginning of Top Gun where the pilots engage one another but don’t fire.
Turkey ratcheted up tensions in the Aegean on Tuesday with Turkish jets conducting multiple violations of Greek airspace, leading to 16 mock dogfights, and Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay declaring that Ankara could send forces to the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish jets conducted 40 airspace violations, obliging Greek jets to engage in mock dogfights on 16 occasions, Greek defense sources said.
The barrage of violations was believed to have been spurred by comments by Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, according to which Greece has military supremacy in the Aegean.
Also on Tuesday there were reports of five Turkish Navy vessels south of Kastellorizo.
Oktay added fuel to the fire by saying that, “if necessary, Turkey will send forces, drill in the Eastern Mediterranean [and] conduct cross-border operations.”
OK, I even get that, but how are “cross-border operations” not an invasion? An invasion drill is an invasion.
So this action is but one highly visible manifestation of a much larger upsetting of whatever balance has existed in the eastern Mediterranean Ocean.
Or, more specifically: Turkey is upsetting the balance through military assertion with cutting edge right wing totalitarian jerkwad tactics.
As maritime observers fret over the South China Sea, The Baltic Sea and the Persian Gulf, the placid Mediterranean Sea is hurtling towards the precipice. This crisis has been almost entirely off the geopolitical radar, but over the past year, the lure of petrochemical riches has upended maritime order in Mediterranean waters. A resurgent Turkey, equipped with a dominant regional navy, has fine-tuned Chinese gray-zone tactics to seize a disproportionate swath of the Mediterranean. Turkey has signaled that it will use force to alter regional maritime norms, and a maritime confrontation seems inevitable.
Earlier this year, Turkey tested similar tactics the Chinese have used to impose control over the South China Sea. When experiments in using naval forces to escort Turkish drill ships into contested waters and to block rival petrochemical exploration vessels were met with little protest, Turkey simply moved the goalposts. Emboldened by somnolent America and European reactions, Turkey moved quickly to redefine the Mediterranean’s maritime borders. Earlier this month, Turkey concluded a massive maritime land-grab, entering into a maritime border agreement with Libya’s besieged government that cedes much of the resource-rich eastern Mediterranean to Turkish control.
So Turkey is just cruising in to other people’s territory with military stuff and saying it’s theirs? This sounds familiar.
And Turkey is doing this with basically everyone in the region.
Adding to the tension, Israel, which hopes to join Cyprus and Greece in building an undersea natural gas pipeline to Europe, was cautioned by Turkish authorities that any third party must seek Turkish approval for the new pipeline. Turkey’s foreign minister warned that Turkey could use military force to prevent unauthorized economic activity off Cyprus. At the same time, Turkey is holding the U.S. and EU hostage by threatening to close Incirlik Air Base and a critical radar station in Kurecik.
Oh yeah, Erdogan’s been threatening the US air base and the NATO radar station in Turkish territory that watches Iran to get more leverage against the West here as well.
Nobody’s surprised that Greece has been signaling that they would be thrilled to host the US bases if things don’t work out with Turkey. They’ve been pretty interested in our military stuff of late.
So who else has Erdogan been tangoing with?
Two weeks ago, Turkish naval units, imposing authority upon a contested area off Cyprus, forced the Bat Galim, an Israeli vessel affiliated with the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, out of Cyprus’ territorial waters. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Bat Galim was “doing research approved by the Government of Cyprus in Cyprus’ territorial waters.”
In response, naval forces from France, Italy and Cyprus conducted an exercise inside the Republic of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone. Independently, Israeli jets buzzed Turkish drill ships near Cyprus this weekend, and, as Israeli F-16Is, F-35s and F-15s demonstrated their reach, naval as well as air force units are rumored to be ready to escort the Bat Galim back into Cyprus waters. In turn, Turkey announced that, according to The Times, weapons-ready Bayraktar TB2 reconnaissance drones would be operating from the Gecitkale airbase in northern Cyprus to assist the drill ships by December 16. True to schedule, the first of these drones landed in Northern Cyprus at 7 AM GMT on Monday.
So everyone’s here to dance.
So basically, while there is frequently more saber rattling among states than really is appropriate given the stakes, even on a good day, increasingly, no body thinks this is just business as usual.
Things are changing.
Times of Israel: In blow to Turkey, US Congress ends decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus
Senators who spearheaded bill say they hope move will foster cooperation between the Mediterranean island nation, Greece and Israel
“With Cyprus seeking to deepen its strategic partnership with the United States, it is in our national security and economic interest to lift this outdated decades-long arms restrictions that are no longer helping US security objectives,” Menendez said after initial approval of the lifting of the embargo.
While the two Cypriot communities have made progress in improving relations, tensions have spiked over an accord between Turkey and Libya for newly discovered gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, undercutting claims by Greece and the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus.
And, just for good measure.
So this is all clearly spectacular.
So that’s one end of this Mediterranean Turkish military adventure. Now let’s check in on the other end.
In Libya, people continue to make fun of Turkey’s crappy equipment.
So that’s kinda funny. Especially when they take selfies.
But on the other hand, Libya really is difficult to sort out as it is such a mess even compared to other conflict zones. It has a kind of Jackass: The Movie gone horribly wrong, but not in a funny way kind of vibe.
Like, take this video. Spoiler alert: The truck blows up.
And bad as things are there, Turkey’s new pact with the GNA in Tripoli makes it even more of a shady person congregation point than it’s already been.
And everybody understands that Turkey’s presence there is making things much, much worse.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. experts say the interference of Chadian and Sudanese fighters in Libya is “a direct threat” to the security and stability of the war-torn country, which a leader of the Islamic State extremist group has declared “one of the main axes” of its future operations.
The panel of experts said in a 376-page report to the U.N. Security Council released Tuesday that the presence of the Chadians and Sudanese “has become more marked” in 2019 as a result of the intensification of the conflict in Libya. It said their continued presence as organized groups or as mercenaries “may lead to further instability.”
Hifter launched a surprise military offensive April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli despite commitments to attend a national conference weeks later aimed at forming a united government and moving toward elections. Fighting for Tripoli has stalled in recent months, with both sides dug in and shelling one another along the city’s southern reaches with increasingly sophisticated weapons.
While the LNA and the eastern government enjoy the support of France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries, the Tripoli-based government is backed by Italy, Turkey and Qatar.
“Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates routinely and sometimes blatantly supplied weapons, with little effort to disguise the source” in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, the report said.
So this is like an Idlib kind of situation where there’s just tons and tons of different types of people who want to fight here, but more diverse with more diverse interests and intensified.
The experts said counter-terrorism operations in Libya against Islamic State and al-Qaida extremists by the government and Hifter’s forces, and an increase in activity by the United States Africa Command, continue to disrupt the structure of both groups and temporarily reduce their capacity to conduct operations.
But the panel also reported the new focus on Libya by the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, quoting a video in July by an Islamic State leader in Libya, Mahmud Massud al-Baraassi, also known as Abu Musab Allibi. In the video, the report said, “he highlighted that Libya was now one of the main axes of future ISIL operations, which are designed to compensate for the loss of ground” in Syria.
“ISIL in Libya finances its activities through robbery, kidnap for ransom, extortion of Libyan citizens and the cross-border smuggling of artifacts and other commodities,” the panel said. “Taxation of human trafficking networks continues to be a source of funding for ISIL in Libya.”
It would make sense that ISIS would want to get in on an area where human trafficking is a growth industry.
So, as always, there’s microeconomic factors and big macro-global politics all at once.
The Associated Press reported last week that Libyan government officials plan to confront Moscow over the alleged deployment of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside Hifter’s LNA. U.S. officials also accuse Russia of deploying fighters through a private security contractor to key battleground areas in Libya in the past months.
And so Erdogan is going to push to escalate things here.
Of course, the concerns with Libya are obviously not really about whether or not the GNA or LNA will prevail, but who will control the oil and the strategic location.
Which is to say, the conflict could still grow. And spread.
It’s concern enough that the prime minister of the GNA is meeting with Italy.
And Gen. Haftar who leads the GNA army will too.
So Turkey is engaged in non-contact Fighting Falcon sparring over the Aegean with Greece as part of embroiling the eastern Med into conflict, while further immersing itself into the military conflict in Libya that threatens here again southern Europe by way of Italy.
And this all while trying to murder Kurds in Rojava, bomb Kurds in northern Iraq, smash Syria into submission, and basically mess up the whole Middle East?
Anything else? Maybe stalk an old fling?
So now they’re buzzing the Armenians. Bitter about the US Congress’s resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, much?
Makes Erdogan mad. But, the thing about that is:
You’d think saber rattling at the Armenians would round out Erdogan’s basic evil guy dance card, but no.
I mean, remember Turkey mixing it up with Israel above?
And then who knows what kind of unpleasantness he might contemplate in his moments of down-time from working to undermine civilization?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presents himself as a fierce defender of oppressed Muslims worldwide, but he has been muted when it comes to the Uighurs in western China.
Even while global condemnation of China’s repressive policies in Xinjiang has increased, Erdoğan has remained largely silent on the issue. His lack of support for the Uighurs is evidently down to his desire to build stronger economic ties with China as a result of Turkey’s deteriorating relationships with the United States and Europe.
“Turkey under Erdoğan has consistently stood with the Chinese oppressors,” Salih Hudayar, the founder and president of East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, told Ahval. He said this was making “Uighurs across the world lose hope, not only in Turkey, but also the Islamic world.” Other Muslim countries have also been hesitant to speak out.
The Uighurs are a Muslim people, speaking a Turkic language related to that spoken in Turkey.
“Although Erdoğan and his administration have been silent on East Turkistan,” the name Uighurs use for Xinjiang, Hudayar said, “Turkey’s people and other opposition parties like the Good party have been actively speaking out against China’s oppression of Uighurs.”
Erdoğan’s near silence on the issue of the Uighurs comes despite his alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which espouses Pan-Turkism, the ideal of uniting the Turkic peoples of Anatolia and Central Asia.
So Erdogan can’t even present himself as the great leader of militant nationalist Islamo-fascism without selling out for money?
Yeah, I guess that scans.