Turkey's Don Quixote & Sancho Panza
So called Zero friction Foreign policy morphs into conflicts with almost all neighbours and beyond under Wannabe President Sultan Recep Erdogan
Note ; by Amb K Gajendra Singh who has kept a watch over Turkey since 1967 as desk officer in Indian Foreign ministry up to 1969, then moved over to Indian Embassy in Ankara as Ambassador's deputy (1969-73 ) He then returned as Ambassador to Ankara ,( July 1992 to 96 ) and after retirement stayed there as accredited journalist up to 1998 .From Ankara Amb Singh also was concurrently accredited to Azerbaijan .In fact the first Indian ambassador to Baku.
Whatever the regime ;Military, Republic, Left of centre, right of centre ,with all restrictions on media personnel , including assaults, jailings ,the Turks are defiant .Unlike Indians , who when asked to bend , fall at the feet of authority. In Indian media is a disgrace .At the moment Turkey under Wannabe autocrat Ottoman Sultan Recep Erdogan has become a most difficult place to function. Specially for journalists.
Below are two pieces from Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News ( earlier known as Turkish Daily News, which used my many articles on Turkey and the region ,as did Zaman and Cumhuriyet. Since 1997
I have written over 300 articles on international events and problems and wars and maneuvers ,mostly the Greater Middle East and adjoining areas .
Another Syrian nightmare, courtesy of the Russians
Turkey is now having to cope with multifaceted ramifications of Russia's intervention in Syria. What has made Ankara nervous is not only the failure of the government's Syria policy, but the collapse of plans for a safe zone to house Syrian refugees and withering away of the idea to support opposition forces with Turkey's rules of engagement. Now Turkey has to deal with new tensions created by the fleeing of armed Syrian militants from Russian bombings to Turkey.
Summary⎙ Print Russian operations are rattling Turkey as militants fleeing Syria infiltrate Turkey.
Author Fehim TaştekinPosted October 6, 2015
Before going into implications of the Russian violations, it will help to take a look at the situation along the border that has been off the Turkish agenda for a while.
It is a fact that northern Syria acquires its logistics and manpower through Turkey. In earlier days, militants escaping from the Syrian army into refugee camps near the border had caused fatalities. Now the Russian air force is on the scene and the escape routes are once again active.
According to what Al-Monitor learned from local sources in Hatay on Oct. 15, 15 militants in full gear entered Turkey at the Turfanda village on the Syria-Turkey border and moved toward Antakya. Residents notified the gendarmerie but the men eventually disappeared in the company of soldiers.
On Oct. 3 at 11 p.m., a bus that entered Turkey from Yayladagi was forced to stop after crashing into a car at Hatay's Harbiye district. The bus with nonmatching back and front license plates and passengers inside attracted attention. When the passengers left the bus with their belongings and began to disperse through the side streets, rumors spread that jihadists had reached Harbiye. Subsequently, the police took the passengers to a nearby school building, until police reinforcement arrived and the passengers were taken away. Nobody really knew who they were.
As Russia intensifies pressure on the Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqa areas, this kind of militant movement is inevitable. Hatay has always been a city that has been fervently opposed to Ankara's Syria policy that backs jihadist groups.
Representatives of armed groups last week rushed to Istanbul to discuss how to respond to Russia's intervention. Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, Suqour al-Sham, Jaish al-Mujahideen and Sultan Murat Brigade attended the two-day meeting that concluded with a call from 41 organizations fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime to regional countries to unite against the Russia-Iran alliance.
Russia tested Turkish borders
As to Russian violations of Turkish airspace, what cannot escape notice is how Turkey's rules of engagement against the Syrian military operating near the Turkish border were invalidated by airspace violations of Russian jets.
On Oct. 3, a Russian Su-30 loaded with bombs violated the Turkish border south of Hatay-Yayladagi for two minutes, and Turkish warplanes scrambled to intercept. The violation was repeated the next day. Russia not only violated the airspace but also harassed the Turkish interceptors; according to a statement by the Turkish High Command, on Oct. 4, a MiG-29 jet locked its radar for five minutes and 40 seconds on two Turkish F-16s patrolling along the border.
Russia's Ankara-based Ambassador Andrey Karlov was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, and Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to convey Turkey's reaction. Turkey also engaged its NATO allies, and warnings issued to Russia multiplied. The Turkish government had concealed the developments until a TV broadcast on Oct. 5 informed the public of the recent events.
Has Russia changed the rules of the game, despite saying that its actions are not intentional? If so, how?
Russia sent a message that its operations in Syria will expand to the Turkey's border.
Russia showed its determination not only to target the Islamic State, but also the areas controlled by groups supported by the Gulf states and the West. Turkey reacted sharply to this development.
Russia challenged the veracity of Turkey's rules of engagement. After Syria had shot down a Turkish F-4 reconnaissance plane over the Mediterranean on June 22, 2012, Turkey had announced that it would hit Syrian military elements approaching its border. In the context of these rules of engagement, the Turkish air force shot down a Syrian helicopter on Sept. 16, 2013; a MiG-23 warplane on March 23, 2014; and a Syrian aircraft on May 16, 2015. But as the violating aircraft was a Russian plane, Turkey made do with an interception flight, thus suspending its rules of engagement.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu took a tough line after the incident. "Turkey's rules of engagement are valid for Syria, Russia or any other country. Turkish armed forces have clear instructions. Even if it is a bird, whatever violates Turkey's borders, it will be confronted," he said, without really impressing anyone.
The Turkish public is inured to Davutoglu's blustering statements of the sort that "nobody should try to test our power," which have no bearing on the events.
Although Ankara wants to make the issue again a NATO crisis, reactions by the alliance are far from meeting Ankara's expectations. In short, Russia tested the limits of Turkey's rules of engagement that also apply to NATO. The Western alliance that found it adequate to apply its Article 4, calling for consultations instead of Article 5 that calls for action when a Turkish jet is downed — which didn't react to the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and that couldn't take any deterrent position vis-a-vis the events in eastern Ukraine — will find it hard to do anything more than issuing warnings.
Despite such warnings, Russians staged their third harassment action on Oct. 5. According to information provided by the chief of General Staff on Oct. 5, while eight Turkish F-16s were on air patrol along the border, they were harassed by a MiG-29 that locked its radar on them for 4½ minutes. At the same time, Syria-based surface-to-air missiles locked their radars on Turkish planes for four minutes and 15 seconds.
This could well mean that Russia has established a de facto no-fly zone near the border. Has Turkey not tried so hard to declare a no-fly zone against the Syrian regime in this area?
It has now become clearer how Russia has changed the rules of the game since Oct. 5, right after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned, "What has been done to Turkey, has been done to NATO. Our relations with Russia are there to see, but they will lose."
These are signs that Russia is willing to take on all challenges and that it is ready to cope with whatever may happen.
Citizens are gloomy about Turkey's economic prospects, suspicious of international partners, and opposed to military involvement in neighboring Syria, according to new research published on Oct. 7 by the German Marshall Fund.
However, the Turkish Perceptions Survey revealed that a majority still favors membership in the European Union, Reuters reported.
Turkey has been battered by domestic and international headwinds in recent months, with inconclusive elections, weak economic growth, regional conflicts and a surge in outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant violence.
In light of this, Turkish people overwhelmingly think the government should focus on domestic problems, according to the survey, carried out between July 4 and July 13 through face-to-face interviews with 1,018 respondents.
"Seventy percent of respondents said Turkey should deal first with its internal problems. Only 20 percent said Turkey should play a more active role in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Central Asia," according to the survey, conducted with financial support from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.
Slightly more than half of respondents, at 51 percent, disapproved of Turkey's current foreign policy, while 41 percent approved of it.
Evidence of Turkish misgivings toward the country's international partners comes at a time when the U.S. is keen to see Ankara do more in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The survey also paints a picture of a population with weakening faith in the economic outlook after a period of growth. Some 47 percent said the economy had worsened in the last five years and only 39 percent said it had improved. Looking forward to the next year, 44 percent predict the economy will worsen and 28 percent expect an upturn.
Despite a stalled EU accession bid and bitter disagreements over migration and human rights, 44 percent of Turks still favor membership of the bloc, with 23 percent opposed.
NATO and the United Nations were viewed as trustworthy by just one-third of respondents. Most Turks were unable to identify a single one of the country's international partners. Of those that did, most identified the United States.
However, U.S. foreign policies were widely distrusted, with just 17 percent saying they agreed with Washington's policies in the Middle East.
Some 57 percent opposed military intervention against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, while 29 percent would support military intervention. Just 17 percent said Turkey should be actively involved if the U.S.-led coalition decided to intervene, while 37 percent said they believe Turkey should stay out of the coalition altogether.
While majorities were against sending Turkish troops under all other scenarios, 46 percent of Turks supported the idea of sending troops to form a buffer zone to protect people in the region from ISIL. Forty-one percent of respondents were not in favor of this.
"Have a friend like a Russian, have an enemy like a Russian." These are the words of a high-level Turkish intelligence analyst who has personally had to deal with the Russians on issues like Chechnya, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), etc. "They stick to their word. They don't talk much, but they definitely do what they say," he added.
It was no surprise to many international observers that Russian President Vladimir Putin would get further involved in Syria after delivering his plan at the U.N. General Assembly last month. Despite all the criticism from Ankara, Moscow and Washington seem to be on the same page about Syria. But this is not all.
Yalim Eralp, a seasoned advisor at CNN Turk and a former ambassador, told me that crying foul against Russia may fall on deaf ears these days.
"Russia has been invited to Syria on the grounds of an anti-terror fight by a legal government, whether we like it or not. Bashar al-Assad and Putin are legally on the right side in terms of the U.N. Charter. Turkey's only priority at this point should be avoiding any military conflict like dogfights, etc," said Eralp.
On the road to Russia's latest move, let us rewind and question the event:
1)Right before Russia's Syria operation, Syrian refugees in Turkey suddenly moved en masse towards Europe. Did the military intelligence service of Syria, Al-Muhabarat, have a role in this mass exodus?
2)Is it a coincidence that Russia's intervention has come after the refugee crisis?
3)Were the European countries, most of which belong to NATO, involuntarily forced to say "yes" to Russia's operation?
4)Was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's urgent invitation and high-level reception in Brussels a result of this crisis, and did the EU ask him to take refugees back?
All the signs show that Russia was already planning to get more involved in Syria and the refugee influx accelerated the process. My intelligence sources tell me that hundreds of Al-Muhabarat agents and informers are actively present in Turkey. "They are not like the others," my source told me. "The KGB trained them; they know the region and the language well."
Turkey and Russia's recent air confrontation is not just a warning sign for the future. Former U.S. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, in his latest article for the Washington Institute, stressed the symbolism of Russian overflights over Hatay.
"Syria never officially acknowledged the loss of Hatay and its considerable Alawite community, however. Syrian maps still do not show Hatay as a part of Turkey (until recently, the regime maintained a similar cartographical attitude toward the entire country of Lebanon). While Damascus stopped emphasizing Hatay as its own territory during a thaw in relations a decade ago between Assad and then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it did not officially recognize Turkey's sovereignty," wrote Jeffrey.
"As Syria's president and the informal leader of the Alawite community, Assad obviously knows this entire story. But does Moscow? It is hard to believe that a country so obsessed with its past and its historical claims (Crimea being only one of many examples) would have missed this connection," he added.
If Washington can see the big picture from that distance, maybe Ankara should too.