20 October 2014

Turkey's Growing Isolation

Several items for your consideration:

-  Last week, there was an election for five non-permanent members of the UN's Security Council. Turkey was one of the three countries to compete for the two seats reserved for the voting bloc known as Western European and Others.

Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu was quite confident as he boasted, during a pre-celebratory cocktail at Waldorf Astoria, that their candidacy received supporting letters from 160 countries.

In the end, in a humiliating defeat, Turkey lost out to New Zealand (145 votes) and Spain (132 votes), receiving only 60 votes.

Tellingly, this normally obscure and underreported event was the top news item on BBC and Newsweek announced the results as "Turkey Loses U.N. Security Council Seat in a Huge Upset." Most news outlets indicated that these results were directly attributable to Turkey's dubious and cynical policies in the Middle East.

-  Also last week, General John Allen, Obama's special envoy for the coalition against ISIS and Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of state met with Turkish officials for two days to get them to commit to specific steps against ISIS. They failed.

In between, National Security Adviser Susan Rice announced that the Turkish government agreed to the use of its Incirlik base for strikes against ISIS.

Within hours, a Turkish government spokesperson denied the existence of such an agreement.

- Still last week, the US held its first ever direct talks with PYD, the main Syrian Kurdish political group, which is also affiliated with the PKK. Considering that the PKK is labeled a terrorist organization by the US and EU, this is not an insignificant development.

On Sunday 19 October, Obama called Erdogan to urge him to do more to help the Kurdish rebels. A few hours later, Erdogan said this to reporters
“In recent days there is an idea floating around of giving arms to the PYD in order to fight against ISIL. The PYD for us is the same as the PKK and that is a terrorist organization. It would be wrong to expect a ‘yes’ as an answer from us [for full cooperation] if a friendly country and a NATO ally like the U.S. openly admits such support for a terrorist organization.”
In other words, "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would not allow Kurdish fighters to receive any transfers of American arms."

Within hours, the US Central Command (Centcom) announced that several C-130 cargo planes made multiple drop of arms, ammunition and other supplies to Kobani.

Centcom also said that it conducted 135 air attacks against ISIS, 11 of which took place in the last two days.

To sum up, in the last five days, Turkey lost its seemingly solid bid to be a member of the Security Council for two years. It witnessed its primary ally the US to start a direct relationship with an organization Turkey considers a terrorist group. The same ally increased the number of sorties and air strikes to help the Kurdish defenders of Kobani. And when Turkey refused to allow the supply of arms to Syrian Kurds, the US bypassed it completely and dropped whatever supplies it deemed necessary.

If Erdogan does not get the message, I think the head of a race horse on his bed will be the next signal.


The message has been received.
In a policy reversal, Turkey is to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to fight Islamic State (IS) militants in Kobane. (...)

The announcement came shortly after the US carried out air drops of weapons to Kobane's Kurdish fighters. (...)
The Turkish announcement is a surprise and a significant shift. 
It turns out that when Obama called Erdogan, he informed the Turkish President that air drops were going to take place.

I picture Obama rolling his four fingers under his chin while sporting a crooked De Niro smile.

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