Turkey’s expansionist agenda

10 December 2015 10:05 am

Turkey's attack on Syria and Iraq and its support for Islamists in those countries and elsewhere is not just religiously motivated.

First, it wants to suppress the Kurds . As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says, Turkey has been been bombing the Kurdish forces in Syria that the United States considers allies in the war with ISIS. Turkey is an important NATO ally, yet it has allowed what amounts to open trade and movement across its borders to jihadis in Syria and Iraq. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a war on terrorism in late July, but since then Turkish forces have directed their fight almost entirely to trying to militarily crush the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Kurdish YPG force in Syria, which the US considers an ally in the fight with ISIS, remains unacceptable to Turkey. That is because the force is affiliated to the PKK.

At the same time, there seems to be a hankering over the Ottoman empire. A former head of Israel’s National Security Council Giora Eiland writes in The Guardian:

“About a year before that meeting with the Russian, I met a senior Turkish official. That was at a time when relations between Jerusalem and Ankara were excellent. At that meeting, the Turkish official spoke openly about his country’s world view. ‘We know that we cannot get back the lands that were under the control of the Ottoman empire before 1917,’ he said, ‘but do not make the mistake of thinking that the borders that were dictated to us at the end of the first world war by the victorious countries – mainly the UK and France – are acceptable to us. Turkey will find a way to return to its natural borders in the south – the line between Mosul in Iraq and Homs in Syria. That is our natural aspiration and it is justified because of the large Turkmen presence in that region.’

The former Turkish military adviser Metin Gurcan in Al-Monitor sums up the aims of the Turkish invasion of Iraq. It’s all about building Turkey’s army and Ottoman-like power.

• To provide a counterweight to the anti-IS alliance between Iraqi Shiites and Iran, formed under Russian leadership. This explains Turkey’s efforts to shape an alliance with the KRG and Sunni Arabs led by Mosul’s Nuceyfi tribe to balance the growing Shiite power in Iraq. Ankara feels it has to have boots on the ground to avoid the kind of fait accompli that kept Turkey out of the game in Syria.
• Ankara believes IS, which controls Mosul, has reduced its forces in the city and is having problems controlling the urban terrain. There are strong indications of a possible Sunni uprising against IS in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. This explains Turkey’s moves to form a military security belt north-northeast of Mosul to protect Turkmen and Kurdish areas. Naturally, Ankara’s primary motive is to be among the key actors to decide on the future of Mosul.
• Turkey is particularly uneasy with the PKK gains in Iraq and Syria. Turkey wants to militarily dominate the Shengal region, which has been a bridge between the PKK and the Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party in Syria, to cripple that link.

Erdogan is willing to risk a lot, including a wider war, to pursue his neo-Ottoman dreams. Blackmailing Europe over migrants and challenging Russia in Crimea and Chechnya by sending in Turkish "Grey Wolf" fascist and "Tatar" operatives are just the start.

Watch this space, it’s alarming.